Just before Alter Bridge release their fourth studio album, the impressive "Fotress", we had the chance for a quick chat with bassist Brian Marshall. Of course, this would have been a completely different interview if we had the chance to listen to album before it took place, but yet we managed to find out some interesting things about the creation of "Fortress" and confirm that Brian is a super cool guy, who (along with drummer Scott Philips) contributes a lot more than meets the eye, so as to keep Alter Bridge on the top of their game.
Hi Brian, how are you?
I’m good thank you, how are you?
I’m fine too. Is this the first time you talk to a Greek media?
Very nice. Congratulations for what you’ve achieved until now with Alter Bridge. Rock music needs to find new heroes and leaders and you’re definitely among them...
Wow, thank you very much. That means a lot.
So, how do you feel as the release date of "Fortress" is approaching?
We’re all just so excited. This is the general feeling around here. It’s great to have the album out there, not only for our fans, but for us as a band as well, because we haven’t played together in front of an audience for over a year. Everybody has been kind of sidetracked. Myles went out with Slash, some stuff with Creed, and we had our solo projects that we worked on. But, we all managed to find the time and schedule our busy lives to get down and concentrate on the writing of the record. We got together three different times, each time about a week, we got together for one week, three times. We just sat down and we wrote this album and I’m very happy with how it turned out. We are all very excited to go out there and play our new songs for our European fans, it’s overdue and it’s an understatement to say we’re excited about it. We have a very good feeling...
Well, I’m pretty sure about it, but unfortunately, I haven’t listened to the album yet. So, give us an overview of it. How would you describe it in comparison to your previous works?
I believe -in my opinion and I think that a lot of the people that have heard it agree with me- it’s much more simple. It seems that this album is really good and contains a few new changes, but it just happened the way that it happened in the writing section. I think some of the material was initially for Mark’s solo project and when he was writing for his solo project he was focused more on his metal side. He had some things that were left over from it and he presented them to us. He said 'take a hook here, take a hook there' and we kind of built on them, built on one little part when we were writing. I think that the tempos and the speed of the music came from this mindset.
Now, Mark mentioned in an early interview that you wanted to go be closer to "Blackbird", rather than "ABIII" and I agree with him that "Blackbird" is up to now your masterpiece. What is that element from "Blackbird" you wanted to have the most?
When we were writing "Blackbird" there was a lot things we were going through. There were some changes taking place with the record company and with our management. It was a dark time for us and we had a lot of time to write the songs for "Blackbird" as well. I think these songs had this emotion that really came out in the writing of the record, and you can see that in the song "Blackbird" in particular, which turned out to be a whole journey for us. I think that this type of songs is what really resonated with us at the time, and in turn it really resonated with our audience. I don’t necessarily think that we set out on "Fortress" to do that, to have that sound or write that type of songs, but naturally that’s what we like. It just kind of happened that way and I don’t think we even discussed it. You don’t really have to even talk about it. Those are the kind of songs that we like to play for our audience and I think there’s a few on the record "Fortress". One of them is the title track, another one is "The Cry Of Achilles" and another one is "Calm The Fire". I think we have a few songs on the record that really have this sound, but it just turned out this way. It’s something that happened...
You’ve recorded fourteen songs yet only twelve made it to the album. Will the two remaining be part of a special edition? Also, who decides and based on what, which songs should stay out of the album? I’ve been wondering from your previous albums because your bonus tracks are also great.
Oh thank you. Well, when we finished recording all of the tracks and we got to the mixing process we started talking about the songs, but I think we pretty much immediately found -at least for me- which songs won’t make it to the album. I can’t think of too many times where we decided instantly, but on this attempt it was pretty apparent which songs wouldn’t make it to the record. They just didn’t seem to fit. Automatically. They didn’t have the right feeling. You know, that’s okay. You can’t have all the songs into an album. Nothing is perfect... So, that’s how it worked for "Fortress". We usually have bonus tracks for different countries, so when it’s released there we’ll have them out as well.
