Friday, February 19, 2010

The Tone Behind The Man

(love his faces he makes while playing--could watch him all day!)


interview w/Guitar Edge

Tell me about Creed’s newest disc Full Circle.

Tremonti: We just wanted to make a record that showed six years of gained experience since the last Creed record. We didn’t want to put together something that sounded like the last one, so we gave it a facelift, per se. That was the only real agenda that we had in mind with this album.

How did Creed get fired back up again?

Tremonti: We had new management that Scott [Stapp] had reached out to in contacting all of us to set up a meeting to talk about touring again. After that, there wasn’t any tension and everyone realized what happened in the past was something we could all overlook and move on. It would be such a shame to throw away such a unique experience to be able to go out and tour arenas again. It’s so exciting. The biggest thing we feared in our camp was having to go and dig up the past; asking who said what, and pointing blame. Thankfully, we didn’t have to do any of that so it made everything so much easier in moving forward.

Tell me about the tone you went after on Full Circle.

Tremonti: When I went to the studio we had a lot of amps to pick from. Along with the 15 or 20 heads the studio provided, I brought in eight of my amps to play with. For each song we would piece together the perfect combos. Most of the time it was a mix of the Boogie [Mesa Dual Rectifier] and the [Bogner] Uberschall together for the distorted parts. We also mixed the Diezel Herbert for some of the lower and heavier parts. We just catered to every song’s individual needs.

I remember in your earlier days you almost exclusively used all Mesa amps. What got you into mixing the Bogner Uberschall with your Mesa tone?

Tremonti: I’ve always been a big fan of mixing tones together. The [Mesa] Rectifiers have my core tone that I’ve always gravitated towards, but sometimes for lead stuff it can be a bit too bitey and harsh. So I used the Uberschall’s tone to calm it since it has a warmer and rounder sound to my ears. On that note, I’m a fan of a lot of amps. I’m an amp junkie so I get really carried away with buying amps. I was online last night and it looks like I’ll be purchasing a Cornford very soon. [Laughs]

Any other amps that have blown you away as of late?

Tremonti: I really love Bogner stuff. Every time they come out with something new, it just blows me away. I actually just bought a Shiva 1x12 Combo and that’s actually all I play on at home right now. It’s great for leads since it has such a warm tone, but it’s also something I can write and rehearse with. That thing has a more rock and roll tone compared to the edgy tone I use live, but it’s the best combo I’ve ever used. Also, I was at Rudy’s music in New York a few months ago and tried out the new Ubershall with KT88’s in it which really blew me away. Lastly, I really like the Mesa Boogie Mark V, as well.

You’re also the lead guitarist of Alter Bridge. is it difficult to maintain that position in two high profile bands at once?

Tremonti: It’s a lot of work but it’s something I enjoy. We have been working every day for the last month and a half on the next Alter Bridge album. We already have 17 song ideas arranged and we are heading to the studio before the next Creed tour this summer. Alter Bridge, to me, is an outlet for the more artsy, experimental and heavy stuff. I am able to branch out into a different area that I might not go to with Creed. Creed has more of pop sensibility that appeals to me as a guitarist, as well. So, nothing goes to waste.

What can you tell us about the direction of the next alter Bridge album?

Tremonti: The first handful of songs really started out heavier because I realized that’s what I grew up on; speed metal. My niche has always been in metal bands so my influence really showed in the beginning. After that, everyone voiced their concerns on making sure there were dynamics and intricate moods. Now, it’s turned out to be a really well-rounded record that’s getting me excited to start recording it.

You decided to go with Michael Baskette, who produced your last album, Blackbird.

Tremonti: Yes. He is a great producer because he is not afraid to raise his hand and say “Love the song—hate the part,” which normally sends our vocalist Myles Kennedy and I to our computers to scroll through all the parts of the songs to pick out something that will fit. Of all the producers I’ve worked with, he’s the one who pulls stuff apart more than anyone else and we respect him enough to let him do that. It makes the record better and it makes us better.

With Creed’s world tour coming up in the spring, this obviously won’t be an album where you spend a ton of time in the studio.

Tremonti: The Creed tour starts at the end of April, so it’s been a fire drill putting this together. I think sometimes when you’re forced to work fast and make the most of your time, it makes your brain open up in different areas that can really help make you more creative.

You make a lot of guest appearances on albums. anything new brewing in that area?

