Interview conducted April 16 2015
Interview published May 23 2015
The lead guitarist of Creed and
Alter Bridge, Mark Tremonti, releases his
second solo effort, Cauterize, on June 8th. This album is a little different
to what we get to hear with the aforementioned bands, as it definitely
contains a few songs that come out heavy and more direct. Another album,
Dust, was recorded simultaneously and its release date is yet to be announced.
Tobbe: What you made call the album Cauterize?
Mark: You know, I first wanted to call it Providence
and I was the only one who liked the name and I was like "Forget
it! It's my solo album. We're gonna put it out as Providence.",
but the more and more, people said "Uh, I'm not sure about that
". I changed it and I went through and made about a
hundred different ideas from lyrics and songtitles. All the one-word
titles ended up being the best, and Cauterize was the word that stuck
out the most.
Tobbe: Yes, it's a direct word.
Mark: Yes, it's a different word you don't see
Tobbe: It's really hard to put a label on
this album, because it contains a lot of different types of music. All
within the heavier aspect though.
Mark: Yeah, you know, as a songwriter I love
melodies first and foremost and I love speed metal, so I try to do my
best to combine those worlds and at the same time I like really dark,
moody stuff, but I also like stuff that makes you feel good, you know.
So I wanna mix all that up and have all that within one album, or two
albums in this case.
Yes, we'll get back to Dust later. If we compare Cauterize to your first
solo effort [All I Was], I think this new one is definitely more attacking
and maybe a little thrashier too. So where did you get the inspiration,
besides being into speed metal, to do the thrashier moves or riffs?
Mark: I think when we did the first record, we
were kind of in unknown territory, you know, and then as we were playing
these songs live, it was always those heavy songs, like Brains and Wish
You Well, that made the crowd go nuts and made us happy. So when we
got back together, it was "Let's raise some heavy stuff that's
gonna be fun to perform.". I would go through my laptop and show
the guys ideas and one would be a mid-tempo riff "Okay. It's cool."
and one would be a [Imitates a drilling machine.] and "Yes!".
We wrote 8 really heavy songs right off the bat and that's when I was
kind of like "You know what? We can't have it all be heavy.".
It's gotta be dynamic, you know. I don't wanna just show one side of
the songwriting. I wanna show all sides. It leaned mostly heavy, but
it wouldn't be as heavy if it was all heavy. You know, if you didn't
combine it with some more mellow songs.
Tobbe: What you do in Tremonti is rather
different to what you do in Alter Bridge, so do you think it's important
to separate your solo stuff from your main band?
Mark: Yeah, you know. I think there's a bigger
gray area between these bands than there was between my first two bands.
We were really trying to run away from our first band with Alter Bridge
and make it as different as possible. With this band; Alter Bridge is
getting heavier and heavier and heavier and heavier, and this band started
out heavier, so it's kind of this gray area that's approaching. I think
the big thing that helps is the fact that me and Myles [Kennedy] have
very different voices and the rhythm section is completely different,
you know. Alter Bridge is a very groovy pocket and this band is a very
[Imitates a drilling machine again.] tight pocket, so it helps it to
sound different. If I ever put out a [Imitates a drilling machine for
the third time.] in Alter Bridge, nobody would go for it, you know.
Tobbe: So who does this album address to?
Because it's quite different than Alter Bridge, and Creed, if we move
back a little bit in time. Maybe those fans won't like this heavier approach?
Mark: They all seem to dig it so far, you know.
I never think "Is this person gonna like it? Is that person gonna
like it?". This is me and hopefully people will see now, when you
listen to an Alter Bridge record, where the influences are coming from.
The heavier stuff is where I come from, you know. When you're in a band,
you kind of conform to what everybody likes and in this band I go for
that metal stuff. Not to say; I love working with bands. I love the
diversity that comes when you have all these different influences, but
I was dead set on that this is something I want everybody to play on
10, you know. Garrett [Whitlock] thanked us in the first record, because
like usually, producers will make me simplify my drums, and I said "No.
