"We're at the right point of our career at the right time"
Many exciting things are happening in the Alter Bridge camp right now and we found the chance to talk about them with the band’s bass player, Brian Marshall. Their new live album, the rarities compilation, the upcoming shows at Royal Albert Hall with the orchestra, the tenth anniversary of "Blackbird" and how we have to move on from the tragic deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington are just some of the topics we managed to discuss in this interview.
Hey Brian. How are you doing?
I’m good, thank you. How are you?
I’m fine too, thank you very much. It’s always a pleasure having the chance to talk with you…
There are several things happening in the Alter Bridge camp right now, but I guess the most exciting ones are the upcoming Royal Albert Hall shows with the orchestra. What do you expect from these shows and what should fans expect?
Well, it’s a very exciting and prestigious show, something that we’ve never done before. We are currently working on some production for that show, some different looks, lighting looks etc. We’ve even gone as far as to kind coordinate our wardrobe a little bit, so that we don’t look like a bunch of elbowed up there in our favorite t-shirts.
But it’s exciting! There’s gonna be a 52 piece orchestra and we put a lot of thought to the setlist, so we’re gonna be playing some songs, some deep cuts from our albums that are our fans’ favorites. Ones that always our fans have been saying “why don’t you play this?”, “why don’t you play that?”, “this is my favorite song!”. Well, with five albums now, it’s hard to please everybody, but these are some songs that we’ve only played a few times live and some others not at all. We’re very excited to be able to break that.
It’s gonna be a very special night - two nights actually – for our fans and then later on a DVD forever.
Like I said there’s a lot of preparation for it, even down to the orchestra arrangements. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. Everybody’s got to be on target with the click track and the whole orchestra is going to be on a click track, so there’s a lot of thinking with everybody to be on the same page, to pull it off.
There’s a lot of preparation, but it’s exciting and it’s going to be a great show for our fans.
"We wanted to hold on for the video component, cause there’s Royal Albert Hall and we’ll capture that show"
Are there any particular songs that are you looking forward to find out how they will sound with the orchestra?
Well, like I said we had a lot of the arrangements come in with the guy that’s putting it together, so we’ve kind of heard what’s going to be going on and we’ve made some changes here and there. So, we’ve heard it and I think it’s great, but as far as which songs are gonna be, I don’t want to do that; I want it to be a surprise.
You’re putting out a live album from your show at the O2 Arena in London, last November. I was there and it was a great show that deserved to be captured, but my first question was “why only audio and not a DVD as well”?
We actually chose songs from the whole UK run. There were some songs that weren’t on the live at the O2, that are actually not played that night, so we recorded our entire UK run. So, we would have had to have cameras along with us the whole time, which is a whole different setup and production… more trucks and that sort of things.
It was something that we kind of just wanted to do as an audio thing. We knew that in the end we were still gonna come back and do the Royal Albert Hall shows, so that’s the reason actually. We wanted to hold on for the video component, cause there’s Royal Albert Hall and we’ll capture that show…
…And we’ve done it before. We’ve done “Live At Wembley” and we did “Live At Amsterdam”, so it’s something that we had done before.
We thought it would be cool for the fans and also because of the fact that it’s not only the live at the 02 Arena, as it’s gonna have some b-sides and rarities that are included on that. There are some songs from way back, from “One Day Remains” like “Cruel Sun”, “Solace” and “Breathe”. These are all songs that were written in the “One Day Remains” era of the band and just weren’t ever formally released. So, there are gonna be b-sides on this “Live At The 02 Arena” as well, that weren’t released before and some people have probably never heard them, as they were released in different countries all over the world.
It’s gonna drop September 8th , it’s mixed and recorded by Brian Sperber. We chose the live at the 02 because it is our biggest headline show to date and we really wanted to capture it. There’s gonna be exclusive packages on alterbridge.com and there are also exclusive packages on shop.napalmrecords.com and I think that one also has a book and a making of DVD.
Up to the release date we’re releasing tracks from it. We’ve released “The Other Side” and a live version of “Metalingus”. We’ve got a lot of stuff coming up…
""New Way To Live" could have even been a single choice us"
You already mentioned the b-sides compilation, which in my opinion are pretty much… a-sides. Do you hear any of them and wonder “how the hell didn’t this end up on the album”?
Yeah! One of my favorite b-sides from “Blackbird” was “New Way To Live”. I think that that song is kind of lengthy, but it could have even been a single choice us. But, at the end of the day we gathered all together and discussed it and we decided on the ones we wanted to hold off on.
I like ‘em all. When I listen back to them, after a few years even, they’re very special. They didn’t make the record yes, but at the end of the day it’s still part of it and they see the light of day with this release at least (laughs)…
If I’m not mistaken you have even more b-sides like “Save Me” for example. Are there more you didn’t include in this compilation?
“Save Me” in on there, isn’t it?
No, it’s not…
Oh! This is a b-side track I believe… I’m not sure why this one didn’t make it, but I’m sure pretty much all the rest of them did. We’ve kind have stumbled on something there, cause “Save Me” was a b-side.
