Hard Rock group Alter Bridge was formed in Orlando in 2004 by Creed members Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips after a tense Creed tour. Adding lead singer/rhythm guitarist Myles Kennedy (also a touring/recording collaborator with Slash), Alter Bridge quickly became more than a side project when Creed's break-up was announced a little later that year. Though Creed has reconstituted, Alter Bridge has remained a full-time entity. The band released its third studio album (on its third label) in 2010, ABIII, a conceptual work dealing with issues of faith that spawned the group's biggest hit yet, “Isolation.” Alter Bridge are currently on the Carnival of Madness tour (with Theory of a Deadman, Black Stone Cherry and others), which comes to the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville this Friday, one of the tour's only free stops, at Cardinal Stadium (required fair admission is $10; find details here). CityBeat recently spoke with Mark Tremonti about the band’s writing style, solo careers and that "other" band, Creed. Alter Bridge returns to the area next month, playing X-Fest at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Dayton on Sept. 18, joined by the rest of the Carnival's acts and others. (Click here for more info.)
CityBeat: I’ve seen you play several times in Creed and with Alter Bridge, most recently at (Columbus fest) Rock on the Range. I love you guys in both bands. I know you write a lot of music with Myles and for Creed as well. Do you have a different writing style to take into consideration the different vocal styles of Myles and Scott (Stapp)?
Mark Tremonti: No, when I am writing, I am writing whatever I am feeling at the moment. Then later on I will go through and categorize stuff after the fact and kind of organize ideas once I have gotten out of the moment.
CB: Do you write it by yourself?
MT: Yeah, I have to be by myself when I write. You can’t really open up with anybody around really when you are writing. You have to allow yourself to make mistakes and sing off key and do all those things to create a song.
CB: You guys have had a ton of success with ABIII. It is one of my favorite records by the bands at Rock on the Range this year. I talked to Myles at the festival and asked him about “Ghosts of Days Gone By,” but the other song I really love on the album is “Slip to the Void.” Can you tell me a little bit about the story behind that song?
MT: Yeah, that was one that Myles came up with the intro for … and I just fell in love with it right off the bat. I wrote the guitar riff behind it from the very first moment I heard his part. It was about a year and a half before we really got back to the song. When we got back to it, we almost didn’t put it on the record because it seemed like we just couldn’t complete it. When we had the record ready to record we still didn’t have “Slip” on the list and I think I made the point that we really needed to get the song on there. I still think Myles is a little unhappy with parts of it, but I love it. I’m glad we finished it and it’s the lead-off track on the record and it’s what we start sets off with live.
CB: I talk to a lot of guitarists and I love a great guitar riff on an album. A lot of the guitar players I talk to seem like it is almost like a religion for them. They go to bed playing and they get up playing in the morning. I was curious to see what's the longest time you have put the guitar down?
MT: Probably the last time was when I went on vacation with the family. You leave for a week and you don’t touch it. Sometimes it’s good to do that. You overwork your hands and you keep breaking down all the muscles in your hands. Sometimes you come back and you bounce back much stronger.
CB: So you play every day then?
MT: When I’m on tour, I’ll play as much as I can. When I am at home I don’t get to play it much, maybe an hour or so a day. I have my two sons and a wife that take priority when I am at home.
CB: Have you guys started to work on new music yet? I know this album is still going strong and getting a lot of radio play.
MT: We are always working on new stuff. We haven’t together as a band but we are always writing. Myles is always writing, I am always writing. When the time comes to put down a new record, we will have ideas waiting.
CB: I know you have also been working on a solo project. How is that coming along?
MT: It’s coming along great. I just finished writing the lyrics two days ago. I’ve tracked all the drums and all the bass. I have sang half the record and have to go home during the next break and sing the other half and track all the guitar solos, then it will be done.
CB: When can we look for it?
MT: I plan on getting some of the first tracks out around January or February. We are going to try to do a different release. We are going to try not to release all of the record at once, but try and let people digest a couple songs a month and then release the whole thing after four or five months. We will have like two songs a month and then the whole thing, plus a couple bonus tracks when it is all done.
CB: Would you ever consider touring alone to support it or are you still sticking to the other two bands?
MT: It depends on how well it does and how well it is received. I will take it from there.
CB: What has been your craziest Carnival of Madness story so far?
MT: It has not been crazy at all. It has been like a big cookout out here, just a bunch of friendly people. It’s a very easy tour. We only play for an hour a night. Most days I just get to play guitar all day and all night, hang out with good people. It’s been a breeze.
CB: After you guys finish Carnival of Madness, I heard you talk about how you might go on tour for a little bit with Van Halen in Australia …
MT: It got cancelled. The Soundwave Revolution, the whole tour got cancelled down in Australia. So now it is up in the air as to what we are going to do.
CB: I know you are good friends with Eddie and Wolfgang (Van Halen). What has been your most memorable experience working with those two or just being friends with them over the years?
MT: Back in the Creed days, we opened for Van Halen a few times and Eddie had given me a guitar. It blew my mind how generous he was with that. Years later, it turns out that Wolfgang became an Alter Bridge fan and came to a show. He invited us to his Van Halen sound check and I got to meet everybody again. Every time I go out to LA, I hang out with Wolfgang. Last time I was there, he called me up and invited me to see Van Halen practice and run through their new album. That was amazing. I got to go to Eddie’s house and studio, which is pretty much a little house on his property that they practice in. I got to see all their new music first hand.
CB: What else are you listening to these days?
MT: I am into guitar music. I listen to stuff that I am trying to learn. I was just listening to Larry Carlton, trying to pick up some ideas. Jazzy stuff, bluesy stuff.
CB: I guess you won’t answer this question but if you had a Battle of the Bands between Creed and Alter Bridge, who would win?
MT: They would both win. They would both win different categories.
CB: Are you going to be going back out (on the road) with Creed this year as well?
MT: 2012 we will be going out with Creed.
CB: Is there going to be new music to follow?
MT: Yeah. We hope to get all kinds of new stuff out — we might do some acoustic stuff, some electric stuff, maybe some unreleased video. DVDs maybe.