INTERVIEW with Mark Tremonti via I Heart Guitar

Mark Tremonti lives multiple lives. On the one hand, he’s guitarist for multi-platinum hitmakers Creed, and he helped to keep the guitar visible in the charts during the late 90s and early naughties when the instrument was in a bit of a holding pattern post-grunge and pre-Guitar Hero. On the other hand, he’s guitarist for Alter Bridge, a harder-edged rock band which features Tremonti’s Creed bandmates Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips plus vocalist Myles Kennedy. You’d think that with three quarters of the Creed line-up being shared between both bands there would be a lot of crossover, yet Alter Bridge is the band that those of us who heard Creed and thought “Hmm… talented band, not digging the material.” Much more than Creed, Alter Bridge is where you’ll hear Tremonti really pushing the envelope with thrash-influenced rhythms, shred-influenced solos and very dark, complex atmospheres. Seemingly buoyed by the positive reception to his solo album, All I Was, the guitarist has loaded Alter Bridge’s new album Fortress [Roadrunner] with aggressive rhythms, blistering lead chops and some of the greatest heavy guitar tones of the last two decades or so. 

I’ve been checking out the new album and man, this one is heavy. 
Yeah! It’s the fun one! 

Where did that come from? I mean, there are thrash elements here, for cryin’ out loud. 
Well when we got together to put the initial ideas together, me and Myles kept in mind that we had to play these songs every night and we wanted to make the album entertaining to perform, so we made ‘em all high-energy songs. And once we got about two thirds done with the record we realised that if we didn’t put some dynamics in the record, no matter how heavy you make it it’s not going to make it’s not going to be as good as a record. That’s when we switched gears. 

One thing I really love is how it starts – it’s one of those intros like the early Metallica stuff where it’s a subdued intro but you know you’re about to get your ass kicked. 
Haha, those are my favourite times. 

So you actually had a plan, rather than just all these heavy riffs coming together? 
Me and Myles get together and we play each other all of our favourite ideas and we piece our ideas together to get a broad outline of what the record’s going to look like, and then we get together with Brian and Scott and piece together a closer arrangement. Once we had about 14 or 15 songs we went into pre-production and that’s when we take our arrangements and challenge them as much as we can. We tore them apart many, many times to get them where they are now. We didn’t want people to be able to guess where the song was going. We wanted to catch them by surprise. 

I wanted to ask you about the arrangements because there’s some really intricate stuff here, and each time you listen you’ll hear different details. 
 A lot of it, especially in “Cry Of Achilles” or “Fortress” where we really threw everything we had at it, we’d just sit there throwing ideas back and forth: let’s change a time signature here, change a key here, completely change the vibe of the song here and try to get back on our feet in the next section. And a lot of the time it gets frustrating because sometimes you think you’re onto something good but you can’t get out of it and then you have to start over again. But we just didn’t want to rest on our laurels and think that our arrangements were fine. We wanted to put every effort into it, and we spent about three times longer on preproduction for this record than we ever spent on a record before. We go into the studio with a good picture of what we want, and then when we got to the preproduction that’s when we made what we wanted a little better. 

Alter Bridge’s Mark Tremonti talks ‘Fortress’

With their 4th album Fortress on the horizon, Alter Bridge’s Mark Tremonti talks about the band’s new, more extreme and experimental sound, a different approach to guitar playing, and going Gilmour, Queen and Coverdale – if only for a song. In addition to that the 39 year old opens up about his kids, Creed, healthy touring, Myles stints with Led Zeppelin as well as working on solos.

So what’s your association with “Fortress”? Is it a place that offers safety, protection, and security? And if so: From what – and for whom?
“Fortress”, the song itself – as you see on the cover – it’s a play on words. The song “Fortress” is about a fortress being torn down. So, when we were trying to come up with the cover art of this album we decided to have the little dilapidated shed that’s kind of falling apart, and old and decrepit.

Not reflecting the current state of the band nor the United States Of America?
It’s not promoting anything big and strong and no big fortification. It’s a play on the word, “Fortress”.

Honestly: Weren’t you tempted to go for “Alter Bridge IV”?
No, not at all. (laughs) I think you can only do that once. And the fans were asking about the name. And they said: “Is it going to be “Alter Bridge IV”? And I said: “It has the letters F, O and R, but it’s not, no word IV in there. So (chuckles): close.”

The album is pretty versatile with lots of time and signature changes as well as little references here and there. How come?

I think we just really wanted to not sound typical. We didn’t want to have our song structures be similar to what we’ve done in the past. When me and Myles got together we put together our arrangements. And then took them into pre-production and then we tore those arrangements apart, put them back together, tore them apart, put them back together. Added new things, went in different directions…

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