This interview was conducted to mark the 300th issue of Classic Rock magazine, which launched in 1998. The anniversary issue is available to purchase online (opens in new tab), and also features interviews with Gene Simmons, Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, Geddy Lee, Justin Hawkins, Kirk Hammett, Tony Banks, Fish, Slash and many more.
At a time during the early days of Classic Rock magazine when hard rock music was not looking in the best of health, in 2004 guitarist Mark Tremonti teamed up with bassist Brian Marshall, drummer Scott Phillips – all three formerly members of the multi-platinum-selling post-grunge band Creed – and singer/guitarist frontman Myles Kennedy (previously of The Mayfield Four) to form the Florida-based Alter Bridge.
They soon helped breathe some fresh air and new life into the genre.
What are your first memories of Classic Rock magazine?
I began to see it when we [Creed] toured in Europe. I knew right off the bat that it would become the biggest music publication in existence over there. If the scene was ailing, then you guys carried the torch and helped to build it back up to what it had been before. In my younger days I had cut out pictures from Hit Parader, and that went away. Going to Europe and seeing Classic Rock felt like a bit of a time warp.
Creed were a band that Classic Rock magazine never really warmed to. One of our writers wrote that their album Weathered made “Joshua Tree-era U2 sound like a Buzzcocks tribute band”.
Creed was a band you either loved or hated. Along with the inner turmoil, that type of review was among the many reasons we stopped doing that band and formed Alter Bridge.
But we got Alter Bridge from the start. The late, great Malcolm Dome described your first album, 2014’s One Day Remains, as a slice of “classic American hard rock for a modern age”.
That was awesome. It wasn’t easy to get Alter Bridge launched, and the UK provided a solid backbone for those plans.
Didn’t Myles Kennedy have to undertake a three-hundred-foot bungee jump as his initiation?
[Laughs] That was funny. In Orlando, close to where I live, there’s the world’s largest freefall, and we made him do that. It’s on video somewhere.
As Classic Rock grew, so did Alter Bridge. In 2013 we put the band on the cover. It was heartening to watch things grow from playing London’s ULU to the Mean Fiddler, then the Astoria…
I loved those gigs at the Astoria. They were among my favourites that we ever did.
You then made the leap to Hammersmith, then Wembley, two nights at the Royal Albert Hall and eventually the O2 Arena. Hasn’t it been quite a journey?!
I’ve so many special memories. Each time we came back to the UK, even though we’re Americans the place felt like home for us. It’s entirely possible that without that support we got from you guys [in Britain] we might have given up. America was tough for us at the beginning. We were the guys from Creed, and no matter what we did some people saw that name and discounted what we did.
However, Creed made an unexpected comeback in 2009.
I enjoyed parts of that, but not all of it. It was great to go back because there was a lot of positivity in Creed’s history. We got to experience things that Alter Bridge is yet to achieve. It felt like a high-school reunion, but some of the old tensions returned and that’s why we haven’t done another one since. That’s not to say we won’t, but the tension is an issue.
You have also released five albums by your own group, Tremonti, including last year’s Marching In Time. A lesser man would have taken a break.
I would feel like a lesser man if all I did was sit around doing nothing. I need to work.
Tell us about Tremonti Sings Sinatra, a set of songs that were sung by the late, great singer Frank Sinatra, which you recorded with his original backing band.
We got approval from the Sinatra family, something they had only previously allowed Tony Bennett and Michael Bublé. We recorded fourteen songs, and I’m more proud of this record than any other I’ve done. We’ve also started something called Take A Chance For Charity, which challenges artists of any kind to do something that their fan base wouldn’t expect. For example, Snoop Dogg recording a country song or something.
You resisted the temptation to do rock versions of those songs?
I told the producer and the band leader that I wanted it to sound like it was made at the Capitol Records Building [in Hollywood] during the 1960s. I needed one-take stuff, absolutely no overdubs, and these guys are masters at what they do. It sounds authentic. The guys in the band are so excited, they want to tour on it.
There’s also new Alter Bridge music on the way.
The songs are written and Myles, and I begin pre-production at the end of this month [March]. We haven’t even set foot in the studio yet and already people are asking us what the tour is going to be called. This industry is crazy.
Should things continue as now, issue 400 of Classic Rock is due in 2030 and Alter Bridge will be twenty-six years old. Will there still even be rock bands and music magazines then?
Absolutely there will. That’s just around the corner. Time flies. Alter Bridge make records in three-year cycles, so it’ll be just a couple of records later for us. Rock’n’roll will always thrive. It might not be the popular music of choice, but there are still millions of us that love it.
Tremonti Sings Sinatra is out now.