Photo Credit: Robin Ervolina
When it comes to large festivals, Alter Bridge counts themselves down for a great time. Louder Than Life was no exception, and AB arrived in Louisville with an arsenal of new and older songs to wow the gigantic crowd of people. Shockwave had the honor of sitting with Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti for an interview shortly before their set. We got to talk to them about their love for festivals, what goes on behind the scenes of a listening party, and some secrets behind the choosing of “Show Me A Leader” as the first single.
Shockwave Magazine: We’re sitting here with Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti from Alter Bridge. Are you going to be able to have a chance to stay and watch some bands? If so, who are you looking forward to?
Mark: We’re going to be here all day. I wanted to see Crobot today but I think they might have played already.
I think they played this morning.
Mark: Did they? Damn it.
Myles: I still haven’t seen Ghost yet, believe it or not. I’m excited to see them.
Well, lets jump right into the heavier questions. You guys have a big weekend coming up. The Last Hero drops on Friday. Tell us about the writing or recording process on that.
Mark: Well we, Myles and I, got together to start piecing stuff together. Then we met with the guys in pre-production. This time around we jumped right into demo phase with our producer, Elvis. We tried to capture as much lightning in the bottle as we could on this record. That was a little different than what we’ve done in the past. Usually we live with songs a little longer, but this time we jumped right into it.
Myles: Yeah, I mean we started the whole spontaneous approach on the Fortress record. We tried not to overthink it. We continued with that and, like he said, we were flying by the seat of our pants even more on this record, and somehow we ended up landing on our feet. We’re real happy.
It’s a highly anticipated release. So there’s a lot going on with that. How do you think it compares to the rest of your catalog?
Mark: It’s got a little bit of everything in there. I think we just keep trying to push ourselves so stuff doesn’t sound so similar to the last record. It’s always got to be better than the last record. Elvis did a really good job of pushing the limits for us and making sure that we set a high benchmark for this album. You know, he’s very proud to work with us and we’re very proud to work with him. Together we try to make the best record we can.
You just dropped “Poison In Your Veins” as your second single. Anymore surprises before Friday?
Mark: Yeah, we just released “The Other Side” on Saturday.
Myles: Yeah yeah, that’s right.
Oh! We were here and busy all day and we didn’t catch that.
Myles: We’re just throwing them out there.
Please tell us about “The Other Side.”
Myles: “The Other Side” is kind of the perfect Halloween song, because it’s kinda got this doom-y intro and it’s really kind of spooky, so it definitely fits the month we’re in now.
We can’t wait to hear it. Now, you said in an interview that you thought “Poison in Your Veins” would be your first single, but you ended up going with “Show Me A Leader.” What did you favor about “Show Me A Leader” over “Poison In Your Veins?”
Mark: I think the climate right now is perfect for “Show Me A Leader.” It just speaks to the world’s need of great leaders and people that you can believe in these days. You know, with the circus that you see on TV everyday, it seemed like a fitting single for the climate.
For those that think “Show Me A Leader” is political, what would you have to say about that?
Myles: Well, I mean, I think that what inspired it and the emotions that came from it, it is somewhat political. We don’t have an agenda. We aren’t saying “Vote right wing, left wing, moderate” or whatever, but it definitely is a reflection of the disillusionment everyone seems to be feeling right now, and the frustration. It’s more of an emotional purge than anything. (laughing)
You had a listening party for The Last Hero where people got to rate your songs. What is it about listening parties that you guys like to do? I mean, what do you get from them? I have to tell you, your fans LOVE them. We had someone there and she was there as a fan, she bought a ticket. She asked if she could write about it, and to this day it is still our most read article. They love it, you love it. Not a lot of people do it.
Mark: We have fans from all around the world that come into these listening parties. They are the most die hard of all of our fans. We like to spend time and get to know these people that we get to see all around the globe, all in one place. They get to know one another. One of the best things for us is that we make a checklist of all the songs. We have them rate them “first listen,” so when it comes down to choosing singles and how we are going to plot the record out, we see how the fans and the initial reaction is to our songs. It helps us as well.
Do you guys get to review them personally? See what everyone has to say? That seems like a pretty big task.
Myles: Yeah, you know, we basically handed out these sheets with a series of… I don’t even know what…
Mark: Like… a smiley face, a frown? (laughing)
It’s like a rating system?
Myles: It helps us out, because when you finish a record, a lot of times you lose your perspective. You don’t know, you’re too close to it and you just don’t know what your fan base is going to dig and not dig. So it helps us wade through all that.
