With a new album under their belts in the shape of Walk The Sky, Alter Bridge returned to the UK – thankfully a couple of months before Covid-19 hit the headlines and pulled the rug out from under live music – as they embarked on a huge arena tour alongside both Shinedown and The Raven Age.
HRH Mag caught up with guitarist Mark Tremonti before the opening show of the tour at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham to talk about the band’s latest release, his solo career as well as his thoughts on the release of his first novel.
You’re here in Nottingham tonight at the Motorpoint Arena, where you are about to kick off the UK leg of the Walk The Sky tour. Does it feel that the UK is becoming a bit of a home away from home for you guys?
Yeah, the UK was the first market to embrace Alter Bridge. We owe everything we have to the UK. You know, it’s kind of been our lifeline. If we just had stayed in the United States, I don’t know if we would have given up because the turnouts weren’t what we wanted, but over here caught on quickly. It’s really what kept us motivated and so we owe a lot of our success to the UK.
Both yourself and Myles have been pursuing other avenues in your respective careers, yourself with Tremonti and Myles both solo and with Slash. How does it feel to have the band regrouped and back together?
It’s great, I think it’s perfect that we do other things because every time we get back with Alter Bridge it’s fresh. I couldn’t imagine just being in one band. It would be – not boring, but it would just feel like I wasn’t accomplishing everything. I love branching out and doing completely different things and then coming back and making Alter Bridge seem new again.
So when you come back from doing your solo work, do you feel like you are bringing new ideas back into this group?
Yeah, I feel like I’m bringing new strengths back to Alter Bridge. Because when I do the solo thing, I have to be the frontman and the performer and the writing everything and doing it all. When I come to Alter Bridge, I have a partner in Myles, me and him tackle everything 50/50. And I get to let him be the frontman, which makes Alter Bridge seem so easy for me because I just get to focus on the guitar. I sing too, but I don’t have to talk in between songs.
When you start writing a song, do you do so with a particular project in mind? Or do you kind of decide after the event if it’s going to go one way or the other?
The only way I can tell if it’s not Alter Bridge is if it’s too speed metal. If it’s got too much of a metal thing at its core it doesn’t really work with the Alter Bridge rhythm section. If I need something to be super syncopated and fast it’s not their style.
Your latest album is called Walk The Sky. Can you tell us a little bit about what was the starting point for this album was musically?
It’s always that there’s never a stopping point for any writing. So writing is always going on. Like I’m writing right now for who knows what. But, I think what kick-started this record was the news that we had five weeks to record. So we’re like are you out of your mind? We can’t do this record in five weeks. So that was a time where me and Myles had to start making demos on our own, which is another good reason why the solo thing has helped us because it helps me be able to make my own song. I’ve done four records now, the solo stuff. So, it was easy for me to, you know, write 10 songs and make the demos myself and then have Myles do the same thing on his own. Usually, me and Myles get together and write every song. This record was all written by me and all written by him. So, we just put both of our songs in a pile and took the best ones and then put the Alter Bridge spin on them.
Do you have a favourite track on the record? And if so, which song and why?
Godspeed is my favourite. It just means the most to me. I was also the most excited when I finished it. My friend passed away last year and just to kind of attribute to his life, sending him off. We have our Blackbird and In Loving Memory. We have the sad ballads about loss, but this is more of an uplifting send-off celebrating somebody. I’m happy with the way it turned out.
This is now your sixth album with Alter Bridge, it’s a little bit different from some of the older material. Are you always looking for new ways to express yourself and be creative with each new recording?
With every record, we try to add new colours to it. On the last record, I bought a seven-string guitar to try to keep it interesting. With every record we try to experiment with new guitar tunings and new arrangement styles, you know, break away from the chorus, first chorus verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, expand our arrangements as much as we can. As instrumentalists, we’re always trying to learn as much as we possibly can. So, on the next record, I’m not just doing the same thing.
Carrying on with the creative theme. The latest Tremonti album, Dying Machine, again, that’s a bit different from anything you’ve done with it being a concept album. Was a concept album something that you’d always wanted to do?
It was something that was never even on my radar. I had owned concept records when I was younger that I loved, but I didn’t like them because they were concept records. I just liked the songs. Like all the King Diamond records. I didn’t know the story I just liked the individual song. But I wrote the title track and I just loved the story. I loved telling that story. By the time I finished the song, I was kind of sad it was over. So, it was like, you know, let me see if I can make like a four-song mini-EP concept. And once I got four songs deep, I wanted to continue telling the story. So, I just went for it.
So, it started as an idea to do a concept album as opposed to coming together organically?
I didn’t want it to be. I wasn’t doing a concept. I just wrote that song and I didn’t want to stop telling that story. I love just the story that I was beginning to tell. So, I wanted to continue telling it. And by the time I got four songs deep, I was like, you know, I can just keep doing this and then make it a concept. By the time I got almost about 80% done with the album, I just challenged myself to write a novel because it was something on my bucket list I’ve had for over a decade, maybe 15 years. I’ve always wanted to write a novel. A lot of musicians write biographies, you know, actors and politicians write their biographies. I wanted to write a fictional story because I’m a book fanatic. As soon as I get on the bus I’m reading.
So, I knew I had the story and it was much deeper of a story than it comes across on the record. Because the record you can only put out so much. So, I wanted to create more of a 3D experience for somebody to listen to a record and be able to read the story and read the story then hear the soundtrack to the story. And now I have signed a deal with Circle of Confusion, which is a TV management company and they sell scripts and they’re shopping the book now for TV. So, it could end up being my dream come true.
So, would you say that was a challenge you enjoyed and that it would be something that you would love to do again?
I’m already writing my next one.
I kind of wondered when you said that the novel sort of tied up the loose ends, did you ever think of maybe creating a second album to bring together those loose ends and tell it musically instead of putting it down as a written piece?
I feel like the story, the novel ends the way it should end. And then just to be safe, I put in just a little bit of a hint as to where the story could go. It’s not like you read that and it leaves such a cliff hanger where it’s like, oh this sucks. I want to know where the story went. Because the story completes its full arc, but I left it open-ended in case all of a sudden it did catch on. Because right now I have an agent who’s trying to get a publishing house together. I’ve read so many grief/horror stories about writers who have written a hundred stories and never get a deal. And how hard it is to get a deal and I’ll be heartbroken if it doesn’t because I put so much time and effort into it and I’ve had so many people read it and get into it. I just need the right people to read it. So, we’ll see what happens.