Alter Bridge have set out on another U.S. jaunt this month to support their most recent CD, Fortress. This will be your last chance to see Alter Bridge for this year…or so they say anyway. I mean, technically, you can see any member of Alter Bridge whenever you really want. Singer Myles Kennedy has also been on the road this summer fronting Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators as they opened for the legendary Aerosmith. Guitarist Mark Tremonti had released one of the heaviest records he’s probably ever written in his solo CD, All I Was, which originally featured Alter Bridge bassist Brian Marshall, but was later replaced by Wolfgang Van Halen on tour. Drummer Scott Phillips has also been busy as he worked on a supergroup called Projected with members of Sevendust. The point I’m trying to make is that Alter Bridge are always here and this month they’ve reconvened to take America by force once again.
Alter Bridge hit our shores on Oct. 10 at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, The Paramount in Huntington, NY on Oct. 12, and Oct. 13 at Freedom Hall in Lancaster, PA, with opening act California Breed, featuring Glenn Hughes, in tow. Guitarist Mark Tremonti called me a couple of weeks before the tour kicked off to talk about what fans can expect to see on the tour, how the band works around Myles Kennedy’s schedule with Slash, a new Tremonti record and working with rock royalty in Wolfgang Van Halen. Here’s what Mark had to say:
Here’s a two part question: How do you go from guitar player from one of the coolest rock bands to come out of the late ’90s, early 2000s to guitar player of one of the coolest rock bands of this decade? And here’s the second part: How do you come out with a solo record that’s even heavier than both of those cool bands?
Well, I just love what I do. I appreciate it. I just keep my head down and try and work hard and I always have more material to put out than I have time to or bands to do it with, so I’m always excited to just put out new songs.
Are any of the solo songs leftovers from Creed or Alter Bridge? Or was that all brand new stuff?
You know, I just have a bunch of files and a bunch of ideas that I try to keep organized, but every time that I do a record, I just go through all of the files. Some ideas could be 15 to 20 years old. Some ideas could be a month old. It’s just depends on when they see the light of day. It’s kind of all chance.
How are you able to fit another U.S. run of dates with your singer, who was pretty busy this summer on a big tour singing for Slash?
Well, he just jumps back into this tour as soon as we start. He flies out to meet us in Louisville. I think we have just that day to rehearse and then we go right back at it.
Is there a worry that Myles might be worn out when it comes time for Alter Bridge to hit the road?
No, I think he just takes care of himself. He stays on top of staying healthy with his voice and warming up and warming down. He’s just a busy guy.
I’m sure that this has been asked before, but in the beginning was it weird for you, Brian and Scott to get into a room with a singer that wasn’t Scott Stapp? And how easily did Myles adapt walking into what virtually was a band of brothers?
Well, we really hit it off right away. I think after the first couple days of playing, we were just like, “Well, welcome to the band.” And then we witnessed the world’s tallest tree fall down here in Kissimmee, Florida, that we did together, and that was kind of his initiation. Now, it’s been almost 11 years.
11 years? Where the hell did the time go?
Yeah, it’s crazy. We’ve been together with Alter Bridge three and half years longer than we were with Creed. Time just flies by quicker the older you get.
Were you guys already fans of Glenn Hughes’ new project California Breed before they were asked to be your support act?
Just a fan of Glenn in general. He’s just such a tremendous singer. I’ve been listening to him in and out so many great bands forever. I got to meet him once and he’s the nicest guy in the world. This is such a crazy thing, but I think Myles has said on many occasions that he’s very nervous to have to follow Mr. Hughes. He’s just going to be a thrill to watch every night. He’s an amazing singer and an amazing bass player too.
With the tour making stops here at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Oct. 10, The Paramount in Huntington, NY on Oct. 12 and Freedom Hall in Lancaster, PA on Oct. 13, what can fans expect to hear from your decade-long discography?
We just like to mix it up between the four albums. We like to experiment a little bit more with the newest record, but we play all the favorites from the old stuff and throw in a few surprises every now and then.
