Alter Bridge: "Our fan base is really passionate and not every band can say that"

A conversation with Myles Kennedy about their amazing seventh studio album

Από τον Χρήστο Καραδημήτρη, 15/10/2022 @ 13:39

Eighteen years down the line and now with seven studio albums under their belt, Alter Bridge have nothing to prove to anyone. Through their career and their works the world has acknowledged a new guitar hero in the face of Mark Tremonti and a rock star in the face of Myles Kennedy. The latter was the one who got the call to answer to our questions regarding the amazing new album, called "Pawns & Kings". We found him relaxed, confident and in a good mood and we talked about riffs, the production, the lyrical approach, the respect they share with Mark Tremonti and the importance of the band’s loyal fanbase. And once again he amazed us, proving he’s the most modest and down to earth rock star out there.

Alter Bridge

Oh, nice t-shirt man! [editor: a "Walk The Sky" tour t-shirt]

It’s a new band, don’t know if you’ve heard of them!

Well, I don't really like the singer much, but I like the band… (laughs)

Well, you’re far from the truth, but I'll pretend I agree with you… (laughs) Just before we start this interview, I always want to say that it's a privilege to have a chance to talk with you, as you are one of my all-time favourite musicians…

Oh, thank you!

You know, I don't take this for granted, because your music, your lyrics, everything means a lot to me. And I think we have to express our gratitude to guys like you…

I appreciate that. It’s very kind. Thank you.

Now let's get to the actual interview. Only a few days remain till the release of "Pawns & Kings", so how do you feel? Are you pumped, anxious or maybe relaxed? You’ve released quite a few albums so far in your career, and I was wondering if the anticipation for the release of a new album changed over the years for you?

You know, it does. It changes with every record you release. I think the dynamic changes a little bit. When you're young and you're about to unleash your record, there are all these different emotions that accompany that. As you get to the point where you put out a lot over the course of a few decades, - at least for me, I'll speak for myself - it's a little different. It's more a little calmer… (laughs). You're still excited to release these sonic babies into the world, and you hope people enjoy it, but there's also certain confidence that comes with knowing that you've already established a certain legacy and you've got a body of work that you can still fall back on. So, it's not like "make or break". When you put out your first record, it's make or break and if the record isn't accepted, then you could be done. And so there's a certain safety net after doing this for 20 years. But we still are really excited and hope people enjoy it.

Alter Bridge

Well, I have to congratulate you for this new album, cause is absolutely fantastic. An "album of the year contestant", without any doubt…

Oh, thank you. That's heavy! It means a lot!

I’ve learned my lesson where if I comment too positive on the record we just finished, it can kind of bite me in the ass

I can’t say you ever disappointed with any new album you’ve released so far, but "Pawns And Kings" seems to be up there with "ABIII", "Fortress" and all your great albums that have become fan-favourite. Would you agree with me that this album has something special?

Maybe ask me that in ten years and then I'll know! (laughs)… I’ve learned my lesson where if I comment too positive on the record we just finished, it can kind of bite me in the ass, because I need that distance to really know. But with that said, I think we all did feel a certain... no, I'll just speak for myself… I felt a certain confidence going into this. I felt like we had the songs and it's not always the case. Sometimes you'll walk into a record, and you might not be sure if you've got, like the right body of work for that. So, there was a certain level of confidence and to hear what you just said about how you feel about it now that's done and had been recorded, it really makes you feel good and gives kind of a sigh of relief.

Did you approach the making of this record somehow differently in comparison to the last couple ones, both when you composed the songs and when you produced it? Did pandemic force you to change things a little bit maybe?

To a point, you know… but we started this newer process really on "Walk The Sky", where Mark and I would demo songs separately. You know, the beat, the genesis of songs separately… where it used to be, we'd sit down and just with our guitars and like "well, I've got this part, you have a part that goes with this" and we kind of bounce back and forth. Now we tend to come in with things a little more realised. But with that said, we still… for example, "Silver Tongue", that was something that I had and I demoed it out, but I left the middle section so that Mark could put in a part. So that way it feels like a collaboration. "Sin After Sin" I love it… that's Mark came in with the music bed for that, and then I put a melody and a lyric on top of it. So, it's still, we're still collaborating. It's not just like "here's a completed song and you're going to perform this". And that's important.

There's so much information and so much content out there and to expect someone to sit and listen to 14 songs in 2022 is asking a lot

One thing that you did different this time around is that you kept the album at ten songs when most previous albums contained around fourteen songs. I think it worked out great, leading to a really cohesive result. Do you agree? Was it something you wanted to do, or it just turned out this way?

