Interview:Crossing Into New Territory
So you're a rock star. You've got one of the biggest hard rock bands around, selling millions of CDs and playing in front of millions of fans. You long to get back to your roots and explore new territory. What do you do?
You start all over again. With the success of Creed, Mark Tremonti has achieved many commercial accolades in the music industry. Being a true musician at heart, Mark wanted to explore some new possibilities and crossover into new areas.
Enter Alter Bridge. Consisting of two of his Creed buddies, Scott Phillips (Drums) and Brian Marshall (Bass) and former Mayfield Four singer, Myles Kennedy, Alter Bridge allows Mark to explore more unknown territory on their album, One Day Remains and at their live shows.
In this interview with Guitar.com Mark talks about his tone, technique and how he is always a student of the instrument. Make sure to also check out the video where Mark gives you a tour of his live rig.
Guitar.com: Have you been working on your guitar playing since your last recording?
Mark Tremonti: Oh yeah, I'm constantly working on it.
Guitar.com: Is it something that you always strive to develop?
Guitar.com: Do you find yourself becoming more dedicated?
Tremonti: I'm diving in everyday trying to conquer new things.
Guitar.com: What are some of the new things that you are trying to conquer?
Tremonti: Right now I am trying to get better at sweeps. I've always had trouble with sweeping ever since I was young. Lately I just started saying screw it, I have to do it eight hours a day to really get good at it. So, I have been working on that a lot lately. I mix it up. I usually don't dive into one particular thing. I'll work for a couple of hours on sweeping, then I'll work on some improvising and then I will work on some right hand techniques, some picking. All kinds of stuff.
Guitar.com: I saw you a few years ago at Madison Square Garden and then I saw you just recently. I definitely noticed a change in your live playing. When you were working with Creed it seemed you were a little more subdued.
Tremonti: Yeah, it really didn't fit much into Creed. That's why we got Alter Bridge going. I can have some fun, do some guitar solos and just have a good time with it.
Guitar.com: It definitely seems that you are taking a few more risks with your playing and I did hear you do some sweeping on the new record.
Tremonti: Yeah, there's a little bit.
Guitar.com: Is that possibly the beginning of it?
Tremonti: I don't like to really put anything on a record that I am not great at. I don't want to do something that I am not good at on a record that I can't reproduce live. I like to do the things I am comfortable with. At that time, sweeping wasn't part of my guitar playing arsenal so I just did a little sweeping on there. Just three string sweeps. I've gotten much better now where I feel more comfortable doing it for our next recording.
Guitar.com: Before you guys started recording the latest release, did you have any goals in mind, things you wanted to accomplish for the recording?
Tremonti: I just wanted to make the songs as best as possible. That's just all I ever do. Just turn these songs into something that people enjoy and that will enjoy for a long time.
Guitar.com: Did you try any experimental things with the gear you were using or the tones that you were trying to get?
Tremonti: Yeah, I bought an old Marshall, I think it was a 1960 Plexi and I used that on a couple of tunes.
Guitar.com: Did you use that on the beginning of Metalingus?
Tremonti: For that, I used an Ueberschall, a triple rectifier and a Hughes and Kittner rack-mounted preamp which was set way back in the mix.
Guitar.com: In the video that you shot for us, you explained that you used the Ueberschall for your bass tones.
Tremonti: Yeah, I like to use that for the low end.
Guitar.com: Did you do that on the recording as well?
Tremonti: No, on the recording we just EQ'ed it to sound the best on its own. Live I usually take the presence and the treble settings on the Ueberschall way down. I keep the presence on about one
and keep the treble below five, maybe even on four.
Guitar.com: When I listen to the music, it seems like it's a lot of fun to play. If some kid wanted to pick up the music he would have a good time learning it. I really like the riff in "One Day Remains". How did you come up with that?
Tremonti: It's just experimental. I always just sit around and hammer on the guitar until something clicks. I always like to write riffs that have an open string going. You can get so much more speed and so much more texture when you play a riff with that open string. It makes it sound more interesting. That was just one of those licks that I used the open string to get a kind of a pedal tone.
Guitar.com: Are you down picking on that or are you alternate picking?
Guitar.com: I noticed you like to use a lot of finger picking in your music. Is that something you always try to incorporate?
Tremonti: Yeah it is something that ever since I was a kid I remember pulling out a guitar magazine and it had in "Bourrée in E Minor" in there. I just sat down all night and learned it. I learned it finger picking. No one really showed me how to do it. I just developed my finger picking style pretty much from learning that song. Then stuff like "Call of Ktulu" from Metallica and stuff like that. When I fingerpick I just usually pick with my thumb and my pointer finger.
Guitar.com: Do you find that Metallica still influences you today, as far as with their new music?
Tremonti: Metallica was my favorite band growing up but now I am kind of secluded in my own little world right now. The only music I really listen to is the stuff I am either hammering out on the guitar or my own stuff that I am writing. Nothing really songwriting-wise. My influences guitar playing-wise nowadays would have to be anywhere from Stevie Ray Vaughn to Michael Angelo.
