Mark Tremonti: "I Was An Extreme Metal Head When I Was A Kid."
Master guitarist and hard rock staple, Mark Tremonti has been there and done just about all there is to do in roughly 30 years in the music business. Billboard chart topper, Grammy winner, and genuine guitar-god, he can now check one more box off the bucket list.
Tremonti's first ever concept album, A Dying Machine, is set to be released June 8th through Napalm Records, with an accompanying novel (yes, a fucking novel) to follow.
"It just fell into my lap," Tremonti tells Metal Injection. "It was 20 minutes before I was supposed to go on stage and I was messing around with the chord progression and started singing a little bit and the lyrics 'you're a dying machine' came … I kept on writing other parts of that song and once I came up with the second part of the verse with the different points of view it became a discussion between two people. It became this story in my head. Even when I was on stage that night I was thinking about this story and how it could develop. I rushed to my guitar as soon as the show was over and tried to keep on going with it. Once I finished the song I didn't want to stop that mood. It was such a fun creative place. There's nothing like opening up your imagination and taking it somewhere and feeling good about it. I figured maybe I'd write four more songs that I could tie into it and maybe make the rest of the record a normal record, but once I got that far I said let's keep going with it.
"I wasn't really a big concept record guy," he explains. "I had Seventh Son of a Seventh Son – it was actually the first show I ever saw live – but I was really more into the individual songs. I never really sat down and thought of a whole concept. I had King Diamond records that I loved and I knew the story vaguely, but I just listened to the songs. It wasn't something on my radar I wanted to do. Even throughout my career we've been asked so many times 'is this a concept record?' There's subject matter that might run through a few of the songs, but never a concept. It's fun to actually do one, and not purposely set out to do it, but kind of have it fall in my lap."
30 years after having his mind blown by one of the legitimately all time great groups in heavy metal, Tremonti is set to tour with Iron Maiden through a high profile string of European dates this summer.
If you had told that same teenage kid some three decades prior he'd be sharing the stage with those very righteous dudes, he likely would have asked you to pass whatever you were smokin'.
"I have to pinch myself every time I think about it," he said of getting to tour alongside his heroes. "The very first concert I ever saw was Iron Maiden. It's not like you went out and saw some typical band. This was a larger than life, massive spectacle of rock and metal. It was such a good intro to put that seed out and pray to do it one day. To be able to get on stage and share the stage with them, it's a damn dream come true.
"I was an extreme metal head when I was a kid," he explains. "That being said, I was balanced. When I was younger, before I was a real fanatic, I was a fan of the stuff Mom and Dad played in the car. I loved 70s soft rock, Rod Stewart and Gerry Rafferty and stuff like that. One night I couldn't fall asleep and I ran up into my brothers room and he had Metallica's Master of Puppets playing all the time. That was a record that really blew my mind. From that moment on I tried to find the heaviest, darkest, meanest stuff I could find. Raining Blood came soon after that, Morbid Tales/Emperor's Return after that. I kept on, finding Testament, Exodus, Death Angel. I got into some punk. I chased down the meanest, nastiest stuff. I just loved it."
No surprise then that Tremonti's metal roots would carry over in his solo work. While previous and current outfits Creed and Alter Bridge have dwelled in decidedly hard rock/radio rock territory, Tremonti's self titled project has a thrashier, more head-bang worthy edge.
"I never wanted to go into one side or the other and stay there," Tremonti says. "As a songwriter I like to live in both worlds. I grew up with those big melodies, the 70s rock. Then I became a fan of the metal and I wanted to try to marry those two worlds as best as I could without alienating each one of them. As a songwriter I like to do a variety of stuff and not just one thing."
We asked Tremonti his definitive album, the holy grail of heavy. The answer shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to the Metal Injection faithful.
"Masters of Puppets is my favourite record. I'd say my second favourite would be Morbid Tales/Emperor's Return. They'd be my two go-to albums that made me a fanatic."
Over a dozen albums deep into his career, and Mark Tremonti feels he's just now hitting his stride creatively. We can't disagree.
"This has probably been the best moments of my career for my creativity. As a writer I feel as satisfied as I've ever been for a project. Between the album and the novel together, I'm on such a good feel when it comes to opening up the imagination. I'm almost sad that the novel is almost done and the record is done and it's all about to come out. I'm excited for people getting it and reading the book and hearing the record, but I'm kind of sad that the creativity is almost over. I don't know if it's something I can follow up or not. I love being on this journey."
To pre-order A Dying Machine or check out tour dates visit Tremonti's official site here.