Interview: Alter Bridge – Brian Marshall

With the brand new release of ‘AB III’ not long behind us, Alter Bridge were dusting off the cobwebs and rolling into Glasgow for their first live performance in two years in support of their brand new album. Having charted at number nine in the UK charts, its highest charting position in the world to date, Alter Bridge have revived the hard rock genre in a country that is overrun with dire pop music.

I had the chance to sit with bassist Brian Marshall and talk to him about ‘AB III’ before their Glasgow performance.

Michael: How was your flight in?

Brian: Flight was good. We had a couple of lay overs, one in Atlanta then one in London and then a flight to here before the bus to the hotel. Had a little jet leg last night but I took four naps, three hours a piece so feeling better now. [laughs]

Michael: Are you looking forward to getting back on the road with the new album?

Brian: Yeah totally man, it’s going to be fun. It’s been a while since we’ve been back to these parts and we have a pretty big fan base here so it’s pretty exciting to be back here.

Michael: Is the UK and Europe a great place for the band to tour? It does sort of have a feel that the audience is, I suppose, a bit more demanding for you over here and the tours always sell out.

Brian: Of course, I mean Europe is one of my favourite places to tour, though I know we’re not in Europe here, I don’t know you, I’m American [laughs] but yeah I have a lot of fun. That’s the reason I got into it to begin with, to play live. I never thought when I first picked up the bass guitar that this is where it would take me. It’s pretty much a blessing and I’m privileged to be able to play out here and have as many fans as we do.

Alter Bridge Band PhotoMichael: This is the band’s first show in a while, although you have been touring with Creed and performing as Alter Bridge in the studio, do you think there will be any cobwebs needing brushed off for this tour?

Brian: I suppose in a way yeah but not really, first time in a while we will be taking these songs live but I don’t think there will be any big issues.

Michael: One thing I have always noticed when you book a UK/European tour is that Glasgow is always without doubt the first show you play and the Academy has become like a home for all your performances. Is there any significance to Glasgow or just smart tour routing?

Brian: No real significance, I think when we initially start booking the tour we always start in the UK and in Scotland so it just fits into the routing and best to go from north to south.

Michael: ‘AB III’ is out now in the UK and Europe, are you happy with the final result?

Brian: Yeah we’re really happy with it. We initially got into the writing process about six months ago but there has been some material floating around that we kind of held onto to begin with but once we started getting in there and writing, it just all came together.

Michael: Was it harder to manage this album as you were with Creed and Myles with Slash?

Brian: Yeah it was pretty tough to allocate time but we managed to do it when we got together. I think we all felt that we were running in circles for a while with the writing; some of the riffs started to sound similar so we just kind of played with some different ideas and remained optimistic about the record. It really came together when the producer came in and at that time we were all kind of down, I guess we had been writing for a while and we kind of, like I said, running in circles but once the producer came down we started to really look at the songs, dissect them and that’s when it all came together. About two weeks later we immediately started recording bass and drums in Miami and we finished that in about two weeks. Mark and Myles then finished the rest of the guitars and vocals in Orlando.

Michael: With you and Scott recording in Miami and Mark and Myles in Orlando, did that cause any chaos?

Brian: No, I mean we weren’t jumping between, we went from Miami and just finished the recording in Orlando so it’s been a busy year for us but we’re really excited to be able to come back over here and do this, we’ve been looking forward to it for some time.

Michael: This album is a lot more aggressive and darker than previous, did you set out with that aim during the writing to make the album that way?

Brian: It wasn’t really something that we thought about, like I said some riffs has been floating around for a little while so I don’t think there was a conscious decision to make the album darker or heavier or anything like that, I think naturally the band just went that direction.

Michael: Did the fact it was more aggressive allow you to do more on bass, try anything new or maybe crank it up a few notches?

Brian: When it’s more aggressive the bass kind of has to stick to the chord progression a little more and when there is more space in the music that’s when it allows a bass player to move around. I kind of found that even though I had a lot of cool little parts and everything in the songs, when it is more aggressive I find that a bass player needs to stick to the progression more.

Michael: One of the things that are on all Alter Bridge albums and I suppose every hard rock album now is the departure. ‘Wonderful Life’ is one the departures on ‘AB III’. While it has always been something that you have done, did you think it was maybe needed more this time based on the fact the album was more aggressive?

