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Alter Bridge‘s Brian Marshall: “Bass is a different skill set and a different mindset. I think we’re just born that way“

Brian Marshall
(Image credit: Jessica Sigmon Wallace/WireImage)

The Florida rock four-piece Alter Bridge are stuck at home like the rest of us at the moment, but that hasn’t stopped them releasing a live EP, Walk The Sky 2.0, recorded on their most recent tour. 

Fans of the band, and there are many, will admire the album-faithful nature of the tunes. Bassist Brian Marshall, who is joined in Alter Bridge by Myles Kennedy (vocals, guitar), Mark Tremonti (guitar) and Scott Phillips (drums), explains: “When we’re rehearsing for the tour, we try to keep it as much like the recorded version as we can. There are certain parts that we’ll extend, but for the most part, we’ll try to keep it as we recorded it.”  

You’ll hear clean and distorted tones from Marshall’s Ernie Ball five-strings, he adds: “I run a Tech 21 Sansamp to get that grind, which helps the bass guitar cut through the mix. You know, it’s taken many, many years of playing with Mark and Myles, who are two prolific guitar players, to find my spot in the mix. I think being a finger player tends to lend itself better to the low end, although at this point in my career, I like the midrange and the high end too. I don’t mind the fret noise!” 

Be close to your band

“It’s important to find people that are on the same page as you, musically, and obviously you have to be able to hang out with those people outside of music, if you’re spending a lot of time together on the road. If you want to do this as a career, and not just as a solo artist, it’s going to take more than just music to make it work from a longevity standpoint. That means we can ride on a bus with a 10-man crew for months at a time.” 

Embrace remote technology

“Because the people in our band are so spread out, it’s not easy to actually get into a room together, even before the pandemic. Because of the development of Dropbox, and all the technical things that have come around, what we tend to do at this point is get it all done remotely. 

“Mark and Myles will put songs in the band’s Dropbox and then we’ll all take a listen to it and make comments on it before we get together in the same room. At that point, the juices start to flow and the song starts to change. It gets its peaks and valleys, as we work on the dynamics, the structure and the tempo.” 

Use your downtime profitably

“One good thing about not being on the road right now is that I’ve had a lot of time with my family. I’ve also been taking a lot of guitar lessons. I’m working on a country project with a friend of mine, and I’ve taken on a lot of writing, lyrically, and musically. We’ve got some songs that we’re working on and plan on recording.” 

Understand the bassist’s role in the group

“Bass is a different skill set and a different mindset. I think we’re just born that way. I was always drawn to the rhythm section – Rush, the Who, Led Zeppelin. All those guys really inspired me to play bass. A lot of guitar players kind of transition over to bass, because they can’t find a bass player. It’s hard to find a real bass player for that reason: You know, we’re unicorns out there!” 

Consider your volume needs

“Depending on the level that you’re at, you may not need a backline anymore, as long as you have a good monitor mix. Most of the time, my speakers behind me on stage aren’t very loud at all. Mark Tremonti has gone on in-ears now, so his stage volume has come down, and that in turn has helped us all to get a better mix in our ears. Myles has really sensitive ears, so we had to put Plexiglas around the cymbals.” 

Keep improving

“It’s important to practise as much as you can. I don’t ever feel like I’m good enough. As a musician, there’s never really a point where you say, ‘Okay, I’m done learning – I’m great!’ What’s great about our minds is that you can always continue to learn and to listen to other artists and pick and choose little things that you can pull into your skill set. If there’s something that you like, gravitate towards that and see if you can make it your own.” 

Challenge yourself

“Mark and Myles have constantly challenged me over the years. I’ll be sitting down and playing, and a family member or someone is watching, and they’ll say ‘How do you move your fingers that fast?’ The answer is that I have to play fast when I’m playing with Mark. We’ve developed as musicians and players over a number of years, and we’ve continued to challenge ourselves. In fact, the challenge is everything!” 

  • Walk The Sky 2.0 is out now via Napalm Records.

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