Interview: Mark Tremonti talks \”Dust\” and Alter Bridge signing to Napalm Records

FRR: I appreciate you taking time. I know you’re over in Germany; you’re playing some Tremonti shows in Germany right now. How are they going? Mark Tremonti: They’re going great, man. It’s been quite a run so far. Festivals are really exciting and the shows have been outstanding. I can’t complain. FRR: It\’s been a bit since Dust released. You’ve had it done for awhile—about a year. You finished it up when you were doing Cauterize. Is it weird having the album done a year or so ago and it finally being out? How is that for you? Mark Tremonti: No, I’ve kind of toughed that out on the way, for the past 10 months that we took between albums. I’ve tried not to listen to it too much. I wanted it to be fresh. When we did break it back out, I realized I wanted to redo the order of the record—so we had to put it back through mastering and redo the track listing. But other than that, response has been fantastic and the songs are still nice and new to us because we haven’t played them live yet. We’ve played about half of the album so far, and hopefully we’ll get to the rest throughout the tour. FRR: Did you have to re-learn any of the songs or some of the parts or any of the lyrics or vocals on some of them? Especially with having it tucked away for so long and then breaking it back out when it was time to finish it up. Did you have to re-learn anything? Mark Tremonti: Yeah, I had to re-learn every single note. I have 12 studio albums out now, so every time I go on tour, I have to figure out the track listing and re-learn everything. I don’t know how to play 90% of what I’ve recorded, so I have to go re-learn it every time I go out on tour. FRR: Okay, okay, cool. Yeah, I figured you might at least do some, especially with how extensive your back catalog is. I mean, there’s so much material out there. What are some of the songs from Dust that are really standing out to you when you play them live right now? Mark Tremonti: The title track, “Dust,” is probably my favorite song on the record. As soon as we kick into that song, everybody’s always excited about it. “Catching Fire” has been a real stand-out, “Betray Me,” “My Last Mistake,” and “Once Dead” are the ones we’ve been playing, and they’ve been really fun to play. Everybody seems to enjoy them, so we’re having a blast. FRR: Awesome. Releasing Dust when you did—I mean, you could have easily done a double-album or whatnot—but I feel when bands release double-albums, sometimes it takes away from one of the two. How do you feel about releasing Dust when you did? And what did doing it the way you did add to the final product? Mark Tremonti I’m really glad we did it this way. It’s just a matter of having the patience to sit on these songs for as long as we did. If we would have come out with a double-album, people would have focused on their favorite six tracks, and the other fourteen would have gotten shuffled around and forgotten about. I think when you have a ten-song record, every single song gets its due attention. I wanted to split up the records as evenly as possible, so the second record didn’t seem like some kind of active thought or B-side record. I made the track listing just as strong as the first album, and to my surprise, it seems like eight out of ten people like Dust even better than Cauterize. I’m really excited about it. FRR: Nice, man. The album artwork for both albums is pretty similar. They have the same face on the record, and they’re both very raw-looking. It’s awesome. Can you talk a little bit about the theme of the artwork for these two records, and how they kind of go together? Mark Tremonti: Yeah, there’s this kind of sci-fi creature we’ve created. I like to get into painting sometimes, and I look for images to kind of feed off of. I found this image of a giant human standing in the middle of the ocean where its head was just massive. It looked like if he stepped on the shore, he would be the size of a skyscraper, so I thought that would be a good image for the cover of the album. So we went with that, and I did all the back-and-forth with my brother, and we kind of made him into this sci-fi creature who comes to cauterize the Earth of its impurities. Then the second album is the aftermath of that. The shackles in the front are the Earth now free of all its impurities. FRR: Dude, that’s awesome. I love that—that is amazing. Mark Tremonti: Thank you! FRR: People are loving the imagery, especially the face. Do you think that’s something that you might work into future album artwork? Maybe take the maiden approach? Or do you think that’s something that’s going to work best if you keep it specifically to these two records? Mark Tremonti: I’m sure he’ll be hidden here or there somewhere. My brother—who does a lot of the art stuff— loves to hide stuff and have little secret things hidden here and there that people like to dig into and pick apart. Whenever you look at our art, there’s always a lot of hidden stuff in there somewhere, so I’m sure that character will be floating around. FRR: Yeah, that’s awesome, man. You worked with Elvis again on this record, and you’ve worked with him a lot as a producer. What makes you want to keep bringing him back with Tremonti and Alter Bridge and whatnot? What does he bring to the table that makes it work so well? Mark Tremonti: It’s hard to find somebody you can trust artistically outside of your band. He’s that guy—we’ve worked with him for so many years now. You just know that no matter how good of a song you’ve written, it’s always going to sound that much better when Elvis puts his hands on it. He’s got a great sense of tone, his mixes are incredible, and he becomes a fifth member of both bands when it comes to arrangements and deciding songs that are going to make good albums. It’s just hard to find someone you trust. A lot of producers will try to simplify things and put their input in just to say they did, and Elvis is not that guy. He’s only going to open his mouth if he’s got a great idea. I think he’s the best rock producer out there. FRR: Whatever he’s doing, it’s working. These records are just outstanding. Cauterize and Dust are your first two records that have featured Wolfgang in the band. How awesome is it for you to have Wolfie in the band? What does he bring to the table, and how does he bring out a stronger artistic side in you? Mark Tremonti: He came in after we had done the first album and gone on tour, and he went on tour with us. He recorded Dust and Cauterized, then had to split to go back to Van Halen. It’s too bad: the records he actually recorded on, he hasn’t gotten to tour on. He’s only toured on the songs he didn’t record on, so that’s kind of tough. In the writing process, he’s the kind of guy you throw anything at him and he gets right on it and executes it perfectly. He’s very technically proficient on all instruments—he’s a great drummer, great guitar player, and great bass player. He came up with great bass lines and is super tight with Garrett on the drums, which makes that rhythm section really punch. FRR: Awesome. Obviously you guys tour a lot, you’re touring right now in the states playing the festival circuit. What do tour plans look like for you in the states in 2016 with Tremonti? I know you’re doing the summer tour with Alter Bridge with Disturbed and whatnot for the summer. Any fall plans for Tremonti over here in the states? Mark Tremonti: We’re just waiting to see how the Alter Bridge tour finalizes. When Tremonti first comes out with an album, we’re first priority. But then as soon as Alter Bridge comes into play, Alter Bridge becomes first priority, and back-and-forth. When Miles goes back to Slash, we’ve got to take year and a half breaks for each band. Now I just have to see how the Alter Bridge schedule turns out. It’s just tough because we’ve released two albums this cycle, and we just have to fill in the gaps in the Alter Bridge tour. The states will be our next target. FRR: Awesome, man. I’ve gotta ask: yesterday, you guys announced the signing with Napalm. How excited are you to have Napalm with Alter Bridge and everything? I mean, that label is amazing. Mark Tremonti: Yeah, we’re still getting to know each other. We don’t really know too much of the history, because we just started working with one another. So we’ll see how it goes. We’re excited about their level of excitement with working with us, so that’s always a big plus. FRR: I want to thank you so much for taking time to talk to me. I know you’re in Germany, you’ve got a show coming up here soon. As always, new album kicks ass, amazing, everything we could have hoped for it to be. Can’t wait to see you this summer with Alter Bridge, and hopefully we’ll see you this fall or some point soon with Tremonti again. Mark Tremonti: Absolutely, man. I appreciate it.