By Megan Moss
Alter Bridge have recently released their 5th studio album The Last Hero and are heading out on tour in 2017, so I caught up with lead vocalist / (one of their) lead guitarist Myles Kennedy to chat about the album their impending tour & NZ visit.
Welcome Myles, how are you doing today?
Good good thank-you, how are you?
I'm well thanks. I’d like to firstly pass on our thanks for taking the time to speak to me today... stoked to be honest (nervous chuckle at getting to speak to Myles Kennedy!!!)
Thank-you… it’s my pleasure
I will fan girl a bit & say that I saw you play in Auckland with Slash a couple of years ago...
Oh Right COOL!
Must say it was an excellent show & has been one of my favourite all time concerts!
Oh really? that’s awesome, thank you, really appreciate that so much.
Cool ... we'll get on with this our time is limited...
2016 saw Alter Bridge release your '5th' studio album… The Last Hero. 2017 will see Alter Bridge on tour & subsequently a visit down under again. How long will Alter Bridge be on this tour, and are there any other future plans for the band in the making from there?
Ahh… yeah, well right now we'll probably be… I think a good part of 2017 will be on the road at this stage, we'll be down in your neck of the woods… we'll probably get to some territories we haven’t in the past… but really… we just want to touch on as many corners as we can on this run; and continue to keep trying & developing our connections with our fans all over the world… that’s all you can do.
Sounds like a good plan, release an album then head out on tour…
OK so with your latest album The Last Hero in mind, we're living in a world at the minute, especially in the states it seems of politics being screamed at you from every nook...
You’ve released an album that’s has quite a political message as opposed to some your previous work. Was this a conscience decision as a song writer to go out & produce songs calling for political change or bring attention to change? Or do you think these latest songs are more a manifestation or even a personal realisation of your own views? You know, rather your own personal opinions & frustrations that you just needed to express & get out?
No I think… politics is something even as a kid I remember watching politics and being intrigued by it. Although with that said, as a writer, as a creative person… I always try to be careful as far as pushing my own thoughts on things and trying not to choose a side in the song writing process. Because that can be very polarising and a lot of rock bands don’t want to have something shoved down their throats. So instead what happened on this record... because of what was happening, because of the climate & because of how disillusioned people were feeling there were a lot more questions, and a lot of expressing of this emotion vs hitting the answers. And really, really the only answer I get... was to just be tolerant of each other. To just let love rule as Lenny Kravits once said. But as far as saying anything else you know saying, you need to choose a side you should be a liberal or a conservative or moderate...whatever. There’s no agenda there. I think it was a matter of the songs are more a manifestation of the volume, and the frustration the people are feeling.
Mmm and yes there is a definite frustration there, and also a sense of real fear from just normal average families…
Interesting. So you & Mark have been busy for the last couple of years with other projects. You with Slash & Mark with Creed & the Tremonti Project. How do you as an artist and also the band compartmentalise these projects when you get back together or separate them from Alter Bridge? Is it something you keep separate, or is it something that personally you all grow from? Something that keeps the band dynamic fresh do you think?
I think that having the opportunity to play with other projects and learn from the people you’re writing with, even if you’re just learning by yourself as well, has proven to be beneficial for the Alter Bridge. It feels like when we re-convene, which has been basically every 3 years. It feels fresh...it doesn’t feel stale, we take what we’ve done. Mark with his Tremonti Project, me with the stuff I’ve done with Slash and my solo record I’ve been working on. It really makes it fresh and feels like when we write a record now. And we experienced this on our previous record, on fortress as well.. The process moves really quickly, we were all just firing on all cylinders. I think because atrophy hasn’t set in, the creative side doesn’t ever really go dormant as long as you’re creating for something. And then that also forces you to also become a better writer.
Mmm yes understandable. So you touched on your solo album there. Way back in the beginning, I believe your musical beginnings were in Jazz? And people possibly ask you about this all of the time, however it is interesting… your beginnings were as a Trumpet player?
Is this something you are going to revisit yourself in a solo aspect one day?
Ahh probably not. As much as I love jazz as an art form... ah I never really felt like it was my strength as far as my natural abilities and strength were. I can do it, I can play it and I definitely have a big appreciation for it but I think my abilities are better suited to more singer / songwriter based things. And that’s where I wanted to explore more putting out a solo record, really strip things down. And you know, if I were to someday, you know...release a fusion record, or a jazz record... ah it would be interesting but I don’t think it would be happening anytime soon. Right now I just want to play to my strengths more than anything.
Right, fair enough. Now your producer - Elvis (Michael Baskette), he’s worked with Alter Bridge for a lot of years now. What is it about Elvis that that keeps him working and producing with the band? What keeps the band going back to him time after time and not exploring other producers?
Right, Other options?
Yeah, I think its because after years & years of making records... um and being in situations where Elvis wasn’t at the helm, I’ve learned that he’s such a rare talent. Because he’s not just good at getting good sounds and having in hearing side of things taken care of, he’s also good. He’s got a great sense of songs and arrangement ideas and on top of that he understands the psychology of being in the studio and then how to get the best performance out of an artist. Most of the time, when you work with a producer, they might have either one or two of those skillsets .Elvis has ALL of those and we go into it very confident that we're in good hands, and I think that’s why we keep going back to him. We're confident in his abilities.
I can understand that. You are a band of very skilled musicians, with two lead players (little chuckle).....
How does that work out, does that just fall together nicely or what?
Yeah... surprisingly easy. I mean one would think there’s two people jockeying for position, but you know the way I look at it is I'm singing most of the time. So really if Mark wants to play every solo then he should, because having the focus veer away from one guy to another especially in a live band is beneficial & something that has proved to work from a formula stand point since... you know, the early 70's with bands like Zeppelin & Page. Something that’s been going on forever with rock. BUT with that said, Mark has kind of nudged me to play more & he WANTS to integrate my lead stuff into the band more. Which I appreciate & so does Elvis. Elvis was kinda pushing for the same thing. So if there is a part of a song, Mark's just like "Hey man I think this is better suited to what you do; go for it...." And that’s generally how it works. There is certainly not or never been any arguments about someone wanting a solo here, there’s never been an argument in all the time making records together.
Just works well and sounds great.... so as band; what were the bands main musical influences for this album?
Well I think that, speaking for myself...I’m not sure about Mark & the other guys, but I'm always listening to music. I try to be aware of the fact that you are what you eat musically... so, if you’re listening to a lot of something during a song writing period or making a record, you'll probably get that manifesting itself on the record. I realised that way early in my career so I try not to listen to too much of the same thing especially as far as the contemporaries go... you know, people have mentioned that they hear moments of a Muse quality hear & there... they might hear a Mastadon quality there...
Nothing wrong with that...
Yeah! both incredible incredible bands. I think it highlights that we do have a respect for bands & artists like that. It's one of those things where you just try to...ah...express yourself. And then obviously what you’re listening to becomes a part of your own musical DNA and it will come out in your songs. At the end of the day you’re paying tribute to those artists.
At this point I was mid next question and we were cut off by the ‘computerised conference scheduling powers that be and I jumped around the room in frustration for a bit.
Myles was an extremely personable fellow to start my day having a conversation with, and Libel thanks Myles and the band for taking the time to have a chat with us.
Go out, check out the new album & make sure you get along to see the band live on 1st April 2017 at the Powerstation, Mt Eden, Auckland.
Saturday April 1st: The Powerstation, Auckland
Tickets via AAATicketing