Tremonti released their fifth studio album Marching In Time, in September. It is a piece with such diversity that perfectly delivers the various moods and colours of a brutally honest, stark and reflective outlook on the state of today’s world.
Interview: Dany Jones
Marching In Time, reviewed by MetalTalk here, was an album conceived during the lockdown. “I had all the time in the world to write and write and write,” Mark Tremonti told MetalTalk. “Once I figured I had enough material for two albums, I had Eric [Friedman] fly into town, and he quarantined himself for ten days before he came over to our place.”
Mark and Eric worked on demos for three months. “I showed him all the stuff that I had written, and then he would program the drums and track the bass, and I’d get in there and play guitar and sing. By the time we hit the studio, I had everything arranged, demoed, with lyrics, everything. We were way more prepared than we have ever been in this band because it’s always kind of been a fire drill going into each record.”
Balancing Alter Bridge and Tremonti takes skill, and Mark had never had a full year before with nothing to do but focus on an album. “This album is a reflection of all the time in the world,” Mark says, “being able to constantly dig into each song and make sure they are arranged, and couldn’t be improved with the imagination that I had at that point. I drilled Eric to death.”
If Not For You and Marching In Time are Marks favourite tracks on the album. “If Not For You, for me, it was right off the bat,” Mark says. “I remember when I played the demos to Elvis [producer, Michael Baskette], that was immediately his favourite song. It has always had a special vibe for me. The title track was a hard song to complete and put together. In the end, I was very happy with the way it turned out.”
Ryan Bennett filled in on the last tour and is now a permanent Tremonti member. “You always have to be careful when you change a band member,” Mark says. “When we did this record, and I was putting together Marching In Time, the song, I told Ryan the ending of the song has a piece that’s going to be a big highlight for you here. It’s going to be your moment. It’s almost like a drum solo outro kind of thing, and it would be a good introduction for you into the recording process of this band. I think he nailed it.”
Tanner Keegan joins Ryan as a full-time member, having played bass on Tremonti tours before. “Eric [Friedman] played bass on the last record, and they split the duties on this record. Tanner and Ryan are just such good people and good friends. You are loyal to people that are loyal to you, and that work hard. So there’s no reason why anybody would not be there on the next album.”
Marks role is different between Tremonti and Alter Bridge. “I love singing,” Mark says. “Singing, to me, there is a lot of fun. I don’t feel the pressure with guitar playing when I sing. You sing your best; that’s all you can do, and it’s almost like a judgement-free zone.” The frontman position has different feelings for Mark, though. “I don’t like being a frontman,” he says. “I don’t like having to entertain in between songs. That’s something that I’m sure I’ll get better at over the years, but that’s something that is just not my type of personality. I like to be the guy on the side, playing my role, and I like singing and playing. But as soon as I’ve got talk in between, that’s the tough part. That’s something you can’t practice. You just gotta do it on stage.”
Mark and John Shirley recently collaborated on the book A Dying Machine, and this is an avenue where Mark clearly has ambitions. “One of the biggest things I want to achieve in life,” he said, “is to become a published author. I’m a bigger fanboy of authors than I am of musicians. I think their imaginations are so incredible.”
Becoming a published author is a dream Mark seems determined to achieve. He has had meetings with a large publishing house. “They said they wanted the book to read a little more like the song A Dying Machine than the book played out, so I’m rewriting part of the book. I’ve got almost three chapters done, and they love what they have read so far.” Once the third chapter is complete and presented, there are hopes for a multi-book deal. “I’ve already got another book laid out and turned in the synopsis to them, and they really enjoyed it,” Mark says. “I’m very excited about it.”
What would be the best advice Mark would give his younger self, now? “As a guitar player, I would say learn the blues and learn the rules,” he says. “I’ve always played outside the box, and when you play that way, it is hard to play along with other musicians, to get invited to do blues or jazz jams. I would have liked myself to have more foundation on the guitar than an experimental approach, but I think the experimental approach helped me as a songwriter. Hopefully, learning the rules too, thoroughly, wouldn’t hurt the imagination too much.”
2022 is looking like a busy year for Mark and the Tremonti band. “We’re touring Europe in January, the States in February/March, and we go into the studio with Alter Bridge April/May, and then we’re back out with Tremonti in Europe again next summer. Then next winter, we will go back on tour with Alter Bridge.
Mark will also announce his Take A Chance For Charity project in March next year. “I have a huge project,” Mark says, “something that could be more exciting than I’ve ever seen, to put an album out next year. It’s not Tremonti, it’s not Alter Bridge, it’s not Creed, it’s something I’ve never done before.”
Gojira are named by Mark as one of the current bands on his must-watch list. “The most recent band that I saw that blew me away was probably Gojira. There are not a lot of bands that you tour with that you take the time out to go watch when they play every single night, but Gojira is one of them. It’s such an entertaining show and such great musicianship. A lot of heavy bands are great, and they’re technical, but sometimes it’s more anger than a lot of heart. I think Gojira have a ton of heart in their aggressive side.”
And Mark’s best memory “Performance-wise, for us, I think the Royal Albert Hall is probably the most exciting thing for us to do. I think all of us would agree with that.”
To hear Mark discussing his Alter Bridge initiation in Orlando, discussing his PRS signature guitar and other gear projects, as well as fitness and diet tips, watch the interview below.