Mark Tremonti on Slayer, Pinball Obsession, “Zen” New Alter Bridge Album

Alter_Bridge_Press_2019.jpg, Dan Sturges

Alter Bridge have been going strong since being born out of the ashes of Creed back in 2004, with singer Myles Kennedy coming on board to complement guitarist Mark Tremonti’s endless flow of riffs, solos and hooks. While the band members — rounded out by bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips — stay busy with a slew of individual and collaborative projects on the side, they’ve still managed to crank out a new record every two or three years, including their latest, sixth studio release, Walk the Sky, which was just released, on October 18th, via Napalm Records. 

Currently on an extensive tour that will carry them into 2020, Alter Bridge are swamped right now, but Tremonti made time on a recent day-off to have a quick chat about new sources of inspiration he’s tapped into — including John Carpenter’s classic-horror synth lines — improvisational rappers on YouTube, his longstanding love for Slayer, and why he’s always out looking for pinball machines to dominate between gigs. 

Video of Alter Bridge – Wouldn't You Rather (Official Video)

YOU’RE 15 YEARS DEEP INTO THIS BAND NOW, ALL WHILE JUGGLING YOUR OWN SEPARATE PROJECTS ON THE SIDE. WHAT KEEPS YOU GUYS COMING BACK TOGETHER? 
MARK TREMONTI 
Just chasing down the perfect song. We love the group, and we’ve always had a brotherhood going on and love what we do. So taking these breaks, I think, is healthy for us because we get to come back every year, year and a half, and it’s fresh all over again.

ARE YOU GUYS STAYING IN CONTACT OVER THOSE BREAKS, OR DO YOU TAKE TIME AWAY AND GIVE YOURSELVES A LITTLE BREATHING ROOM?
We stay in contact. Me and Scott Phillips live right down the street from one another so we see each other many times a week. Our wives are best friends, our kids are best friends, so we’re like family, really.  

MYLES RECENTLY COMMENTED THAT YOU GUYS MAKE RECORD SO YOU CAN KEEP GOING OUT TO PLAY SHOWS AND CALLED ALTER BRIDGE “DEFINITELY A LIVE BAND.” DO YOU FEEL THE SAME WAY?
I mean, I love the creation process — writing songs, and chasing down the best song you can write — it’s been such a part of my life, striving for that, so I couldn’t imagine not being able to do it anymore. But, yeah, playing onstage is the payoff.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM A BIT — I’VE SEEN YOU REFERENCE JOHN CARPENTER IN A FEW INTERVIEWS, SPECIFICALLY HOW HIS OLDER MUSIC REALLY HELPED YOU IN THE CREATIVE PROCESS. WHAT WAS THE SPARK THAT SET THAT OFF? WERE YOU WATCHING HIS OLD FILMS?
The spark that set if off for me was when I was driving and satellite radio was on, and a song called “Tech Noir” came on by a band called Gunship. I love it immediately, and I sent it to Myles and said, “This is probably my favorite song I’ve heard in the last year,” and thought maybe we could try to incorporate some of the old-school synthwave stuff, like John Carpenteresque vibe. I’m not a huge fan of modern synthesizers in hard rock or heavy metal, but I think the old creepy original sound that came out when those first synths came about — that’s my favorite style of synth.

Video of GUNSHIP – Tech Noir [Official Music Video]

ARE THERE OTHER MODERN BANDS DOING SIMILAR THINGS, MUSICALLY, THAT YOU ENJOY, LIKE GOST OR CARPENTER BRUT?
You know, just from hearing Gunship’s stuff, I’ve listened to their records and dove into a few other bands. Other people along the way have told me to check out this band or that band, and they’re all great! It’s not something that I’m going to dive headfirst into and be my new favorite genre, but I enjoy it, for sure.

THERE’S A LOT OF EIGHTIES NOSTALGIA WRAPPED UP IN THAT GENRE WHICH, SPEAKING OF, AREN’T YOU A PINBALL ENTHUSIAST?
Absolutely, yeah. I’m on a day-off and there’s no pinball! Usually every day-off, I go search for a nice pinball joint, but I couldn’t find one today.

OH NO! YOU MUST HAVE A COLLECTION AT HOME?
Yeah, I do! I love collecting and trading and buying and selling … I love it. When I bought my first home over 20 years ago, I think I was buying a pool table for my game room and they just so happened to have a pinball machine in there, so I bought it and fell in love with it.

THE LAST TIME I PLAYED WAS ON ONE OF THE ADDAMS FAMILY MACHINES — IT WAS GREAT. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE?
I actually have the Addams Family machine at home, but my favorite of all time is probably Medieval Madness.

Alter Bridge, 2019

photograph by Dan Sturges

SO OUTSIDE OF SYNTHWAVE, WHERE ELSE HAVE YOU FOUND UNEXPECTED SPARKS OF INSPIRATION?
On this record, I tried to find inspiration in places I would never think of going. I’d get on YouTube and find these royalty-free, almost hip-hop grooves, and watch improvisational rappers using that kind of stuff just to get a different vibe out of it. The last record I did was my solo record — I wrote a lot of that over metal drum loops, and I was wanting to step away from that to try and get a…

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