ALTER BRIDGE are busy touring their latest album ‘The Last Hero’ and now they have New Zealand in their sights with a one-off show at the Auckland Powerstation on 31 March 2017! NZRock journo Dave Borgioli-Jones was lucky enough to catch frontman Myles Kennedy ahead of the show for this short and sweet interview…
NZR: So the last time I spoke with you was in 2008 so there’s probably been quite a bit that’s changed since then!
Myles: Wow it’s been a while, time flies!
NZR: I was reading my old interview questions and one of them was talking about what would’ve happened if you’d joined up with SLASH… well it happened!
Myles: haha! Yeah it’s crazy right? It’s been a pretty wild ride and I’m very surprised how things turned out!
NZR: Since starting out in 2004, ALTER BRIDGE has really carved out it’s own identity and sound. How proud are you of how you’ve achieved in that time?
Myles: Well I’m really happy with how we’ve been able to evolve as a band and maybe more so that the fans have stayed on board throughout it. I think it’s a real testament to their loyalty, but also to how open minded they’ve been. Because how we started as a band from a song writing standpoint, from an artistic approach I guess, we hadn’t really integrated a lot of things that we – fast-forward 13-14 years later – had ventured out to do.
So we took chances with records like ‘Fortress’ with these long kind of progressive arrangements and really touching on the geeky musician side of things. But the fans embraced it, they seem to really like it and kind of give us a hall pass to do that. So we’re very grateful… I always use that word and sometimes I feel like it gets redundant, but I mean it and I think we all mean it because without that fan base that a) is loyal and b) is understanding… whether it’s understanding or whether it’s just that’s what they like as well… we’re happy with how it’s all turned out if that makes any sense haha.
NZR: It makes sense and I think one of the other things which is cool is that when you started out a lot of people were probably thinking it’d be CREED part 2, but even since the first album it never really was that, your music really has its own place I think.
Myles: Yeah, I think initially there were some people that certainly felt that way… they were like oh it’s CREED with a different singer. But I think it’s when we started to stretch ourselves musically then people started to see ok, they’re developing into their own entity so yeah, that’s been a good thing.
NZR: I wanted to talk to you about your new album ‘The Last Hero’ as well of course. I’ve been listening to ‘Show Me A Leader’ on repeat and have to say that’s probably the most epic intro track I’ve heard in a long time. As Jerry Cantrell would put it it’s “Like a horseshoe to brain”.
You wrote the intro to that song. Did you realise it’d end up turning out to be so heavy?
No, I mean I remember when I stumbled onto that part I was actually in Seattle on tour with Slash and I was sitting in my hotel room and I knew it was something cool and kind of unique so I tucked it away. I didn’t know where it would end up but now hearing the final version of the song and the arrangement I guess it’s a real testament to when you bring a part in and then everybody throws their feel and their concepts into the mix and what it can evolved to. So yeah I agree, it’s a good way to start the record, it certainly makes a statement and kind of takes you on a journey.
NZR: What does it feel like to play that song live?
Myles: It’s really fun. Not to give anything away but lately we’ve been starting the encore with it and it’s nice because now that the record has been out long enough people are familiar with the song and so they get off on it. When we first started playing that track in the set I believe the record hadn’t even been released. We were doing it in the states last summer when we were touring with DISTURBED. So the reaction now is definitely different. Because people are familiar with the track they get it more in the live context and so there’s a real like excitement that’s very palpable when we play it in the venue now and we definitely get off on that.
NZR: In terms of the different parts that you wrote on this album what bits are the most meaningful to you whether it’s melody, riffs or lyrics.
Myles: There were a lot of things that really came from a heartfelt place on this record. I think probably the lyrics to Cradle To The Grave. That was pretty heavy, just what I was going through in my own life when my mother in-law was ill and she ended up passing away. I think that brought a certain amount of weight to that track but then on the flipside a lot of the songs that were inspired by what was going on in the world around us from a political standpoint, ‘The Last Hero’ was certainly a very profound moment for me. So yeah, just different dynamics but definitely the same intense emotions.
