Mark Tremonti is not only one of the most respected guitarists on the market, he is also one of the nicest people you can meet in music business. It was proven once again before and during Alter Bridge show in Berlin in 13th of October 2016. We are bringing you an interview with Mark shortly before the show but also a short interview with their tour manager Joey Brueckmann over phone. Czech readers, this interview was released as a front cover interview in May 2017 issue of magazine Muzikus to support first ever Alter Bridge show in Czech Republic: Prague 14th June 2017. Full online interview in Czech here.
Foto credits: Carlos Amoedo, Anna Pospíšilová
Original interview audio included at the bottom
I hope everything is going great on your European tour and hopefully there are no issue with the gear.
I definitely have issue with the gear. Power voltage is down all over the place. In the Belgium and Holland the power was really low. It was about 110 volts which my amps don’t like very much. Today, it is back to 120, so hopefully when the PA turns on, it wouldn’t suck all the voltage down.
Luckily, you can rely on your PRS signature models. How many of them do you bring on a tour?
There is probably ten for me and Myles brigs about six or seven. Then Brian has four or five basses.
What were your specifications for PRS, when you were planning a signature model?
Well, they just kept setting me guitars, but I wanted certain aspects about each guitar. As they just didn’t do it for me as a total package, they decided to let me go and do my own thing with a guitar. We created a single cut and since then, it’s the bestselling signature model for the last ten years.
Glad to hear that, especially as there is a huge number of PRS players. Next to Myles, there is also your co-player in Tremonti band, Eric Friedman. Are they as supportive to him, as they are to you?
Yeah, but when we go on tour, I let him borrow some of mine, as we have A & B rigs. So, say we have to come here for festival shows, which are too far from another, I will have a whole set-up on one side of the country and one on the opposite. He borrows handful of my guitars.
My PRS single cut is the bestselling signature model for the last ten years
The list of PRS is truly massive, but one name caught my attention. It was Dustie Waring from Between the Buried and Me, who is also long term user of Mesa Boogie amps same as you. Personally, I cannot imagine my life without Sony Walkman and Phillips Audio Recorder, where you rely on Mesa Boogie and Bogner Uberschall.
Yeah, but you know what? My Bogner didn’t react well to the voltage change and I have my PRS Archon with me tonight. I might try to change the tubes in it. Something happened, but that’s been my most reliable amp I have had for the past fifteen years of touring. It has to go to the shop. That’s the amp I can’t live without.
You said tubes right? It is quite unusual to have 6L6 tubes, isn’t it?
Oh yeah. They come with EL34s, but that one came with 6L6s in there. So, when I had a back-up amp brought out that had the original EL34s in there, it didn’t sound anything like it. So, definitely, if anybody wants Uberschall, get it with 6L6s in there. That way it will sound much better.
If anybody wants Uberschall, get it with 6L6s in there
What are some of the other items, which you rely on during busy tour schedule?
Well, those amps and also G-lab delay pedal, which is wonderful. It’s very simple to use and it lights up, so you can see it on stage. Next is my wah pedal, which is something I can’t live without. If I had to travel with just few items, it would be my amps, my wah pedal and my guitars. That’s all I really need. The wah pedal has an overdrive built into it, so I don’t need an extra overdrive. But if I don’t want to use my wah, I will turn on Hand-Wired Tube Screamer, which is my favorite overdrive pedal. I don’t use any switching systems, it’s just few pedals and the two amps.
The Last Hero
If I can be fully honest, I always experience a bit of a shock with a new Alter Bridge album. Especially the first time I heard Fortress. Luckily, after few tries, I always fall in love. How was the writing process with the latest album The Last Hero?