Brian: Yeah, well we like to have that relief I guess from the harder stuff, it’s always nice to have that departure in a record and we’ve done that as you said on all our albums: ‘In Loving Memory’ on our first record, ‘Watch Over You’ from ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Wonderful Life’ on this one. We were up in the air between ‘Wonderful Life’ and ‘Life Must Go On’, there are two on this record and again we were like ‘well we have two great songs here, why hold them back, why don’t we put eleven songs on the record when we have all these [songs] that are great’, well we thought that they were great, ‘that’s go ahead and do it’. So that’s what we did, we came up with the song order and ended up putting fourteen songs on there. ‘Breathe Again’, ‘Life Must Go On’ and ‘Wonderful Life’ were all like ‘what do we do?’ We were finally just like, Scott likes this song and I like this one so we handed it to different people and they were like ‘that song won’t be on the record? Are you kidding me?’ and that kind of got back to us so we were just like let’s just put them all on, fuck it! [laughs]

Michael: How many songs did you have then in the end?

Brian: We had seventeen so three didn’t make it.

Michael: I’m guessing then those are the three that make up the two US bonus tracks and also the Japanese bonus track?

Brian: I’m not sure exactly, I don’t even have the record yet, I’ve not even seen it, I don’t even have one so you’re all lucky. So I don’t know exactly what the bonus tracks are though I know it was talked about. So one of them has fifteen tracks or sixteen?

Michael: The Japanese has fifteen and the US sixteen though I can’t remember the titles.

Brian: Ok great cool, this is news to me, hopefully it works. I bet you I know the songs but I just don’t know what ones are on it.

Michael: I’m just guessing that the labels are just striking out the content for the album then in the US and Japan then? Was it much easier to already have the album in the works without a label pressuring the way?

Brian: Yeah well we were unhappy with Universal with how we were being handled and I guess in the process of writing and everything that was in the background. We left that to our business managers to really just kind of separate us from Universal and we just concentrated on the creative part, it was still there in the background but it really didn’t distract us too much. We just forged forward with the writing and once we finished the mixing and the artwork and what not then we started to, well, meanwhile the managers were talking to different labels and trying to get us away from Universal, Roadrunner showed interest and a few others labels but we knew Roadrunner were a home for us and we were excited to be part of the label.

Michael: And now it’s EMI in the States?

Brian: Yes that’s correct.

Michael: Are they giving you the interest and attention that Universal didn’t in the States?

Brian: Yeah they definitely are.

Michael: Are you worried about the US release in November because of such an early release in the UK and Europe, fans may just download it or do whatever they have to in order to get a copy?

Brian: Well there is that. With the EMI deal, it didn’t go through a quickly as Roadrunner deal did so they didn’t have the time to set up the record that they thought they needed for the States, so that is why that little delay is there. The die hard fans in the States will always get it somehow and they have. [laughs]

Michael: Do you think that’s why the bonus tracks are a big part of this release, in hope people will be interested to buy it for the extra content?

Brian: It’s part of the reason I think yeah.

Alter Bridge Band Photo

Michael: For tonight’s set list, how many new songs will you be performing, just a couple with a lot from previous albums or are you trying to play an equal mix?

Brian: I’m not exactly sure but I think there will be about six songs from the new album and then we will play a lot of songs off the old records because you know, we built a fan base on those two records alone and we don’t want to not play any of those songs. Even though we are excited to play the new ones and we want to play mainly those, we still have those two records and they are still important to a lot of fans so we will be playing those too.

Michael: Is there any one of the new songs that you are really looking forward to playing live?

Brian: Right now we are playing the new single ‘Isolation’ but I think my favourite song as far as the new song is ‘Slip To The Void’. It’s real moody and it has this guitar riff in the middle of the verse that sends shivers up my spine and it’s just real fun to play.

Michael: It is quite a haunting song, really builds an atmosphere.

Brian: Yeah it is quite haunting and it kind of evolves into this really cool song and I just have a lot of fun playing it. I kind of gauge the song by the more fun I have playing it, even though it may not be one of our best songs, the more fun the better. [laughs]

Michael: Is that your favourite song from the album then or just a favourite to play live?

Brian: I think initially my favourite song off the album was ‘Breathe Again’, actually I fought pretty hard to get that one on the record and I’m glad it made it but that initially was one of my favourite songs and I still that song. Probably my favourite with ‘Slip To The Void’.

Michael: One thing about the bands I suppose stage presence and production, you have never really bothered with the gimmicks and props, it has always been more about the emotional impact with the audience. Is this something that will remain on this tour or are you doing anything different as it’s a new album?

Brian: Yeah there is never really any theatrics or anything as far as stage production and props goes. We put ideas in for the lighting and that sort of thing but when we first start out on tour, we set out with a budget and we try to keep within that budget but as far as the emotional aspect on stage, that is basically just a free for all. We don’t have any agenda; it’s purely emotive, just go for it.

