Alter Bridge’s Mark Tremonti and Scott Phillips at Carnival of Madness – Interview

I’m not afraid to admit that I was/am a Creed fan, but I really love Alter Bridge. They’re the type of band that once you see them live, makes you love the songs on their albums more. The band is an incredible talent. The back bone of the band is Scott Phillip’s and Brian Marshall, two very gifted musicians in their own right. Out front you have one of the best front men out there in Myles Kennedy and one of the greatest (and underrated) guitar players out there in Mark Tremonti. I got a chance to sit down with Mark Tremonti and Scott Phillips back stage at the Carnival of Madness show in Chillicothe IL. Mark Tremonti is probably one of my top 3 favorite guitar players, so just being able to sit in the same room with him for 20 minutes or so had me on cloud nine for a long time, in fact writing this is getting me back there. Check out my interview here.

Zoiks!: How’s the tour going so far?

Mark Tremonti: Second day. So far so good.

Z!: How did you guys get involved with the tour?

Scott Phillips: They had asked us awhile back if we’d like to be involved, and we were all about it and we had the break in our schedule so it was kind of good for us.

Z!: How are these festivals or preparation for these festivals different than a regular Alter Bridge tour?

MT: Yeah. No rehearsals no practice. It’s a little more hectic, especially with five bands. Normally with an Alter Bridge show it’s two to three bands at the most including us. We try to give everybody a sound check and the days a little more relaxed. With this the first few shows are always kind of tough cuz everybody’s trying to get their gear down in. We haven’t played together in about 7 weeks now so last night was definitely, it was good, but I think nobody knew exactly what to expect, at least the four of us didn’t. But after the first few days you kind of get in a rhythm and you know once we get everything down in it actually becomes a little bit easier there’s not a whole lot to do. We have a shorter set, and then get to hang out with the rest of the bands.

Z!: Do you get a chance to check out the other bands? And if so who are you looking forward to seeing?

SP: I haven’t seen Emphatic or Adelita’s Way yet so I’m looking forward to seeing those guys. Black Stone Cherry have been on the road with us on and off through the bulk of this year, and then we’ve known the theory guys for several years now so we’ve got to see them a few times.

Z!: Is there a friendly competition when you get to play with these big festivals where you try to one up each other or is it more just everybody does their own thing?

MT: Yeah it’s just all in good fun. Everybody’s so different, it’s never a competition.

Z!: What do you guys bring to this tour?

MT: I think all the bands sound different. I think we definitely sound different than everybody else. We have a tenor vocalist. I think he’s the only tenor on the tour I would think. He (Scott Phillips) dresses pretty snazzy.

Z!: You released your newest album late last year, and prior to that you had had a successful run with Creed and Myles was doing his thing with Slash, so you had a lot of momentum built up going into that new album, did you feel that when you were recording the new album?

SP: Somewhat. When we recorded this it was kind of right at the beginning of, we had done the Creed record and the first Creed tour. We had another Creed tour coming up, but during recording Myles had done some stuff with Slash but not a ton, so when we recorded it I don’t know if we knew what to expect as far as momentum building up. After we had done the Creed tour, post maybe through recording and Myles had done the stuff that he’d done with Slash, I think we did kind of feel some momentum building up towards it. He started to become a lot more recognizable as a front man, more people were starting to find out who he is, which certainly helps Alter Bridge a ton.

Z!: Is it difficult juggling all the different projects you guys have going on?

MT: It can be sometimes. We’ve pretty much done a good job so far. I think we just have to plan ahead about a year in advance.

Z!: You guys have been around awhile. Do you still ever have the fan in you come back like when you’re playing with Slash and you look at eachother on stage and say that’s Slash or that’s Van Halen or whatever. Does that still come out?

SP: (Both nodding) Absolutely. Definitely.

Z!: Mark, how’s your solo album coming along?

MT: Good, good. Tracked about half of the vocals now. All the bass is done. Rhythm guitars are done. Eric, the other guitar player is doing his guitar parts now. I gotta write about eleven guitar solos or organize about eleven guitar solos and sing half the record and I’ll be done.

Z!: What can fans expect from that album in terms of sound?

MT: It’s a mix. You know, it’s got some of my metal roots in there, maybe a little more than there would be in Alter Bridge some of the more speed metal riffs. It’s definitely not a speed metal record. It’s just a hard rock record. I’m trying to tackle the vocals the best I can.