It was different then with all the other records. Usually, we get together as a band and we would work out the songs as much as we can. Then we would bring Elvis (Michael “Elvis” Baskette – production) to the full and get into the pre-production. On this album we went straight into a pre-production. Me and Myles would sit at my house and come up with one or two songs that we are going to try to arrange the next day. Then we would do arrangements right on the spot, trying to capture that moment. Next day me and Myles would get back together and come up with two or three additional ideas to go through. Maybe one or two would fly and one wouldn’t, but we keep on moving. That way it keeps the new found energy alive in the songs. If you work the song out too much, you start losing the plot.
If you work the song out too much, you start losing the plot
New album offers both straight forward, same as motivational pieces. We can all relate to powerful piece My Champion, but I would rather talk with you about Show Me a Leader, which is very up-to-date as we can relate it to presidential election in USA. One of my main concerns regarding Donald Trump is a fact, he speaks about pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.
There are hints of that. I just saw an interview the other day where he was talking about the wind power and how he doesn’t want to hurt eagles. That’s his excuse why he wants to stop the wind generated power. It’s just excuses to me. That is the most important issue to me too as politics go: Global warming taken care of and people switching from fossil fuels to new power sources. It’s scary he doesn’t think that way.
I guess crucial role play his buddies from various industries who join him for golf or eating giant steaks. Unfortunately we are having similar problem in Czech Republic, where people elected sexist alcoholic. However we have to realize these politicians have been elected by people. If you take a public transportation and look around, you see the sample of a nation. I believe people have to “hit their faces”, similarly mentioned in My Champion, in order to realize their choices.
It’s a nightmare…
One big family
Luckily, you are doing some really positive activities with your brother Dan within Fret12. Great musicians joining you guys, including Mark Hosking from amazing Australian band Karnivool. I must compliment you also on great guitar instructional videos, but please tell us about all activities you do with Dan?
We try to think of everything we can that a music fan or a guitar player would enjoy. So, we started with instructional DVDs, until they became a thing of a past. So, I switched into doing clinics, we did my whole record label for Tremonti albums and we present a lot of content through online interviews. They sell artist’s gear directly from there, so if somebody is looking for one of guitars, they will get it through Fret12 and can be sure, they will get it signed for no additional charges. They became the biggest dealer of my signature model in United States. But same as with Jim Root, you can get all of his T-shirts and all of his gear through Fret12. It is expanding and they think outside of a box. We try to not do what has been done before. We are trying to see what works and go with it.
Glad to hear about your relationship with Dan, but how is it at home? You once said your kids take your music as “Daddy’s music”. But I was just imaging a moment, when you would be watching The Wizard of Oz with your kids and pointing out a scene with flying monkeys, saying something like: “Let me play you something from daddy’s music.” Did something like this happen or were there any similar moments, where your kids are getting into rock music?
(Laugh) Well, my youngest son’s favorite song was Flying Monkeys for a while. We would be in a car and he would say: “Let me hear that song.” (Laugh) They like pop music the most, because that’s what the music, kids at school listen to and they always want me to turn on the pop station. They really like Twenty One Pilots and whatever the popular song comes out. And I get it, kids want to be happy. Daddy’s music is rather dark and moody. But they love it when we have a new record and they listen to it front to back. They even enjoy the heavy stuff. But as far as being musicians, I think they want to be athletes. They want to be soccer players.
That’s pretty rare in US. I also love soccer, but also table tennis.
I love table tennis!
Is there any chance, you can play on a tour?
If there would be a table, I would love that!
Are you rather defender of attacker, because I would usually stand three meters behind a play high balls?
Depends on how I am feeling that day. At first, when I get to play, I play a little bit defensive but once I get a bit comfortable, I like to be on the offensive.
Next to sports, you often talk about expanding your musical taste. Last time we met, we spoke about great thrash metal band Forbidden, but also old Sepultura and Emperor. Talking about the last band on the list, are you trying to expand your taste by Ihsahn’s solo work?