Michael: Usually when you’re playing here you’re always supported by Logan but tonight Slaves To Gravity are supporting. Have you seen them before or was it your choice to have them open?

Brian: I haven’t seen them yet but we just talked to our booking agent and he suggested them then we were given a list of bands and we thought Slaves To Gravity would be the best fit for us.

Michael: So after this tour, is it straight back to the US to tour there in support before Myles is back with Slash?

Brian: Yeah I think he is back with Slash around mid-January so right after Christmas we will start up again until he goes out and I think we’re going to plan a West Coast run and hopefully get down to the Mid-West or Texas.

Michael: With Myles on the road with Slash, Scott Stapp doing a solo tour and Mark also working on a solo album, how do you spend your downtime? Do you just spend it with family or are you looking at a project to get yourself busy?

Brian: No Creed and Alter Bridge are keeping me pretty busy. I think after Myles goes out with Slash, I think we’re talking about doing another Creed run in South America or Australia, New Zealand or somewhere like that.

Michael: What is the status with Creed? Will the band be remaining around full time with future albums or are you simply just touring at the moment?

Brian: There is no new Creed album planned right now, nothing in the works. There has been some excitement overseas for us so we are talking about doing a tour but no plans yet.

Michael: Are there plans for a UK/European run with Creed?

Brian: Not as of yet, we haven’t talked about that but for the moment I think South America, Australia and New Zealand are next.

Michael: There was a big fear amongst fans that Creed would kill the future of Alter Bridge. Are Alter Bridge still planning future releases and looking to many more years as a band?

Brian: Oh of course. They were worried about Myles doing Slash too and thinking that this was the end of Alter Bridge but even from the inception of Myles going with Slash and us doing Creed, we always knew that this album would happen. From the starting gun, as soon as the first Creed tour was done, we were back into writing and recording the record and it’s been non-stop since. I’m not complaining though, I love playing music.

Michael: Does it feel good though to get some time off from touring and writing though?

Brian: Yeah it was nice but I get bored, this is all I know really. You kind of have to deprogram yourself. You get used to this way of life and it’s fun, I enjoy being on the road more than anything.

Michael: Just off the road from projects, I had read an interview with you that stated you used to play drums when you were younger but your father gave you a bass guitar to get you away from his drums. Do you still play or plan to ever visit the drums?

Brian: No I didn’t go back, I picked up the bass and that has been me since.

Alter Bridge Band Photo

Michael: So we will never see you replacing Scott then?

Brian: I doubt it [laughs]. I think I would have been a pretty good drummer but I just enjoy playing the bass so much. When I started listening to Rush and Led Zeppelin and those great bass players, it was just a great rhythm section, that pulsing and moving around, it just drove me to wanting to play rhythm and when I picked up the bass, it kind of felt right to me.

Michael: Not sure if you have heard the album from Black Country Communion with Glenn Hughes and on that, Glenn really has the bass to the forefront, like the lead instrument. Would you love to have something like that?

Brian: Bass as the lead instrument? It is for Alter Bridge in my opinion [laughs] I try to make it as much lead as I can but they don’t have it, especially when it comes to recording because I come up with all these crazy ideas when we’re recording and I’m like ‘yeah sounds great!’ and they’re like ‘it’s a little over the top, how about you pull it back a notch or two’ and I’m like ‘ok I’ll try that’ but as long as it benefits the song. Yeah you know, I’d find that pretty cool. I’ve seen some jazz artists who have two bass players: a rhythm bass player and a lead bass player and that’s pretty cool, I dig it. For me though, I doubt it.

Michael: Who are your influences as you have spoken of Rush and Led Zeppelin, is jazz a big inspiration?

Brian: Iron Maiden Steve Harris, the band Yes, Chris Squire. As Long as it moves me and it has a good groove, it doesn’t really matter who it is, it’s just a song that inspires me, something I can feel.

Michael: What are you listening to right now?

Brian: I still like all my classic rock stuff, there is a guitar player that I’m really into, his name is Monte Montgomery; he is very very very very good. He is a singer songwriter kind of guy, he just plays acoustic and plays in a three piece but just listening to his stuff has always move me. As far as bass playing, I like to listen to funk but I’m not really a slapper type of funk player or anything like that. I’m not sure of his name exactly, I think he has had a few players but Jamiroquai, I like his approach to music and that style of pop.

Michael: Have you ever tried to play slap bass with your “crazy ideas” in recording?

Brian: [laughs] No, there isn’t really a place though I would be ridiculed if I did.

Michael: Thanks for taking some time to answer some questions, I appreciate it.

Brian: No worries man I enjoyed it, thanks.


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Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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