Now, I also read that you and Brian Marshall are doing guitar and bass clinics on this tour, which pretty cool. Can you elaborate?
Yeah, through Fret 12, I did a couple of instructional DVDs and my brother Dan runs Fret 12 and he kind of asked me over the years, “Why don’t you do some clinics?” And I always told him that it wasn’t my thing. I think I’d be nervous to have to talk to people in a clinic situation.
We just started small and sold 10 tickets a show. When it’s just  people coming to your show and you can sit there and just get used to it with 10 friendly folks there, it’s easier to get it and get used to doing it. Now, I’m doing it for up to 15 people. We put it on sale for an hour, but we go about an hour and a half and we go over all kinds of stuff.
It’s an enjoyable experience. Everybody comes to the venue at around 2:30, we go right up and do a soundcheck at four, and then I’ll take everybody up on stage to see the amps and the guitars. I’ll give everybody a tablature for what we go over that day, and then I have another amp next to me, so I’ll ask if any volunteers want to come up and play with me. Throughout the hour and a half or so, I get to play with six or seven folks, while the rest just follow along with their own guitars. It’s a good time and we really have fun with it.
Being an actual guitar hero yourself, are there any young guitar players that Mark Tremonti enjoys watching?
Geez, I’m so wrapped up and just trying to stay afloat and writing enough songs. I love watching all of the other bands that we’ve toured with. I think Joe Bonamassa is probably one of the greatest younger guitar players out there. I mean, he’s probably my age, but he’s just on another level. When we played with him at the Download Festival, I was right up in front of the side stage watching, and I look back halfway through the set and I see all of the other guitar players with their jaws open. The dude is just on another level. I like bands like Opeth. I think that they have great guitar work. I dig all kinds of stuff.
Being that we’re around the same age, you had to have been a Van Halen fan growing up. So, how does it feel to be playing alongside rock royalty in your solo band with Wolfgang Van Halen playing bass for you?
You know what? The whole Van Halen thing hardly ever crosses my mind since I’ve known him so long now. We’re just buddies and we mess with each other. It’s funny because I almost forget about it until the Van Halen thing comes up or some news about it or just in conversation because Wolfgang is so down to earth and such a nice guy that you would never guess that he grew up around such rock royalty. He’s just one of the dudes.
Still, it has to be such a cool feeling knowing that YOUR guitar hero’s son is your bass player…
Well, I remember seeing him when he was a little kid. We were opening up for Van Halen at Madison Square Garden. He was backstage with his mom [Valerie Bertinelli]. He must’ve been about seven years old. So, I remember seeing him when he was this tiny little kid and now he’s in my band.
I have to say, he’s one of the quickest learning musicians I’ve played with. The kid’s got a gift. When we just got together for our last writing session, me and the other guys had about a four-day head start on him. So, I was like, “I have to teach you some of the new songs, and some of them are a little complicated.” We were kind of messing with him and were like, “I hope you can get it.” After just like, 10 minutes, he was just on it. He’s an amazing learner. He has the genes for sure! He’s amazing!
You recently released all of your B-sides to the All I Was sessions on iTunes. Why not just release them as an EP?
We only released one B-side. We released the album and then way later, we released a B-side. That was probably a year ago and then we just released the final one, “Gone.” I wanted to wait to release this one until we had definitive plans for the new record. So, we can get that traffic on the website again to let people know that another album is coming. What better way to do it than releasing the last song from the last round?
One last question for you, Mark: Will we ever see Creed again?
You know what? At this point, we don’t have any plans on any future Creed stuff. None of us has spoken to Scott [Stapp] since our last show, however long ago that was. Right now, I’m just strictly focused on finishing up the writing on my second solo album and the next month of touring. I hope to get the recording for the next solo CD done in the next three months or so and try to finish it before the year’s end and then go from there.
Don’t miss Alter Bridge at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Oct. 10, The Paramount in Huntington, NY on Oct. 12, and Freedom Hall in Lancaster, PA on Oct. 13, with California Breed, featuring the legendary Glenn Hughes, opening. For more info, visit alterbridge.com.