It was a strange sight to see: the luxurious Sheraton On The Park hotel in Sydney’s CBD busy with tour managers, record label reps, journalists and rock stars all running around in some mad harmony pulling the strings that allow the Soundwave machine to keep running. It was amongst this sea of Mohawks, tattoos and ripped denim that I caught up with Mark Tremonti, lead guitarist from Alter Bridge – the highly acclaimed band labelled the Future of Rock.
It’s been a long, hard road for the Michigan based band to get to this spot, rising from the ashes of late 90s powerhouse Creed. “It was tough; we spent about 6 or 7 years getting to where we are now…Creed did nothing internationally, we did a few tours of the US but not much, so when we started with Alter Bridge everything was new over here, as in Australia, also Europe. In the States, we had to constantly fight against our Creed history and our Creed past. So you know, we got labelled Creed part 2 and all this stuff. But by Alter Bridge’s second record we kinda started to build our own identity, and by the third record, the one which people embraced the most, it was well on its way. It just took us a long time to establish ourselves as a new band” – referring of course to the legendary Blackbird (2007) and AB III (2011). In between these releases, the process was not helped by a number of label changes proving very disruptive for a band who spent the first three to four years of their career distancing themselves from a legacy borne of controversy.
The honour of vocals was placed upon Slash frontman Myles Kennedy. Obviously, Slash’s solo project is still alive and kicking. I asked Mark how Alter Bridge has managed to survive, with members involved in other arrangements including a highly anticipated new Creed album; how have the conflicting schedules not caused internal tension? “We’ve been doing it for a while now, jumping back and forth. We plan our years in advance. Last year was strictly Alter Bridge, this year will be Creed, and then next year we will get back together and write more for Alter Bridge. I actually have a solo album coming out, so if you’re a fan of anybody in the band, there is a lot of good music coming out.”
It seemed like such a simple system, but why had so many bands gotten it wrong and ended up disuniting over side projects? “We’ve all been in a lot of bands, I think you just get older and you get wiser. Everyone’s an artist and wants to do their own thing, just as long as you put equal effort into all your bands. For Alter Bridge, we try to put out a record every two to three years. That’s always been a good system for us”
Now, if you have two ears you’ll know full well that Alter Bridge are a huge part of this year’s Soundwave Festival, kicking off in Brisbane last week. Mark opened up about his thoughts of our land “Oh man I love it here, the great weather…it rained a bit when we arrived, but it’s so nice now. I just love it here”.
Thankfully the horrid weather of late pulled itself together for our international guests. This marks the 4th time Alter Bridge has played in Australia but the first stint on the ever-growing Soundwave Festival. I asked Mark what he thought about our little festival. “It doesn’t get any better than Soundwave; there are more bands than you see anywhere, like when we did the Hell Fest in France – they had a pretty similar line-up, but you couldn’t find anywhere else, this is amazing…but you know the kids in the states don’t know too much about Soundwave, it’s too far away, but bands all know about it. Every band wants to play Soundwave – it’s a fun time, it’s like summer camp. We’ve been doing the festival circuit for years now so for us it’s great to see all our friends”. And who was Mark most excited to see on the bill? “I haven’t seen Slipknot yet, I’d really, really like to, I’ve seen System Of A Down before but I want to see them again, I’d like to see Gojira…oh man, Mastodon. It’s so awesome I really want to see all of them [laughs]”
In a matter of days the Soundwave Festival will be over almost as quick as it began, though we will be seeing a lot more of Alter Bridge with releases coming from left right and centre. As well as the new Creed album and Mark’s Solo project, Myles will be working on the new Slash album set to drop late this year. So much experience in one band who are yet to reach their cruising altitude.