Mark Tremonti is out on the road in support of his upcoming Tremonti album “Cauterize.” I got the chance to check out his show in Pontiac, IL. Pontiac is a small town about 90 minutes south of Chicago. It’s awesome that Freakster’s Roadhouse brings shows like this to their town; hopefully they’ll be able to keep bringing shows like this to town.
If you ever get the chance to see Mark Tremonti live (in any fashion) whether it be with Tremonti, Alter Bridge or even Creed you need to go. Mark puts on a great show. He’s a modern day Guitar God. The show was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while with the highlight of the show for me was “The Things I’ve Seen” and “Giving Up.” Those were songs I loved anyway but their live take was incredible. Prior to the show I got the chance to chat with Mark about the upcoming album.
You can preorder the "Cauterize" here:
Best Buy (with four exclusive tracks)
FYE - Autographed with 2 exclusive live tracks
Bob Zerull (Z!): You’ve got the new album “Cauterize” coming out in a week. What was different about your approach this time around?
Mark Tremonti (MT): We had a lot more time to work on it. I knew I had Elvis (Mark ‘Elvis’ Baskette) for a limited amount of time. So I wanted to work real hard before hand to be ready to come in and record. We recorded 20 songs. We spent about 40 days just piecing together our initial arrangements. Then we spent a ton of time on pre production. It was like a mountain of work. I had to write lyrics for 20 songs, 18 guitar solos and put together all those songs.
BZ: It ended up being two albums worth of content. Are both albums done then or is there still a little work to do on the second one?
MT: It’s all done.
BZ: Are you a perfectionist in the studio or do you try not to over think things?
MT: I like things to be perfect. I will never walk away if I’m not happy with something.
BZ: Is the writing process just you or is it collaborative with Tremonti?
MT: The ideas start with me and I bring them to the band. I play them for the guys to see what their reaction is. If I think something is good I like to hear it from other people to. That reinforces my knowing of what parts work. We’ll sit together and put the arrangements together as a band. It’s a team effort in that respect.
BZ: Were you planning on recording 20 songs from the get go?
MT: We put a contract together with Elvis to record a certain amount of songs. We wrote 25 songs then cut it down to the 20 best. At first I didn’t know how I wanted to release it. When I thought about it I thought why put out 13 songs and have 7 songs be thought of as B sides? I want all these songs to have the same impact. I looked at the 20 songs and if there were two mellow songs I put one on the first record and one on the second. They’re both just diversified. Some of my favorite songs are on the second record, it’s gonna be hard to keep them off and wait a year or till Christmas or however long it is.
BZ: What’s the most difficult part of the song writing process for you? Is it the lyrics, the riffs the melody?
MT: Capturing lightning in the bottle. That’s the most important part, I don’t know if it’s the most difficult but they’re the ones you get the most excited about. I think the most difficult part is writing 18 guitar solos. It was a huge huge amount of work. I got to the point after the third one where I was like I don’t want to play guitar ever again. Once you start knocking them off and you start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel it gets much better. Some solos would take me a week; I wanted them to be perfect. I want them to tell a story. Some songs are in an altered tuning so it’s not like I can take my scales and use them.
BZ: What about lyrics that seems like the most difficult part to me?
MT: Lyrics are hard. This time around I did something different than I’ve ever done. On my hard drive I have all my ideas isolated. I put songs together like puzzle pieces. I write a piece and then I marry it with another piece. I wanted to make good demos when I was organizing my verses, my choruses, my bridges. I put them into those categories and rerecorded them. I wanted to record them with legitimate lyrics, with something I could sing. When I write I just sort of scat and make up lyrics off the top of my head. When I did this I sat down with each part and I forced myself to write really really fast and I’d spend maybe five or ten minutes on each verse. When I put the songs together you’d be surprised to see just how many of those really fast lyrics float off the tongue and stuck. When I married it with another part I’d have to make the lyrics make sense and put a story behind it. A lot of the lyrics just have to sing right it’s more important that the melody stays true. You’re not trying to force to many fancy words in there. I like to let it be more natural flowing and not too direct. I like my lyrics to allow people to get two meanings out of it.
