As soon as he wrapped up tours supporting his critically acclaimed solo debut, All I Was, and Fortress by Alter Bridge, Mark Tremonti entered the studio in earnest to begin work on what would become a massive one-two punch, beginning with last summer’s Cauterize and continuing with Tremonti’s new album, Dust.
Make no mistake about it: Dust is not a collection of leftover material or B-sides. In fact, this 10-track collection contains some of Tremonti’s most inspired work to date, while also continuing to showcase the guitarist’s uncanny knack for combining melody, hard rock and metal into one tasty, sonic assault.
The album, which was produced by Michael "Elvis" Baskette, features the contributions of guitarist Eric Friedman, drummer Garrett Whitlock and bassist Wolfgang Van Halen.
I recently spoke with Tremonti about Dust, Alter Bridge his gear and more.
Dust is the companion to last year’s album, Cauterize. How did this project begin?
I had Elvis scheduled for a limited amount of time, so I wanted to prepare as much material as I could beforehand. I went crazy—writing non-stop and putting together about 25 songs. We eventually narrowed it down to 20 and decided to break it up into two albums.
What’s your writing process like?
Vocal melodies are my favorite things to write. Then I’ll write riffs and spend some time marrying the right riff to the right chorus and leading out the rest of the song. It’s like building a puzzle. I’ll write parts and then when it comes time to put a record together, I’ll shuffle through those parts and put them together and see what works best to find a final arrangement.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from the new album, starting with the title track.
It was the first song I started working on for both albums. It was all based around a chorus I had kicking around for a few years. I had tried using it in the Alter Bridge camp, but it never materialized into a song. It was one I really wanted to make happen. Through my career, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. It’s a song about those down times, when you notice the people who were around during your good moments have scattered when you find yourself struggling. Kind of like a close friend losing confidence in you. It’s one of my favorite tracks.
"My Last Mistake."
That was another one of the first songs we put together for the whole process. Lyrically, it’s about when you have a handful of people that come and go who are not necessarily good influences. I was always the new kid in school and would sometimes make friends with the wrong people—people who would get you in trouble or hold you back and then in adult life would drag you down. It’s a song about those types of folks.
What was the recording process like for this album?
It was great. We spent a ton of time beforehand at my studio putting together rough demos. Then we spent a few weeks in the studio with Elvis doing pre-production. For each song, we’d spend an entire day tearing it apart and putting it back together until it was the best it could be. Then we started work on recording drums, bass, guitars and vocals. It was quite a long process.
Will you be touring with the Tremonti band this year?
Yes, and we’re really excited about it. We’ll be heading out to Europe with Iron Maiden and playing at all of the big festivals. I’d usually follow it up with a U.S. tour, but Alter Bridge has a new album coming out in the fall and we’ll be doing an Alter Bridge tour. So Tremonti will take a back seat after this European run and then we’ll fill in the spaces of the Alter Bridge tour.
Speaking of Alter Bridge, what can you tell me about the upcoming album?
We’ve put together 14 tracks and are pretty much done with guitars. Miles has knocked out three vocals and I’ll be going in soon to do my vocals. Then we’ll start mixing soon after that.
Did you always know music would be your calling?
It’s the only thing I ever cared about. I played soccer as a kid and really enjoyed it, but once I hit college I got sidetracked and just chased down music. I’ve always had odd jobs, and every time I’d have a bad day cooking or at the car wash, or wherever it was, I’d always say, “One day I’m going to get to play guitar for a living.”
As an artist, what satisfies you the most?
I always love performing. That’s the payoff. And once we get on out on this next tour, I’ll have two and a half months straight of that. I’ll definitely get my fill!
MARK TREMONTI'S LIVE RIG:
• 16 PRS Tremonti model guitars in seven tunings, each with a backup
• One dressing-room guitar and one bus guitar
• Mesa Triple Rectifier
• Bogner Uberschall
• Two Mesa 4x12 cabs
• Morley Tremonti Wah
• Trex Tremonti Phaser
• Trex Octavius
• Sennheiser and Shure mics
• D'Addario strings and Planet Wave cables
• Jim Dunlop 1mm nylon picks.
For more about Tremonti and current his projects, visit fret12.com.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.