Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge
Somewhere between Myles Kennedy touring with Slash and Mark Tremonti and Scott Phillips reuniting Creed and releasing a new album followed by a tour, the three managed to get back together with their old friend Brian Marshall to write and record the next installment in Alter Bridge history. Over achievers much? It’s alright though, their insatiable appetite to burn the midnight musical oil works to our advantage because the results were their latest offering AB III, released earlier this month.
AB III offers up a new side of Alter Bridge – a little bit more sinister and a little darker than one might expect, the songs lyrically take listeners down a path of lost innocence and questioning everything that you once thought was real. Alter Bridge runs you through a gamut of churning emotions from song to song.
Enlisting the help of producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette again, the band set out to create an album that pleased them all artistically without anyone or anything getting in the way. The writing collaboration between Kennedy and Tremonti has always been one of the best in the business and the collection of songs put forth on this album only solidifies that. The reviews have been rolling in and AB III is definitely a contender for one of the best rock albums of the year.
We recently tracked down Myles out on the road in support of their new album to talk to us about it!
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette
You’ve noted a distinct difference in the themes from your first two albums to AB III. How would you describe the overall theme of AB III?
It is darker lyrically and musically than the previous albums. The overall theme is about a loss of innocence and coming to the realization that everything you once held onto as absolute truth might not exist.
What do you attribute to the stark difference in the overall theme of the new album?
The difference can be attributed to the ebb and flow of life. Sometimes it really forces a person to re-evaluate their perspectives and beliefs. It just so happened that this record reflected that sea change.
Compared to your last album, this one came together a lot quicker – how did that impact the album as a whole do you think?
I think it worked to our benefit. Though Mark and I had been writing and stockpiling ideas for a long time, we only had a few months to arrange the songs as a band. It kept the songs fresh and spontaneous. We didn’t have time to over think things.
Mark has described your vocals on “Slip To The Void: as one of his favorite ever by you – can you tell us how this song came together and do you feel that it sets the tone for the album (because it seems to from our perspective)?
That was one of the first ideas set aside for this record. I had been in my studio working on ideas back in 2008 when that intro/verse happened. I brought it to the guys a few months later to see if they liked it and it just evolved from there. It actually was one of the last songs that we completed the arrangement for in the studio. I definitely think it sets up the vibe of the record lyrically and musically.
“Wonderful Life” is one of my favorite tracks on the album and it seems deeply personal. I read that this song took a long time to come together – how do you feel about the finished product and is this song what you wanted it to be? (Watch a live video version of the song here!)
I am very happy with how “Wonderful Life” turned out. Initially it was going to be on my solo album but the guys heard it and it found it’s home in Alter Bridge. I think the band and Elvis helped to take the arrangement to another level.
One of the things that constantly draws me to your music is your ability to paint a song through lyrics and music. How important is the visual aspect of storytelling through your songs, is that something that you think about or is it just sort of an organic part of the overall process?
To me a lyric can make or break a song so a lot of time is spent trying to make the lyric the best it can be. I don’t consider myself the best storyteller, but I am continuing to try and evolve and get better. The visual aspect is important to me, but the emotional level is where I really try and focus.
You chose to work again with producer Elvis Baskette whom you worked with on Blackbird as well. What does Elvis bring to the table for you and how is he able to bring the best of out the band as a producer?
I have known Elvis since he engineered The Mayfield Four’s “Second Skin” record back in 2000. I recognized his ability back then to capture great sounds in the studio. What I didn’t realize until we did the Blackbird record was that he is great with song structure as well. Everyone in the band trusts what he brings to the studio. He is the perfect producer Alter Bridge.
Mark has said that the goal for you was not to be commercially successful or to produce radio singles but to just make a record that “pleased you artistically through and through” – do you feel that you’ve accomplished that with this record?
The goal was to find a good balance. Some of our favorite records always manage to make a musical and artistic statement while being accessible. I think that we managed to do that on this recording.
The songs on the album cover a pretty diverse range of sounds (hints of melodic rock, thrash, metal, even a bit of pop) – was it important to you to show your versatility through the song selections?
No it wasn’t something that we set out to do. It’s just that we all have varied influences that tend to be reflected on our recordings.
Referring back to my last question – a lot of reviews (including ours!) are calling this album one of the best of 2010 so in writing/recording the exact album that you wanted to make you were successful in creating a brilliant album that rock fans everywhere seem to be really identifying with – what’s the message that you take away from that?
Wow! It’s kind of overwhelming to hear something like that. I guess that we kind of lucked out and managed to make something that people seem to like. Music is such a subjective medium, it’s nice to know that what we strive to create resonates with other people.
You’re all involved in other successful projects – how are you able to balance everything and still give everything 100 percent? A lot of people have a hard time juggling one career but you seem to have made careers out of successfully juggling multiple projects at once – what’s the secret?
One of the secrets is to work your ass off. The other secret is to love what you do. We don’t take any of this for granted and that continues to motivate us. We know we are some of the luckiest people on the planet.
In listening to this new album and past recordings there’s a chemistry between yourself and Mark that is truly symbiotic and you seem to both really feed off of each other – is this true of the writing process as well?
Yes, there is a good writing dynamic between Mark and I. We both share similar strengths as writers while each of us bring something different to the table. I also think we push each other in a way that helps to benefit the songs.
You seem to have mastered the overall perfect blend of really epic harmonies with crazy guitar riffs. With that in mind, how do you personally describe a great “rock” record – what are the elements that have to be present?
Personally, I like to hear a good combination of melody, lyrics and strong riffs. I don’t know if we have mastered that formula, but it is the approach that we use when making our music.
In closing, what’s one thing that you’d like the listener to take away from AB III?
That rock music is still alive and well in 2010!