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At 18, he was tapped by Jimmie Vaughan to join the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and two years later, following the tragic death of Stevie Ray Vaughan, he and fellow Austin guitar ace Charlie Sexton teamed with SRV’s Double Trouble rhythm section, drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon, to form the band Arc Angels.
As if being the lead guitarist of the multimillion-selling rock bands Alter Bridge and Creed weren't enough, Mark Tremonti, is once again active with his solo project, Tremonti. Mark chats exclusively with Guitar Interactive Magazine editor, Jonathan Graham during his recent sold-out show in London in support on the latest Tremonti release, 'A Dying Machine.'
Every lasting legacy remains rooted in an undying urge to grow. After two decades at the forefront of all things guitar, a Grammy Award win, 40 million-plus units sold between Alter Bridge, Creed, and his eponymous Tremonti, and countless other accolades, Mark Tremonti once again summited an uncharted creative peak in 2018.
For the very first time, the guitarist and singer crafted an immersive concept and accompanying novel for Tremonti’s fourth full-length album and first for Napalm Records, A Dying Machine. As passionate about authors like Gene Wolfe and George R.R. Martin as he is about hard rock and heavy metal, the multitalented musician architected a big screen-worthy tale amplified by his most cohesive sonic vision to date.
“I’d never done anything like this,” Mark admits. “I had the vision in mind the entire time. Some songs directly relate to the narrative, while some of them are more ambiguous. Even with the concept, it’s very personal. At its core, this is a human story, but with a twist.”
Since emerging in 2012, he and his bandmates—Eric Friedman (backing vocals / guitar / bass) and Garrett Whitlock (drums)—have built the foundation for such an ambitious statement. Their full-length debut 'All I Was' and the follow-up records 'Cauterize' and 'Dust' has earned the band a very strong following. The band has supported these records with extensive headlining gigs and festival appearances everywhere from Rock on the Range to Shiprocked.
In the minutes leading up to an Alter Bridge show in Hungary, the idea for this opus serendipitously arrived.
“I was warming up on guitar, and I just started writing this chord progression and singing over it,” he recalls. “The words, ‘You’re a dying machine’ came out. I thought about the subject matter throughout the night.”
That story unfolds as an emotionally charged narrative, spanning obsession, unrequited love, and destruction. The plot takes place at the turn of the next century, and the plan is to have the novel available at the same time as the record release.
Once again, he joined forces with longtime producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette (Slash, Alter Bridge) for recording in Orlando during late 2017. Beyond generating a pristine tone on Tremonti’s signature PRS MT-15 amp, the guys approached the sessions “more prepared than ever in the past.”
Fittingly, the band introduces this body of work with the title track “A Dying Machine.” Muscular and mechanized riffing spirals out towards an airy hook and hypnotic fingerstyle solo.
“I felt like ‘A Dying Machine’ was the perfect way to invite listeners into this world,” explains Tremonti.
The album itself kicks off fueled by the speed demon six-string death march of “Bringer of War.” A melodically massive hook underscores the apocalyptic landslide of down-picking and fiery fretwork.
“It’s about a warmonger with no pity who is just hell-bent on destruction,” he elaborates.
Tremonti explores a new guitar tuning on the track, “Trust”.
“That’s a sound we’ve never embraced with the tuning and chord voicings. There’s a new mood to it.”
The crystalline blues-style tones of “The First The Last” belie a raw intensity of a different nature as the band “gets away with writing an emotionally charged song, because it’s in a fictional landscape,” laughs Tremonti. “You could liken it to somebody losing everything they ever cared about.”
The conclusion “Found” represents the biggest departure as it ends the album with an instrumental industrialized hum evocative of Massive Attack. It literally replicates the sound of A Dying Machine.
Meanwhile, the first single “Take You With Me” hinges on an airtight thrash gallop before an expansive and entrancing chorus.
He adds, “It’s basically saying, ‘Be proud of who you are. Be proud of whatever scars you have. Don’t ever forget where you came from. Stand up for yourself, and I’ll help you do it. You’re smarter and stronger than you’ll ever know. It’s someone trying to raise somebody up.’“
With extensive headline runs over the past few years and on the horizon plus a European tour supporting Iron Maiden, Tremonti continues to grow into an ambitious hard rock force. The latest single from the band’s Napalm Records release, 'A Dying Machine.' “Throw Them To The Lions” is an up-tempo metal song, something that Tremonti has come to be known for over their multiple releases through the years. The video was filmed at a recent sold-out show in the UK.
“This is an emotional record,” states Tremonti. “I want fans to get a lot of emotion out of it. I’m very proud of the lyrics. I hope they stand out as much as anything else on the record.”
Be sure to check out Nick Jennison's full review of the PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti Signature Amp as featured back in issue 57's main reviews section.
Tremonti's 'A Dying Machine' is out now, via Napalm Records.
'A Dying Machine' tracklist:
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