Interview with ultimate guitar

Myles Kennedy: 'We've Really Worked Hard and It's Nice to See It All Starting to Pay Off'

With the release of "Fortress," their fourth album, Alter Bridge is finally garnering the attention they so rightly deserve. After 10 years and multiple tours, the hard rock quartet - vocalist/guitarist Myles Kennedy, guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall and drummr Scott Phillips - scored a number one debut on the UK rock charts and dropped at Top 20 in six other European countries. Fortress is full of the heavy riffs that have become their stock-in-trade - "Addicted to Pain," the first single, is a monster lick - but they've also pulled the curtain back on melodic anthems like "All Ends Well" and acoustic ballads like "Lover."

Myles Kennedy, preparing for an upcoming European tour, found an open window of time to talk about the record and how it was made. And how unbelievably good it felt to finally be acknowledged for the music he's made with Alter Bridge this past decade.

UG: What is your mindset like when you go into new album mode? How do you prepare to battle an animal like that?
MK: Yeah, right? The way I look at making a record is like the big term paper at the end of a semester but with a lot more pressure. Yeah, I think that something I do and I know Mark does it as well - and Slash does this also - is you're always writing and always kind of saving ideas. You're not just waiting until your tour cycle is done and going, "OK, we've got to make a record now. Let's start making ideas." By doing that it keeps you from being overwhelmed and putting everything off 'til the last minute.

Kind of cramming for that big test at the 12th hour.
It also allows you to go back and listen to everything you've collected over the period of time you've allowed yourself. And listen with fresh ears and be able to listen to it from a fan's perspective for the first time and go, "Oh well this idea sounds good" and I react to this for whatever reason. Once you extract those ideas, the good ones, you bring 'em to your songwriting partners and see if it works with them as well and then you're kinda off to the races. So that's how I look at it - generally by the time you're actually getting ready to go in and make the record, you're really just going back to the ideas and filtering through 'em. 

Do some of the ideas on Fortress date back to the "ABIII" album?
Yeah, in some cases even farther. On "Fortress," there's a song on there called "Lover" and that idea I actually stumbed across that on a tape I had years and years ago and totally forgot about it and brought it in. I know with Mark it was the same thing and there were some ideas that have been around for years. But most of it is probably in the last year or year-and-a-half or something like that.

When you finally brought in all these musical ideas, did they suggest the direction "Fortress" might go in?
You just throw everything out there and see what gets everybody off. Then once you have a bunch of ideas, I think it's easier to step back and go, "OK, this particular song we like it but it doesn't necessarily fit with the rest of the record and the statement we're trying to make." The one thing with Alter Bridge that’s kinda nice is we try to make very dynamic records and records that aren't just all one flavor throughout.

The "Fortress" album really does include everything from acoustic songs to very heavy riffs.
It definitely allows you to utilize different kinds of songs. If you listen to "Fortress," there's a song called "All Ends Well," which is probably the most optimistic and almost anthemic of the bunch of bunch. Compared to a song like "Cry a River," which is very intense and kind of angry. So one thing I will say is we tend to - and especially on this record - and a limitation we put on ourselves is not to do what we've done in the past. If we had a song that reminded us too much of something we'd done on previous records, we would just go ahead and nix it 'cause we really want to try and push ourselves. And make it obvious we were not just falling into the same old formulas we've used in the past.

Mark Tremonti even said he wanted to make an "unpredictable" record.
Yeah, that was definitely the goal.

If you came up with some amazing rap country song, would you try to include it on an album?
(laughs) For example, I love R&B and I love things that have a certain groove to 'em.

You’re a big Stevie Wonder fan.
Yeah, and I know in the world of Alter Bridge that's just simply not going to fly. So I wouldn't even attempt to bring something like that in. But I think with our fanbase we learned if it has a certain element of musicianship and it still has a certain rock factor, they allow us to get away with quite a bit. We've been pleasantly surprised on the new record with how well certain songs have been received.

Hich songs in particular?
"Calm the Fire." We'd never really tried anything like that before because that stuff was more a tip of the hat to Queen or Radiohead and especially that intro. So we're lucky in that respect. But like you said if we put out a record that had a country-influenced hip hop track. I don't think that's gonna fly (laughs).

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