For Part III of our A&GS/ALTER BRIDGE extravaganza, may I present to you my one-on-one interview with vocalist and guitarist Myles Kennedy? Long one of my favorite singers on Earth as well as one of the busiest, we managed to fit in a brief chat just before the release of latest album The Last Hero (out now, Caroline). He was a very good sport and someone I hope to talk with again. Have you ever wondered what makes this group tick and just how it is that things get done? Well then, might I suggest you pull up a chair and have a look?
Amps: I gotta be honest, the first time I saw you in the movie Rock Star I looked at Mrs. Amps and I said, “You give that kid the right band and he’s gonna be a star.” Looks like I was right, eh?
Myles: (Laughing) there you go! Now all I need is that wig and to get that leather outfit back on to complete the look, right? And I’m golden!
Amps: With ALTER BRIDGE, SLASH, MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS, you’re pretty busy all throughout the year. How do you keep your voice so strong with all the live performing you do?
Myles: Well, I’m very aware of it, I guess. I’ve tried over the years to learn more about my instrument and the appropriate ways to use it so it can keep going into my later years. I’ve certainly studied the art of singing as much as I can and I take it very seriously. Because I’ve seen what happens when you beat your vocal chords up and they just stop working, and that’s certainly no fun. I love to sing, so hopefully it’ll keep working.
Amps: Between two bands and the myriad of other projects I’m sure we DON’T know about do you ever get any downtime or are you always working/singing/writing?
Myles: This year’s been nice because yes, I’ve had more downtime than I’ve had in about six years so that’s been great. But even downtime is generally practice time or writing time, but that means not waking up in hotel rooms and waking up in my own bed, which my wife certainly loves (laughs).
I’ve worked really hard for a long time for my career to get to a point to where I have the luxury of touring all the time and always knowing I could make a record within the next year.
I guess there’s always been this fear of stopping. It’s like being a shark; if a shark stops swimming it dies. So I think that’s what drives me, knowing how long it took me to get to this point.
Amps: The ALTER BRIDGE sound is very distinct. But, much like QUEEN and EXTREME, no two albums sound alike. Why is that?
Myles: Well, Mark (Tremonti, guitar) is always commenting that he never wants to make the same record and that he always wants to evolve and change. And I agree with that, I think it’s nice to keep that in mind to a point. At the same time I try to stay in the moment and never overthink it. You can’t sit and say, “Oh, this record HAS to be different!” because then it just becomes too calculated. So, it’s nice to hear that when a record is done, people do hear a certain evolution. And it’s funny that you bring up QUEEN because they are definitely a HUGE source of inspiration for me. The first record I ever bought was News of the World. So, just having that as part of my musical DNA has helped shape me as a songwriter. Clearly with QUEEN, LED ZEPPELIN, bands like that, the pendulum swings pretty far as to how many different approaches they took on their records. I think that’s important.
Amps: “My Champion” and “Poison In Your Veins” really sit well together on this record. They both have this anthemic quality to them. What are some of your standout tracks on The Last Hero?
Myles: Cool, thank you. You know, I like “The Last Hero.” I was real happy with how that turned out. I think “The other Side” came out really well, too. It’s got a real spooky vibe to it.
Amps: When putting songs together, what is the band’s approach?
Myles: the music generally comes first. Mark and I both stockpile riffs for possible verses and bridges, and we get together and basically build the musical and melodic foundation. Once we know a song is probably gonna make the record I go in and do the lyrics. Because lyrics for me can kind of make or break a song. If you have a really great musical foundation and crap lyrics that will kill it quicker than anything.
Amps: What’s next for you touring-wise now that summer is over?
Myles: Tomorrow we start a short U.S. tour for about three weeks, then have a couple of weeks off to prepare for a big European run, which is our biggest tour to date. We’re tackling some big arenas over there. We’ve graduated from Wembley Arena to the O2 Arena and we’re excited, but that’s a big’un (laughs). We’re just gonna get this machine up and running again and tour for the next year, so we’re excited.
Amps: Congratulations on the bigger venues. Just don’t forget us little people here in Philly, OK? We’re dying to see you!
Myles: Thank you so much. Oh, we’ll be back. Philadelphia is one of the best, and one of the few REAL rock markets left in the United States. There really aren’t that many, but Philly is certainly one of those.
Amps: What does Myles Kennedy like to do away from music?
Myles: Music has always been my main thing, and somehow I’ve managed to make my hobby my living. So I’ve tried really hard over the past few years to discover new things and try to broaden myself. I’m really into architecture, and that’s kind of become my new jam, just an appreciation for it. I read about it and try to understand it. But other than that music is still my main passion.
Amps: Is there anything about you that people DON’T know, in this age of Google and Wikipedia?
Myles: (Pauses) whew, I don’t know. I think over the years most everything Myles-related has kind of surfaced. I’m drawing a blank, guess I must not be that interesting (laughs)! There was a time when I was a wedding singer in my early 20’s, trying to survive out there, and I remember it not being very fulfilling musically.
I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep performing. I can’t tell you how many times I had to sing “Here and Now” by Luther Vandross. Bet your readers didn’t know THAT (both of us laughing)!
Amps: What would you like to say to all your fans out there?
Myles: I’ve said it before, and maybe it sounds redundant, but it is very sincere. It’s a big THANK YOU, because we’re not a band that gets played a ton on the radio. We’re kind of a niche band, and the reason we’re able to go out and tour is this fan base around the world that is incredibly passionate. If I’m doing a promotional thing, or talking to a publication, people putting it on always comment on how intensely passionate our fans are. As soon as something goes up they flock towards it in numbers that let that particular entity see just how passionate the fans are. And that is what keeps us afloat, you know? And we are all very cognizant of that and very grateful for it. Without them I’d surely be doing something different, so thank you for that.
Myles Kennedy is one of the most humble, down-to-earth people in rock and roll you’ll ever meet. It was an absolute joy to talk to him. As of this writing it should be noted that the guys in ALTER BRIDGE flew Erik Lasaine, survivor of a recent shooting that took place near the University of Illinois, and his girlfriend to Dallas for their album release show on October 7. You can read all about it HERE. This just goes to show you the kind of guys they are, and what their dedication to the fans is like. Pick up The Last Hero wherever you buy music, and whatever you do, buy a ticket to see them live and continue to support bands like this; bands who truly care about their fans. Trust me, they’re not as common as you might think.
LIVE IMAGES: FIRST GIRL PHOTOGRAPHY