So when you went through them, were your surprised?
Mark: Well one song we think the audio got jacked up. Oh, it was “Poison in your Veins.” Someone stepped on a cable and people didn’t hear half the song. So when the ratings came in, that one ranked not as high as we thought it would. Then somebody informed us that the audio got messed up.
Which one won by the way?
Myles: “Show Me A Leader.” Or wait, wait, as far as what the fans liked?
Yes, the fans’ choice.
Mark: The highest liked song was “Losing Patience” but as far as single choices, “Show Me A Leader” and “My Champion” were up there at the top.
Did that affect, ultimately, what you guys were going to release as your first single, since “Show Me A Leader” was picked as one of your fans’ favorites?
Myles: I think, ultimately, we played the record for so many different people and a lot of people kept coming back to “Show Me A Leader.” Personally, I was kind of surprised. I thought that was going to be more of just an album track. Mark believed in that one all along. You just never know. It was kind of like through the fan listening party and through “tastemakers” listening to the record. Actually, I think the person that ultimately decided what the single was going to be… believe it or not … we were playing a venue and we were backstage. Mark brought his guitar tech in and we said “Frosty, what do you think our first single should be? Listen to these three songs and tell us.” And Frosty halfway into “Show Me A Leader” was like “There’s your single!” So, I think Frosty finally tipped the scale.
Mark: The thing about “Show Me A Leader,” the intro makes the song. So when it goes to radio, they edited out a minute and a half of that song. Without the intro its a decent song, but it’s not a great song. It’s a great song with the intro on it, so we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit when it comes to picking a first single that’s five minutes long.
Well for the record, I think it’s a great song even without the intro. The intro does add kind of like a creepy moodiness to it, so I’m back and forth. I understand why they had to cut it for radio … but I prefer the five minute cut, personally. Now, Mark, on this album you brought in a guitar you never [recorded with] before.
Mark: I brought in a seven-string guitar and I remember talking to Myles and saying “What are we going to do on this album to make it different.” We wanted to use some alternate tuning. I wanted to use a seven-string guitar. Myles stuck to the six-string, but it’s just that we want to keep on challenging ourselves and branch out.
For people who say that this is heavier, do you think that this is a heavier sounding album as compared to Fortress and AB 1 & 2?
Myles: I don’t know. Personally, to me I think we’ve always had an element of heavy. It’s just a matter of how many up tempo songs. There are quite a few up tempo songs on this record. So maybe that’s what people mean by heavy, I’m not really sure.
Yeah, I’m not sure either. I didn’t get to go to your party.
(Mark and Myles laughing)
Myles: Awww, I’m sorry.
Next time for sure. (laughing) So the next question we have is aimed at Myles. Between touring for Alter Bridge and touring for Slash, it seems vocally that you never stop. What do you do to protect your voice?
Myles: It’s a life of no fun (laughing). Lets just put it this way, drinking is only an occasional thing. It can’t be an all the time thing when you’re touring as much as we do. I just try and be smart about it, do my warm ups and just be aware that my instrument is always with me.
It seems like you are always doing festivals, but you definitely don’t have a problem filling a stadium all on your own. What is it about festivals that you like?
Mark: Getting in front of new fans. There’s a lot of people out here today that aren’t familiar with us. Hopefully after today there’s 15 or 16 that buy a concert ticket down the road.
Oh, only 15 or 16. (laughing) I’ve seen you [Mark] on Shiprocked twice now. The joke was always that everyone wanted AB but they never thought it would happen. How did he get you to jump on board? Like, literally, get on the boat.
Myles: You know what, I think it was just one of those things where I had to get over my fear of boats.
You have a fear of boats?
Myles: Yeah, ever since I saw Titanic… I’m not a big fan of the idea of sinking.
I promise you, your fans will throw you a life raft. They will not let you go down with the ship. Anything else you wanted to add before we wrap it up?
Myles: You know what, we’re just excited to be out playing and hopefully y’all dig The Last Hero, out October 7th.
Mark: And we’ll be back in the states on tour in January, so look forward to that.
Thank you guys so much for sitting with us today, we appreciate your time.
If you missed their set at Louder Than Life last weekend, we’ve got you (visually) covered.
Photo Credit: Robin Ervolina
Alter Bridge rounded off their day in Louisville with a rock show for the ages. They went on stage for a 45 minute set, blowing the proverbial roof off the Champions Park festival.
Catch their new CD “The Last Hero,” out tomorrow. Be sure to pick your copy, and catch them out on tour in January. Click here for all things AB so you’re not left out!