Posted on by Oran

With global escalating album sales, bigger venues, and a constant swelling fan base, there is no question that Alter Bridge are heading towards the peak of the Hard Rock mountain. Guitarist and founding member Mark Tremonti talks to Overdrive about their latest album, his Sinatra project, a new fiction book and that one time a member of Pantera suggested he puts his name forward for the reunion shows…

Down The Barrel Photography © 2022.

As they wind down the last few shows of their ‘Pawns and Kings’ EU/UK tour, Mark Tremonti has been utilising every available minute to work on his forthcoming novel, and making plans for 2023.

We find Mark nestled in a comfortable warm dressing room backstage in Ireland’s 3Arena, ahead of the evenings show with special guests, Halestorm, and Mammoth WVH.

With his laptop close to hand, it becomes apparent that he’s spent most of the afternoon working on his new book, which is a first for him, as he’s taking on the task of writing it solo, unlike ‘The Dying Machine‘ which saw him working with another writer. But more about that later…

OD – Let’s start off with this tour, and being back over to this side of the globe. Between Trimonti to AB you’ve been cicumngvitgaging around for the last few years, shaking off the pandemic cobwebs. Did you find that the release into the wild once again was an invigorating experience, or was it daunting for you?

TREMONTI – Yeah, in fact because of COVID I got into a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have done, had it not been for that time away from touring. For example the Sinatra album and also writing a book. When I do projects like that, I feel that it makes me feel really differently, and rounded about how I approach each song, how it’s written, and can I improve on it.

I think there was a silver lining in a lot of what happened during COVID. I also get the sense that people are not taking live music for granted like they used to prior to the pandemic. For example, I’ve seen a lot more people taking more of an interest in ALL the bands that perform at festivals/shows, and not just the top-tier bands that are headlining, or second to headliner.

Down The Barrel Photography for © 2022

OD – I know you’ve been talking about the various projects that you’re working on, but I understand that you’re working on a book. Is this anything to do with the project with John Shirley based on ‘A Dying Machine’, or is it something totally different? Also, is it fiction? 

TREMONTI – This is a new fiction book. A lot of people think that it’s a book about my experience as musician, but I can confirm that it’s not gonna be one of those ‘tell-all‘ books.

With the Dying Machine [see below], I had the idea of this concept album, and I wanted a book to accompany the music. So, I hired John [Shirley] to write it for me. One of my dreams is to become a published author, so I would write ten pages, and think to myself; “Well, that took me a month!!” [Laughing] There was no way I was going to finish within the album cycle, so I would just sit and talk to John and tell him the story, names, places etc. This time around, I’ve got a lot more time, and I know what to expect, so I figured that I’d just do it myself.

John did a great job, but there’s a great feeling of just getting it all out on paper, right away as I’m thinking about it, and I can adjust, bend and shape the context of the characters, and the story as many times, as I like to get the best out of me.

OD – You’ve just told me that you were writing right before I came into this room. Do you find that being on tour is a huge distraction from your concentration on developing the story?

TREMONTI – I have my phone, and a note-app on my laptop, and I just unload all of my ideas there. When I have a day off, I just write. I would usually go and do some sightseeing, when touring, but I made the decision that I was just going to throw myself into this project 100%, and any available time that I may have, I am committed to write.

In the last five weeks, I’ve gotten through about fifty pages of the book. I was a little intimidated at first, but the passion that I have for this, far outweighs the self-doubt. I have learned to just take it at a slow pace, and not rush the ideas or inspiration process. There are chapters that I’ve re-written about four times, and then I send it to my brother, who is an avid reader, and read it aloud to him, so we can critique the flow of the story.

OD – May I say that the catalyst behind ‘Take a Chance for Charity’ is fantastic. Without imposing into your private life, do you think you’d have ever have done that if the circumstances were different, or did you always have an idea of doing the Sinatra covers at some point in your life?

TREMONTI – I really wanted to do this, but just didn’t know when, or how this could fit into my career. As soon as my daughter was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, I just felt like this was a reason to do this. I have a huge interest in Sintatra, and have read about all the things he did as a philanthropist, raising over a billion dollars for different charities over the course of his career, so I guess, all the stars lined-up, and this was an opportunity to do something where I could turn an interest of mine into something really positive for a good cause that’s close to me, and my family.