Personally, it was something that I hoped we would do. Because, I think things have changed a lot with how people consume music. There's so much information and so much content out there and to expect someone to sit and listen to 14 songs in 2022 is asking a lot. So, we figured "hey let's just try and put our best foot forward, put the 10 best songs we can and not try not to kind of dilute the waters". So, yeah, I like going at 10 song approach, especially in the world we live in now.

When I grew up, a lot of the records I was listening to, it was on vinyl. So, if you put over 35-40 minutes worth of material on a record, it would actually not sound as good, so the records were a little more shorter, just because they have the grooves and stuff... (laughs)

And vinyl is back…


I actually own all your albums on vinyl as well on CD, because it's something you own, something that's more complete. With the artwork in it, the big artwork on the vinyl sleeve... And all this feeling that you invest time to listen to the record, put it on to play. That's a great feeling for me at least. Maybe I'm old fashioned…

Yeah! No, I agree. There's a ritual to it, right? There's something about it… You get the vinyl, you open it up, you read the credits as you're listening to the record, and you see the artwork. And, you know, it's a very different process than if you just type it in on your phone, on Spotify or on Apple Music and you're like, "oh, OK, there it is". Yeah, it's just a different ritual.

Alter Bridge

Well, I have to listen to almost everything on mp3 and streaming and I like the convenience, but once I get the physical product I just can't return to it. I need to put it all on it and then I realise some differences in the production that maybe most people don't pay attention to nowadays, but for me are really important. These are things that make a difference in some ways, in the engineering and the mastering of an album, that maybe people don’t value that much anymore…

Yeah, I totally agree with you. And I appreciate hearing that, because artists do put a lot of time into that stuff. You give a great deal of thought as far as who's going to mix your record, who's going to produce the record, and what kind of tones we're going to get. And so when you know that listeners like yourself are still listening to those fine details and caring, then it makes the caring that we're doing worthwhile.

I hope that helps you continue to produce that qualitative stuff. We need to recognize that it takes a lot of talent and effort...

We'll keep trying!

I guess maybe more on this record than a lot of the other ones, but I've been bringing in riffs since "ABIII"

Now, the new album I think focuses a bit more on your heavier side as a band and it is quite riff-driven. Also, I think Elvis, your producer mentioned that by now he doesn't know who's bringing the heavy riffs; you or Mark. So who's the more metal guy in the band now?

I still think it’s Mark, as far as the who's the more metal guy. As far as what he grew up listening to and everything, I think there's more metal in his realm. For me, I'm a bit of everything... I do love so many different forms of music, but with that said, Mark, as the years have gone on, has started embracing other forms of music as well, which has been great to see.

But, yeah, as far as the writing and riffs, who brings in what riffs and what parts… yeah, it is hard to tell now. I think just 'cause we've been playing together for so long and we both have kind of influenced one another, which is cool because it makes it interesting. And it's been really fun to hear people take on this record. It's like "well, who wrote this riff?" and they would assume Mark wrote it when I actually wrote it, or vice versa. But, you know, some of the some of the more uplifting - I don't wanna say pop - but more like you have a song like "Season Of Promise" or the song he's saying "Stay", those are Mark's tunes for the most part. Other than like "Season Of Promise, you know, I did the lyrics on that…

I think that it's been fun to kind of reverse roles on various records. We've done this for years, but people are seemed only to be picking up on… a lot of people are like "oh, so you're starting to write more riffs now" and yeah, I guess maybe more on this record than a lot of the other ones, but I've been bringing in riffs since "ABIII". In "Blackbird" there are parts in that song which I brought in, but people always just assume those are all Mark’s. But, that's fine, it just takes time to get the word out.

That's a game that I really like to play as well, assuming if it’s Mark or you who wrote this riff or that part. And then seeing you playing live I think "Well, Myles plays that riff, so Myles must have written that riff". And the same goes with the solo sections. But solos are bit easier. It's more distinctive.


With Mark we both trust one another's ability to play the parts that we come up with. And it’s liberating

But, as far as "who wrote this riff?, it's a nice game that I can't always really tell. You know, for example I thought "Silver Tongue" would be Mark’s because it's a bit more thrashy. But then, it’s yours! I enjoy it, it keeps it interesting…

And even that's funny. Cause even live will still fool you. "Silver Tongue" is a good example, like when it goes to the verse, the riff underneath that. We’ve already we played that song a few times acoustically, and I actually have Mark play that. Even though I wrote that part. I'm like you "go ahead and play that so I can focus on the vocal more". So sometimes they'll still fool you. You'll see the guy that plays that and assume that he wrote that when it actually is just like "you play it, cause I have to sing" or vice versa.