"Addicted To Pain" is the first single and video and it seems has served its purpose well. Why was this song chosen? Were there any other options on the table?
Yeah. There was "Addicted To Pain" and I think our other choice was "Cry A River". "Cry A River" was kindah based on the similar metallic attitude. I’m glad we ended up choosing "Addicted To Pain" instead of "Cry A River". Myles and Mark were in Europe to promote the album and Roadrunner was talking about making a video, so we talked with Dan that did our last DVD and he came back with an idea, so when they guys got back to New York we did the video down here in one day in an old venue. It’s basically a performance video, the band playing live...
You’ve been in a band like Creed that is huge in the U.S. but never really made it in Europe, while Alter Bridge was almost immediately embraced. What’s the factor that made the difference?
I’m not really sure. Creed didn’t tour Europe. We decided to tour mostly in North America, as we have a success there and we just continued to do that. Alter Bridge, I’m not sure, I guess we’ve toured Europe many-many times and we do well and we have a great fanbase over there, especially in some countries. We spent a lot of time over there, because we really wanted to capture that audience. I’m not sure if Creed is related to Alter Bridge being more accepted in Europe, because there is not a Creed saturation whereas there is a big Creed saturation in America... I don’t know, I’m not saying that this is the reason, I can’t be sure. It is what it is. We have put a lot of effort to be recognized overseas, in Australia, in Italy etc. They know we’ll always be coming back and every time we come back we have this special embrace. We love that. It makes us want to come back even more. And every time we return, the show becomes better and better.
I’ve travelled twice in the UK to see you playing live and soon I’ll have a third time, so I’ve seen how much people adore you there, especially at the Wembley gig that was shot for DVD. That night was special, wasn’t it?
Oh that’s great! I’m glad you made the trip man! Definitely the night at Wembley was special. It is a very nostalgic venue as it has tremendous energy and history. A lot of bands with a lot of talent have played there and being able to capture a DVD was pretty cool.
Well, on the other hand in Greece you’re not that famous, even though during the last couple of years your fanbase has expanded. Everyone here believes that Alter Bridge it’s too expensive for a show to take place because there are not equally many fans as in the other countries. Would you play in front of smaller audience and open up to our country?
Sure! We wouldn’t have any problem with that at all. Obviously, we’d like to come over there, but we’re touring this year with more a best-of set and now I guess it’s hard now to happen, but probably next year we’ll be over there (in Europe) playing more of the new record and it means that we can come to Greece and if we come there and play our show, I think the next time we’ll come there will be more people. It’s one of these things that the management decides, the business managers take care of it and at the end of the day, we all have to keep our lights on... that’s what we have to do.
Now, something I’ve noticed. The title of your first album contains the word 'One', the third album title is obvious and on the fourth we have "Four-tress". Could there be a 'two' I am missing in "Blackbird" or is it a coincidence?
Hahaha. It’s totally just coincidence!
Now, let me ask you about Creed. How are things going in that camp? The internet is always full of rumors and things don’t seem that stable. What’s the status there?
Umm, I don’t really know. We attempted to get together earlier this year, but it got a little bit difficult. It was hard to find to time to get together and to get in the studio. Finding time to be together is getting difficult. Everyone had their own plans; we weren’t on the same page, so it didn’t happen. I don’t know what is going to happen in the future. I sure would like to see Creed together again. I think in the future it’s going to happen. Well, it’s still there but it hasn’t materialized yet.
As a bass player, who have been the ones that inspired you and influenced your playing the most?
Umm, growing up early on I was always interested in rhythm section, I was even associated with a marching band and I had an interest in drums and percussion. I kind of gravitated to Neil Peart and Getty Lee, Nicko McBrain, John Coltrane and John Bonham. Those are who I followed and these were the influences that I started with. Then I started to train and writing my own bass parts.