Markus' Heavy Music Blog met Alter Bridge and Tremonti mainman Mark Tremonti for an interview before he entered the stage in Tilburg, Holland for a sold-out show with his solo project. The iconic guitarist talked about the current tour that led the band through Europe. Mark Tremonti also explained a few more details when it comes to new albums of Tremonti and Alter Bridge. Read here what the guitar player and melody writer has to tell.
Markus' Heavy Music Blog (MHMB): You are on tour in Europe right now, and there are two more shows to go. How was it?
Mark Tremonti (MT): It was great so far. We love touring in Europe since we have some of our real die-hard fans over here.
MHMB: You played, as you do today , in smaller venues. Some of those venues had been sold out rather quick. Have you guys underestimated the popularity of the Tremonti project?
MT: There are a couple of instances that led to this situation. One of them is that we changed agents in the middle of booking this tour. By the time we had our new agent on board some of the large rooms were taken already. This venue (Mark is referring to the 013) specifically, we were trying to get into the larger room but another band had booked it and they wouldn’t switch. We actually played the larger venue the last time we were here and we sold that one out too. But it wasn’t available this time, so we decided to go anyway and play the smaller venue. The same thing happened in Scotland where the show sold out really quickly too.
MHMB: I could imagine that the smaller sold out venues have a kind of special magic, that can’t be compared with the big stages. Does it make any difference for you if it’s a smaller venue or one of the bigger stages?
MT: Actually I like them both, and I like to switch between the two, as long as the stage isn’t too small, so that we can move. Sometimes smaller venues can also be really loud so that it hurts your ears a lot. Something you have less with bigger ones. But this one here, is a perfect little mix. It’s not too small, it’s not too big. It’s a fun, high energy type looking venue.
MHMB: You come back to Holland quite often. You recorded an Alter Bridge show in Amsterdam for a DVD release, you played the Melkweg in Amsterdam earlier this year and now, you have two shows with Tremonti before Christmas. It seems you like playing in Holland.
MT: Indeed. We’ll never come over to Europe without playing here. There are certain countries we not going to miss. It will not happen that we will not go to England or Germany; and the same goes for Holland. It’s just one of the key places for us.
MHMB: Next to playing the guitar you’re also the singer for Tremonti. How does this double function work for you, especially during live shows?
MT: It actually had strange effect on my guitar playing. When I toured Alter Bridge I’m highly focussed on everything around guitar which sometimes makes you play worse. Now, with Tremonti, when I’m less concerned about the guitar and more concerned about singing, I play better. I think it was Bill Murray who once said that “Don’t take yourself too seriously. Just let it happen“. So, doing the solo project has really let me open my eyes on how to approach guitar playing. I used to go over solos over and over again before each show. Now, I just go on stage and improvise which makes the flow much easier.
MHMB: What brought you to the decision of being also the singer? Was it something consciously decided or something that just happened and felt right??
MT: No, I wanted to sing. I was already in two bands with other singers. I have been a songwriter since I was a young lad and I love melodies. You could say I’m a melody writer, that’s why I wanted to sing this time. One of the biggest frustrations in my career is that people see me as a guitar player. I’m a songwriter and a melody writer That’s why it was good to find a way to also sing.
MHMB: How do you make a distinction between songs for Alter Bridge and those for your solo band? I guess at a certain moment you have an idea that could become a song … and then?
MT: Well, the only thing that really separates it is, if it is super heavy metal sounding, something that sounds like a speed metal kind of idea, it goes towards Tremonti solo stuff. Some other song ideas are more atmospheric with a lot of space for a big vocals. Those I save for Myles because he can do it more justice. He is great at the big atmospheric soaring songs. So sometimes the songs with the big arrangements and a lots of space I would like to leave for Alter Bridge.
MHMB: Tremonti songs are quite different. “Armed yourself“ is almost speed metal, “Dark Trip“ is kept quite slow and partly quiet while „Flying Monkey“ reminds of Soundgarden. Is this width of style reflecting your influences?
MT: I love Soundgarden. But, I would say it starts early on with listening to what my folks were listening to. We listened to Rod Steward and Gerry Rafferty - all this oldschool 70’s soft rock, which I still like a lot. As I got older, bands like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains became my favorites. Also, the first Nirvana record really blew me away. Those are the most mainstream kind of albums. But, my main influences are Metallica, Slayer, Celtic Frost and Black Flag. So, I love the heavy stuff but I love the melodic stuff as well.
MHMB: Talking about Grunge, it started with Creed and continued with Alter Bridge that your sound is described as 'post grunge'. Would you describe it the same way or are you annoyed by this term?
MT: I would say it’s true in the Alice In Chains / Soundgarden department. But what frustrated me most, is when people compared us with Pearl Jam, because I sound nothing like Pearl Jam, on the guitar or songwriting-wise. I think it is just because people heard a connection between Scott’s voice and Eddie Vedder’s voice. But, if you listen to the music, it sounds nothing like Pearl Jam. That really annoyed me. As far as it is about Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, those are two of my most favorite bands ever. I consider Soundgarden as being less grunge and more as an alternative / punk / rock sound. I can’t really explain it better, but they have their own sound. With Alice In Chains I love the melodies a lot. I think that Jerry Cantrell is one of the greatest melody writers and I love what he does.
MHMB: Two more shows to go and then I guess you’re going back home. How will you celebrate Christmas?
MT: Yes. I will go back home to Orlando/Florida to celebrate Christmas with the family.
MHMB: What can we expect from Tremonti and Alter Bridge in 2016?
MT: First of all there will be a new Alter Bridge album. I’m writing everyday on it and after the holiday period Myles will fly in second half of January. We start writing together, get into the studio and record through till April. When April hits, we will drop our next Tremonti record “Dust“, the new album that’s already finished. When we went into the studio last time, we recorded 20 songs and split them up into two, ten songs albums. After having released the album we will come back to Europe to tour on “Dust“. Then, I go home, I turn right around, 're-learn‘ all the Alter Bridge stuff and go on tour with Alter Bridge.
MHMB: That means, it will become a very busy 2016. Great to hear that there are new records coming in the new year.
MT: Yes, and maybe Myles will release his solo record too. Who knows.
MHMB: With such a full agenda, it sounds like co-ordinating times and dates is more than a challenge.
MT: We are just going to make sure that, once we get back on the Alter Bridge schedule, we will have an eighteen month period with having this band as the first priority. There will be other activities too in this period, but, Alter Bridge always comes first. And then, once this cycle is over, it will turn around where Slash and Tremonti is in focus for the next eighteen months.
MHMB: Now, while having the chance of talking to you, I have to ask you the question about Creed. There are rumors of a Creed reunion. Is there any truth in it?
MT: Right now I just don’t have time, you know. I look two years into the future and I’ll still be busy. So, if it would happen it would have to be in some time from now.
MHMB: Mark, thanks for your time and we're looking forward to 2016.
MT: Thanks for having me.
Thanks to Diane Bale for support.