Here's the great thing. It's fun, but it also is really nice, I think, for both of us. Because we both trust one another's ability to play the parts that we come up with. And it liberates you, 'cause it makes it so that when you're writing you never have to worry. Like if I write this part, I don't know if my other guitar player friend can play it. But, you never worry about that, you're always like "yeah, I know he'll be fine with this". Which is, which is really liberating.

Alter Bridge

I always laugh with you considering Mark a better guitarist and Mark considering you a better guitarist. It seems like a nice challenge and a great respect between you two. And this kind of challenge turns to be really creative, cause you become part of each other’s sound and the combination makes something greater than the sum of its parts…

Yeah, that's a good point. It's a great point.

One thing we didn't want to do with this record is to have it overproduced

You’ve established a winning relationship with Elvis Baskette, producing all your albums since "Blackbird". Have you found a certain formula that you repeat, or do you change the way you approach each album? I’m asking this because sound-wise there are some similarities but also a few differences between the albums he’s produced, from "ABIII" to "Fortress" and up to "Pawns & Kings". How do you approach the sounding details of each album?

We’ re in good hands with Elvis. It's the same thing we were just talking about Mark and I trust each other as players, where we totally trust Elvis as a not just as a producer, but as an engineer and getting the right tones. And he seems to just be getting… I don't want to say better, but there's an evolution there. I mean, the sound of this record has a different set of components than on the last record we did, which I think is nice, 'cause it helps differentiate from record to record.

But yeah, I think, for us if there's anything we bring to the table, oftentimes is more… for example, on this record, it's more what not to do. So, Mark and I talked before we started writing the record. We're like, one thing we don't want to do is have this be overproduced. Not too many textures overtop nobody. Not too much going on in the sonic landscape, so that it really makes us have to focus more on the riffs and the meat and potatoes of the song. And Elvis then heard that and produced it accordingly. And so that's been, I think in a lot of ways for a hard rock band, that's a good way to do it, because then it makes all those tones have to… it features them more. You know, you don't cover it up with a bunch of fairy dust. And so that's I think that's made the impact of this record a little more aggressive.

That the idea of empowerment and being a battle cry for the little guy about cry for the underdog and I think people really relate to that

Going to the songs of the record, I think it was a bold decision from your side to release the title track as the first single of the album. Cause it’s a song with many layers, transitions and twists. Not a typical single by any means. But then again, it's such a great tune and an exciting song, so it makes sense somehow. So how did you choose it as the first single and also why did you choose to name the album after this song?

It's a great question, because interestingly enough, it initially wasn't even going to be on the record! And that's what's so funny about that song. After both Mark and I had submitted our demos and Elvis just asked me one day "do you have any other ideas?" and I sheepishly played what would become "Holiday" and then "Pawns And Kings". And he's like "well, those are going on the record". And so it's really interesting that it ended up being title of the record and the first song released and it goes to show you how important it is to have a team around you to help you pick songs. You know, that's so such an important aspect.

So, I think the reason we went with "Pawns And Kings" as the first single or first song to be released is because it was a bit of a surprise. You know, normally bands put out like the three and a half or four minute song and that's your first step forward. With us, we're like "You know what? Let's cater more to that epic side of the band. Let's put out a longer song".

And as far as the why we called the album "Pawns and Kings", it's just such a strong image, you know. And that the idea of empowerment and being a battle cry for the little guy about cry for the underdog and I think people really relate to that. And so it seemed like once the body of work was done, that was the obvious choice.

Yeah, and something that I just thought it's not common to put out as the first single, the last track of the album. You know, back in the day the producers would usually recommend to put the strongest tracks, first in order and then add the rest of the songs. But, you’re not that kind of band, and that is a proof…

I think, yeah, it's we're incredibly lucky, 'cause our fan base is so passionate… We feel like they will listen all the way… We hope that they will give a song that's at the end of the record a chance and listen to it.

And so that was part of the reason we were like "well, should we put this song earlier?". And we thought "well, no we don't. I think our fans are passionate enough. Maybe, we'll get to that. Maybe they'll get to that last song". Maybe that's a bit presumptuous, but we gambled on that.