Tremonti: I don’t have anything I’ve helped out with as of late, but I did get really excited about an unsigned band from Europe. I actually have the CD right here. The band’s called Tequila Rockin’ Bird. [Laughs] A fan of ours came out to a show and gave me their demo. We put it in and were just blown away. It sounded like old school Maiden… but heavier. We ended up hooking them up with opening up for Alter Bridge for some shows on tour. The fans loved them and hopefully we can play with them again soon!

What’s your “Gear that got away” story?

Tremonti: Well, I’ve lost stuff through theft that I wish I had back. For actual gear, I wish I still had my first half stack. It was a Crate G1500. [Laughs] When you’re a kid, your first half stack is the best thing in the world. I loved it at the time. I probably wouldn’t now, but I would like to have it back as a keepsake.

You’ve had gear stolen from you?

Tremonti: I’ve been a victim twice. The first time was in Boston—it was my first Les Paul that I ever bought. I grew up on it. It was my baby and I never let anyone touch it. [Laughs] We were doing a show where there were a lot of bands playing in the same area. We were young and stupid. We had a van with a trailer that had all kinds of radio station stickers on the back so it made us a big target for theft. We woke up to finding the lock picked off on the curb.


Tremonti: You’re telling me. The second time was at our rehearsal studio. That time I lost a couple PRS's and effects racks. It’s funny because whoever stole all the stuff, stole all of the stuff that was programmable; plus my guitar. So someone came in and stole my tone. It turned out that it was someone that was fired from the rehearsal studio that still had a key.

PRS and you have had a relationship for quite a long time now. Other than your signature guitars do you have any other PRS's that you cherish?

Tremonti: One day I went to the factory and Paul handed me a 2002 or 2003 Dragon and asked me what I thought of it. I just was like, “It’s spectacular!” He responded with, “Good, because I built you one!” [Laughs] I was just blown away. I have it in a display case at home and would never play it. I don’t think it’s meant to be played; I mean the whole body is inlayed. It’s incredible. Another cool thing about the guitar was that I got the original artwork that was done by Jeff Easley, the artist behind Dungeons and Dragons. I was a huge D&D nerd growing up so that was really cool.

Any new techniques that you’d like to share with Guitar Edge readers?

Tremonti: Right now, I’m in learn-everything- I-can mode. I’ve been just scanning though YouTube looking at videos by Greg Howe, Guthrie Govan, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. I try to learn as much as I can from my favorite players. Lately, I’ve learned more from just listening to guitar players talking about their theories on simple things that you sometimes overlook.

Everyone in rock seems to be dropping their tuning, going to baritones or switching to seven strings. What are your thoughts on that?

Tremonti: PRS actually gave me a single cut 7-string that was just wicked and I’ve tried to spend a lot of time with it, but it hasn’t become natural for me yet. I get frustrated easily because I have a very limited time to play having two kids and two bands. If I sit down with it for an hour and I can’t vibe with it, I just pick up my six string to get away from it. I’ve done that time and time again with the 7-string. As for baritones, I used the PRS Mushok signature on “Time” on the Full Circle record. I liked that guitar.

Considering your speed, are you very particular about your picks?

Tremonti: I’m using Dunlop 1mm’s right now. I switched to the Jazz III’s for awhile because I thought they were my answer, but then I noticed I was having trouble picking aggressively between strings. I could fly on a single string run, but I was falling behind on some of the snappy pentatonic riffs. You don’t realize it until you pick up a pick and get used to it for a day just how much it affects your playing. I might try a heavier pick soon, though. I know Guthrie Govan swears that the heavier pick you use the better response you’ll get.

You’re also a guy who doesn’t use in-ear monitors. I understand you bring your own custom floor monitors to every show. is your hearing shot?

Tremonti: Yes. My monitors are just as big a part of my rig and tone as anything else. I rely on what I’m hearing on stage since I don’t like in-ears. As for my hearing, I got my hearing checked about a year ago and the doctor said I was average for a person my age so I’m going to keep using what I’m using. [Laughs]

You have so much going on in your life. With having a family and two touring bands, is it hard to get excited about playing sometimes?

Tremonti: Never. I get excited every time I pick up the guitar. It’s what I love to do. I especially love going to work right after writing a new record. It seems like over the years I’ve learned how to write records that are fun to play. If you write a record that’s no fun to play, it’s no fun to tour. So I’ve learned to write songs that are fun to play right from the start. That’s a big lesson that you pick up over time that keeps you loving every aspect of playing.

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