“I’m just really excited to play these new songs and really digging into them and just now in the last week or so getting into the new material and we haven’t played together in over a year in front of an audience, so we’re just ready to just get this ball rolling man…”
Alter Bridge are back with a new album ‘Fortress’, and in the three years since ABIII they have all been busy, writing, playing, releasing, and that’s just their other projects! Now finding the time to reconvene, they have now put together this new album and it’s their heaviest and I feel best yet. They’ve come a long way since their debut in 2004, so now get ready as Alter Bridge circa 2013 will ‘Open Your Eyes’ and show you they’re a force.
We chatted to Alter Bridge bass player, Brian Marshall ahead of the release of their new album ‘Fortress’ about its creation, as well as their upcoming return to Australia for Soundwave in 2014 and the evolution of the band…
You’re heading back to Australia on the massive Soundwave bill, what can people expect should they come and watch your set?
Well, we have a new record ‘Fortress’ coming out October 8th, I think that we’re going to be pretty heavily into playing a good bit from that album. The songs are just fresh to us, they’re new, they’re fun, they’re up tempo, we’re going to try to keep the set moving and it’s probably going to be a pretty rockin’ set actually. I’m not sure where our timeslot is, if it’ll be night or day and I’m not sure if we’re going to have any light show or any of that, but I can imagine that we’re just going to be heavily invested in our new record and we’ll play songs that are important to our fans as well. Hopefully we’ll get all of it in with the time permitted.
The bill as I just mentioned is huge, is there anyone you’re excited to be sharing the tour with?
Yeah I’m excited to see Whitechapel, I’m excited to see Ill Nino and I’d like to see Korn, I’m happy that Korn is back with their original guitar player Brian ‘Head’ Welch, so I’m really excited to see him share a stage with his former band and it’s just going to be a great time. We had such a blast on the last Soundwave and we’ve been anxious to get back and finally we got the new material and some steam behind us, so we’re excited to play these songs and get back in front of our fan base there in Australia.
The last time you were here was for Soundwave in 2012, do you have a great memory of that tour run you can share?
Yeah there was a few moments, I think Slash getting up with us was a pretty epic moment for us, and every time he’s out and he shows up at a show he tends to get up on stage and play ‘Rise Today’ with us, so that’s a cool moment in 2012, and there’s another few moments, Slipknot was headlining that show and Corey Taylor was doing some video footage and he came by and interviewed the band, and just getting to know a lot of your peers and a lot of the bands you’ve come across in listening to or growing up over the years and really getting to hang out and know these guys and they’re not just machines *laughs* You know what, the Soundwave tour is really unique, it’s like no other touring, you fly everywhere, you’re not on a bus, and when you’re on a festival f that capacity you’re always shoulder to shoulder with some of like I was saying, these guys you listen to and guys you’re a fan of and being on the same aeroplane and same dressing room areas, it’s a neat experience for fans and bands a like.
Flip side, is there anything you’d do differently this time around?
I don’t know man, that’s a really good question, I can’t really think of anything too exciting to elaborate on about that, I guess we’ll just let it happen. I’m just really excited to play these new songs and really digging into them and just now in the last week or so getting into the new material and we haven’t played together in over a year in front of an audience, so we’re just ready to just get this ball rolling man, it’s just been too long and we have a great fan base over there, I just want to share the stage with these bands and my band mates and get up there and do it.
The new album is due at the end of this month and it’s killer! When putting it together did you set out to do anything differently compared to your other releases?
No… I get asked that quite a bit, we didn’t really have any pretence going into this, I think it was just a natural evolution of Alter Bridge, we kind of have our sound, Mark was doing his solo project and that was more geared to the metal side, so he had some material over there that he was writing for his solo project that probably filtered into Alter Bridge when we started writing, so like I said it was more up tempo and it kind of lended its hand to this one, to Fortress, and when we got together it was three different writing sessions, each was about a week and just getting Myles off the road with Slash and getting him down to Orlando was tricky but when we all got in a room we all bunkered down and explored every avenue really, just opened the door and didn’t stick to any arrangement or thought pattern as far as what sound or what we wanted to accomplish. It was just new sounds and try this here and there and we’d try things and some things would work and some wouldn’t, it was just trial and error, we’re all pretty much a good filter for an Alter Bridge song, if it feels good to us and it’s fun to play and it sounds it, then let’s just stick with it and keep going as something magical has happened and the more that you play it the more that it evolves and the better it sounds and we would just, even there were some vocal melodies that were there but we really concentrated as a band before I even heard any lyrical content or melody, we were all kind of in the dark there, I know Mark had some ideas and Myles was just humming along there but there was no lyrics, we were really concentrating on making a work of art musically.
Well I feel that you have done that, and to me it seems there is a heavier element to the record, was that intentional or did it come from a lot of what you mentioned when Mark brought in these riffs?
Well yeah as I was saying, that’s just kind of the way it happened, he had these ideas on his computer and we’d just bounce off different ideas and we’d say let’s try that one, pick it up, learn the part and piece things together. There was a lot of harder stuff there apart from ‘Lover’ and ‘All Ends Well’, those were the two kind of slower songs on the record and they’re still mid tempo. It’s cookin’
I like that it’s called ‘Fortress’ fourth album 4-tress… was that intentional or did I just make that up?
