Searching For Heroes
It was in 2013 that Alter Bridge released their 4th album ‘Fortress’ so ‘The Last Hero’ is the band’s 5th and so far they keep improving themselves with every album they make. The last few years guitarist Mark Tremonti has been busy with a solo career and his band Tremonti while singer Myles Kennedy was picked up by Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash and recorded and travelled the world with him. Despite their packed agenda’s they found the time to come up with a new Alter Bridge album as well. Recently HeadBangers LifeStyle met up with Myles Kennedy and asked him about the differences between playing with Slash and playing with Alter Bridge, the writing process, the need for heroes and some more personal things.
‘The Last Hero’ was written while both you and Mark Tremonti were on tour with different projects. How did that influence your writing?
,,To speak for myself, I love the opportunity to travel and write because it kinda influences the writing process because of the music you hear, the people you meet, the places you are. A fair amount of the new Alter Bridge ideas came to me when I was with Slash in India. Some parts made it on the album, that was the gift the country gave me as a songwriter. Trying to always be creative and not waiting until the last minute has always been important to Mark and I, keep the writing muscle working and stockpiling ideas and a lot was done while we were on the road separately.’’
What is the biggest difference between writing for Slash and writing for Alter Bridge?
,,Biggest difference is really the process. With Alter Bridge we stockpile songs, ideas and segments. I have a bunch of choruses, riff ideas etc, Mark has the same and when Mark and I are together we’re trying to marry these ideas. It’s like a sonic puzzle where everybody has their footprint on a song with Mark and I as primary songwriters. With Slash it is different. He tends to write the music, he’ll send it to me and I’ll put a melody and lyrics to it. He builds this canvas for me and I put my paint on it so to speak. If you would ask Mark and me both separately what our strongest ability is, the answer would be: melody. We both like spending time making sure we got strong melodies we can throw between the two of us and help create good strong songs.’’
Are there lyrics you can’t use for Slash but can use for Alter Bridge and the other way round? And does writing for Slash asks for a different mindset?
,,Yes they are both different. I mean, it’s not hard. Occasionally I might come up with an idea that I think might work with both bands but in general there is no problem because the feel is so different. There is one song Mark told me recently. The song ,,Standing In The Sun’’ of ‘Apocalyptic Love’ that was a chorus I actually brought to Slash because I didn’t think it would suit Alter Bridge and Mark told me he wished I did, haha, that was one of those rare moments.’’
Is there something like an overall theme on ‘The Last Hero’?
,,There is definitely a theme revolving around the Hero, taking a look at how we treat our heroes, the lack of heroes, kinda longing for leaders and hero ship. Other songs like ,,You Will Be Remembered’’ pays tribute to everyday heroes that are around us all the time, serve our community and country, put their lives on the line. That theme definitely runs through the record. It’s not a concept record but a common thread that runs throughout it.’’
Like on every album so far there are also some encouraging, comforting songs like ,,My Champion’’, ,,You Will Be Remembered’’, ,,From The Cradle To The Grave’’. Is the fact that you can catch these feelings into lyrics the strength of a good lyricist?
,,When somebody says that to me personally, that’s what makes it all worthwhile. If a song touches your heart, affects your life that’s really amazing for us to hear. It has always been part of our approach to write songs that touch us and that we can perform with convincing belief and be honest about it and hope to share with the audience. A certain amount of optimism with the song lyrics, a certain amount of hopefulness will probably always be there and at the same time these songs deal with loss and pain because that is such an important part of existing.’’
On the other hand you are also criticizing the current state of the world, which isn’t a positive one, in songs like ,,Writing On The Wall’’, ,,Show Me A Leader’’, ,,Twilight’’, ,,The Last Hero’’ although it’s never too pushy.
,,We’re questioning and expecting an emotion. Alter Bridge is definitely not a political band, we are more an emotion based band. An emotion like disillusion, concern about the future is an honest emotion that a lot of us feel. Songs like ,,Show Me A Leader’’ and the other ones you mention definitely touches on that emotion.’’
Are the lyrics your exclusive thing or are the other guys throwing ideas in as well?
