New Zealand Hard Rock / Metal fans are about to be hit with a tripple whammy this October with US bands DISTURBED, P.O.D and ALTER BRIDGE touring our country. This will be ALTER BRIDGE’s first run of New Zealand shows and an awesome chance to hear material from the band’s two chart successes ‘One Day Remains’ (2004) and ‘Blackbird’ (2007). Having just arrived in Perth, frontman Myles Kennedy (vocals / guitar) gives NZRock the rundown on all things ALTER BRIDGE.
NZRock: Has Perth been treating you well so far?
Myles: It’s been treating us well yeah. We got in yesterday after a long day of flying from the States so we made it here in one piece.
NZRock: We’re really looking forward to having you guys over here in New Zealand, are you going to have time to see our country when you come and visit.
Myles: I hope so man, because I’ve heard great things about the beauty over there so I’m hoping to spend a little time roaming around. It’s my first time there.
NZRock: The latest ALTER BRIDGE record ‘Blackbird’ is heavier than it’s predecessor and it’s got more guitar solos. Were you all pleased with the result?
Myles: Yeah we were real pleased. We spent a long time putting it together. It took a couple of years to get it to where we were happy with it and that was our goal, just to make an evolution from the first record and you know, show that there was some growth as a band. Because really on the first record we’d only been a band for about four months and so we felt there was really no excuse after having toured extensively and you know, we’d been together for a few years at that point, that we had to make a record that was kind of a graduation to another level so we’re happy with it.
NZRock: This time around you’re on guitar as well which makes a big difference. How did that change the dynamic of the band from your point of view.
Myles: Well you know, it’s one of those things where I’m kind of the texture guy. I like to add a lot like kind of sonic landscapes and what not. It’s enjoyable for me, I love to play guitar. I mean I started as a guitar player strangely enough. I didn’t start singing for a few years. It’s liberated Mark in a lot of ways because having me back there playing allows him to go off and do more leads and it kind of fills out the sound. And you know, we can experiment a lot. We really work well together as a guitar team.
NZRock: Back on the first ALTER BRIDGE album, were you able to contribute on guitar in any way?
Myles: As far as on the first one it was just melodic and lyrical contributions whereas on the second one it was pretty much everything you know, music the whole bit. It was a real team him and I. I basically lived with him for about a year while we put the album together so it was totally different.
Alter Bridge BandNZRock: Were there any tracks that you left off the ‘Blackbird’ album?
Myles: Yeah there were a few. I think a couple of them ended up being b-sides. We tried to use as many as we could. I think we recorded 15 or 17 if my memory serves me correctly. But then there are plenty of songs that we’ve written for ‘Blackbird’ that didnt get recorded so maybe those will see the light of day as well.
NZRock: Christina Scabbia from LACUNA COIL does guest vocals on a re-recording of your track ‘Watch Over You. How did that come about?
Myles: That was actually a suggestion someone made. We were talking with our A&R guy over at Universal in the States. He broached the idea of maybe doing a duet which I’d never through of myself and then the more I thought about it was like yeah that sounds like a pretty cool idea. So we got a hold of Christina and you know she’s got Alter Bridge One Day Remainsa real great voice. We’d heard really good things about her as far as just being easy to work with and what not and she definitely proved all that to be very true. She’s a really talented girl and even though we havent officially met face to face… we did it via the Internet you know, with technology and all. I think we were actually in Europe while she was in the States and recording the vocals but we heard it, they put the track up online. But you know we’ve actually kind of got to know one another just through emails and what not and she’s a really great person so it was cool to work with her.
NZRock: That’s really cool, is there chance that you guys might be touring with them?
Myles: I would like that very much. I think they’re planning on putting out another record here in the near future so who knows, maybe we’ll get to go out on the road and do some dates with them.
NZRock: That was the other thing I was going to ask you, if they are doing this new album soon. Have you heard whether they might ask for you to reciprocate the favour?
Myles: HAHA! I dont know man, I havent heard anything yet but I’d definitely do it if they wanted me to. You’ve heard it here first folks! HAHA!
NZRock: Ok so ALTER BRIDGE left Wind-Up in April 2006. Do you reckon those guys are kicking themselves now?
Myles: I dont know… it was definitely one of those things where it was the wrong environment for us to be in. It was a challenge. So I dont know how they feel at this point but best of luck to them.
NZRock: When was the last time anyone in the band heard from Scott Stapp. He seems to have dropped of the radar over here at least.
Myles: Um, I don’t know… that’s a good question. Um, I think… you know… Mark or Philip, I don’t know if they talk with him or not. I don’t know what he’s doing but he’s probably working on something. I guess we’ll find out.
NZRock: When you recorded the ‘Blackbird’ album you weren’t signed to a label at the time. Did that make things easier in terms of having more creative freedom?
