Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy have been honing their guitar double act in Alter Bridge for the most effective a part of 20 years. As they sit collectively within the bar of London’s Royal Backyard Resort, they chuckle when Myles says, “We’ve been taking part in collectively for therefore lengthy, we’ve now morphed into one being!”
Tremonti has lengthy been celebrated as one of many best and most articulate guitarists of his technology, and whereas Kennedy is most well-known for his four-octave vocal vary – displayed each in Alter Bridge and in Slash’s solo band – he’s additionally a skilful guitarist in his personal proper.
Their guitars are entrance and centre on the brand new Alter Bridge album Pawns & Kings. Produced as soon as once more by the band’s longtime collaborator Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette, the album is targeted on what Myles calls “meat and potatoes” guitar riffs, with a naked minimal of extraneous textures and instrumentation.
As Mark explains: “A variety of instances previously, we used to have a string or a keyboard beneath to spice up the music up, however on this report, we removed all that stuff. It sounds just like the guitars are respiratory. They’re open they usually have all this area to stay.”
Because of this, he provides, “Individuals preserve saying that that is our heaviest report but.” However past the abundance of abrasive, interlocking dual-guitar riffage, there may be way more to Pawns & Kings.
“I feel this is possibly our most concerned report,” Mark says. “Out of all the information, if someone listened to it chilly, it’d be the toughest to know proper out of the gate as a result of there are such a lot of twists and turns. As an artist, you’re attempting to not let the listener go: ‘That is Alter Bridge. It’s going to do that, after which it’s going to do this.’ We need to preserve folks guessing.”
And what additionally resonates powerfully on this new album is the shared conviction between Tremonti and Kennedy for conveying that means of their songs.
On Pawns & Kings they deftly steadiness a hard-hitting instrumental assault towards deep lyricism, anthemic choruses towards introspective verses, and moments of self-restraint towards explosive shows of fretboard fireworks. “One of many hardest dances to do is to make one thing heavy and technical and nonetheless emotional on the identical time,” Mark says. “However until the music means one thing to you, there’s no level.”
One of many extra stunning parts of the brand new Alter Bridge album is how Tremonti and Kennedy have shaken up their ‘conventional’ roles. Whereas it would as soon as have been secure to imagine that lead guitar duties would fall naturally to Tremonti, the exact call-and-response soloing on the album’s title monitor and the eight and a half minute epic Fable Of The Silent Solar makes it laborious to decipher precisely who’s taking part in what.
And though Myles describes himself, with tongue in cheek, as “the delicate ponytail man” of the band, he’s the writer of a lot of this report’s heaviest riffs – together with the moshpit-starting groove of Silver Tongue and the foreboding clangour of album opener This Is Struggle.
Myles acknowledges that it’s Mark’s exemplary proper hand chops that really animate these riffs. “It’s form of like James Hetfield,” he explains. “Some guys have it. It’s an aggression. After I’d go in to trace my half it was like, ‘I can’t wait to listen to Mark play excessive and add his assault as a result of it’ll assist convey it to life.’”
Myles additionally reveals that when the pair descend into drop tunings, he opts for thick strings in order that the “intonation is tighter,” whereas Mark is extra probably to make use of a lighter gauge and permit the strings to “flop round” – thus differentiating their tones. Reaching for a vibrant analogy, he explains: “It’s like if you get hit within the intestine. When you’re an even bigger individual, it bounces round. That’s a part of what makes that sound.”
For tone and approach, Mark asserts that it’s properly value reassessing the itty bitty items of triangular plastic that guitarists typically take as a right. Picks, he says, are “the factor that you simply’re interacting most with in your guitar. It’s the way you contact the guitar so it’s vital.”
Having not too long ago launched into a quest to “attempt each decide ever made” and see if a change might assist him play higher and dig in additional, he discovered new favourites in Dunlop’s 1mm and 1.35mm Move guitar picks. “It made an enormous distinction,” he enthuses. “Now I can’t look again.”
For all his dedication to his craft, his exact and methodical method to the guitar, Mark doesn’t really feel the necessity to flaunt his standing as a guitar hero. The album’s introspective ballad Keep – on which he sings lead – is certainly one of a handful of tracks that doesn’t include a solo.
“After being often called a guitar participant for therefore a few years, I at all times really feel strain, like I’ve to stay as much as one thing,” he explains. “Being a author excites me far more than being a lead guitar participant.” He has come a good distance as an artist since his youth as a pace metallic buff. “If I simply spent my time sitting down, 100 per cent attempting to be a wonderful guitar participant, you may hear a really completely different, extra technically proficient guitar participant, however I’d a lot relatively create songs.”
Conversely, Myles has keenly embraced the chance to shred extra on Pawns & Kings, and even received himself a bespoke new instrument for the job. Throughout his solo summer season tour, he was noticed rocking a modern black PRS-built tackle a Fender basic, and whereas an preliminary probe for particulars elicits a tongue-in-cheek, “I don’t know what you’re speaking about!” he gleefully divulges that that is certainly a brand new prototype made to his exacting specs.
