Mark Tremonti is one of the hardest-working musicians in rock, as guitarist of Alter Bridge and frontman of his namesake band Tremonti, not to mention a member of the currently inactive multiplatinum group Creed. His most recent release is the Tremonti album A Dying Machine, a fascinating concept disc that centers on artificial intelligence and is accompanied by a novel of the same name co-authored by Tremonti himself.
After having the honor of opening for Iron Maiden on the legendary metal band’s summer European tour, Tremonti will embark on a fall U.S. tour beginning September 13th in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and running through a November 12th show in Nashville, Tennessee.
Heavy Consequence caught up with the singer-guitarist to talk about A Dying Machine and his feelings on the future of artificial intelligence. As a huge fan of classic metal, Tremonti also discussed touring with Iron Maiden and offered his thoughts on Slayer embarking their final tour.
Finally, with singer Myles Kennedy about to tour with Slash, and the band Tremonti heading out on the aforementioned fall trek of their own, we wondered what was next for Alter Bridge. Tremonti told us when we can expect a new studio album from Alter Bridge, while also discussing the band’s upcoming live release, Live at the Royal Albert Hall, which arrives September 7th.
Read our interview with Mark Tremonti below:
On his prolific output with Alter Bridge and Tremonti, churning out seven albums already this decade
I think it’s just not ever putting it down and always forging ahead, and not getting caught behind the 8 ball when it’s time to hit the studio and be prepared. It’s just what I love to do. It’s not something where I say, “Hey, I’ve gotta get some work done.” For me, it’s hard to take the guitar out of my hand and not get work done, so it’s something I enjoy — just like I did when I was a kid.
On conceiving the ambitious concept album ‘A Dying Machine’, and its accompanying novel
Well, I was on tour in Hungary and about to go onstage — I had about 20 minutes until stage time — and I sat down with my guitar. I started playing a chord progression and singing over it, and the words “you’re a dying machine” came out. Within that 20 minutes, I wrote three of the parts for that song. A story developed in my head about a conversation between a man and this being that was created to love him, and doesn’t know anything else but to love him. As the years go by she obsesses; she’s stronger than him and going to live longer than him. In the end, it turns out…it’s not a good ending for him.
Anyway, once I looked at that story I figured that I was having so much fun with that plot, I tried to open my mind and see if I could continue on that plot. I had fun with it, and then I decided that maybe I’d do three or four song concept record within a record. Once I got those songs done, I thought I’d see it through to the end. People have asked me throughout my career, “Is this a concept record? Is that a concept record,” and it’s always been “no.” I’ve never really had any interest in it until I wrote the song “A Dying Machine.” Once the record was almost finished, I said, “You know what, I’ve got this book idea, and I want to get a book published one day.” I’ve always been a massive reader and I thought it would be a huge accomplishment. I thought, “If I’m going to do it, I’ll try to do it now.” I decided to put the novel together to accompany the album.
On how the title track relates to the novel’s characters Brandon, the human male, and Stella, the artificial female
Well, that story — those lyrics — kind of come later on in the book, maybe halfway to three quarters into the book. There was a man who lost his wife, and he was a prominent architect and a very successful guy — but when he lost his wife he pretty much lost everything. He lost all his work and just became depressed and couldn’t get back on his feet. Then, this new technology came out where you could make the first organic re-grown human brain. Along the way there’s no liver transplants, because the technology can take your DNA and your blood type and create a liver for you, so there’s no more people dying from being able to not get a liver. So soon after that you get a heart and lungs and all of these things, and eventually you get a human brain where you build a human body from the ground up. The governments can release these vessels. It gives him hope and the whole world signs up for this lottery, and he wins this lottery out of billions and billions and billions of people who bought tickets to this lottery.
Stella is his creation and she ends up being the most beautiful thing anybody has ever seen, and he’s perfectly happy with her for three to four years. Then, just because she was designed to be just about him and obsess about him, she’s relentless. If she sees him talking to another woman, she’ll get violent toward her. It snowballs where it kinda gets worse and worse, and the lyrics are at the point where he’s kind of at his wits end with how she is and he wants her gone. She doesn’t understand…all she knows is love for him. It’s this kind of twisted love story about this man who’s afraid of this being who’s created for him and her just being — almost no matter what he does — loving… almost like a puppy dog!
On the album’s first single “Take You With Me”
That one was a song I almost left off the record because some of the songs that I wrote before the title track “A Dying Machine,” I had to fit into a storyline as best as I could. So if it wasn’t on the record, it wouldn’t really change the plot too much. The way I fit it into the story is a scene where the main aggressive character in the book who starts his rebellion. He falls in love with Stella, this main character, and he’s kind of telling her, “Don’t be ashamed of what you aren’t proud of and what you are, follow me, and I’ll show you the way here.” So, he’s kind of obsessed with her and doing his best to win her over.