Yeah, that’s not in there! But, then again, it’s one of my favorites. Actually, when we sound check somebody always breaks into that riff, so it’s one we’re deeply connected to. I’m not sure why it didn’t make it to this record. Maybe we had to cut the track list a lit bit.
But, there’s “New Way To Live”, “Damage Done”, “We Don’t Care At All”, “Zero”, “Home”, “Never Born To Follow”, “Outright”, “Last Of Our Kind”… There’s quite a few on that…
"If you’re into a more intimate show, in clubs with one thousand or two thousand, even up to three or four thousand, you can’t really get that much production in there."
I’ve seen you playing a handful of times, including two times at Wembley Arena and this time around in O2 Arena you had a better production with video walls, visuals and stuff. Are you planning to invest more on these aspects of stage production or you prefer to have a more lean production and just rock the place each and every time?
It depends on the venue, really. It’s nice to be able to have some imagery with the kind of complements, the band behind us or things going on.
If you’re going to a live show and it’s a big show, I think they really help the situation. But, if you’re into a more intimate show, in clubs with one thousand or two thousand, even up to three or four thousand, you can’t really get that much production in there. So, you can bring some lighting and stuff, but as far as bringing in a bigger production you have to pick your battle.
That particular run last summer we were doing some bigger headline shows and we wanted to get the fans something to remember. When we can afford to do that, certainly we will.
"Alter Bridge is steadily growing. It just seems that we’re at the right point of our career at the right time"
Almost a year after the release of “The Last Hero” what do you think of it and how much did change things for you?
I think it was a good album for us. I think it has a lot of people connected with it. I don’t know if there was much of a drastic change from our previous efforts at all really. Maybe there was a little bit of a change in how we went about recording and writing the record, but a lot of it was just keep doing what we do best.
But, as far as overall Alter Bridge, I don’t know… I mean, we were already playing in Europe and even in the United States and all over the world. We’ve been in Australia… And it always seems that Alter Bridge is steadily growing. We’re never over the top. It just seems that we’re at the right point of our career at the right time. I don’t think we want much more or much less. We just want to continue to grow as a band and hopefully connect with people. And hopefully they’ll connect with the songs and with the band, cause we’re all about performing and connecting with them, on all types of platforms.
""Blackbird"’s biggest success is creating something that was so meaningful to people"
This October marks the 10th anniversary of “Blackbird”. I think it’s a milestone for your career, but also for rock music in general for the current millennium. Do you have any nice story to share about it? Or you could just share your thoughts about it and how you see its success now ten years later.
“Blackbird” was our second record and we were going through a lot internally and also personally. We had a lot of time to develop that record and it’s a lot of people’s favorite record. It’s not so much my favorite record. My favorite record is the following one, “ABIII”.
Looking back on it, it seems to connect with a lot of fans as there was a lot of emotion that went on to it, because of all the things that we were going through in our lives. I think, in fact, the biggest success right there is creating something that was so meaningful to people – through all the things that was going on in our lives – it was a very encouraging time. It really came about in our music and in that song in particular. The song “Blackbird” is very important to a lot of people and to us. There’s many tattoos with the “Blackbird” logo and it’s mind blowing that it connected with so many people. When you see that on a constant basis you’re like… (laughs)… I haven’t seen so many “The Last Hero” tattoos as I’ve seen “Blackbird” tattoos, maybe a lot more people will connect with that in the future.
"The bigger thing is people becoming aware of depression and anxiety"
Being one of the most active and maybe popular bands in the current scene of hard rock music, I’d like to how much you’ve been influenced by the tragic death of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. Has something changed in the rock in the wake of these events?
Well, it’s a tragedy when you hear the news of your peers passing away by inflicting harm on themselves. They had family and children and they were all involved. You know, that really hit home, especially when you met them maybe, went on a tour with them or even be close friends with them. And I know Myles was speaking with Chris on a several occasions. I didn’t know either one of them, but I was a huge fan of their music.
It’s very sad. I don’t know if it changed anything. I guess the bigger thing maybe is just awareness. People becoming aware of depression and anxiety and the things that can lead a person to be with them. You listen to the music after the facts and the warning signs are kind of there. Then you think “why didn’t someone do something?“, but maybe they didn’t reach out on a personal basis to have that option.
I’m sorry it happened. Hopefully awareness will come to light and this kind of things will at least start to be discussed in a more widespread way to help others. Cause it seems like the last couple of years it’s happening more and more, so hopefully awareness will come to light for a person in danger of hurting himself.
"A lot of our music lyrically can speak to people"
Let’s end this on a positive note. Alter Bridge have always addressed issues of dealing with darkness and trying to find the light in life through their lyrics, so I guess you help in a way towards this awareness…
Well, thank you! I certainly hope so. There’s something to be said for that. I think you hit the nail on the head with that. A lot of our music lyrically can speak to people. As I said they have lyrics on their arms. For example “All Ends Well” is a favorite song for a lot of people and I see its lyrics all the time on people’s bodies. It’s really cool to see that. I hope they can take away from something to enlighten them in the future.