I recently had a chance to catch up with Mark Tremonti from Alter Bridge by phone. He’s a very busy guy, but he was kind enough to give us the scoop on the band’s fourth album, Fortress, out on October 8, and also some insight on what makes him tick as a player and a writer. So, if you’re an Alter Bridge guy/gal like I’ve been for almost a decade now, read on and see what’s what:
Amps: First up. Let’s talk about YOUR signature sound. How do you get that wall of sound?
Mark: It’s just years and years of being a gear junkie. (Laughs) I’m like a woman with shoes, only with guitars and amplifiers. Every year I bring in new amps to rehearsal to try them out and I’m always working on my tone. But at the end of the day I think it’s about the way you approach your playing. It’s hard to explain the connection to the guitar, but like I said I’m a huge gear fan, so my sound is always changing just a little bit.
Amps: There has been such an evolution in Alter Bridge in that no two records sound alike. Is this something conscious, or more of a happy accident?
Mark: Well, we just try to keep growing as musicians. When we came out with our first album and since we had three out of four members from our previous band we got a lot of comparisons despite making every effort to sound as different as we could. And that put us on a course of always trying to reinvent ourselves.
Amps: Meanwhile “Open Your Eyes” is STILL on a million of my playlists to this day!
Mark: Awesome! Thank you very much.
Amps: What can the fans, old and new, expect from this record?
Mark: Expect a little bit of a change as far as the way we looked at song structures and time signatures. We just tried to really make these songs unpredictable and take people on a different path than they were expecting. And hopefully they see a band that’s constantly evolving.
Amps: Do you have a particular favorite on Fortress? I love to ask this of bands when they have a new record out.
Mark: “Cry of Achilles” is definitely one of them. The title track “Fortress” is another, “Bleed It Dry”, and “Peace Is Broken”. Those would be my top four.
Amps: (In mock outrage) Wait, what about “Waters Rising”? You sing LEAD on that one! That’s one of mine.
Mark: (Laughs) Oh yeah, well that one’s very personal to me just because it was my first Alter Bridge lead vocal. That was fun; it was a fun challenge for me.
Amps: “The Uninvited” was one of my favorites, too. The rhythm is almost serpentine.
Mark: Well, I appreciate that. That song came a long way in the studio from when we first wrote it in the studio. We weren’t sure if it was gonna be on the album or a B-side, but when we finally got it done we were all so happy with how it turned out, so it made the record.
Amps: What’s your favorite guitar to use, either live or in studio?
Mark: I have my signature guitar (PRS Mark Tremonti Signature Model). I always use it on our albums. I used a Fender Strat on some of the first record, and on this one I went back to the second model PRS ever made for me with a fixed bridge that goes well with all the tunings. And on all the leads I used the newer model.
Amps: How was it doing your solo thing after being part of a “band” for so long?
Mark: Oh, it was great! I had that three month break when Myles was out with Slash and I thought it would be a good idea to organize some of the ideas that I stockpile like crazy. I had a ton of them that hadn’t made it to a record so I figured I’d put them on a solo album.
Amps: How was playing with Wolfgang (Van Halen)? When I saw him he was a ball of energy.
Mark: Yeah, he’s a great guy and a great player. DEFINITELY a high energy guy.
Amps: Are you always writing, or do you ever just need to take a lengthy break?
Mark: You know, I don’t like taking breaks from writing. Like right now I feel like I’m behind schedule since we’ve recorded this album. I’m teaching it, and relearning it, practicing guitar instead of writing. Even before the stuff is released I feel if I haven’t written a bunch of stuff for the next album that I’m behind. So I’ll start immediately writing for the next record, and probably do a solo album in that time as well. I just always like to continue writing.
Amps: Is there a track that live, when you see it in the setlist, you’re just like “Hell Yeah!!” and it gets you just that much more cranked up?
Mark: Oh yeah, there’s a few of ‘em. “Ties That Bind” is one of my favorites to play live, “White Knuckles” is always one of the best live tunes. I think the song that’s the most special for fans in the crowd every night has gotta be “Blackbird”. That’s the type of song that if you’re having a great night onstage you can really play well, but if you’re not, if the sound’s not right, or you just feel off, that one can be a bear. Some nights it’s the best, and others you really have to concentrate on it.
Amps: What bands do you listen to?
Mark: I still listen to all the old metal that I grew up on. I’m still a metalhead, but recently I’ve been looking up my favorite guitar players on YouTube. I’m still stuck in my old capsule back in the 80’s (laughs)!
Amps: Mark, that’s a great place to be! Have you seen Felix Martin yet? (I tell Mark what I know, not even doing it justice I’m sure!)
Mark: No, but I’m gonna have to check that out for sure.
Amps: What do you do in your free time?
Mark: I love that I’ve got my kids that I spend all day with when they get out of school. That’s Daddy time. But when they go to sleep I go back to doing what I do, honestly. It’s what I love to do more than anything, writing songs.
Mark Tremonti lives, breathes, and eats writing. After 16 years of releasing music the man is still a prolific songwriter, coming up with those signature riffs and crushing tunes. And I’m sure I can speak for a lot of us when I say that the music world is a much better place for it. Alter Bridge’s new album Fortress comes out on October 8, and I know that many of you after reading this will be running out to get it, right? Good.