Music Interviews

Interview: Alter Bridge

Interview: Alter BridgeAlter Bridge
Alter Bridge.With their three studio albums, Creed sold an astonishing 23 million records in the US alone.

However, with the public’s adulation came scorn and derision in equal measure, with the media taking a dislike to the band’s post-grunge heavy rock and, it seemed, vocalist Scott Stapp.

After Creed split up last year, guitarist Mark Tremonti and drummer Scott Phillips quickly regrouped.
They formed Alter Bridge with ex-bandmate Brian Marshall and former Mayfield Four vocalist Myles Kennedy, and releasing their debut album, One Day Remains.

With Alter Bridge due to tour the UK in a few weeks’ time, musicOMH thought it would be an opportune time to catch up with Messrs Tremonti and Marshall to find out if they’re enjoying life as a mid-sized band again.

It’s hard to gauge exactly what it was about Scott Stapp that seemed to rile critics – particularly British ones – so much. Maybe it was his earnest demeanour (though Bono seems to have managed okay); more likely it was the fact that he grappled with his spiritual side, leading to Creed obtaining the lazy tag of “that Christian band”.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear from speaking to Stapp’s former colleagues Mark Tremonti and Brian Marshall – as they explain why Creed split up – that they aren’t members of his fan-club either:

“We just weren’t passionate about it [Creed] anymore. Relationships had deteriorated between the band and Scott. It started happening even when Brian got kicked out of the band,” says Mark.

At this point, Brian nods in agreement and the two of them laugh. Marshall left Creed in 2000, in between the ber-selling Human Clay album and its follow-up Weathered. Unsurprisingly, he’s even less likely to be sending Stapp a Christmas card:

“Me and Scott are two totally different people and from day one I never considered him a friend. It was just a relationship I had to deal with and it was inevitable that [my leaving] would come around because he and I clashed so much… I couldn’t have gone on in that environment any more – it was just unhealthy.”

“We just weren’t passionate about it [Creed] anymore. Relationships had deteriorated between the band and Scott.” – Guitarist Mark Tremonti on why Creed broke up.

When exactly Creed died is a moot point. Tremonti may have a more musclebound physique than most mortals, but he confesses that the incredibly short time span from the official announcement of Creed’s split to the release of Alter Bridge’s debut album last summer was not down to a superhuman burst of productivity:

“No, it was our publicist who suggested that we hold off on the news until when our new record was going to come out so we could say, ‘Okay, Creed’s broken up but here’s a new album…’ We wanted it out earlier because I’d meet all kinds of fans and they’d be, ‘When’s the next Creed record coming out?’ and I’d be, ‘Errrrrr, I don’t know, but pay attention to the news.’ It’s all good now – it’s been a pretty quick transition.”

The transition has been made less painful for fans by the fact that One Day Remains is a strong and assured debut, with the inevitable Creed-isms sitting alongside bits of Soundgarden-ing, Audioslave-ry and some surprisingly mosh-tastic heaviness. I wonder whence the latter came?

“If it was up to me, it [the album] would be twice as heavy as it is,” says Mark.

“I think what we are about is playing honest, passionate rock and whatever comes out, can come out.” – Bassist Brian Marshall on Alter Bridge’s, erm, creed.

I nod my head, concurring with this tantalising thought, but Brian is having none of it. He looks at Mark and laughs, “Well, thank God it isn’t!” before going on to what seems like another veiled dig at the way things used to be:

“I think we really had the chance to be open and free with what we are playing and there’s no real compromise. We had the freedom to not worry about the length of song and to not have to conform to a specific sector of an audience or anything like that. I think what we are about is playing honest, passionate rock and whatever comes out, can come out and come out hard if necessary.”

Throughout the interview, “honest” and “passionate” are words that Tremonti and Marshall repeat when referring to their new band. Tremonti explains that these emotions inform their lyrics too:

“Well the main theme of the album is in the title track, One Day Remains… We made a decision to break Creed up and do this new band because when we’re 50 years old, we don’t want to look back and say [to ourselves], ‘You were safe.’ So, from this day out we’re gonna make all the decisions like we have one day left and do what we would do if we followed passionately what we have in our heart.”

“Find The Real is about a lost person trying to find themselves and Metalingus is a song about somebody who finally sees clearly. It’s just like us – this [Alter Bridge] is clearly what we should be doing. This is the right path for us.”

“We’ve had a lot of critics who used to bash the hell out of Creed who say, ‘I love this album’.” – Mark Tremonti on how Alter Bridge are winning over the cynics.

That may well be true, but one would think it is difficult for Tremonti, in particular, to have suddenly gone from playing enormous arenas to mid-sized clubs. He insists that he can see the bright side, while not making any secret of the band’s ambitions:

“You know there were a lot of times when we were playing arenas where we’d come out and say how fun it used to be when we played 1000-seat clubs… Being back in these small rooms is a blast. I haven’t had this much fun touring in a long time. We would love to get back to the arena level but in the meantime this is awesome. Even if we get back to the arena level, we’re going to play these shows still… Europe will probably be the place where we can do that…”

When Alter Bridge tour the UK in March, it will be the third set of shows they’ve played here in six months. That’s more than Creed managed in about five years. According to Mark, this work ethic is paying off – even amongst the naysayers of old:

“There are certain people who have prejudices who just won’t give us a chance, period. But we’ve had a lot of critics who used to bash the hell out of Creed who say, ‘I love this album’. I think with this new band people are accepting us a whole lot more because I guess they can tell it’s a little less theatrical, a little more genuine, just grass roots rock ‘n’ roll. That’s how we’re gonna keep it, you know.”

Sounds good to us…

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