“The more we toured and the more
Myles played guitar onstage, we began to realize how
good of a guitarist he actually is,” says Alter Bridge
guitarist and mastermind Mark Tremonti about the
band’s lead singer and co-guitarist Myles Kennedy.
“He became our secret weapon and he helped our
sound evolve, ultimately forging our own musical
identity.” The group’s new album, Alter Bridge
III [Roadrunner], indeed goes a long way in distancing
the band from Tremonti’s old outfit, Creed,
with Kennedy and Tremonti forming a formidable
6-string attack that balances intense, brutal riffing,
a keen pop melodic sensibility, shred, and, thanks
to Kennedy, more detailed textural elements and a
bluesier guitar vibe.
Kennedy, who is also the lead singer for Slash’s
band, made headlines in 2008 as he was invited to
Jimmy Page, John
Paul Jones, and Jason
Bonham. As of yet,
there are no plans
to release any of the
material, but it does
prove that Kennedy is
a highly sought after
Page and those guys
was an unbelievable
Kennedy. “I’ve been
lucky over the past
few years to have
worked with some
Believe me, When
I first walked into
the rehearsal studio
and Page was standing
there, it was a bit
overwhelming. But you can’t be the silly
star-struck fan. You have to be professional.
We’re all just artists after the same thing.”
Mark, have you modified your playing now that
Myles is playing more guitar?
Tremonti: Not really. I do what I always
do. Myles’ specialty is layering and effects—
the candy on top of my riffs. We’re a good
team because he plays differently than I
do, so we never step on each other’s toes.
Plus, we get the benefit of two totally different
sounds going down on the record.
Kennedy: I generally defer to Mark when
it comes to guitar, but he’s always pushing
me to play more, and I appreciate that. A lot
of guys would be more territorial, but he’s
always been open to having another guitarist.
I know what my role is as a guitarist in
Alter Bridge—providing colors and soundscapes—
which is something I’m very comfortable
doing because the players I liked
growing up such as Jimmy Page, The Edge,
and Daniel Lanois, are masters of texture.
Do you obtain textures with effects, chord
voicings, or both?
Kennedy: Both. Fortunately, I have a
good grasp of different voicings and inversions
and how they affect the overall harmonic
content. One thing I do is to play
a lot of 9ths over Mark’s power chords. I
find it adds richness. As for effects, our producer
and I sit with an arsenal of pedals and
experiment to see what happens. I don’t
want to get too out, however, because I’m
always aware that I have to pull it off live.
A lot of guys have their tech switch the
effects, but I still do it myself.
How do you guys approach solos in the
Tremonti: I’ll typically map out some
ideas. Sometimes, I’ll do a rough outline
and experiment and improvise my way out
of mistakes and hope it works, but for the
most part I want to have my homework
done before I walk into the studio. I like to
know that the main
parts are going to be
in there, even though
I’m always trying to
throw in new stuff.
I never want to let
any good ideas get
away. Between every
record I try to learn
as much new stuff
as I can so I’m not
the same things.
Kennedy: I try to
keep it spontaneous.
I come from a jazzfusion
which is all about
tried to work stuff out
before, but it never
takes. For example, on
the track “Isolation”
from the new record,
I actually tried to work out a solo. But on
playback it just sounded stale. I try to capture
the moment and the vibe because if it
doesn’t sound like you’re in the moment,
what’s the point? I got to jam with Gov’t.
Mule a couple of months ago, and before the
show we were going through the arrangements
of the tunes we were going to play.
When we got to the solo section, Warren
Haynes said, “Keep it short so you don’t
use up all of your ideas for the gig, which
is when it counts.” That really made a big
impression on me.
Myles, growing up you were into Pat Metheny
and Mike Stern. What do those influences bring to
your playing in the context of a heavy rock band?
Kennedy: Both Stern and Metheny
made me concentrate on actually hitting
chord tones and playing over changes. The
solo on the title track of our second album,
Blackbird, is a perfect example of that. You
weave the chords together rather than staying
in a blues box or doing a modal thing. I
really gravitated to Stern, because he’s an
intense rock player who can speak the complex
harmonic language of jazz.
Have you ever gotten too jazzy for Alter
Kennedy: [Laughs] Sure. Sometimes I
want to use these chromatic passing tones
and it’s like, “Yeah, we’re not staying true
to the genre.” It happens with my vocals,
too, because I was influenced by soul singers.
Sometimes I will add an inflection or
phrase in a way that doesn’t fit in a hard
Mark, how do you merge your heavy guitar style
with your hooky songcraft?
Tremonti: A lot of people think of me
as just a guitar player, but I think of myself
mostly as a songwriter. The lead thing came
on over the past seven years, simply because
I just wanted to become a better player. But
when I’m at home sitting down and playing
the guitar, I’m writing. The soloing is fun,
but I don’t spend as much time on it.