*laughs* That’s awesome that you said that because everyone laughed at me *laughs*… Fortress came about later when the lyrics started to come into play, and the name of that song before ‘Fortress’ was ‘Ritual’ and Mark just texted me and said what do you think of the name ‘Fortress’ and I actually wrote back ‘Yeah, four, that’s cool, can spell it maybe fourtress?’ and he was like ‘No’ and basically I kind of got the feeling that he thought that was funny and cheesy *laughs* so I don’t think it had anything to do with that, but between me and you that cool little play on words adding the U in there would be cool, but I got shot down *laughs* we’re on the same page, man.
So what does the title actually represent?
A fortress is basically something that you would see as invincible and steadfast, something that you feel safe at crumbling around you, lyrically I think that it captures in loyalty and betrayal, greed, institutions, relationships, a lot of human emotions, but fortress in the sense and then the album cover, basically that place, that old beat up shed at some point in time was somebody’s home, it was their safe haven and for it to be all old and decrepit now is symbolic as its crumbling around you. We wanted to stay away from a ‘Lord of the Rings’ I guess you think of fortress and that’s what you think about so we wanted to stay as far away as that as possible.
Working with ‘Elvis’ as the producer once again, what was he able to bring out of the band and the material this time that may have not been there before?
When we went into pre-production, we do writing sessions and we go in with Elvis and that’s where we’ll sit down with him in a sound room with all the instruments miked and go over them with his fresh ears and he listens to songs and has some input. Some things that don’t move him he’ll mention, some things that do move him he’ll say ‘hey man that’s killer, stick with that’ he’s just a great sounding board and filter after we’ve beaten up the songs so many times, we have what we call demo-it is, where we don’t know it any other way you know what I mean? So when you throw out ideas and you throw out the songs that we’ve arranged and we’ve wrote over the last few weeks we throw ot to him and it’s fresh ears and he has the ideas and he has a great ear and a great sense of melody and a great sense of tone and he’s on the same page as the band and he has been for the last three records. It’s just a really good relationship, he’s here in town, he lives in Orlando too and he was just real excited about doing this and was a vital part of the whole process, he’s got a great sense about himself and he knows what the band’s about. I can’t say enough about Elvis, something you don’t think sounds that good initially and you hear it recorded and tonally with his ears, he brings it to life using his production side of it.
I’ve seen you live now a few times and I think especially with Soundwave in 2012 many walked away surprised, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, but do you feel you in some way struggle to get people familiar with Alter Bridge but once they’re in, they’re in?
Yeah you know what? That’s a really good question, it’s a lot to grasp, especially the up tempo stuff, it’s very cerebral, there’s a lot going on, but once you really sit down and really digest the entire work of art and the entire music as a body of work, once you hear that over and over you tend to really understand it and appreciate it more and I think once that happens with a fan, or anyone, even myself you know, I listen to a song that we are writing or whatever and listen to it recorded and I have a new appreciation for it, so I think they’re lifers once they latch onto something it seems like they want more.
It’s been almost ten years since ‘One Day Remains’ when you look back at that album and the band back then, what do you see as the biggest change that has taken place?
Well the evolution of Alter Bridge and our sound, that’s the biggest thing, it’s so drastically different, Myles didn’t play guitar on ‘One Day Remains’ at all, on Blackbird, that’s when the co-writing with Mark really came into play. The songs from ‘One Day Remains’ was Mark and maybe left over Creed material I think even though we were onto something it really hadn’t developed into what it is now. So it’s just a different sound and the evolution of the sound kind of had to find ourselves and time and playing together and just the aggression of our instruments and of our influences and influencing our entire music, it was key and I think that we’ve done a good job finding a home for our sound. It’s one of those things that fell into place, I don’t know, it is much different though, there are still some moments on that when I was reviewing and listening back and the recording is so much different than what we’re doing now, and I’ll hear things and think ‘why did I play that there? I would never do that again.’
Do you mind quickly if I ask what’s the status of Creed?
What’s the status of Creed?
*laughs* That’s funny. Well, there is nothing going on right now, I know Scott was doing a solo record, there really hasn’t been any talk, we got together once and had some material going but other things kind of got in the way, solo projects and whatnot, so it just never came into fruition, but who knows what the future holds?
Lastly do you have a message for your Australian fans down here?
We just released a new video ‘Addicted To Pain’ off our new record ‘Fortress’ and really just can’t wait to get over there, it’s been too long, and we’re excited to play this new material and see your beautiful country.
Thanks for your time Brian; we’ll see you in February…
Alright, see you soon.
From: Orlando, Florida, USA
Band members: Myles Kennedy – Vocals, Guitar, Mark Tremonti – Guitar, Vocals, Brian Marshall – Bass, Scott Phillips – Drums
Forthcoming Release: Fortress (Roadrunner Records Australia) September 27th
Catch Alter Bridge on SOUNDWAVE FESTIVAL 2014
SATURDAY 22 FEBRUARY – BRISBANE, RNA SHOWGROUNDS
SUNDAY 23 FEBRUARY – SYDNEY, OLYMPIC PARK
FRIDAY 28 FEBRUARY – MELBOURNE, FLEMINGTON RACECOURSE
SATURDAY 1 MARCH – ADELAIDE, BONYTHON PARK
MONDAY 3 MARCH – PERTH, CLAREMONT SHOWGROUNDS