Interview and Live Photos: Robert Cavuoto
On October 7th Alter Bridge will be releasing their fifth CD worldwide entitled, The Last Hero! Where Fortress left off in 2013, The Last Hero takes the band to another level of musical excellence, delivering 13 new songs that are the perfect balance of hard rocking riffs, melodic hooks, and inspirational lyrics.
From the first riff on the album’s opener “Show Me a Leader” to the final notes of the epic closer “The Last Hero” it is apparent that the band; Myles Kennedy [vocals/guitars], Mark Tremonti [guitars/vocals], Brian Marshall [bass] and Scott Phillips [drums] are at a whole new level of songwriting and playing.
I caught up with Myles Kennedy to discuss the lyrical creation of The Last Hero, how he hopes it will resonate with fans, and what it takes to be a positive role model in today’s world.
Robert Cavuoto: I’ve been enjoying the new CD and reading some of your interviews where you address the hero theme and the political undertones on many of the songs. Was your intent to have the CD release timed so closely to the presidential election?
Myles Kennedy: It’s just the way it worked out with album cycle time and the tour scheduling. As far as the lyrical content goes, when the CD was being written and it came time for the lyric writing process, what was going on around us with the election was deafening. So some of the lyrics were inspired by the election process, it was difficult to shut it out [laughing].
Robert: What would you like your fans to take away from this CD?
Myles Kennedy: The one thing that I hope they will understand is that we had no political agenda. We are not taking a stand for any right or left wing group. I think it’s just a reflection of how people were feeling with a general sense of frustration and disillusionment to politicians and how our system works. It’s reflecting the emotions tied to it. Hopefully, those emotions will resonate and people will feel the same way.
Robert: Tell me about the cover artwork with the war propaganda illustration and how it ties into the CD’s theme.
Myles Kennedy: When we were making the CD I was thinking about what would be appropriate from a visual standpoint and congruent with the lyrics. The idea of WWII propaganda posters kept popping into my head. I remember talking with the band and they felt it would be appropriate as it has very strong imagery. It is something different for us as we have never taken that approach with our visuals. Our first CD cover is very detailed and intricate so with this CD we wanted to try something bold and memorable. I’m really happy with it.
Robert: Which song on The Last Hero would you say has your biggest imprint both lyrically and musically?
Myles Kennedy: Lyrically and musically I would say “Last Hero” as that was my baby. From a lyrical standpoint, all the songs have my imprint, as that’s my job.
Robert: My favorite song is “Poison in Your Veins”, what can you tell me about it?
Myles Kennedy: A lot of time you go through life with insecurities or fears, you become a prisoner to them. The inspiration was to live life courageously. For me a lot of these songs become mantras. When I’m penning a lyric I’m penning it to myself. It’s somewhat selfish as when I write it down I hope to get it out of my system and let it help me personally. I have become my own Tony Robbins [laughing]
Robert: Do you ever find yourself writing lyrics to appease what your fans may want to hear vs. what you really want to express?
Myles Kennedy: I have found that what resonates with me lyrically tends to resonate with the fans. I sometimes think of it as a gift in being able to relate and have lyrics that are universals. I think Mark is the same way as well. It’s important that whatever you are spitting out creatively that your fans base connects with; and they do. We are very thankful. The goal is if it can resonate with you and make you feel really passionate the fans will sense that. They will know it is honest and real. It’s about searching for that truth.
Robert: What were the learnings that you took from Fortress and applied to The Last Hero?
Myles Kennedy: That’s a good question. With Fortress it was a continuation of not being afraid of taking the listener on a musical journey and not being afraid of long arrangements. We started that approach with Blackbird, the title track was a long song. It’s really become one of our most important songs. If I had a nickel for every fan that would show me at the tattoo of a blackbird emblem on their body or share a story of what that song meant to me, I would be a rich man. We get off on challenging ourselves with arrangements that are longer than 3 or 4 minutes. We have been lucky that our fans seem to enjoy that as well. With Fortress we continued to explore that and The Last Hero it is now in stone and now very much a part of our DNA.
Also on Fortress my lead guitar was improvised in the studio on the spot. With this CD I wanted to try a different approach to planning them out. Not that I was unhappy before as I’ve always been more of an improviser. Songs like on “Last Hero” or “This Side of Faith” were longer and there was a lot more time to fill up. I wanted a real clear cut approach rather than just winging it.
Robert: In your opinion should musicians consider themselves heroes or positive role models to their fans?
Myles Kennedy: I don’t consider a musicians or songwriters heroes. That’s a term for someone more special. As far as trying to be a positive role model or hopefully inspiring people in some way I don’t take that lightly and try to do the best I can. You can never phone it in because you have been given a gift and an opportunity not only create music but perform it all over the world so there is a certain amount of responsibility that comes with it. To not let people down and be the best you can. Hopefully, the people listening will pay it forward if they’re inspired and do the same thing; continue that musical passing of the torch.
Robert: Are you more comfortable as a frontman with or without a guitar?
Myles Kennedy: Over time playing with Slash I have gotten more comfortable without the guitar. It was very difficult in the beginning. When I have a guitar and walk out on stage I feel a lot more at home with it. It’s kind of become an appendage [laughing].
Robert: Being on the road with both Alter Bridge and Slash which band is easier to travel with?
Myles Kennedy: Oh boy, that’s toughs. From a vocal standpoint, I would have to say Alter Bridge is easier because all the Guns n’ Roses songs are sung in the stratosphere.
Regarding the physicality of touring we cover a lot of ground touring with Slash, as he is known the world over. There is an extensive amount of ground we need to cover with longer distances.