My influences are all over the place.
Growing up I listened to speed metal, black
metal, and thrash metal, and that informed
my guitar playing. But when I wrote songs,
it didn’t sound like that type of music other
than the riffs because the vocal melodies I
write are influenced by the music I heard
riding in the backseat of my mom’s car:
stuff like Rod Stewart, Gerry Rafferty, and
Journey. So my writing style is a mixture of
the extreme side of metal and the melodies
I was exposed to on commercial radio.
Did you use any alternate tunings on Alter
Tremonti: Yeah, we used open G minor, a
first for us, on “Words Stronger Than Their
Wings.” We also used the usual dropped-D
and dropped-B tunings, as well as open D5
tuning, which is D, A, D, A, D, D.
What did you guys use to track the new record?
Tremonti: On past albums we experimented
endlessly on every song with about 20 different
amps to choose from. That began to be
too much, so this time we stuck with a few
amps for the whole record. I used a Bogner
Uberschall with 6L6s in the power section, a
Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier, a Fender Tone-
Master that I bought from my favorite living
guitar player, Audley Freed, and a Two-Rock
head for solos. The Two-Rock is unreal. It’s
got amazing note definition, yet it’s also forgiving.
For clean tones we used a Fender Twin
Reverb and a Vox AC30. We always run a D.I.
as well, in case we want to re-amp the signal.
For cabinets, I used the same Mesa/Boogies
loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s that I tour
with. They’re so broken-in and transparentsounding
that whatever amp you plug into
them sounds like that amp. For guitars, I used
one of the first signature models PRS made
for me almost exclusively. It has a fixed bridge
and stays in tune perfectly.
Kennedy: I plugged my PRS 245 right into
a Diezel Herbert and a Mesa/Boogie Mark IV
running through a variety of cabs including
Diezels and Boogies. We used an armada of
pedals—I can’t remember them all, but lots of
MXR stuff as well as the occasional T-Rex unit.
What do your stage setups look like?
Tremonti: I have a Bogner Uberschall, two
Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifiers, two Fender ’65
Twin Reverb reissues for clean tones, and a
Two-Rock head for my lead tone. I have a big
square that I set up with four Mesa/Boogie
4x12 cabs loaded with Celestion Vintage
30s s in an upside down “T” with the Twin
Reverbs on the outside. My pedalboard has
my signature Morley wah, a signature T-Rex
phaser, a Dunlop Uni-Vibe, and a Digital
Music Ground Control switching system. In
the loop for my leads is an Ibanez TS808HW
Hand Wired Tube Screamer and I just got an
Electro-Harmonix Micro POG and I’ve been
running a small touch of the lower octave on
all of my solos. It thickens it up a bit.
Kennedy: I keep it simple. Mark uses a
lot of frequency bandwidth, so I’ve had to
find my spot to sit in the mix. I use a Diezel
Herbert head into a Diezel 4x12 cab loaded
with Tone Tubby hemp-cone speakers. I’ve
been using the same pedalboard for almost
ten years. It’s got Fulltone Ultimate Octave
and Clyde Wah pedals, along with Line 6
DL4 and MM4 units.
Mark, what do you feel are your strengths as
Tremonti: My strength is my right hand.
The fast, speed metal, galloping horse kind
of thing is something that comes very naturally
to me. It will never go away, and I
don’t have to work hard to keep it up. I
think a lot of players are like that. If they
spent a ton of time on a certain thing when
they were kids, it kind of always sticks
with them. Over the years I’ve tried to get
everything else up to the level of my righthand
What specifically have you been working on?
Tremonti: Well, I’ve worked on my
legato playing so much, I feel like I’ve
finally gotten it where I want it. The thing
that has been the toughest for me is the
bluesier side of my playing. See, the guys
I’m into the most are the guys I struggle
to play like—Stevie Ray Vaughan for example.
He’s my favorite, but I struggle to get
through a whole tune of his and make it
sound like an authentic blues. The shred
thing is so much easier for me than blues.
The bluesy thing will always be my weakness.
It’s a tough habit to break because
you get into these spots in a tune where
you just want to burn, and it’s easy for me
fall back on shredding. I was working on
the blues stuff by learning Robben Ford and
Stevie Ray solos, but I just stared tracking
my solo record, which shows off a lot of
my speed metal roots—so I’ve been tapping
back into that aspect of my soloing.
Myles, has playing with Mark changed your
style at all?
Kennedy: Being in this band has certainly
helped my metal chops. When I first
started playing I was into Judas Priest and
Iron Maiden, but as the years have gone on,
I kind of lost touch with the more modern
approach to metal. Mark has an amazing
speed metal right hand. It’s mind-blowing.
I come from more of a blues background,
but our sounds complement and bring out
the best in each other. That makes us a good
team because it’s not two players with the
same strengths—it’s two guys with totally