Interview by: Robert Cavuoto
Mark Tremonti of Creed and Alter Bridge fame is back with his solo band and putting out their third CD, Dust, slated for release on April 29th via Fret 12 Records. It’s the companion CD to his 2015 release, Cauterize. Both CDs were written and recorded at the same time but released a year apart. They feature Mark on vocals/guitars, Eric Friedman on guitars, Wolfgang Van Halen on bass and Garrett Whitlock on drums. It is produced by long-time friend and collaborator, Michael “Elvis” Baskette.
From the first riff on Dust’s opener “Last Mistake” to the final notes of the epic melodic closer “Unable to See,” it is apparent that Mark Tremonti is at a whole new level of guitar playing and songwriting. His hard rock/heavy metal influences shine throughout on songs like; “Dust,” “Never Wrong,” and “The Cage.” Preorders for Dust are available now; the digital version can be purchased here smarturl.it/dustdigital and signed copies are available through Best Buy at smarturl.it/dustcd.
I caught up with Mark to gain some insights into the making of Dust and the status of the new Alter Bridge CD!
Robert: How long did it take to make both Cauterize and Dust?
Mark Tremonti: It took 2 ½ -3 months of recording and mixing. We spent a ton of time working out the arrangements in advance. For example with Alter Bridge we went into the studio with loose ideas and worked them all out with Elvis. But with the Tremonti stuff, it was all worked out in advance and tight. It makes everything so much smoother when you put so much work into the writing before you get into pre-production. We were pretty prepared when we went in there with Tremonti songs.
Robert Cavuoto: Was it difficult to decide the tracking of Dust and Cauterize so that they would be balanced?
Mark Tremonti: The track listing was my number one priority. I would come home every night during the mixing phase and put together potential track listings to make sure they were evenly balanced and told the story. It took a few weeks but I think we got it right.
Robert: Figuring that Dust was completed over a year ago and you had extra time to sit with it; did you change anything on it?
Mark Tremonti: Once I lived with Dust for a while I changed the order of the songs after we had the CD mastered. So I had to send it back to mastering to switch them up. I had the title track last on the CD and few of the other songs switched around. I think it flows a lot better now, I’m glad we switched it around.
Robert: Do you see Dust as more of a progression of your playing or do you think of the two CDs as companion pieces?
Mark Tremonti: I see them as companion CDs, I didn’t plan it to be this way but the Dust CD might be a little more digestible and lighthearted than Cauterize. Dust also had some of the more progressive guitar soloing on it. It also has the one song out of all 20 tracks that sticks out as the most melodic, “Unable to See”. The singer/songwriter side of me will never go away so I added it to the CD.
Robert: That’s a great song; tell me about its origins.
Mark Tremonti: That song started when we were on tour in Pennsylvania playing a gig. The venue’s security allowed a bunch of people to go into our dressing room during the show and someone stole my backpack which had my recording device. On it was six month’s worth of material. It was like being kicked in the stomach, it was a terrible feeling. After the show we stopped at a Walmart and I picked up a new recorder. The verse to “Unable to See” was the first thing I wrote and recorded within 10 minute of having it. The rest of the song came from bits and pieces of a song that I put together for the Alter Bridge One Day Remains CD but never saw the light of day. I just pushed those two ideas together and made “Unable to See.”
Robert: How many songs were lost with the recorder?
Mark Tremonti: When I record ideas, I record them short and sweet; I don’t elaborate on them too much. So it was a very dense amount of riffs and material on those tapes.
Robert: Another of my favorite songs was “Never Wrong,” it has a Van Halen vibe to it.
Mark Tremonti: I always thought that riff had a Van Halen vibe as well. I think anytime you take the open D string and carry the melody on the B and G string; it kind of gives you that “Running with the Devil” sound. That riff I had around for years. I played it with the Alter Bridge guys at sound check 100 times and it never flew so I decided to make it work for this record.
Robert: A year ago you told me “Dust” was your favorite track off of both CDs, is that still the case?
Mark Tremonti: I would say it would be close between “Dust” and “Flying Monkeys.” Each have something about them that I love. It’s one of those riffs that stuck in my head for years and years. I played it with Alter Bridge but never flew.
Garret has been the savior of many songs which turned out to be my favorite. The song “Wish You Well” off the first CD; he reminded me about the riff as it was something I was just jamming in the studio years prior. He explained the riff to me and from that, “Wish You Well” was created. That song is probably my favorite song to play from all three CDs. The same thing happened when we were putting together Cauterize with “Flying Monkeys.” Garrett has this knack for reminding me of these ideas that I just can’t live without.
Robert: Where are you with the new Alter Bridge CD?
Mark Tremonti: Today I’m tracking my 9th out of 14th guitar track; the drums and bass are done. We are hoping to have it out the later part of September, because we have another European tour scheduled for early November and we want people to be familiar with it before we go over there.
For the first time in our careers we are free agents. We are signing a new record deal and just trying to get the business stuff aside so we can focus on this music as we have the US tour scheduled in July. We will be going out with Breaking Benjamin and Disturbed.
Robert: Will we see a Tremonti tour to support Dust?
Mark Tremonti: We are going to Europe on May 26th for about five weeks doing all the big festivals as well as our own headlining shows. Our first show will be with Iron Maiden so I’m really excited about that. Then I come home for about 10 days, take a family vacation, and then get right back on the road with Alter Bridge. I won’t see home for a while.
Robert: Will Wolfie be joining you on the Tremonti European tour?
Mark Tremonti: No, he toured with us though All That I Was. When we started to tour for Cauterize, Van Halen’s tour was starting up so we hired Tanner Keegan and he is doing great. While we were on tour Wolfie started recording his solo CD with Elvis. He is recording something like 25 songs. So it comes down to, is he going to play bass in my band or be the leader of his own band. I think he is going to focus on that for now.
Robert: Is it challenging to find a third new identity with Tremonti post Creed and on top of Alter Bridge?
Mark Tremonti: I would think the biggest challenge is about creating awareness when you start a new project. You try to gather as many fans as possible and make them believers in your new project. It was really hard when we started Alter Bridge and tried to convert the Creed fans. We purposely wanted to sound different. We got a tenor vocalist and up’ed our game musically to being more progressive. I think we still have 10% of those Creed fans who are Alter Bridge believers plus a whole new fan base with Alter Bridge. With my third band, Tremonti I have their continued interest from Alter Bridge. I have been to the bottom so many times that I’m used to this game. I know that if I work hard and put out the best music I can people will dig it and eventually it will get recognized. We’ve had moments where we really doubted the level of success we were going to have because it was a tough road but we fought through it.
Robert: With Guns & Roses out on tour, it must be nice to have Myles to yourself?
Mark Tremonti: I’m not sure how much those guys are going to tour; I hope they tour for the next few years [laughing]. For my selfish own interest! Slash is a work-aholic like me and Myles. I know when Guns & Roses is done touring Slash is going to come knocking. We want to take advantage of this time while Myles is focused on Alter Bridge.
Robert: If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be?
Mark Tremonti: Metallica, no question. That’s what I grew up listening to. That’s the band that made me a music fanatic when I was a kid. Those are my heroes.