MarkTremonti.net interview with Mark Tremonti at the Croc Rock in Allentown, PA
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Alex: Iím Alex at marktremonti.net and Iím sitting here with the man, the legend himself, Mark Tremonti. How are you?
Mark: Good. How you doing?
A: Very good. This is probably the coolest thing I ever did.
M: Oh, come on.
A: So Iím doing pretty well. So weíre here in the Croc Rock in Allentown, Pennsylvania. You spent the summer over in Europe doing festivals, and you did a few shows in the U.S., I guess you just had a couple weeks off, and now youíre back. So whatís it like playing in the Northeast?
M: The Northeast has kind of always been the hot bit for rockíníroll, so itís great.
A: How does it compare to elsewhere?
M: Everywhere is different, you know. Like the U.K., and Germany, and all the European places we play are absolutely fanatical. The closest thing to it in the States would be the Northeast, and Texas, if you combine those markets. But yeah, everywhere is different.
A: So whatís the most interesting place youíve ever played a show?
M: Probably when we played in Switzerland, we played a festival where we rolled off the bus, and we were in the middle of two mountain ranges. The stage was just set up right in the valley between two...
A: Oh, was that Greenfield?
M: I donít know what that was called...
Michael Tremonti: That was Greenfield, yeah.
A: Iíve seen videos, itís gorgeous.
M: Yeah, incredible.
A: So, I guess youíre touring the U.S. now, and then youíre going to Australia with Disturbed, and then going back to Europe for the fall. Do you have any broad, long-term plans for beyond that? Like next year, with touring or recording?
M: Just putting everything together, you know. Logging all my ideas on my computer, and getting together with Myles to start working on the next record. Iíve been working on an instructional DVD that should come out next month. Just, staying as busy as I can. Who knows whatís going to happen next year? Weíve just got to be prepared. Iíve heard talk about going to Japan next summer. I just want to make sure that weíre ready to record a record if weíre running all over the place.
A: Do you have a timetable for your next record?
M: Weíll go in the studio at some point next year. It all depends on the schedule, thatís why I want to make sure that the writing of it is real solid and ready to go whenever we have a spare moment to get in the studio.
A: So where do you do most of your writing? On the road, or...
M: Anywhere. Like here, Iíll be writing today, on the bus at night, when my son goes to sleep at home. It gets harder and harder, the older my son gets, to stay on top of things. Thatís why when I come on tour itís all business, as soon as I get here.
A: So where does most of the collaboration with Myles happen? On the road as well, or before the recording?
M: Sometimes, a lot of times it happens... itís been happening in the breakfast nook in my house with acoustic guitars, put songs together. On the road, soundchecks, weíll just jam ideas and see what happens. When it comes to crunch time itís just me and Myles sit down with acoustic guitars, and weíll have a rehearsal pad set up where the whole band will get together.
A: So how do you go about writing your solos?
M: Thatís always the last thing. The song will be written, and then Iíll improvise my way through it every time we play it, and certain ideas will stick. After I get my guitar tracks done, thatís when Iíll really feel the pressure to have to turn them out.
A: Hereís one that I know a lot of people are wondering. In "Brand New Start", in the solo of that song, sort of towards the beginning, you make kind of a weird sound. Itís like "eeuuu." You know? How do you do that?
M: Thatís just a distorted, me riding the wah. I think I was playing a note before it and paused to do another note, and in that pause the feedback kind of rang out. Just one of those chance happenings.
A: Kind of hard to reproduce then?
A: On a different topic, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?
M: Superpower? Oh geez, only one!
A: Yeah, itís tough.
M: The power of healing.
A: Thatís nice. You could do a lot of good, I guess. Alright, so you and Myles were recently featured on the new Sevendust album, Hope and Sorrow. How did that come to be?
M: John [Connolly, rhythm guitarist] had just called and asked. Weíre real close with the Sevendust guys. Our kids actually go to school together, so weíre one big family. He just called and, of course, we went and did it. The solo that I recorded on there, they actually moved a little bit in the mix.
A: A little different than you thought?
M: Yeah, it was still cool. They just pushed it like a half-beat forward or backwards or something. But it was fun to do.
A: So youíve worked with a lot of bands, you had your solo with Fozzy, and Bury Your Dead, you produced that Sumbersed album. If you could work with one of your idols, dead or alive, who would it be?
M: Stevie Ray. I donít know how Iíd work with him, Iíd just be in awe of his playing. But yeah, itíd be great. Iíd love to write a song with Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney.
A: Cool, cool. If you were to build an Alter Bridge club house, in one of your guysí back yards, you know, somewhere where youíd all hang out, what would you put in it? Couches, TVs?
M: Acoustic guitar, no TVs, stereo, some beers, just whatever it takes to jam.
A: Next month youíve got your DVD coming out - Mark Tremonti: the Sound and the Story - how did you decide to do a DVD?
M: I think I was approached a long time ago by Hal Leonard or someone about doing something like that. At the time, I just didnít feel like... I was learning so much that I felt like a year from now Iíd be mad. I even say that in the DVD. Finally, I decided to do it because Iíd just push it to the end of my life and never get it done. My brother Dan always sees me trying to strategize with investments on real estate and all this and that. And heís like, "you never use what youíve done with your career to try and go out and do something". Iíve always been a huge fan of instructional DVDs, and Dan really pushed me to get it done, because he set up a whole production company, and kind of masterminded the whole thing.
A: He does all the artwork and stuff for your CDs.
A: Well, he does a good job, thatís for sure. So, youíre constantly working to improve your guitar-playing abilities. What kind of stuff are you doing right now?
M: Lately Iíve just been logging ideas and writing. And just improvising a lot. Instead of trying to tackle a lot of complex things, Iím just trying to get my feel better, and make sure every note I land on is real solid. I think thatís the most important part of playing for any guitar player. When youíre younger you want to learn how to play real fast, and you donít have any control. Itís the landings that you have to get good at.
