[Interview] Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy Talks ‘Fortress’

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Interview done by Lauren Rae

If there’s one thing that hard rock outfit Alter Bridge is internationally known for, it’s their penchant for yearly music festivals. In the 9 years that they’ve been on the scene, they’ve practically become veterans of the summer festival circuit, both nationally and abroad. One may even be able to go as far as to say they’re on their way to becoming the kings.

This year looks to be no exception as the season of the festival lineup releases has begun. Hot on the heels of their announcement of playing this year’s Rock on the Range (an excellent lineup, to be sure), as well as some long-awaited U.S. tour dates in support of their latest album, Fortress, we bring to you today a short-but-sweet exclusive interview with lead singer Myles Kennedy, expressing his thoughts on just what it took to bring forth their latest creation.

Make sure to check out our review of Fortress here.

Bloody-Disgusting: To start, where exactly did you guys get the idea for the name for the album itself?

Myles Kennedy: Well, it’s actually interesting in a sense. The word ‘fortress’ is a very strong word; it kind of evokes this like very steadfast, invincible structure that is constructed to keep people safe, and that can apply to so many different things in life. You can look at your governments, religions, relationships, marriages, et cetera. And the thing is that you discover as time goes on, so many of those things are not permanent or invincible. It deals with emotions that coincide with those things breaking down around you and the feelings of disillusion that stem from it at that particular time.

BD: Did you guys as a whole have any initials goals or ideas going into the production of the album or any specific feelings when you first embarked on this – from emotions you sought to convey to the album artwork and the photo shoots?

MK: I think the most paramount concern to us was that we musically push ourselves further than we had in the past and not be afraid to try new things. As far as overall themes and vibes for the record, we definitely wanted to keep it at a certain intensity, and…I don’t want to really use this term, but people keep saying ‘heavy’ and this definitely turned out to be our heaviest record. We just wanted to keep it intense. So when it came to the artwork and all that it made sense to go with a very dark theme. And actually a lot of our work has been pretty dark. We’re certainly not the kind of band that has unicorns and butterflies on our albums! But we definitely wanted to keep it intense for the fans.

BD: This is definitely the heaviest one by far. I did notice that both AB III and Fortress are aggressive, yet the latter is more uplifting than the former. Was that intentional or just a natural result of the creative process?

MK: That’s true. AB III’s subject matter was dealing with someone who was lost; who’s lost faith essentially, and was dealing with the emotions that go along with that and was feeling detached. Where as with this record, there are some optimistic moments, like in the song “All Ends Well”. There’s an uplifting vibe but then there are a lot of songs that are very…not angry per say, but there’s a certain amount of angst. I think the emotions on this record are a probably little more extreme as far as how far they will swing. I don’t know if that was necessarily something we were completely aware of as we were recording it. I think it was just how the songs turned out and it was just part of the license we gave ourselves to make a very dynamic record and not keep it all the same – the same emotions, the same tempo, the same key for that matter. We really wanted to stretch it in many different directions.

BD: You had your project with Slash last year. The other guys, they had the Creed tours. And then Mark [Tremonti, guitarist] had his album drop. And it sounds like there are definitely some subtle influences from all those. Do you think that might have had an influence over how you guys put together the album?

MK: I think that when you’re writing with other people and doing different projects, they’re definitely going to find their way into your future work and you might not even be aware of it. It’s funny because I hadn’t even thought about the “Cry of Achilles” intro being somewhat reminiscent of “Anastasia” off the Slash record until someone just recently brought that up. And I was like, “Oh of course, because there’s a nylon string intro!” But when it was all going down, it doesn’t really register at first, you kind of just go with the flow. And so I think that we were definitely influenced by that – not just by what you choose to do but who you’re playing with and who you’re touring with, the songs you’re playing night after night. It’ll kind of find its way into what you do later.

BD: A key difference in Fortress in comparison to the rest of your releases is Mark taking the vocal reigns for “Waters Rising”. I noticed this was huge amongst the fan base. How different was it to take a step back?

MK: Well, it’s actually great for me! The way I look at it, I’ve been playing more and Mark’s always been cool about having me play guitar solos on songs, and that’s been going on since Blackbird. It just seems logical – why not bring Mark in as lead vocals as well since I’m playing the guitar here and there. I think that a lot of fans didn’t know how well he could sing until he put out the Tremonti record, so that was another reason to do it. And you know, there are so many bands that I’ve enjoyed listening to over the years who have integrated their vocalists, via Deep Purple, with Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale, or Alice in Chains, as another example. I think it makes it very interesting for the listener to have those different voices express the songs. And the beauty of that is that Mark and I have very different voices. So you’re gonna definitely know that Mark is singing and you’re gonna know when Myles is singing. And hopefully we’ll get more of that in the future.

BD: While this is the band’s fourth album, it’s not the fourth album as a whole for the individual members. How do you feel this sets you apart from other bands who when they put out their fourth album, that’s it and they’re only as good as their entire catalog, instead of just entire plus combined from other bands they were involved with?

MK: As time goes on, you learn more and more about yourself with the more records you make, and that’s something that I’m grateful for. I couldn’t even count how many records I’ve been a part of at this point in my career. But what I know is that I’ve taken away from each one of them what to do and what not to do. And I think that it’s just helps you kind of evolve. So that’s the beauty of being in the business as long as we have and getting to make records; it’s about trial and error and just learning how to craft better songs.

Alter Bridge tour dates:
Apr 14 – Dallas, TX – House Of Blues
Apr 15 – Houston, TX – House Of Blues
Apr 19 – Atlanta, GA – Tabernacle
Apr 21 – Baltimore, MD – Rams Head Live
Apr 22 – Boston, MA – Royale Boston
Apr 24 – New York, NY – Best Buy Theater
Apr 28 – Chicago, IL – House Of Blues
May 01 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
May 02 – Kansas City, MO – The Arvest Bank Theatre
May 16th-18th – Columbus, OH – Rock On The Range