BZ: There are so many different lyrical styles, do you want to tell a story, do you want to be poetic, do you want to be weird for the sake of weird…
MT: Sometimes the best lyric can be a very direct lyric where you’re telling a story. A lot of times it just happens naturally, I’ll be playing a melody and a lyric will pop out like “Radical Change,” the first song. I just spit it out for some reason. I don’t know why I don’t think I’ve ever said radical change in my life. Then I thought about what happened in my life that was a big life-changing thing. I wrote that song about Creed coming to an end and starting Alter Bridge and feeling the weight of the world. It could’ve been the end of my career. You just draw from a couple words to create the rest of the ideas.
BZ: When you catch lightning in a bottle is it just something that pops in your head or does it come from when you’re just noodling around on the guitar?
MT: Sitting down and free styling on the guitar and with your voice. A lot of times you’re just fishing lines out there and sometimes you’ll hit two notes and it sparks something in your brain that draws out ten more notes. So I’ll finger pick around and I’ll hear the rest of the pattern in my head and I’ll just chase it down until I get it. Writing is just trying to fish around and not repeat yourself and some how be inspired by something that’s not there. It’s hard to explain.
BZ: Alter Bridge is huge in Europe and rock music in general seems to be doing much better over there than it is here, what do you attribute that to?
MT: I think it has a lot to do with the festivals and the publications. You have Rock on the Range and all these festivals starting up over here the past few years and reinvigorating the rock n roll scene but the thing that’s missing is “Kerrrang” magazines, “Metal Hammer” magazine, and the classic rocks magazines. You’ve got “Guitar World,” “Rolling Stone” and “Revolver.” Everybody in Europe, those kids buy every one of the magazines. It’s just not like that over here. I can’t think of the last time I bought a music magazine.
BZ: Do you see it coming back over here, are the festivals going to help?
MT: I think the festivals are going to help but the only thing still missing is the press side of stuff and the kids buying the “Hit Parader” magazines and putting posters on their walls like we did when we were younger. I don’t even know if “Hit Parader” is still around. I’ve never done and interview with them.
BZ: I feel as fans in America we’re more stubborn. If you’re into Slayer you can’t be into Godsmack or Disturbed or whatever but over there they seem to be open to much more music.
MT: I was surprised when we had to play before like Slayer, they’re a band you’d never want to play in front of here in the US. You’d get torn to bits. I remember playing right before Slayer and the crowd was awesome. People are just more open-minded over there. You’ll see Soundgarden on the same show as Opeth and Green Day and then a band like Venom. We played Hellfest. I remember getting booked for Hellfest and thinking really? Isn’t that everything sucks but metal fest? Last years Hellfest was probably my favorite show. It was awesome. The day we played Soundgarden was right after us.
BZ: I don’t really want to ask about Scott’s situation but more of the media’s portrayal of it. He embarrassed himself last year and they put it in the headlines. Now he’s out there kind of admitting he was wrong explaining his situation and it’s being reported but it’s being buried to an extent. Is it fair what the media doing to him?
MT: People were asking me if I reached out to Scott and if I helped out. I said he went to a program or rehab or whatever. I got a text from his family saying thanks for helping out and talking about Scott and that they were going to do an official press release. I felt bad I don’t want to talk about Scott or say anything bad about him. Scott and I haven’t been close for a decade. People think that because I was in a band with him we’re tight. All I know is that his family is awesome, they’re great people and they’re all supportive of him. He couldn’t be luckier to have that support group.
BZ: The media started treating him like Lindsay Lohan or something like that I just felt bad about how they handled it because it’s a sad situation.
MT: I just think he’s had so many ups and downs and unfortunately people are like I’ve heard this story before whens going to be the next thing. Hopefully he stays clean and on the straight and narrow
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.