Go crazy on the drums! Make 'em nuts!", you know.
Tobbe: So who has the final word? You or
the producer? [Michael "Elvis" Baskette]
Mark: We do, you know. The producer is one of
us. It's whatever's best for this song.
Tobbe: So what did he actually bring to
the recordings this time?
Mark: He turns into a 5th member of the band,
you know. In the first stages, we play him 24 songs that we'd put together.
He makes his notes, and he doesn't let us see 'em. Then we'll go in
the studio and we all kind of whittle it down to what we wanna do, so
we're like "Which 4 songs are we gonna lose?" and we play
'em through again and there's sometimes we don't agree, like Arm Yourself
was his least favorite song; Arm Yourself is one of our favorite songs.
And in the end, as we're recording, he's like "This is a real fun
one." and I'm like "Mike. See!". First impressions aren't
always, you know, right.
we got into the studio, we'd take each song, play it. "Let's hear
this transition again; what do you guys do? Let's do a stab here. Let's
do a pause here. Let's maybe extend this part.". We'd all sit there
and say "Hey, let's figure out the best way to organize the songs.",
'cause when we where putting 24 songs together, we did it relatively
quick and then we really focus on it in pre-production. We'll do a song
or two a day in pre-production, to get it ready and tempo map it. Sometimes
the first verses gotta be a few beats faster than the chorus or vice
There is a few songs that really happened in
pre-production. Most of it was written before, but Providence. In the
last day of pre-production, Elvis said "You've got everything you'd
ever want on a record with these songs. The only thing you're missing
is an epic song. You need this band's Blackbird [Alter Bridge song.].
You need something that is the staple of this record.". I said
"So on the last day of pre-production you want me to pull out a
song that's equal to the best song I think I ever had anything to do
with?" and he's like "Yeah.". So I went through all my
ideas that I had started. He's like "You know, there's a few riffs
I heard you play earlier that I really like.". I pulled 'em back
out and played it when he's like "That's the one!", so it's
the finger picked pattern which happens to be a 6/8 pattern just like
He's good at inspiring you to write, 'cause he's
like "You're very good at writing these epic choruses. Come on!
Go! You can do it!". So I'm playing and playing and playing and
it [Snaps his fingers.] just happened within 10 minutes, you know. The
chorus happened and then we kind of break for dinner and we came back,
like "All right. We've got the meat and potatoes to the song and
now we need this bridge to be something special.". We wanted to
add some progressive elements to this album. You know, some polyrhythms
and stuff that makes you "Where the 1 in the beat?".
Elvis had the suggestion that "Let's try
a 5/4 timing riff." and Wolfgang [Van Halen, bass] starts strumming
on his bass and "You mean like this?" and he starts playing
just a single note and then we all start playing around to it. Then
I started doing a chord progression under it. Wolfie started doing a
chord progression that kind of morphed. You know, I'm in the C and he's
in the G, it's kind of a cool mix, and then I started singing over it
and we all kind of looked at each other and "Done!" So that
all came together pretty much in a day. All the lyrics, as the parts
are going on, I'm writing them down. At every day in pre-production,
I go sing the songs, so we can have the demos and I purposely write
lyrics really fast so I can have good demos to listen to. And 80 percent
stuck on the record. And then Flying Monkeys. It's my favorite song
on the record
Tobbe: All right. [Mumbles] Not my favorite.
Mark: What's that?
Tobbe: Its not my favorite.
Mark: No? [Laughs] The transition, that chord
change in the chorus, is really what made it for me and that happened
in pre-production too.
Tobbe: I like Arm Yourself, Radical Change
and Sympathy. That's my top 3, at this moment.
Tobbe: I think I have listened to it 10
times, so in another 10 times, I might give you a different answer, I
Mark: Well, you see. You like Arm Yourself and
Sympathy, which are 2 opposite songs and that's all I wanted this record
to have; dynamics.
Yes. It's a very diverse record. So was there ever a question if you would
sing in this band or not?