Myles: Yeah, yeah it did. You know it’s just one less cook in the kitchen. I think that may be part of the reason the record turned out the way we hoped it would. I hope that doesn’t sound egotistical or anything, it’s just something… it’s like with anything creative whether it’s the film industry or music, you know a lot of times you get so many people’s opinions and it tends to dilute the process or dilute the final product. And I think with this really it was the four of us and the producer in a lot of ways. Now I will say that towards the end of it we did end up signing on with Universal and by that point there were suggestions made and what not that actually did I think work out well. But it was just… I think the bulk of the work had been done in the songwriting and the recording and all, that by the time we had another opinion come around it was almost helpful at that point because then we needed to have an outside perspective – you know we were so close to it after all that time. So I guess it just depends at what stage in the process that person comes along.
NZRock: The music industry is getting tougher and you can see it impacting even the big name bands now like MACHINE HEAD when they were unable to find a label for some time before getting resigned and bouncing back. Did you guys ever have doubts that ALTER BRIDGE would be resigned or were you pretty confident with the new material that it would all work out Ok?
Myles: We were pretty confident yeah, we hoped so anyway. It’s just such a different climate now days you know, there was even a part of us that we were wondering should we even do a record deal you know. It’s so drastically different. It’s not like it was 10, 20 years ago where you HAD to get a record deal but the more we thought about it we felt like, well for this particular album where the avenues where we were hoping to go with promotion and all that, it was definitely more advantageous to have a label guiding the ship so to speak. So yeah, we were greatful with the relationship forged with Universal.
NZRock: I read somewhere on the net that you’ve got a 4 octave vocal range and can hold a note for 31 seconds. How do you do that?!
Myles: HAHA! I don’t know. I didn’t even know I could do all that stuff but I guess the fans, they’ll time it and check my octaves for me HAHA! But yeah, for me the key thing is just to make sure that what ever I do vocally compliments the song and if that requires me holding a note out for eternity I’ll do it, if it adds to the song in some way. Yeah just to do things like oh, look at how high I can sing or how low I can sing and how long I can sing, just to kind of prove a point is I think, just not my angle. I mean I’m a songwriter first and foremost and my goal is just to try and compliment the song. But thanks for bringing that to my attention HAHA!
NZRock: Back in 2002 Slash asked you to audition for VELVET REVOLVER. Do you ever imagine what might have happened if you accepted that offer?
Myles: Um honestly, I don’t know if I’d even have gotten it if I’d gone down there and done the actual audition and all that. I was real happy when I heard that Scott Weiland [Ex-STONE TEMPLE PILOTS] got it because I thought that was a really good fit. It’s funny, I don’t know how the story got so big HAHA! It was something that he called me and it was at a point in my career where I just didn’t feel like I was ready to jump back into Rock ‘N’ Roll. I was totally flattered though. ‘Appetite For Destruction’ is probably one of my all-time favourite records and I just think GUNS ‘N’ ROSES Were a brilliant band. And I think VELVET REVOLVER you know, as the years have gone on have proved themselves to be fantastic as well. So I really don’t know, I guess that’s something that the “what ifs” of if I’d actually taken him up on his offer and gone down there and jammed with them, I don’t know what would’ve come of that.
NZRock: When you say that you don’t know how the story got so big… I guess the media sells papers by blowing facts out of proportion sometimes. Not saying that they did there, but what is the most inaccurate thing that you’ve ever seen or read in the media about ALTER BRIDGE?
Myles: You know what, the most common thing is that we’re a Christian band. That’s the strangest thing. A lot of times we’ll see reviews or someone will start out an article where it’s like “Christian band ALTER BRIDGE…” and we’re like wow, where did that come from because we don’t actually have any sort of agenda like that. I think everybody has their own set of beliefs and you know some people are still searching for what they believe in but we’re definitely not STRYPER for the year 2008 or anything HAHA! But I think a lot of that is just carried over from the CREED era and a lot of Scott Stapp’s lyrics and I think people just assume because of that, that this must be a Christian band. But we all believe that what ever faith and whatever people choose to believe or not believe in, that’s up to them. We’re not pushing anything on anybody.
NZRock: Earlier in your career you were in a Jazz-Fusion band called COSMIC DUST. I’ve noticed a lot of Rock/Metal guitarists who are playing in that genre of music as well. Even in terms of side projects. Like Chris Poland (ex-MEGADETH) and Alex Skolnick (ALEX SKOLNIC TRIO / TESTAMANET). What is it that drew you to that style of music?
