Alter Bridge's Brian Marshall: "As a bass player, I tend to play off of what a vocalist would do"

Brian Marshall: “As a bass player I tend to play off of what a vocalist would do"
(Image credit: Jessica Sigmon Wallace/WireImage)

"Walk the Sky is quite a departure, with how we’ve gone about writing the record, and also its overall sound is something new for the band. The way that the record came together was a different process this time. 

"With our singer Myles Kennedy playing with Slash and doing his solo project, our guitarist Mark Tremonti also doing solo work and us all being in different parts of the world, we used technology to bounce ideas off of each other, specifically the Dropbox system.

Once we were all together, the pre-production for Walk the Sky was only about a two‑week process, if that

"Myles was on the road and writing in hotel rooms, and Mark was doing the same, whether it be in hotels or at home. They would upload material, and from there, Flip [drummer Scott Phillips] and I would get used to the ideas. 

"I would try to play with the demos and get an idea of what I’d like to do going into the pre-production and the writing process with the guys, because we didn’t have a lot of time. Once we were all together, that pre-production was only about a two-week process, if that.

We had probably 15 song ideas, some of which were a little more complete than others. The main thing that was a little different for this process is that they would piece together ideas. About a quarter to 50 percent of it was verse, chorus, and a possible bridge structure, and some of it had melodies on it. That’s something I really love to have - a good, firm melody - because as a bass player I tend to play off of what a vocalist would do."

"The drums, of course, were programmed [for the Dropbox demos], so that was obviously going to change a little bit in the studio, but at least there was an idea there. I could pick out what Mark was doing, and then bounce around as I like to do.

"I’m a bass player that doesn’t really like to stick to the chord structure unless I have to, and with a passage that’s moving real fast, there’s not much straying that I can do - for the most part, anyway.

"The pre-production all happened at the producer Elvis Baskette’s place. We did all the pre-production in a room in his house, separate from the mixing room. Where his console was, there were cables running through to his main control room. The pre-production happened in one of the rooms in his house and the recording happened in the console room.

I play in a little church thing as well, just to put myself out there, have some fun and give back a little bit too

"I only play five-string basses. This time I was just using the Ernie Ball five-string Stingray Special, the new guitar that replaced the SR5. They’re much lighter in weight, because EB have changed out some of the hardware to make it a lighter bass. I believe it’s maybe a pound lighter than it was. That’s my number one bass right now.

"For the recording I had an SR5 Special, and it’s a natural bass finish and a killer maple neck, so it really popped out. The amp was a Big Block and an Ampeg cabinet, I believe an 8x10, and that’s pretty much it, with Ernie Ball strings.

"For bass tones, Elvis [Michael Baskette] did a lot of that in post-production. We’d just get the general bass tone, and then, if there were sections in each song that needed some more dirt or whatever, we would add it in. If it called for it in the song and it made me feel better, then I would say, 'Hey man, would you add some dirt here?' It pumped me up and hopefully made the take that much better. 

"I have one other thing that I’m excited to get in my new rig; I just picked up this Darkglass Electronics distortion box. I heard it online and bought it, and I can’t wait to put it through my rig.

"Being in a band is a lot of hard work. Obviously the touring and the traveling is hard. There are sacrifices, but the payoff is being onstage, because that’s what’s the most fun for all of us - and it shows when we’re up there. You can just tell we’re having fun and that it’s what we love to do. Any musician will tell you that.

"We’ve taken a lot of time off, because Mark and Myles have been out doing their thing, and we released the Live At The Royal Albert Hall DVD in 2018. That was a good thing for our fanbase to have and to hold while we were off‑cycle and on hold. I’m looking forward to getting back out there, for sure. 

"I’ve been practicing the songs in preparation for the tour. We’re up to six records now, so I’m running through the catalogue and jogging my memory. Hopefully we’ll be playing some older fan favorites, and of course a lot of the new stuff as well.

"In my downtime, I’m also a real estate agent on the side. I live in Florida, and my wife and I work as a team. We sell houses and raise our kids. That’s basically what I do. 

"Obviously I’ve been playing a lot, though - I play with other musicians here locally, just to keep in it because I love it. I play in a little church thing as well, just to put myself out there, have some fun and give back a little bit too - that’s basically my life in a nutshell."

  • Alter Bridge's Walk the Sky is out now via Napalm.

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