Mark: No. I was always gonna sing in this band.
Vocal melodies are my favorite thing to do. Guitar playing, I like a
lot, but I love writing singing and writing vocal melodies. When I'm
at home, listening to ideas, I'm always listening to the vocals. I listen
to them over and over again. A riff, I'll hear, but "That's cool.
Kick-ass riff.", but it doesn't lift me like a good song melody.
Tobbe: Yeah. The song melodies are important,
even in metal, of course. It's only us nerds who listen to the music always.
So do you think it's difficult to combine 2 bands, even if you have the
time for it?
Mark: Not if your singer [Myles Kennedy] of
the other band is doing the same thing. He'll go on tour and I'll go
on tour. The writing load is harder. You have to work twice as hard
with writing. But if we didn't have 2 bands, I think both of us would
have way too many ideas that are getting wasted. That's why I did 2
records on this thing, because I went through my ideas over and over
and over again and made sure that most of the things I wanted to get
out were put out. There's still a ton of them sitting there.
Tobbe: Let's move to Dust a little bit.
Is Dust a different record or is it similar to Cauterize?
Mark: Yeah. Dust is very similar to Cauterize.
I looked at the 20 songs and like Sympathy and Unable To See. They're
both kind of ballady songs, one's gonna be on one record and one will
be on the other record. There's this song, there's that song. I tried
to make both records balanced. The last thing I wanted to do is put
out 12 or 13 songs and have people think that there's 7 b-sides. All
the songs to me are equal. There's not songs that I like much less than
the rest, like "Okay. That's a b-side.". The last thing I
ever wanted was someone to buy Dust and say "No. It's not as good
as the first record.". I want the people to go like "Oh, wow.
It feels like the first record.".
Tobbe: But isn't it a little hazardous,
because if people don't like the first record, they won't spend their
money on the second?
Mark: Well, yeah, but if they don't like the
first one, they won't buy it anyways.
Tobbe: What happens later, let's say in
a couple of months, and you think that you're not really satisfied with
what Dust has become. Is there a risk that you will have to go into the
studio and re-record some stuff?
Mark: No. It's mastered.
Tobbe: Okay. It's mastered and done, so
I guess it won't happen.
Mark: It's done, yeah. But for the people that
don't like the first record, Dust is completely different.
Mark: It's all ballads and sunshine.
Tobbe: Right. So what did your personnel,
Garrett, Wolfgang and Eric [Friedman, guitar], actually bring to the table?
Mark: You know, they write their own parts.
They do their own thing. They help arrange the songs. You know, they're
all great musicians. Garrett's a killer drummer. Everybody's like "Man,
that drummer is amazing.". Erock brings more of a bluesy style
on the guitar side of things. Eric's my main source of bouncing ideas
off. "You like this? You like this?". I trust his opinion.
And then Wolfgang is just so good at what he does. There's been riffs
that he'll be sitting on the couch playing and like "Oh, let's
just dive into that riff. Let's try this.". He's a very smart musician.
What do you have left to prove? Isn't your success with the other 2 bands
well enough to still your hunger?
Mark: No, I've not proven anything. This is who
I am. There's no thrill greater than taking something out of thin air
and putting it into a song and see people's reaction to it, you know.
My favorite part of the entire process is recording an album and being
able to hear those songs before the world gets to hear 'em and then
anticipate how people will like them. I write the songs, 'cause I love
these songs. These are songs I'd wanna listen to and I enjoyed them
when we finished them. Right now I'm like, I've heard them, you know,
too much, but I know nobody has heard them yet, so I'm excited to see
Tobbe: You have traveled a lot in your career,
so how do you combine the music with your family life, with kids and stuff?
Mark: For the whole last year I've been at home,
you know. We recorded at home
Tobbe: All right. I will take that question
Mark: You know, I wrote the record in Orlando
[Florida], and recorded the record in Orlando. It's been done since
December, so I've been at home until this trip. And then I'll go on
tour for about 3 and a half weeks in the States. They'll come out and
visit me. I'll come home for about a week and a half and then come over
here for 3 weeks and then I'm home for another 3 months and then come
back over here.
