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Alter Bridge - Hanging out with Scott Phillips and Mark Tremonti

Right before I saw a great display of skill at the 013 main hall, it was time to throw some questions at the feet of the shredding hardrock robot Mark Tremonti and his guiding drum machine Scott Phillips. Be sure to check them out at Pinkpop festival this year, or in a town near you!

How long did you work on the new album, Blackbird, from writing to production?

M: "Three years. We’re always writing, so whatever period of time there is between records, we’re always writing on it."

Do you guys practice on tour as well?

M: "Yeah man, yeah."
S: "I do not practice on tour...hahaha."
M: "I always have my stuff set up."

Were there a lot of differences from working on this album, from working on the other albums? Creed albums maybe or...

M: "Big difference from working on Creed records, you know...ehh...working with Myles is like having another great songwriting partner. I think back in the Creed days it was tough, it kinda felt like there was a lot of pressure to write, because it was like...Scott always helped with arrangements and stuff, but when it came to creating ideas I kinda felt like I was on my own. Now that Myles is part of the group, he works real hard on writing songs. It would be one thing if he came in and brought bad stuff, but he brings in great stuff, so work really well together. I think this next record will be a lot easier now that we established what Alter Bridge does and what roles everyone has."

Who brings in the most ideas?

S: "Probably more Mark, but Myles contributes a lot. He contributed a lot more than on the last record."

What did you think of Scott Stapp’s solo project?

M: "I honestly don't know. I only heard one song, so...”
S: "I heard a little of each song. As soon as I saw the album cover I thought that it was a Bryan Adams album cover. You know I think we’re all a lot happier now that we don’t have to constantly think about Scott. I mean, there were plenty of good times out there as well, but somehow always the bad outweigh the good, to not have to bear that burden anymore. You know, to not listen to his album and not read the articles; I think it’s been better for everybody’s psyche that we kept our separation."

Myles Kennedy was in a band that toured with Creed, right? What made you decide to take him on as the lead vocalist for Alter Bridge?

S: "It was probably around the time that Mark and I decided we’d had enough of Creed and that it was time for something new and that was probably October or November in 2003. Myles started working with us somewhere January 2004. He was somebody that stuck out from his time touring with us. We’ve got a mutual friend and when we let him know of our decision that we were disbanding Creed, he suggested we'd give Myles a call to see if this was something he was interested in. Fortunately for us it worked out."

How did you team back up with Brian Marshall?

"He got kicked out of Creed and we just called him up when Creed broke up."

Was he happy?

M: "Haha…Yeah I guess so, you know… He had big issues with Scott (Stapp) and me and Scott tried to protect him from Scott (Stapp) for about a year, but he didn’t really do a good job in letting us help him haha...”
S: "No, he didn’t!"
M: "Brian would end up showing up late and doing things Scott (Stapp) could use as ammunition to get him kicked out of the band, so we had to choose between our careers or somebody who had been making mistakes and brought it on himself."

What’s your favourite country or festival to play?

M: "England probably, touring wise...”
S: "Ehhhmm…yeah…well there are different ones for different reasons. A lot of the festivals in Europe are great, especially from the festivals in the US. Which can be fun, but you see more passion coming from the crowd here. No matter what band or style of music you are, you know, people really just seem to enjoy what you’re doing. Festivals in Europe compared to the US; you can have a wide variety of musical styles on the same stage and it seems to be accepted."
Mark, you have your own MLB Blog. How did that happen and are all you guys major baseball fans?

M:  "Oh, I did that a couple of years ago. My brother Mike is a big baseball fan and we know a couple of guys that play baseball. It was good exposure; the guys at MLB loved it because they got international exposure they didn’t get before. It was good while it lasted, but you know, you can only do so much with your time, so…I would be faking my way through it right now, because I haven’t seen baseball in a year and a half, probably since Boston won it."
S: "I’m a sports fan in general. I’m an American football fan, so I can tell you a whole lot about that, but as far as baseball's concerned I’ll keep up on who’s doing what, but there are so many games! And especially when we’re on tour, or even when we were working on this record there was so little time to keep up with everything that it kinda fell by the wayside for me."

What do you guys do for fun on tour? Do you go sightseeing or just hang out at the place you’re staying? Keep up with American football and baseball?