The semi-secret mission took place after the 2021 launch of his second solo report, The Ides Of March, which he lower utilizing a choice of classic Telecasters. Not desirous to topic the dear devices to touring, and as a longtime participant of PRS guitars, he referred to as upon “Paul and the gang” to assist him develop an alternate.
“We riffed for a very long time they usually discovered this sound that was in my head,” he says. “I have an actual fondness for these early Telecasters, so that you at all times surprise if there’s a manner you may mix parts with a extra modern method in one thing that will be very versatile. It’s like a P-90 meets an previous Blackguard-era Telecaster sound.”
Myles used the guitar for all of his solos and the vast majority of his rhythm tracks on the report. “It cuts – it’s all there,” he enthuses. “It’s received its personal place, particularly with Mark who’s utilizing humbuckers. It helped distinguish the sound.”
Myles stops in need of calling it a signature mannequin, and with regard to a shopper roll-out he teases: “We’ll simply must see the way it performs out.” However issues really feel constructive, together with his bandmate already staking out a spot on the entrance of the queue: “It’s not only for him,” Mark laughs. “I’m getting one given to me!”
In fact, the star of Mark’s assortment is his personal PRS Tremonti signature mannequin. In reality, the one time you’ll hear him with out one is that if a specific riff requires a baritone chug. With its excessive output humbuckers and single lower physique form, we’re greatest off, he suggests, pondering of it as “a modernised model of a Les Paul.”
He provides: “I hate to say it’s extra refined as a result of there are such a lot of nice Les Pauls. However an ideal analogy for it’s should you took an previous scorching rod from again within the ’60s and put a model new drivetrain inside it.”
In terms of guitar amps, Mark is a real aficionado, so there was no probability of travelling mild when it got here time to hit the studio for Pawns & Kings. “I received my automobile and put ten amps in there – all my favourites,” he explains. “That’s at all times probably the most enjoyable days; we do an amp shoot-out and examine all of them out.”
Those who got here out on high this time included his all-new 100-watt signature PRS MT100 (which, he says, will “most likely” be launched for public consumption in 2023) in addition to its child brother, the nifty PRS MT15 lunchbox valve amp.
A Cornford RK100 additionally made the lower, alongside a Granophyre from trendy metallic specialists, Omega Ampworks. Final however certainly not least, Mark introduced two Dumbles to the high-class amp occasion, and Myles took a specific shine to 1 and used it for his solos.
“It’s loopy,” Myles says. “I used an amp that was most likely costlier than my first home.” Certainly, due to their hefty value tags (typically fetching upwards of $75,000), these uncommon and revered creations are inclined to dwell far out of attain of most gamers, so we requested the amp skilled in chief to distil their magic.
After a thought of pause, Mark says: “There’s one thing that occurs when your decide hits the string. It’s this bizarre sensation that doesn’t occur on different amps for me. It simply has this factor. A variety of Dumble clones don’t have it. There are additionally Dumbles that don’t have it. There’s unhealthy sounding Dumbles and I’ve owned one, however when it’s proper, it is the most effective amp on the earth.”
For his rhythm components, Myles used a Diezel Herbert and a VH4 – a tried and examined mixture. Initially, nonetheless, it took years of trying to find him to search out amps that will sit comfortably among the many expansive frequencies already occupied by Mark’s well-established sound.
“He makes use of a number of actual property sonically and that’s one of many issues I cherished about his tone after I first heard it,” Myles explains. “The actual problem was discovering the place I slot in, and it was robust. We didn’t determine it out till we have been doing the Blackbird report [in 2007]. We have been attempting every thing. I introduced my JCM800s – we had tons – however we stored capturing out. It wasn’t sitting in the proper spot or it sounded too just like what Mark was doing.”
After nearly working out of choices, Myles remembers how the lightbulb second got here when he stumbled throughout a Diezel Herbert stashed away in a closet: “We gave it a attempt, plugged it in and fired up channel two and there it was – all of the frequencies that complemented what Mark was doing. I haven’t appeared again since.”
Equally, Myles has additionally been getting most mileage out of a favorite stomp field – a “large blue” Line 6 MM4 Modulation Modeller, used for a lot of of the cleaner, extra ambient textures on the brand new report. He laughs, “I don’t even know in the event that they nonetheless make them, however there’s this one sound I programmed again round 2000, and I’ve achieved my greatest to verify I don’t ever lose it.”
Armed with their respective weapons of alternative, Alter Bridge will likely be touring arenas this winter – a thought that was by no means removed from thoughts when Pawns… was being written. “Once we write a report, we all know we’re going to play it stay,” Mark says. “We just like the ballads however we additionally wish to rock. Heavy equals power – and power equals a fantastic present!”