Tobbe: So what about the dates in the fall?
Will you play in Sweden?
Mark: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Tobbe: And in Stockholm?
Tobbe: Is that totally true, or?
Mark: Well, I mean, I'll definitely tell the
agent it's gotta happen.
Tobbe: Do you think there's still a market
for guys going solo? You know, if I compare you to like David Coverdale
and Ronnie James Dio, who both came from big bands and became, maybe not
as big, but
Mark: I think when the songwriters are the solo
artists, you know. Not when it's just like an instrumentalist. When
it's somebody who's writing the songs, I think that that goes further
because they're bringing something to the table. They're not just saying
"Look at me!".
Tobbe: So how much time do you spend on
Mark: Oh, tons.
Tobbe: And your vocals?
Mark: Vocals just happen when I'm practicing
and I don't practice singing 'til before tour and on tour.
Tobbe: Do you warm up before you sing live?
Mark: I used to, but then I felt like my voice
got worn out, so I'm not warming up right. So I'll talk loud and I'll
sing the easier parts of songs just to get my blood flowing and get
my pitch honed in. But I won't do the high stuff. I don't wanna burn
Even if you're in those other bands, you're somewhat anonymous to the
masses. If you go out on the streets, will people recognize you sometimes?
Mark: Yeah, sometimes. I mean, it's not like
I get swarmed and I prefer it that way. I've probably got recognized
once on this trip over here
but I have been sitting in hotel rooms.
Tobbe: Yeah, you're stuck inside here. And
what about today's issues with downloading? I guess you're a lucky man,
because you released a couple of records with Creed before downloading
really became a world wide phenomenon. So how do you look at it? Do you
see it as a problem or do you see it as an opportunity?
Mark: I see it has turned this business on its
head and it's made everybody have to struggle to survive, you know.
Me personally, I'm just trying to adapt, so I do other things. You know,
I teach guitar clinics, produce guitar DVDs, come up with new ideas
for merchandising with my brother. His big idea was we release a record
and each song has its own T-shirt. We recorded this album and for each
song I used a different guitar to record with and we offered those guitars
for sale, so people could buy the guitar that recorded like Five Monkeys.
You know, we do anything we can to stay afloat. After the show, we tell
the fans that if you buy something from the merch booth, the whole band
will stay after and sign everything. So after the show there'll be 500
people and we'll stay there for 2 hours. Right at this point, we have
1 hotel room on a day off. Everybody has to use the same shower. You
know, I don't wanna use my past successes to go out and I don't wanna
feel like "Okay. I'm just gonna get my hotel room by myself, guys.".
I wanna earn it and I wanna act like no other band has happened and
like this is the only band and earn it from the ground up. Because if
this was a new band, we'd be in a little van and we'd be flat ass broke,
just like every other band that's starting it out.
Tobbe: You have sold a lot of records. Do
you know how many records you have sold up 'til this point?
Mark: I'm not sure. I know the first record [My
Own Prison] is on its way to 8 million. The second record [Human Clay]
is on its way to 12 million and the third one [Weathered] is on its
way to 8 million. And then Alter Bridge; The first record went gold
and then I don't know.
Tobbe: And nowadays, what kind of sales
figures do you expect for Tremonti? 2000? No, that was rude.
Mark: If a band nowadays hit a hundred thousand
records, you're a superstar, you know. Nobody buys 'em anymore, but
as long as we can get people to the shows and keep be able to do what
Tobbe: Do you think there's a future for
new bands? They won't have the financials anymore.
Mark: It's the hardest times it's ever been,
so for those bands to get through they've gotta be really savvy and
good. I see a ton of bands come and go. I'm waiting for that next Guns
N' Roses, you know the next Van Halen, that next Metallica. Something
that really pops, but it seems like it's all been done before.
also: review of the