On evolving as a singer, and taking more vocal risks on this album
I think the biggest risks I took on this record were doing a couple falsetto things. I never felt like I could pull off the falsetto thing, especially when I’m in a band [Alter Bridge] with Myles Kennedy. It’s something that I’ve tried to work with. It’s one thing doing it in a studio and another doing it at home, but sometimes when you get out there live I just push through that falsetto and do it full voice instead. I just wanted to create some more dynamics overall with the songs by messing with your voice as much as you can and experimenting with it — it helps.
A lot of times, people are kind of embarrassed of their own talking voice, so I’ve developed this way — especially live — of kind of sounding like somebody else. I feel more confident because I kind of get into character. But on this record there are certain songs, like “The First, The Last” or “Desolation” or “Trust”, where I sing in my lower register, and I’ve always been kind of weary of doing that because it’s your talking voice — you sound like yourself, and my producer kind of gave me the confidence. He really digs when I sing in that register, and finally I just kind of went with it.
On his personal feelings about the future of humans’ relationships with artificial beings
I definitely think it’s going to be more and more prevalent. Even nowadays with Alexa in everybody’s homes and Siri on your phone… there are going to be more and more machines and artificial intelligence that take human jobs away. I think there’s going to be a learning curve when it comes to how we’re going to deal with that kind of thing once we do create it. You know, there’s going to be robots first where it’s just kind of fun and kind of a circus act, but eventually it’s going to be… with technology getting more and more advanced — and same with medicine — I think even 30 years from now it’s going to be a completely different world than it is now.
I don’t think it’s far off in the distance that the topics in this book will become a reality. When I was putting the book together with John Shirley, the guy I co-wrote this with, he was an expert in where technology’s going. He goes to Brussels to do the TED Talks about singularity, technology, and where it’s going. So, when I explained certain points in the book, he would make it plausible by saying, “This is technology that works right now. It’s maybe 20 years out before it’s applied.” He had a good vision for how to make this story seem like it could be a reality.
On the group Tremonti being more of his metal outlet than his other bands
When I played some of the riffs for the guys in Alter Bridge and Creed over the years, there were dozens of them that I’d always play and they’d always be like, “Ah, that’s too metal.” I’d play it again, and again, and again, trying to convince them or fool them that they hadn’t yet heard it. They would just kind of not dig it. So when I did the first [Tremonti] record, I took all those favorite riffs that just kind of never connected and put them on the album.
Ever since then, it’s pretty much no holds barred when it comes to it. I can go as heavy and fast as I want. It’s really just kind of liberating to be able to do that. In Creed and Alter Bridge, a big part of who I am doesn’t really show itself. I became a music fan because of speed metal, and such a big part of my playing is being able to use it.
On recently opening for Iron Maiden in Europe
It’s crazy. You pinch yourself every day. My first concert ever as a kid was Iron Maiden, so being able to open up for them is just nuts. It’s just crazy how many people go and consistently see Iron Maiden. It’s just such a huge part of what metal guys and hard rock guys grew up on. To get the nod, to hear them say, “You are worthy to open up for us,” is just a dream come true.
On his personal favorite Iron Maiden experience
It was the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son tour, and “Can I Play with Madness” was the big video on MTV at the time. It was great to be able to go see that in person. Little did I know that they put on such a great production compared to other bands. I thought that every band did something like that — had big monsters walking across the stage, sword fights… even now, today, the production is crazy. It’s over the top, and people love it.
On Slayer embarking on their final world tour
Hopefully, it’s just one of those things where they say it’s their last tour and take five years off and then say, “You know what, let’s go out and do some shows.” That might happen. Yeah, but, Slayer’s Reign in Blood is definitely one of my top three records of all time. I think if I had to choose a record with the best guitar riffs, with my favorite guitar riffs in one record, it’d be that record. Back when I was growing up, it was just dangerous. It was the heaviest thing you could get your hands on. I absolutely loved it. I remember the very first time I went to go see them live… it was pretty surreal. I’ve seen them probably 30 times now, and it never gets old.
On plans for the next Alter Bridge studio album, as well as his thoughts on the band’s new live release
Late next year we’re going to have another [new Alter Bridge] record out. The most exciting thing we have going on in the Alter Bridge world right now is the Live at the Royal Albert Hall DVD coming out in September. I think we all think this is the best thing we’ve ever had. Out of any of our records or live DVDs, I think this is our favorite product, if you will. When I have grandkids I’m gonna say, “Here’s what your grandpa did,” you know? It’s one of those things. So we’re excited to release that.
From start to finish, it was a magical night for us. When we were doing rehearsals, we figured we kind of had days to go through this stuff, but everything took so long that we only got through each song one time. There was so much pressure, there was a lot of pressure on that show. Once we got through the first 45 minutes of the show and got loosened up, it turned into magic for us. We were so happy with how it sounded and turned out. When we played the second night, every one of us agreed that it was the most fun night we’d ever had onstage and I’m glad we got to capture it.
Our thanks to Mark Tremonti for taking the time to speak with us. Tremont’s A Dying Machine album and accompanying novel can be purchased here, while dates and tickets for Tremonti’s upcoming tour dates can be found here. Meanwhile, Alter Bridge’s Live at the Royal Albert Hall is available for pre-order via several outlets at this location.