Tremonti is releasing two albums this year and planning one with his other band, Alter Bridge, for 2016. As for Creed? “You never say never,” says the guitarist. Photo by Atlas Icons / Steve Legato.
Let’s talk about some of the songs on Cauterize. On “Arm Yourself,” the solo is very languid, and you play some country-sounding double-stop bends.
I like the opportunity to do a solo that’s a little untypical of me. Playing a fingerstyle thing made it different from the rest of the album. I like giving myself a challenge like that. I’ve been getting into fingerstyle stuff recently. Actually, my fingers are killing me today, because I went full blast at it the other night on an acoustic guitar. It just about tore up my three fingers because they’re not used to it. Maybe there will be more fingerstyle on the next record. Who knows?
“Dark Trip” is a very somber song, but you offset the overall sound with a screaming solo.
I’m glad you pointed that one out. The “Dark Trip” solo could be one of my favorites on both the records. It was one I wanted to put a ton of emotion into. It’s not too much flash, but it’s got just the right amount of notes. I wanted it to be powerful, but also something that would just sing.
“Fall Again” is a strange track—in a good way. Did you always have that ominous reverse delay intro and outro?
I did, yeah. When Creed was breaking up and I was putting Alter Bridge together, I bought a studio and took some engineering courses. I bought a Pro Tools rig and recorded about 10 songs. “Fall Again” was one of them. That intro was me doing volume swells with my guitar. I found this really great preset on a plugin called Atmosphere—it sounds incredible—so I used that for the intro and outro. Actually, what you hear is from a demo I did in 2001 or 2002. We tried to recreate it, but the original demo sounded great, so we just kept it.
In the outro to the song “Cauterize,” you play a delicate fingerstyle version of the chorus. Is that how you first came up with the song?
That was actually the whole origin of the song. I was playing that part and really liked the melody, so I started singing over it, and I thought it was a great chorus. The fingerpicked part got kicked to the curb, but I didn’t want to let it go to waste, so I brought it back for the outro. I play that kind of thing at home. I sit down to write and I float around on some fingerstyle stuff, and before I know it a melody comes out, which I have to chase down. I get a lot of ideas that way.
You’ve worked with Elvis for quite a while. How does he push you creatively?
I just trust him. I know that when the album’s done, it’s going to sound amazing, and it’ll be the best it can be. In preproduction, he becomes the fifth band member in terms of arrangements and transitions. When we put together the 25 songs I wrote for these records, we worked up arrangements as quickly as possible, knowing that we were going to go back in and tear the arrangements apart during pre-production. Elvis becomes another crucial decision-maker in things like, “Hey, how can we make this transition better?” He’s just great with the flow of songs.
But do you ever lock horns? Sometimes a strong dissenting opinion can be a good kick in the pants.
We rarely butt heads like that. The only disagreement we had on this record was when he said that “Arm Yourself” was his least-favorite song, which took us all by surprise. We were all like, “Wow, that’s one of our favorites.” It’s probably the heaviest song on the record. By the time we recorded it and it was time for me to do vocals, he was like, “You know, this is a really fun song.” I was like, “See? I told you.”
This live clip gives a up-close look at Mark Tremonti annihilating his fretboard on the title track to his new album, “Cauterize,” including a cool fingerpicked outro.
First impressions are always tough. That’s the toughest thing about being a producer: Bands have lived with stuff for months or years, and you’re just hearing their material for the first time. Not everything is an instant listen. With “Arm Yourself,” I think that song just took him a minute to figure out.
Are there any plans to do a Creed record or tour? Obviously, Scott Stapp has had some issues recently …
We don’t have any plans right now. I’ve got so much going on at the moment that I’m happy with, so it’d be tough to fit in anything else right now. But you never say never. We just haven’t had anybody approach us and say, “These people want you for a tour,” or “So-and-so is interested in a record.” And like I said, I’ve got two records that have to come out this year, and I’ve got an Alter Bridge record next year. My plate’s pretty full at the moment. It’s all good. PG