S: "Yeah, I try to. We got the Super Bowl coming up so…"
M: "I play guitar! That’s what I enjoy doing. But if I’m in a cool city I’ll try to check out the museums or what not, but other than that…We’ve got a day off in Zurich tomorrow, so we might have to check out that a little bit."
S: "You’ve got the square here. I checked it out this afternoon, got some coffee. Looks like a nice place with the bars and everything. We might hit that later if we have time."

Mark, in your top 5 albums on the Alter Bridge site there are four more or less Metal albums….And Bob Marley. Explain?!

(both laughing)
M: "You know…If people ask me: “If you would go to a deserted island and you could take one album, what would it be?” then I would say: Bob Marley, Legends, because that album just makes me feel good! It puts me in a great mood and makes me wanna drink a margherita! As far as song writing is concerned I think Bob Marley was one of the greatest, maybe even the most powerful man to ever have been in a band. He balanced out political parties. I mean…The guy was awesome."

Do you guys like it when music gets politically involved?

M: "Well...If it’s for the right reasons of course. But I don’t go after a band because of their political views. His (Bob Marley) political views at that time probably have no relevance today. I don’t even listen to political messages. I just listen to the riffs or the melodies."
S: "Regardless whether it’s something I believe in or not I like bands that intelligently speak about either the good or the bad in politics, like Rage Against The Machine is one of the bands that did it as good as anybody could. It just evokes thought."
M: "I still don’t know what they were fighting about; I just know the songs rocked."
S: "They were just mad at the man!"
M: "Mad at the man! I’m mad at the man too! I think we’re all mad at the man, haha…"
S: "I just like that stuff. I’m not really a political guy. Maybe I should be more…"
M: "He’s going to vote for Hillary Clinton, haha…"
S: "Haha…Shiiit…."

Do you guys follow the race to the White House on tour?

M: "In most cities where we come the only English TV stations are news, so I’ve been catching up on the presidential race now that it gets into the play offs, you know. I also watch sports when they get into the play offs, when there’s just four key figures that you can watch bell it out, but I’m pulling for Obama right now."
S: "Me too. We definitely need something to change over there, yeah that’s for sure."
M: "I think Hillary representing our country would be a little harsh. She might get criticized much more than Obama would, because she already has a reputation for being kinda harsh and cold. Obama sounds more like a guy I would have a beer with…Or read poetry to and cuddle, haha…"

Mark, you have your own signature model at Paul Reed Smith Guitars, which are beautiful guitars! How much involved were you in the process of creating the guitar’s looks and sounds?

M: "Oh…well we sat down and talked the whole thing through. They sent about three guitars before we got it right. The biggest hurdle we had to get through was the pick-ups. We had to go through about ten different pick-up arrangements. It’s wound really tight and it has a sound that you don’t hear on any other guitar. You know, I just like a real heavy guitar and they didn’t have it in stock at the time so they offered me the signature model. There where a few things I wanted and they gave it to me, so…That was nice!"

Scott, on the Alter Bridge website, I saw Will Calhoun and Matt Cameron as your favourite drummers which are pretty straightforward rock drummers, but what about guys like Danny Carey or maybe Terry Bozzio?

S: "Danny is definitely an influence, though I don’t play anything like him. I mean, he can drum circles around me with one hand, but I’m inspired by his great creativity behind the drum set."

What do you think of the drums-only concerts of Terry Bozzio? Is that just too much, or genius?

S: "It’s crazy! I mean, more power to him for being able to do that, but that was never my kind of thing. I’ve always looked at drummers that are more groove-oriented like a John Bonham. The stuff that he did maybe wasn’t even that difficult, but he did it with such power and groove and passion to it, that it just inspired people. That’s the kind of drummers I’ve always looked up to."

What do you, Mark, think of the guitar oriented shows of the likes of Satriani or Malmsteen?

M: "I think Satriani does great groovy and soulful stuff. Yngwie (Malmsteen) on the other hand is a great player, devastating, I wouldn’t wanna go up and compete with him, but I’m not really into the neo-classical thing. I was when I was younger, now I’m looking for a classier approach, you know, I like Joe Bonamassa, Oddly Freed. I still like guys like Satriani and Petrucci and stuff, but I will go through their album and pick out the sections that are more soulful, because they have those beautiful classical lines. When people hear it they think it’s just shred and I think they put a lot of heart in their play as well. If a guy spends half of his life on playing guitar, he’s going to come up with some passionate stuff. I like a lot of players."

Favourite player?

M: "Stevie Ray Vaughn."

Top Drummer?

S: "I’d have to go with Bonham."