I like anything where you can feel emotions and passion in somebody’s work. I don’t like heavy music because it’s heavy. I like heavy music that has depth, like Opeth. I see a band every now and then, where I simply get that! I like the dynamics in their music. I don’t like bands which come out with pure heaviness from start to finish, without emotions. They don’t even have to be technically brilliant. As long as the song speaks to me, they don’t even have to be musical geniuses. Look at Black Flag, which I love. Those guys hardly played their instruments and rather threw their arms around and killed it. But I love the songs. They wrote great songs. So, as long as it speaks to me I like it.
Thank you Mark and here are my two main tips for the end of our interview: Ihsahn and Marc Rizzo (Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy) solo albums.
Joey Brueckmann – Tour manager
If you do remember, please tell us, if everything went fine in Berlin, as it was very special night for us.
Berlin is definitely one of my most favorite cities to play. Everything was amazing, great crowd and the local equipment is top notch. It was definitely a great show.
Give us an idea what’s part of your daily activities, including what part of the equipment you have to bring with yourself?
So, as the sound guy, I‘m the front-of-house guy for Alter Bridge. We carry audio desks and monitors system, so the guys can hear themselves. We usually use the in-house PA systems. Especially in Europe they are generally top notch. I carry Avid profile console with bunch of plug-ins and compressors I use. There are also some punch gates for a drummer. My day generally starts out with me checking the PA, where I tune it and EQ it to my preferences. Then we will do a line check with the crew, where they will play guys’ instruments for me, to make sure everything sounds great. Late afternoon we are having a sound check with the band. We usually have some fans coming to watch sound check and then I’m done sound vice for a day and I get back to tour management. I’m getting the guestlist sorted, checking the current ticket sales and advancing things for upcoming few days. That’s my day and of course mix the show at night.
Any challenges you would like to mention from the last European Alter Bridge tour?
Going from theaters to arenas and then back to theaters is tough. As a sound guy, you are dealing with many different room acoustics and different in-front-of-house PA systems. It’s almost a challenge every night to please everyone, to make it sound great. You are fighting room acoustics and the limitations of the gear. As for the tour management side of it, Europe has a lot of driving rules for the drivers. (Laugh) Getting everyone where they need to be on time and safe, is sometimes challenging. Other than that we luckily don’t get into other crazy situations.
I must compliment you for the Berlin show, as the sound was amazing. I’m usually complaining, but this time it was really heavy, but we could hear everything very precisely. What do you personally consider the perfect venue for Alter Bridge?
Let say we played in O2 arena in London and the acoustics in there was amazing. The PA we brought in for that show was just overkill. Generally it depends on the acoustics of the room, because the size of the venue nowadays, with the proper treatment within acoustic calibration, is irrelevant. I think the best shows are in the smaller theaters and clubs, where the crowd is up-close in personal. It soaks a lot of bad frequencies.
We are getting towards the end of our fifteen minutes, so I was just wondering, how did you get to this position?
I started out in 1999 with a band called OTEP. They got signed to huge Capitol records’ deal and I was just a sound guy in Los Angeles, at that time and they wanted to take me out. I basically got thrown into doing sound with them and going on a tour. Next to that they said: “We need you to tour manage us as well.” There was a guy in Capitol records – Mick Angus who worked as TM and production manager for a lot of larger bands back in the seventies and eighties. He kind of thought me everything that I know and gave me a crash course in tour management. In general, this industry is huge word of mouth. I went to school for some sound stuff, but nothing will teach you tour management. You have to experience it yourself. When I came back from a tour with OTEP, I worked with the band called (hed)p.e. and just kind of branched out from there and kept doing it. To be exact, touring every year for the past eighteen years. You just go and work on your skills, learn what not to do and how to please your bands. Just trying to keep everyone happy.
For the last question, are there any dreams within this industry, which you still would like to accomplish?
Definitely moving towards the management side and maybe getting of the road a little more. I want to be able to consult and build other tour managers and audio guys, to take my place and manage from home. I don’t see myself getting of the road soon, but that’s definitely something I plan.