Purchase ‘Tremonti Sings Sinatra‘ here.

OD – In light of that project, and the people that reached out to you giving their praise and support, would you consider doing Vol. 2, or perhaps another artist?

TREMONTI – Yes! I’m actually doing another project, a different thing, that I can’t really talk about just now. I’ll be recording in April next year, and I’m really excited about it. I have really come to enjoy challenging myself with new and exciting projects that push me out of my box, and into new territory.

Down The Barrel Photography © 2022.

OD – I understand that this is the biggest production that AB have ever taken out on the road, and with the shocking increase of touring, was this something that you all were adamant about going ahead with, or was there moments when you considered to scale it back for economic reasons?

TREMONTI – Yeah, I understand the ticket sales for this tour, are non-refundable and the punters can just use the ticket on a later date. But we’ve seen a record number of walk-up’s to our shows on this run. We’ve had over a thousand people show up on the day of the show, which is really hard for us to judge when looking at logistics, promo budgets etc, and the overall financial aspect of being on the road.

We had to do some juggling, like looking for a new bus company to keep the economics balanced. We’ve had to change-up the production for certain shows, like tonight, we don’t have the large video screens, they are currently in Manchester. To be honest, when we sit down with our managers about what is the expected profit for the end of the tour, and it’s half of what it used to be, because of the increased costs of running trucks, techs, production, travel etc, it’s a wake up call for what is happening in the world.

Of course, what are we gonna do, just sit at home, and wait for all of this to blow over? That’s also not a viable option, so, yeah, it’s a concern right now, and nobody really knows when things will level out, and return to some kind of normal. We’re just gonna keep on keepin’ on. That’s all we’ve done through our entire career. We’ve been in huge amounts of debt in the past, so what else can we do? We just have to keep pushing forward.

OD – This being the bands seventh album, do you have any wishes for future album, such a concept ideas, or something a little different. Perhaps a follow-on from the Royal Albert Hall show you did with the Paralax Orchestra?

TREMONTI – We’ve definitely spoken about a few ideas. For example, we’ve never done an acoustic album/tour. When we did the listening party for this album, we played acoustic, and the fans loved it. I used to think: “Acoustic shows are no fun!“, but after that experience, and the reaction from the fans, I am now really considering it. So, that may happen in the near future.

Also, you mentioned the Paralax Orchestra, that was a great collaboration for us, and we all really enjoyed it. It would be dream come true to do something like a huge festival where we play about 40 mins of just us doing our thing, and then a huge curtain is pulled back, and we have a full orchestra for the second half of the show. That would be awesome!!

OD –  So, tell me what the plans are for the remainder of this year and into 2023? Updates on Tremonti album follow up to, ‘Marching in Time’ [2021]?

TREMONTI – I’m always writing so, theres plenty of ideas bubbling all the time. Whether it’s for AB or Tremonti, will be determined as soon as the idea is formed, but I’m always in writing mode. I just sit in my studio at 2am, and get all moody songs, but I just love writing brutal speed riffs, that crush. [Laughing]

OD – With both of these projects demanding so much time, do you miss just being at home?

TREMONTI – It’s very hard. The worst thing in the world is not being with my family. I’ve got a two year old daughter at home, and during the COVID lockdown, I was with her for every day of her life. It’s been hard being away from my family. Tomorrow, my wife, and two sons will be at the show, my daughter is just too young to travel, so I can’t wait to see her. When we’re at home it’s all about the baby, so it’s gonna be good to spend some time with the boys.

OD – Given the chance, would you step into Zakk [Wyld’s] shoes for the Pantera shows?

TREMONTI – Hell no! [Laughing] A number of years ago, I was talking with Rex [Brown, Pantera bassist] at the Download Festival, and he was talking about a possible Pantera reunion. He looked at me and said; “You should put your name in the hat“, and I was like; “No way, man!“. You have to be a certain type of personality to take on that role. It’s not just about the playing, it’s very much the personality, and Dime had a huge presence. Put it this way, nobody’s gonna flip-off Zakk Wylde on stage, they very well might do that to me, but there’s just no way I would put myself in that situation.

Alter Bridge’s new album ‘Pawns and Kings‘ is out now. For more information, please visit this link. Get the full live review from the Dublin show, here.

Pawns & Kings‘ is out now, and available from all good record stores or online.

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