NZR: Where there any problem child tracks when it came to recording this one or did it all go smoothly in the studio?
Myles: Well yeah there’s always a track that kind of comes into the mix and you realise it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge. You know what song was really challenging? It wasn’t so much tracking it but writing the lyrics for ‘My Champion’ – that was a pain in the ass. I don’t know why it took so long, I remember I just kept working on it and reediting it. There always tends to be one of those songs on a record. Some songs will write themselves in a night. ‘The Last Hero’ that lyric came very quickly, in a matter of hours. But ‘My Champion’ I just did so many rewrites on that so that was definitely the stinker in that respect.
NZRock: So what sort of tactics do you put in place when you do hit the wall musically?
Well the best thing to do is to get away from it. That’s the best advice I can give. Or go to your writing partner and say hey where do you hear this going? That’s the beauty of collaborating with people. But if you’re in a spot where you’re all by yourself and no one’s around to bounce ideas off of, the best thing you can do is just put it down and get away from it. And oftentimes you’ll find that when you come back it’ll totally resolve itself very quickly. But I think there’s something to be said about when you get too deep into something, any kind of creative approach whether it’s song writing or if you’re drawing or painting or whatever, you can just get too wrapped up in it and you basically lose your ability to look at it or listen with fresh perspective. So you have to gain that and just let time run its course.
“Having an ability to create and express myself is what keeps me sane at the end of the day. I can’t even fathom a life without that.”
NZR: Yeah it’s funny how you can just sleep on something and it’s so much clearer.
NZR: In terms of your creative energy how do you keep those levels up? It sounds like you’re always on the go whether it’s with ALTER BRIDGE or SLASH or your solo stuff. What do you do to keep from burning out?
Myles: You know I guess I just try and listen to that part of me that when I feel like I’m tapped out that I just stop for a little bit. But for whatever reason I get very restless if I stop for too long. So if I’m not writing or creating for a few days I start to get pretty anxious. I think anxiety has always been something I’ve dealt with so if I don’t have an outlet for that anxiety I start to go a little mental. Having an ability to create and express myself is what keeps me sane at the end of the day. I can’t even fathom a life without that. Like people who don’t have a creative way of expressing themselves. I don’t really know how they go through their day to day existence. I’m pretty sure they figure something out but for me that but that really is part of who I am and I need that.
NZR: And that gives you a pretty cool legacy as well!
Myles: Yeah well the beauty is that you create something that hopefully resonates with people and if it helps in their life it makes you feel like it wasn’t in vain or a waste of time that you helped them out with your creative elements. So it’s kind of a win-win.
NZR: I saw you a few years back when you played in New Plymouth for the G-Taranaki festival down there. That was with SLASH. Do you have any memories from that show?
Myles: Oh yeah! I do actually! I believe Vinnie Moore (UFO) was playing. Someone else was there and I remember being really excited about it because Vinnie Moore was somebody who I grew up listening to so that was a really cool moment for me.
NZR: What was the last bit of music that you heard that made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck?
Myles: Oh man… probably the new MASTODON… I was listening to that. They just released a new track a few days ago and I was listening to that. They always manage to have that effect on me.
NZR: I’ll end on a tour related question because we’re really looking forward to seeing you guys coming over. You’ll be playing shows in the US with IN FLAMES for the first time I believe…
Myles: Yeah we’ve done a lot of festivals with those guys and actually Bjorn, he comes to shows when we’re playing in his neck of the woods. So we’re excited because we’ve never been able to do a full on tour with them and I think it’s going to be great man, I think it’s just going to be an intense evening for the fans and we’re really looking forward to sharing the stage with them.
NZR: Thanks for your time today and looking forward to seeing you guys when you come over to play at the Powerstation in Auckland on March 31.
Myles: Awesome, thanks for your time!