With lyrics, I want to paint with a broad enough stroke and create visuals where the listener can plug in what they want and extract what they want to resonate in their own lives

I think you were right. I can tell that knowing your fans. Also, I have to say I find the lyrics of this song very interesting and inspiring. Not only from a social or political aspect, but also from a spiritual approach. You know, "the last shall be first" and "The meek shall sing, until God’s will is done"… Could it be that you wanted to add a spiritual touch on this song?

You know, it's interesting because those phrases… really, there was no spiritual intention. It's people have extracted that from the song, which has been interesting for me. With that said, I don't want to go too deep into my psyche as I was writing there, 'cause then I fear that it might ruin what somebody was getting out of it beforehand. Cause, that's happened so many times to me. Sometimes, I remember, there would be songs I would love from other artists. And then and I would think would be about one thing. And then I see an interview and had nothing to do with that, and then it would kind of ruin the song for me... (laughs)

So, I've learned to kind of be a little ambiguous in those answers. But, the word ambiguous, you know, the idea of keeping it so that there can be multiple meanings to these songs is something that, as I've been doing this for a long time, I feel like that's really important as opposed to being really direct and very specific. You want to paint with a broad enough stroke and create visuals where the listener can plug in what they want and extract what they want to resonate in their own lives. And that's a challenge. But it always makes me happy when I hear multiple meanings being extracted from a song as opposed people going "oh, it's just about this". And it's like, well, yeah, but it could also be about this. And that's the beauty of art.

Alter Bridge

I agree with that. But, it also important that your lyrics are written well and meaningful. They’re not gibberish if you get what I'm saying…

Thank you. Thank you.

The most special – and for some reason I feel it’s the more a personal of yours – track, I think is the amazing "Fable of The Silent Son". An epic journey of a song, a mix or classic rock, hard rock and maybe a bit progressive rock, if I am allowed to say… It’s such a great tune… Tell me a few things about it, how it was formed and if it has a special meaning for you…

Yeah! For me personally, that was the hardest song to have come to fruition, because the first part of that song was something that I've been chipping away out in my studio and I liked it, but I didn't know where it was going to go. I just thought maybe this is an intro to the record, or maybe it's an intro for another song. I didn't know and I thought I would just turn it over to the band, see if they had any ideas. But then I had another song that I was working on that I thought "Well, wait! What if you combine the two together?". And I didn't have lyrics for it yet. I just had the music for both of them. And when I did that in my studio I was like "OK, Now we're on to something! Now it's like this very epic journey". So, I presented that demo to it, wrote the lyrics and the lyrics do mean a lot to me personally, because it's written from the perspective of someone who's made mistakes and they're looking at life in the rear-view and trying to convey what they learned to someone else, so they don't make the same mistakes. Which I feel is important as you’re getting older. So, when we are in pre-production then Mark had a really great idea for what would become the instrumental guitar solo section. So, we put that in as well which made a song that was originally about 7 minutes and some seconds long to get over 8 minutes long. But it was a really nice zenith for the for the arrangement. Once again, it's one of those things where I feel like everybody feels like they were involved with the final version, which I think is important. And it's been interesting doing interviews and hearing how people have gravitated towards that song and some of the other ones. And it makes you feel good, because so much effort went into it. It was so hard. I spent months on that one trying to get it to come together. So, I'm happy that you like it.

Yeah, who doesn't? Or to be more exact… who won't?


It's really great for me to have a singer in the band like Mark, because I think it just broadens the overall sonic palette

Another song that I personally love is "Stay" that Mark handles the main vocals. But then, your voice is also a very important element in this song and in my opinion it’s the vocal harmonies that blend, between you and Mark that finally make the difference, along with the uplifting lyrics, of course. So, it’s kind of different from some previous songs that Mark handled the lead vocals. And, by the way, it showcases that Mark has improved significantly as a singer, hasn’t he?

Absolutely, yeah! He's really come a long way as a singer! And not that he was never not a good singer. I always thought he had a really great sounding voice. But his time has gone on, and he's done that Tremonti projects and now the Frank Sinatra album, he's developing his voice more in understanding the instrument more. And so, it's been really fun to see that evolution.

And yeah, you know, we noticed that really early on, when we would sing together, because he has such a different sound to my voice. He's a baritone, I'm more of a tenor. And so we, we blend the two together and they seem to work well together, for whatever reason. And so, that "Stay" song, when I come in and sing on the chorus with him, it was interesting, 'cause, when Elvis mixed it, I thought my voice was going to be tucked way back just as a as a background. But it's really in the forefront and both vocals are, so I guess it's fun to have that option.