Z!: When you’re writing a song do you specifically write for Alter Bridge or write for Creed or write for your solo stuff or are you just kind of writing?

MT: I’m just writing then go back and kind of categorize stuff after the fact, and most of the time I’m organizing them into song parts instead of where they would go and eventually when there’s a record coming up you kind of tag which ones you feel for the project. I think the biggest thing is to keep Alter Bridge and Creed completely separate sounding.

Z!: I remember the first time I saw Alter Bridge I got a lot more than I was expecting. You guys are a great live band. As a fan is there a live band that you guys saw that really kind of blew your mind and stuck with you?

MT: Floyd’s Funk Revival is probably the best band I’ve ever seen.

SP: Butch Walker, he’s now a solo artist but does a lot of producing and writing for other people had a band called Floyd’s Funk Revival. They were based out of Atlanta. They used to come through Tallahassee back when we were first forming Creed and they played at this bar in front of about 15 people, and put on the best arena show you’ve ever seen in your entire life. The energy they had, the stage presence, everything was on it.

MT: We had another guitar player in Creed at the time by the name of Brian Brasher who worked the door at this bar and called all of us and said, ‘you guys gotta come in here right now and check these guys out.’ So that probably would be one of the best early live bands that was influential.

SP: Tea Party made us step it up a lot. Tea Party from Canada, they opened Creed, they were huge in Canada and tried to break into the states, we were four months into the tour, three months into the tour on our first record and they came out and were opening for us. A very polished, a very good band that was another arena type band playing at a small club which made us definitely have to up our game.

Z!: Who are some bands that you’re listening to now?

MT: I’m still listening to all the old stuff that I grew up on. I listen to my old favorite bands new records, like Forbidden just came out with a new record that I’m digging, and Death Angel came out with a new record that was pretty cool, and Celtic Frost, but mostly I listen to guitar player kind of stuff. Stevie Ray records or Jeff Beck records records or anything I can learn from.

(Scott is kind of smirking and shaking his head while Mark answers, I’m not sure if it was because of Mark’s answer or what he was about to answer)

Z!: Cool. What about you, Scott?

SP: Me, I hate to admit this, but most of the time I listen to the radio when I’m in the car with my daughter whose the biggest top 40 fan, like Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Neo, all that, that’s a lot of stuff I have to listen to and have grown to appreciate it, but you know there’s not any bands that I’m really really listening to right now. I think there’s some good bands out there, but I just haven’t taken the time to dive in and see what they’re all about.

Z!: Is it difficult coming from different influences between the four of you to get a sound that you’re all happy with?

SP: I think it helps honestly. I think that’s kind of what has made Alter Bridge’s sound become Alter Bridge, it’s the fact that we all share a common theme with classic rock, but we all have almost vastly different backgrounds in music as well, and I think what each of us sort of brings to the table is what creates that sound.

Z!: What has been your favorite moments of your career so far?

MT: Mine was probably opening up the case to my first Paul Reed Smith signature model. That was a big moment for me. It was right around the same time that we played with Van Halen at Madison Square Garden, which was pretty intense.

SP: Playing Woodstock ’99. We’ve done numerous festivals with Creed and Alter Bridge when you get up there and there’s massive crowds, 50, 60, 80 thousand people, but Woodstock was a quarter of a million people. You couldn’t see the earth, you could just see hands and heads for as far as the eye could see and that was pretty cool.

Z!: Was that creepy at all seeing that many people? Especially with everything that went on after that weekend?

SP: It was pretty awesome. It was a lot of breasts if I remember correctly.

MT: We were well breasted that day.

SP: We must set a record that day. And then the thing that kind of sucked was after we played it was the Chili Peppers and that’s when all the fires started and all hell broke loose so it kind of left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth, but for the 45-50 minutes we were on stage it was amazing.

Z!: So what does the next year have in store for you guys or that you can tell me?

MT: We’re touring until September 18th on the Carnival of Madness and then we were supposed to go to Australia on the Sound Wave Revolution Tour, but that got cancelled last week so now we’re kind of in limbo with that, and then we head to Europe for October-November and after that we’ll probably start planning some Creed stuff for next year.

BYLINE:

Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.

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