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Interviews   

Alter Bridge: starting from scratch again


It would be unfair to attribute Alter Bridge’s success to the fact that the band is made of former Creed members, or to its singer Myles Kennedy’s recent collaboration with Slash. That’s why, as we met him on october 31st during the band’s live in Lyon, guitarist Mark Tremonti insisted on his intention not to take advantage of Creed’s success. He told us that when the latter split-up, he decided to start from scratch by creating Alter Bridge. We also took the opportunity to go back over Creed’s reunification and its conditions, as it was out of the question to evocate it at that time…

An interview with a sincere individual, who doesn’t hide that he voluntary released a mainstream album in order not to take risks with Alter Bridge. A career beggining which allowed the band to express itself fully afterwards, and to create this dark and personal rock we know now.

Interview.

« Myles lost his father to Christian science when he was young; he died ‘cause he thought God was gonna take care of him and doctors wouldn’t. Myles is kind of bitter about the whole thing »

Radio Metal : Your new album ABIII sounds much darker and heavier than its predecessors. The alarming state of the world pushes many bands today move toward a heavier and darker style. Is it your case?

Mark Tremonti (guitars/vocals) : I’ve always been in the heavy stuff, since I was a kid. Over the years, I think Alter Bridge has integrated the heavy style more into the music and gotten used to playing it more. What was going on in our lives, problems with the record labels… The business was falling apart when we were making the record, and we were in a bad mood at the time, so we wrote something a little darker and moodier. I think Blackbird was heavy, this one is just moodier.

The main theme of the album is doubt and the loss of faith. Is the loss of faith in people or institutions something you’re experiencing personally?

That’s more of a Myles thing. Myles lost his father to Christian science when he was young; he died ‘cause he thought God was gonna take care of him and doctors wouldn’t. Myles is kind of bitter about the whole thing and doesn’t believe in God or anything. “Words Darker Than Their Wings” is pretty much a conversation me and Myles had about him not believing in God and me believing that there is a God. But I don’t believe in structured religions. Thinking that all the Muslims or the Buddhists are gonna go to hell because they’re not Roman Catholic… Organized religion is very close-minded, sometimes. I believe there’s a God, and Myles doesn’t believe in anything past our existence here on Earth.

ABIII feels like the band took a certain artistic freedom and this coincides with the band’s signature on Roadrunner Records. Do you feel you have more freedom as an artist on this label rather than on your previous labels, whether it is with Alter Bridge or Creed?

No, labels have always been hands off with us, since day one. We never had a label come in and force us to do anything. We usually just turn in the songs. Every now and then, they’ll want a ballad or a radio song, but we just kind of give them the record the way it is.

« We kind of played it safe on the first record. We came from the success of Creed, and every time you have a record, you know it must work for the radios. When the radio works, tours work, and when tours work, records sell. […] For the third record, I pretty much didn’t want anything to do with conforming in any way or form. »

You were actually quoted saying that you didn’t want to consider radio or record sales this time around. Does it mean that up to now you always had that in mind while writing your albums?

I think we kind of played it safe on the first record. We came from the success of Creed, and every time you have a record, you know it must work for the radios. When the radio works, tours work, and when tours work, records sell. We played it safe on the first record, and on the second record, we kind of shied away from that. For the third record, I pretty much didn’t want anything to do with conforming in any way or form. Why keep a song short? If it wants to breathe, we’ll let it go on for ten minutes. It was the first time this was not a thought at all. It’s the first time we’ve had a number one radio single as well, so it worked.

Alter Bridge was created after the dissolution of Creed and actually features three Creed members out of four. But with Creed, you had reached a good amount of success; did it feel like starting all over again when you had put Alter Bridge together?

Yeah, it was like starting all over again. We went back to playing small clubs. We had to start from scratch. We wanted to not use any of Creed’s music; we didn’t want to have Creed on our albums, we didn’t want to play Creed songs live. We wanted to make it something completely separate. I’m glad we did it that way: now we can be Alter Bridge. We never had to rely on Creed to get where we are, but we did have to start all over again. I like being the underdog.

« We went back to playing small clubs. We had to start from scratch. We wanted to not use any of Creed’s music; we didn’t want to have Creed on our albums, we didn’t want to play Creed songs live. We wanted to make it something completely separate. I’m glad we did it that way: now we can be Alter Bridge. »

What were your feelings at the time? Was it frustrating to prove yourself all over again or was it exciting?

It was both at the same time: sometimes it was great and sometimes it was bad. When you’re out there playing small clubs, it’s fun, because it’s more in your face, it makes you feel young again. The downside of it is being in debt. Not being able to get a paycheck for seven years is kind of tough, but finally working through that is rewarding. But artistically, it’s fun starting over.

Creed has been reformed and released an album last year. How do you manage to separate both bands? How do you choose which song better suits which band? Isn’t there any risks to have both bands walking over one another?

When I write songs, I don’t write for any specific band – I just write. Then I go back and categorize ideas after the fact, and I’ll say: “That’s a Creed song”, or “It’s an Alter Bridge song”. Now I have a solo band, so I have three things! If the stuff is too metal-sounding, I put it to my solo project. I just kind of use my intuition to know where it should go.