And it's really great for me to have a singer in the band like Mark, because I think it just broadens the overall sonic palette. When people listen to a record, it's not just my voice. It's nice to have that interplay. It's like the same way I feel about Deep Purple back when Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale were both singing. It's fun, because you get to hear the interplay between the two singers.

I call it the lost art of vocal harmonies and the privilege of having two great singers. Many new bands, in my opinion, don't really value it. But that's just me. Now, as I mentioned before, this is one of your most riff-driven albums, and there’s a few killer riffs here, but you always had great riffs. I’d like to know your three favourite riffs off the new album and your three all-time favorite AB riffs from your whole catalogue!.

Oh man! Boy, that is a good question! I'm gonna say I really like the riff Mark brought in for "Sin After Sin". I think that's a killer riff. Mark has a certain thing that he does, which is brilliant. So that would be #1.

I grew to like the riff on "Silver Tongue". I wasn't sure initially. I was actually really surprised. And people gravitate towards the riff, but now I think I get it. So, "Silver tongue" would be another one.

And then… Oh Geez, this is so hard… Gosh, I'm dying here… Maybe, maybe there's a 7/8 part in "Fable Of The Silent Son", right before the solo section. [Myles sings the riff] I like that. That's gonna be fun to play live.

Metalingus" is such a hallmark for the band

Well, that’s the prog element that I mentioned earlier…

Yeah, yeah, yeah... That was fun! Now, as far as favourite riffs of our catalogue…. Oh boy... (laughs)

I like the riff - this is a Mark’s riff - on "Crows On a Wire", which was on "The Last Hero" record. I'm trying to remember it… (laughs), but what I like about that riff is that it was unpredictable. Like, the first time he sent that riff to me, I thought "oh, that's kind of wild". I wouldn't have heard it that way, but I do really like it.

I'm going to say just… because it's just such a big song for the fans, you got you got to throw "Metalingus" in there. Because, it's such a hallmark for the band…

And then #3, I like the kind of bendy, almost stoner like riff when you're coming out of the verse of "Blackbird", right before the chorus. It's very Pink Floyd as well. So that would be #3, yeah.

Alter Bridge

All right, perfect! Now next question is, I was thinking that, but with each new album you have more and more songs that you "must" have on your setlist. How do you plan to deal with this problem? It's a pleasant headache, but still a headache I think…

Oh man, it's gonna be really tough. I mean, when we first started playing together we had to throw covers in just so we could have a long enough set. But now we've got seven records under our belt. I have no idea how we're gonna do that, 'cause you know, there's always going to be that guy who leaves unhappy - guy or girl… (laugh) You know "why didn’t you play that song?".

I don't know if you can confirm it, but I was told that in 2020 you had booked a show here in Athens, Greece. Then we all know what happened. Everything got cancelled. Have you heard of it? Can you confirm it? Because, It's such a shame that you haven't been here to play…

Yeah, I'd heard rumblings of that as well. So hopefully we can rectify that on this album cycle. It needs to happen, because we've heard a lot of things… we know just from talking with folks like yourself that there are people there who would like us to perform there. So, we we're we are working on it. Let's just put it that way

The two nights at Royal Albert Hall felt like the big payoff

18 years since Alter Bridge were formed and "One Day Remains" was released, this is your seventh studio album down the line. What’s the most precious thing you keep so far and what would you want the future to hold for this amazing and unique band?

I think for us the most amazing experience we had was getting to play the Royal Albert Hall for two nights with the symphony and all. That was a really special experience for us. Kind of felt like the big payoff. Moving forward, we hope that we can just continue to develop and grow and hopefully folks like yourself who embrace the band will still come along for the ride. You know, we're very-very cognizant of the fact that our supporters and fan base are really passionate and not every band can say that. That’s why we've been able to have a career for nearly two decades, it’s because of fans and passionate fans. So, we don't want to let y'all down.

Folks like me all you owe you more than you do all to all of us. Trust me.

Wow! Thank you. I appreciate it.

We're all people and we just have to be good to one another

Once again I want to thank you for your time and of course for the music. It always amazes me that you’re maybe the most down to earth rock star I’ve ever talked to. And I mean that rock star title, I don't say it just to flatter you.

Well, my parents raised me a certain way and if I walked around with a lot of bravado they'd smack me upside the side of the head… (laughs). We're all people and we just have to be good to one another.