A: You said you wanted to improve your improvisation, sort of fill the gap between power chords and balls-out shredding. How did you go about improving your improv?
M: Iíll just put on songs and play along. When Iím with my son, I get him to go into my studio and heíll play drums. I get to play guitar and watch him at the same time.
A: You once said you had gotten into flamenco a while ago, and that some day you might be seen at an Olive Garden somewhere. Is that anywhere on the horizon?
M: No, I still have a really cool flamenco guitar, a Ramirez guitar, that sits collecting dust right now. While I have this band and everything else, I donít want to put anything in the way of trying to be the best at what weíre actually putting out on our records. I donít see us doing a flamenco tune any time soon.
A: This is a question from one of our members. What are your thoughts on games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and would you ever consider contributing a song to one of those games?
M: Yeah, Van Halen is coming out with a Guitar Hero and they asked for...
Michael: "Come to Life", I think.
M: Yeah, I think "Ties That Bind" just became available for download off the internet for the game, if you got XBOX 360. I think the best part about that game is creating awareness for bands and guitar players. Hopefully it will spawn a whole new breed of guitar players. I know itís not he same thing, like in Rock Band it seems like when youíre playing drums in Rock Band you can apply that to a real drum set. You canít as much with guitar hero, but hopefully it will make people want to try it.
A: So whatís your favorite breakfast food?
M: Breakfast food? Man, itís a coin toss between French toast and pancakes.
A: What was your most embarrassing moment on stage with Alter Bridge?
M: Probably, youíd probably think when I fell in Chicago in front of everybody. But that wasnít embarrassing because you just play it off. I think the most uncomfortable Iíve ever felt on stage is when we were in Austria playing a festival. A lot of the current bands that had dueling lead guitar players, you know, you got Triviums and Avenged Sevefolds, and Opeth, and a lot of great bands were playing. And right as Iím walking up on stage, my tech told me that all my amps blew out, and I only had one of them left, and it was the worst amp of the bunch. I had to play with the worst tone in the world. Everybody else in the band felt they had a bad show, and it was just one of those moments on stage where it was just like, "get me off of here!" I hate feeling like that.
A: Did you ever get over it or are you still having nightmares?
M: Yeah, we went back to Austria and killed it, and did our best to win them back over. The funny thing is after that show, we went back to Austria to headline our own show, and I think it sold out. They liked that bad show!
A: Have you ever gotten a really bad itch during a song, where you had to stop playing to scratch it?
M: Never, no. Iíd maybe just do it with the microphone if I had to.
A: Well, itís probably coming, so consider yourself lucky. If you could have one fast food restaurant on your bus, traveling with you everywhere, what would it be?
M: Do you consider... oh man, what are those taco joints...
A: Taco Bell?
M: Not Taco Bell, something a little healthier. Gotta have some kind of healthy Taco. Chipotle. Nice and healthy. Or Moeís.
A: This is another question from one of our members. If you could learn another instrument, or skill, Ďcause youíre pretty much as good as it gets on guitar...
M: Oh come on, I got a long way to go.
A: Well if you could learn another instrument or skill, what would it be?
M: Iíd love to have more time to spend on the drums, instrument-wise. Iíve got a V-Drum set at home, and every now and then Iíll attempt to play it. For some reason, my wrist always kills me when I play drums, and I have no idea why. If Iím hitting the hi-hat for too long I just have to stop. So thatís someone telling me not to play drums.
A: Better leave that to Scott, huh?
A: Another question from the same guy: how much would it take for you to use a Strat on your next album?
M: It wouldnít take a penny. I love Strats, I love Teles. Actually Paul Reed Smith made me pretty much a PRS Strat. So thatíll be on the next record. Itís a three single-coil, Alder body, jumbo-fret, maple neck.
A: Thatís different from what we see on stage.
M: Thatís what I told him, I said I love Paul Reed Smiths, I donít have any need for any other guitar, unless I was playing a bluesy tune. When Iím learning a Stevie Ray song Iím not going to play my PRS, because you just donít get the vibe. So they made me a three single-coil, and they also made one for Carlos [Santana], and Carlos loves it.
A: Your rig is always changing. Youíre always adding new things, changing amps and stuff, how do you discover new equipment and work it into what youíre using?
M: Every chance I get to go to a boutique shop, or online. Right now, thereís a site called Rayís Guitars, and I deal with a guy named Lance. I had gear stored in my house from years and years, and I had no use for most of it. So I just gave it all to him, said sell it...
A: I saw all that stuff on eBay.
M: Yeah, I said, "sell all this stuff, and give me a balance for whatever I need." He gets all kind of boutique stuff, so right now heís sending me a Two-Rock amp. I played one up in New York, and theyíre incredible. Itís an expensive amp, but since I can get it for free...
A: Yeah, why not? Alright we got one more question. How have the different producers youíve worked with affected your playing? You worked with [Michael] "Elvis" Baskette on your last album, and it came out really well.
M: Lead playing or rhythm playing, or just...
A: Just overall?
M: It seems like, other than John Kurzweg on all the Creed stuff, neither of the guys were really great guitar players, they were just great producers. Ben and Elvis were just... so I would just cut a solo and itís not like theyíre gonna be like, "ohhh you added that flat five in there," you know, so theyíre just like, "oh great, yeah!" Actually when I cut the solos on the first record, I went to another room, without the producer, with just the other engineer, so he could continue doing that stuff. Because thereís not really a lot of input a producer can have in a guitar solo if you donít do it yourself.
A: Alright, well that wraps things up.
A: Alright well, thanks a lot, Iím sure people will enjoy it.
M: Yeah man, thank you.