,,Lyrics generally are mine. Telling a story or trying to convey an emotion, is something I’m spending a lot of time working at, trying to make sure it resonates as universal as possible.’’
Was ‘The Last Hero’ an easy album to make?
,,No…an album is never easy to make. There were a few moments where we were questioning if we had stronger material, you always gonna do that. You should question yourself but not to the point that it gets in the way of the creative process. What was easy, easier than any record I have been involved with was that the lyrics came really quickly on this record. Generally I save the lyric process until we know the music is done, until the melodies are solidified then the lyrics come. Just given anything that was going on in my life and the world around me it was a very inspiring time which made the lyrics come easy this time.’’
Did the album turn out the way you had in mind?
,,I think it exceeded what I initially had in mind. I am usually the last guy to say that I am content with a record but once this record was done there were some moments where I was really thrilled and excited, so yeah, really happy.’’
When you started Alter Bridge in 2004, did you have a clear idea or a plan?
,,No, to be honest, for all I knew it could have been one album and we could have been done. I’ve always been like that when it comes to the music industry, I never expect anything. If somebody in 2004 told me that twelve years later we would still do it and made our 5th record I would be thrilled because that would have been the best news ever. I am really happy with how this all has turned out but there was no plan.’’
What would you’ve become if not a musician?
,,Well, at one point I had a few different ideas. I love music so I might have considered being a school music instructor or maybe an English teacher or a history teacher. Once I really got into the guitar and the music I decided I had to do something involving music. I taught guitar privately for quite a while before the guys called me with this band. So I think something involved along those lines.’’
Is there one special item you have to take with you on every tour?
,,For a while I had these beat up boots I was kinda superstitious about but those are so beat up now I can’t wear them anymore. I guess I have to find something new as my lucky touring piece. When I find that item I’ll let you know, haha.’’
Are you superstitious?
,,Nooo, I don’t think I am, I’m definitely very regimented, very structured so I can’t do a full on show without doing my warm up routine a couple of hours before the show. I tried it and I just get very anxious so I am a much regimented cat.’’
What is the last thing you do before you enter the stage?
,,Generally we do get our guitars from our guitar tech in and we do the fist bomb, say good luck and I love you brother and then we go out and do it.’’
Alter Bridge must have the best organized fans in the world, with fanclubs worldwide. How important are those fans?
,,They are the reason we do what we do and it is funny to see how many people comment on our fanbase, how passionate and affected they are. It is fascinating that, for whatever reason, the kind of people that seem to like this band and enjoy this music seem to be very organized, like an army. We are very lucky we have them and there isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t grateful and aware of the fact that we have fans that are with us for the long haul. We make records every 3 years and it would be very easy in this day and age, where there’s so many entertainment options and the attention span of people is so short, to forget about us but they don’t, they stick with us.’’
What advice would you give to a kid who comes up to you and says he wants to become a musician as well?
,, The advice is to be tenacious and to not give up when things start going wrong because it is tough and there will be ups and downs. Probably way more downs than ups in the beginning but what I’ve seen in my many decades in this business it’s the guys that stick it out and just keep it forward that eventually surely get their chance. You know, there’s guys who started out when I started out that were way more talented than I was and I would have thought for sure that they were the ones that would end up being recording artists and they didn’t because they didn’t stick with it and it is just being a matter of how badly do you want this. If this is what you really want, know it’s hard but it is really rewarding and wonderful but you gotta keep going on.’’
You have been touring before the release of ‘The Last Hero’, you will start the next tour immediately after the release of the album. What is the fun of touring?
,,Fun is the 90 minutes to 2 hours on stage. Very little I get to do in my life gives me that rush. Beginning to play these songs and hear the crowd singing them back to you, just the dynamic of that relationship is awesome. The rest of the touring as far as the travelling part, living in a bus, waking up in strange places, some strange smells on the bus, all that ain’t very glamorous. Funny how many people think that being a touring musician is glamorous, it’s really not. It’s not a 24 hour party, it’s a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice but when you’re on the stage and you’re playing music, that’s what makes it all worthwhile, there’s nothing like it.’’
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