« But now we just get together for rehearsals and the tour. We’re just professional partners. There’s much more of a friendly relationship now, there’s less pressure. […] If things were the same way they used to be, we would never have gotten back together. I think kids had a lot to do with it. […] If these issues arise again, we won’t do it anymore. »

From what we can read here and there, the reason for Creed’s dissolution was tensions between Scott Stapp and the rest of the band. So, are these tensions really gone now?

We’re different now. We don’t spend all day together anymore. Back in the day, we did. When you throw four guys in a room and keep them there for ten years, personalities clash. But now we just get together for rehearsals and the tour. We’re just professional partners. There’s much more of a friendly relationship now, there’s less pressure. We have our families now, we’re fathers, we’ve matured a bit. It’s different from the olden days, for sure.

How did you actually know that a Creed reunion would work? I know that you had claimed that Creed would never return…

We didn’t how well it would work. But seven years was a good amount of time to forget about things. A lot changes in seven years. When we first broke up, nobody wanted to get back together. We said: “Absolutely not, it’s never gonna happen”. If things were the same way they used to be, we would never have gotten back together. I think kids had a lot to do with it. We all had children, we all grew up. We all realized not a lot of bands can go out and play sold out arenas. We wanted to get back in it for the right reasons. If these issues arise again, we won’t do it anymore. But for the time being, it’s good.

About the reunion, Stapp said: “We never felt like we weren’t together. We’re not looking at this as a reunion. It’s more of a rebirth”. Do you agree with that?

We definitely took seven years off. At that point, the band was split up, we were busy doing Alter Bridge. But when we got back together, it was like riding a bike: all the old songs just played themselves, it was easy to get back into it. It was like we never skipped a beat.

Do you think Creed had to step down in order to make Stapp deal with his problems with alcohol and all his other demons?

I’m sure the band splitting up and everything else was a wake-up call for everybody. One day you’re on top of the world, another day you’re struggling. I’m sure it’s a good time to sit and get yourself straight.

« I’m very prolific when it comes to writing. I’ve got more stuff than I’ll ever be able to release. »

Creed used to be your main band. Now that you have Alter Bridge, what is Creed’s status for you?

Whatever project I’m working on, I give 110%. There’s no primary project and side projects. Whatever I have my mind set to at the time is my primary project.

Do you already have some songs for a new Creed record?

Yeah. We got together for two days to put together arrangements for four songs. Right now there’s just music with a few melodies. Scott’s got those tracks at home and he’s working on his lyrics. It sounds good. It has a bunch of different sounds. It has the one uplifting, energetic song, it has the one dark, brooding, epic-y kind of song, it has the one old-school, swampy rock song. We try and mix it all up.

Have you thought about doing a tour with both Creed and Alter Bridge? It’s just an exchange of singers, in the end…

We talked about that a while back. It was an idea, but when we really sat down and thought about it, it wouldn’t work out. It would be too much work every day, I think we would all get burned out in a week! We play two-hours set with both bands, so we can’t play for four hours every day. And we don’t want to jib the fans and only do short sets.

As you said, you are currently working on your solo album. What motivated you to do a solo record?

I have a ton of material that I want to get out there, and I’ll never be able to put out everything I’ve written. I saw a three-month gap in my schedule when Myles was going out with Slash and Scott was touring on his solo stuff. I decided to do it, ‘cause I have so many ideas that I want to get out. And I finally got to the point where I feel I could sing myself. It’s just mostly for fun. We’ll see what happens.

Are you one of these hyper-prolific musicians?

I’m very prolific when it comes to writing. I’ve got more stuff than I’ll ever be able to release. Every day I’m working and writing [he points out a guitar laying on a amplifier]. It’s what I love. I’m just as prolific as anybody else who sits there all the time.

Myles Kennedy did a tour with Slash and is working with him on his second solo album. According to you, has this collaboration had any musical impact on Alter Bridge?

I think we’re trying to keep these other projects separate from Alter Bridge. Slash is much more of a high-energy, classic-sounding rock’n’roll band. Alter Bridge has more of a metal kind of vibe to it. We like that classic rock thing that they do as well, but our stuff is a little more metal.

Do you think his work with Slash has increased people’s interest in Alter Bridge?

Absolutely. I think it’s given Myles a lot of credibility out there, working with Slash and getting that audition with Led Zeppelin. It made people really realize he’s a really great singer.

The name Alter Bridge refers to the bridge that can be found on Alter Road street. Kids were told that it was very dangerous for them to cross that bridge. Did you ever cross the Alter Bridge?

Oh yeah, I crossed it! When my first buddies got their driver’s license, we’d go over there and sneak alcohol. That’s where the kids would go and party. We went over there a few times when we got older. Now it’s fine, it’s a nice park, but back in the day, it was just drug-infested. Not a safe place to be.

Do you think the success of the band changed that?

No! Detroit’s its own animal.

Interview conducted on october, 31th in Lyon by Spaceman & Metal’O Phil
Transcription : Saff’
Introduction transcripted by Amélie

Alter Bridge’s Website : www.alterbridge.com
Creed’s website : www.creed.com



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