Myles: I just loved the complexity of it. Harmonically speaking I loved the… you know in Rock N Roll you’re dealing with either two-note chords or three-note chords a lot of the time, you know what are called triads or your power chords. And in Jazz you have that – I know we’re getting all techincal and weird here HAHA! – basically you have more notes, it’s a little more complex and there are more things you can do with it. I was just really attracted to that, just kind of being a die hard music geek and I was a big Miles Davis fan and a lot of Fusion, so that was a period of my musical upbringing which really allowed me to learn and push the limits of what I can do as a player so it was a real good experience for me.
NZRock: Is that something you’ve been able to draw upon when writing for ALTER BRIDGE or is that a completely different kettle of fish?
Myles: Well I think what it did is it helped me as a player. It kind of helped me get to a point technically where I could do certain things. So strangely enough, I actually never thought about this until you asked me that question, that’s actually a good question because what it did, you know playing with somebody like Mark, who is very technical especially with his approach to riffs, is that because I’d spent those years in Jazz it made it so that when Mark had a really fast intense riff it was easier for me to pick it up because of all the technique that was needed to play Jazz. That’s a really good question!
NZRock: You guys are heading back to Europe in early November. Are you going to have a break after these New Zealand shows?
Myles: I think so, I think like a 6 week break and then we’ve got like a 6 week run in Europe and that’ll probably close it up for us this year. So it’ll be nice, I’ll get back to Spokane [Washington] where I live and rake leaves HAHA!
NZRock: And maybe write some riffs for the next album?
Myles: Well we’re always writing so you know, it’ll be a little bit of raking and a little bit of writing HAHA!
NZRock: You’ve only just started the tour but how has it been hanging out with DISTURBED and P.O.D?
Myles: This is actually the first day of the tour so we’ll see. But we’ve done some dates with DISTURBED overseas. I like those guys a lot. And P.O.D you know, I don’t think I’ve ever done any touring with that band as a whole so I’m looking forward to that as well. It’s always cool, when you do these tours you get to know these folks and it kinda becomes that brotherhood thing that happens, hopefully if you all get along HAHA! We’re lucky that way and get to tour with cool bands and cool guys so it should be fun!
NZRock: You started up your own Myspace page earlier this year. Are you going to keep us updated on the tour progress through that?
Myles: I’m going to try yeah. It’s funny I actually just threw that up you know, just to kind of throw some songs on from the past and I’ve been wanting to put other songs on there as well, I just haven’t gotten around to recording them yet. But it’s cool, I can keep people posted on what’s going on and I get to hear people’s stories and how the songs effect them. So I’m going to continue to try and cultivate that whole thing the best that I can.
NZRock: A lot of bands have their label and PR people write on their Myspace pages so do you think it’s kind of a unique thing that you’re updating that page yourself?
Myles: Yeah I guess a lot of bands that sort of thing does happen that they have these sort of ghost writers and for me that just seems like, I don’t know it seems kind of deceptive. So I do the best that I can to get back to as many people as possible and I do definitely run it all myself. In fact I even built the whole thing, I had to learn how to do all that stuff HAHA! That’s the cool thing about the era that we live in is with technology you can have more of a connection to people. Back in the day you had fan clubs and people would send in $10 and get a glossy photo and that was about it where now you can just go on Myspace. That’s how you do it now so that’s cool.
NZRock: Mark has just released or is about to release an instruction DVD for guitarists. Do you or the other guys have any side projects on the go at the moment?
Myles: Not yet, you know I’ve thought about doing like a vocal DVD at one point. Actually that was an idea that Mark had. He said you know, you should do a vocal DVD and who knows, maybe that will happen. I know mark works real hard on his guitar DVD and it turned out really great man. It’s very cool, just very indepth and detailed as to how young players can learn his tricks and all that so hopefully one day I’ll get to do the same thing with the vocal DVD.
NZRock: Are there any specific tracks off the latest album that you’re really proud of in terms of showcasing your talent on guitar or with vocals.
Myles: Um, I think just with everything. With the song and with the vocals and guitar I was really happy with how the song ‘Blackbird’ turned out. For me that’s kind of the song that… I dont know… when it’s all said and done after all the years of playing and all the years of writing, that’s the song we all feel like we can kind of hang our hat on and that’s part of the reason we wanted to name the record after that song. So you know, thats a real… I don’t know… our proudest moment is the ‘Blackbird’ song.
NZRock: There’s some irony there, wasn’t the album recorded at Blackbird studios as well?
Myles: Yeah! Very weird! And that wasn’t intended I mean we’d actually written the song before the song was called Blackbird and then when we talked to Elvis the producer we were like where do you want to record this record. And he goes well there’s this great studio in Nashville called Blackbird studios and we were like oh, that is too weird! It was very weird!
NZRock: It was meant to be!
NZRock: New Zealand is really looking forward to seeing you guys play over here. Have you got anything you’d like to say to your Kiwi fans before I let you go?
Myles: Just that we looking forward to seeing you all and we love for all of you to be a part of the “ALTER BRIDGE Nation” as we call it.