Guitar.com: I just read something on your website. Did you just record something with Michael Angelo?
Tremonti: Michael came out and did a couple of shows with us when we played in Chicago and Milwaukee as well as Troy Stetina. I've got a lot of friends that are world class shredders that will come down to the show and we'll hang out before shows and shred for five hours. Rusty Cooley came out last week and Michael Angelo as well as Toshi Iseda and Troy Stetina. I'll try and dig into their playing as much as possible and ask them their warm up techniques, where they spent their time practicing, and kind of get it from all different angles. I don't think these guys talk to each other that much. They are all kind of all in their own shred world but I like to get opinions from all the different masters.
Guitar.com: So you are always trying to learn and improve?
Tremonti: Oh constantly. Especially when you have and outlet like that. Somebody like Michael Angelo telling you how to practice, you are going to listen.
Guitar.com: I've seen him play. It can be a little intimidating.
Tremonti: He is such a nice dude though. It's fun to play with him.
Guitar.com: Would you ever consider putting out a record that was pretty much just an instrumental, just guitar work?
Tremonti: You know, I'm so busy keeping up with writing for songs for normal albums that it would be a long while. It takes a lot of work.
Guitar.com: How do you come up with your songs?
Tremonti: I usually get a lot of my work done at night when everybody else is asleep. I'll just go in the back of the bus and break out a guitar, either acoustic or electric with headphones and just get in the mood and go. Whenever I am feeling the vibe I won't stop until I can't keep my eyes open.
Guitar.com: Do you bring the songs to the rest of the guys and then you work on them together?
Tremonti: Not until its album time. What I write, I just write by myself and keep all my ideas on cassette and gather ideas as I go. I create songs, and when it comes time for writing I'll go back to the tapes and show the ideas, organize them and as a band we'll figure out the transitions and how it works best with the band.
Guitar.com: I just interviewed Submersed while I was at a show at Irving Plaza. Do you think you are going to wind up doing more of producing other artists?
Tremonti: Not for a while. Like I said, I am so busy. I had a lot of down time when I did that. I'd do it in the future but just not now. It's so hectic in my life right now that I just wouldn't have time for it.
Guitar.com: How was that experience?
Tremonti: It was great. Everything is a learning experience.
Guitar.com: Those guys told me they picked up a lot from you.
Tremonti: They're good. They are young guys just doing this all for the first time. It's good to try and lead them in the right direction. But you know, they are all wise beyond their years. I've learned a lot from playing with Eric. He is an incredible Blues player.
G He's intense. He seemed really into it when he was playing. He was telling me stories about Kenny Wayne Shepherd and how he had brought him up on stage and given him a guitar when he was thirteen.
Tremonti: I met Eric when he was fifteen years old and he just blew my mind with how good he was. I was at the NAMM festival and I was doing some autographs at the PRS booth and he was one of the last kids through there and his manager introduced himself and introduced Eric as a big fan. Said he was a great guitar player who was endorsed my Fender at the time and he was just such a nice kid that I said "Why don't you just hang out and we will just go jam some amps together." We just picked up some guitars and amps and had some fun. I walked around with him and I heard him play and I couldn't believe it. He is like my little brother now. He came down to visit me in Florida and I found out this band needed a guitar player. I hooked him up with the band, they flew up to New York to a record label and got a deal.
Guitar.com: They were telling me the story and it was pretty amazing. I think he said he was in the band for five days and they were signed.
Tremonti: Yeah, they got signed pretty much from that one little trip up there.
Guitar.com: How's your experience been with Wind Up?
Tremonti: We all started together, it was all a small family and a big learning experience for everybody. Everybody's pretty new at this.
Guitar.com: How did you decide on Myles to be the singer?
Tremonti: He just had the best voice of anybody we knew at the time and still to this day. We heard his band had broken up so we sent him the demo. He was pretty much the guy at the top of our list that we wanted to use.
Guitar.com: Did you know him beforehand?
Tremonti: He toured with us back in 1998 but we really didn't know him well. We made the right decision. I can tell you that much.
Guitar.com: He has a very versatile voice and a big range.
Guitar.com: Are you going to be working on any more instruments with PRS?
Tremonti: No I don't plan to. PRS is pretty much my favorite guitar.
Guitar.com: I know they recently had some troubles legally. Do you know if your model is still going to be available?
Tremonti: No it's not available right now. It's not available until they appeal that court decision.
Guitar.com: That's unfortunate.
Tremonti: Yeah that's very unfortunate.
Guitar.com: Must have been a pain in the ass.
Tremonti: Yeah well, I guess that's Gibson for you.
Guitar.com: I've got a couple of PRS' myself and I like them a lot.
Tremonti: Well maybe if everyone starts yelling at Gibson for it maybe they will back off.
Guitar.com: Well that's pretty much it. Thank you for all the information.
Tremonti: Well, cool. Thank you very much man.
Guitar.com: Thanks for your time and good luck on the rest of the tour.
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