Alter Bridge’s latest album “Fortress,” has received rave reviews from critics and fans alike (see Hard Rock Daddy review). Prior to the album’s release, Hard Rock Daddy interviewed AB guitarist, Mark Tremonti. The posting of the interview was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances.
Most bands start out heavy and mellow as they age, but you guys seem to be getting heavier as you go. Was this a conscious decision as you were writing “Fortress?”
I think that when we were putting the record together, we had in mind that we play these songs over and over, tour after tour, and we wanted to make sure that it was going to be a good time playing them. We’ve learned over the years that the up-tempo, heavier stuff is more exciting to play live, so we made sure that the album was more along those lines.
In the HRD review, I draw comparisons to bands like Iron Maiden, Rainbow w/ Dio and Classic Queensryche. Are these bands that influenced your writing style?
We like Iron Maiden, all the classic metal and classic rock bands like Zeppelin. Beyond that, everybody has a different set of influences in the band. Personally, I’m more of the speed metal guy, influenced by bands like Slayer, Metallica and Celtic Frost.
“Fortress” seems to have a lot of the elements of classic Queensryche albums. Are you a fan of the band?
You know, I was never a big fan. I didn’t dislike them, I just never bought any of their albums, but I always dug tenor vocalists back in the day, and the metal thing. Hopefully that’s what contributed to our sound a bit.
AB has the most dedicated international social media fanbase in hard rock that I’ve come across, but you still seem to be flying under the radar a bit in America. Do you think that this has anything to do with the challenges that you’ve had with record companies over the years?
We’ve definitely had our fair share of trouble with the record labels, but I think that the rock and roll scene in general is not as big in America as it is over in Europe, South America and other parts of the world. America nowadays is more of a rap and pop kind of scene, which is kind of disappointing at times. There are definitely markets in the U.S. that are better than others for rock, but it seems to me that rock is on a down cycle at the moment in the states.
I’m surprised you feel that way. I feel like hard rock is in the best place that it’s been since the grunge movement…
Yeah, there are a lot of great bands out there now, but if you look at concert attendance, it definitely isn’t as strong as it was back in the day when you had many, many bands filling arenas. Nowadays, it’s hard to count five modern hard rock bands that are out there headlining arena shows by themselves in America.
I see your point. The bigger shows nowadays seem to be more festival driven with a number of bands playing together.
It’s unusual for a band to be so dedicated to each other while also being just as dedicated to your various side projects. How do you manage to balance your schedules to come together to record and tour?
We just have to schedule everything in advance and have our years planned out so we put the right amount of time behind it. Whenever we come back to Alter Bridge, we have a renewed sense of excitement.
Do you use a lot of the influences from your time away to bring to Alter Bridge when you get back together?
Yeah, anytime you challenge yourself to go and tackle something new, you bring that experience and new tricks to Alter Bridge.
The general consensus on “Fortress” is that it could make Alter Bridge a household name in the United States. If it does elevate you, to what many people believe should be your rightful place in hard rock and metal, will you still continue doing side projects or will you record another AB album to continue the momentum?
We’ll still do the side projects. I think that over the years the 3-year record cycle has really worked for us. We’ve kept our fans engaged, and we’re not throwing too much music at them so they really get to appreciate each album. This cycle has always worked for us. We like the freedom of being able to go out there and experiment without feeling like we’re handcuffed in any way.
Shortly after Hard Rock Daddy launched earlier this year, I featured a review of the live performance of “In Loving Memory” from Amsterdam. To me, it was one of the most incredible live performances that I’ve ever heard, and a lot of that had to do with the audience participation. What did you feel when the whole audience was singing the song that you wrote for your mom?
It tore me up. It was very emotional. It was hard to hold back the tears up there in front of all those folks. At that moment, I was just thinking about baseball to try and get through it.
Having been through a similar loss, I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for you. I give you credit for even being able to get through it. I’m not sure that I could have done the same. Is it always that emotional when you play the song live?
You know, we’ve kind of backed off of playing it a little bit because it would be hard to go through that every single night, but other than “Blackbird,” I think that it’s still my favorite AB song to this day.
Watching that performance makes it easy to understand why you love the international audience so much. I’ve been to countless concerts through the years, and I have never experienced anything like that with an American audience. Is Amsterdam one of your favorite places to play?
Absolutely! Every time that we go there, the crowds couldn’t be better. The only thing that’s sometimes tough about playing there is that you run into decibel limits, and it’s not as much fun when you can’t rock out at your full volume. I don’t recall the Heineken Music Hall ever giving us any limits, but the smaller venues all have them, so when I went back for my solo tour, it felt like I was playing in my house. It was weird seeing a mosh pit going to something that wasn’t that loud.
You have an international tour lined up, but there is no information yet about dates in America outside of Orlando. When will you be starting an American tour?
We’re talking about doing some shows in January, and we definitely plan on hitting all the new American festivals. I think that there’s about seven of them now, and we’ll be planning a tour around that.
Will you be doing arenas this time around?
Not in the states. There’s such a big difference between here and Europe. We’ll do arenas in the UK and larger venues throughout Europe, but in the states, it’s more along the lines of House Of Blues sized venues.
I’d love to see AB in an arena, but the intimate shows are great too. Can’t wait to see you guys when you come to town! Congratulations on making “Fortress” one of the best hard rock albums to come around in a long time!