You've sold 30 million albums and are one of the most beloved rock bands of the last decade. So calling it quits can't be easy. But that's what Creed did when they stalled making their fourth album. For guitarist Mark Tremonti and drummer Scott Phillips, it was a chance to start over again.
First they made peace with their past by inviting Brian Marshall back into the fold; the bassist and founding member of Creed was fired from the group in 2000. Then Myles Kennedy, a belter more into Sam Cooke than Pearl Jam, was asked to be their front-man. Taking their name from a street crossing into the seedy neighborhood near Tremonti's home town, Alter Bridge went back to basics. There was no pressure to craft the radio hits on which Creed built its rep. Instead, Tremonti decided, they'd focus on his "rock 'n' roll roots" in the '70s.
Alter Bridge's Top 5 debut album, One Day Remains, is a little more complex than that. Sure, on their hit "Open Your Eyes" you can hear the big choruses and spiritual vibe that gave Creed their heft. But a new singer has let Tremonti explore a larger sonic palette. There are graceful acoustic melodies and scorching guitar solos. It's the satisfying sound of hearing old pros exercising some new muscles.
VH1 caught up with the guys around lunch time. As they chowed down, we talked about Marshall's return, how they nearly became Downright, and why you'll never hear them playing "With Arms Wide Open."
VH1: Brian, what was your reaction when you got the news that Creed had split and Mark wanted you for a new band?
Brian Marshall: I was ecstatic. I had gotten the word from management that something was going on and that Mark was gonna call. I was like "What could this be about?" We talked for maybe 30 minutes or so. He gave me the lowdown on the situation and I was really taken aback. I wasn't expecting that. That day was pretty exciting. Everything had come around again.
VH1: Why did you need Brian back on bass?
Mark Tremonti: It was the right time in everybody's healing process to get back with Brian. There had been three-plus years since we had actually spoken. Brian was there from the beginning with Creed; we were all close friends and understood each other's playing style. We wanted to get that bond back together. Some of our fondest memories are from sitting in my living room and working on the very first Creed songs. We wanted to get back to our "happy place," I guess you could say, and Brian is part of that.
Brian: While I wasn't with the band, I still was very much a part of it. I still lived it. I knew what was going on even though I wasn't there. I knew how the band interacted and I kinda knew what was going to happen. I'm glad to be with these guys. It says a lot to me about their characters and even my own. It answered a lot of questions for me. It goes to show that democracy does work on a smaller scale.
VH1: What was the initial reaction with the label when you told them Creed had split?
Scott Phillips: I don't think it was a surprise. We'd been off the road for a year when we sorta officially told everybody. I think a lot of people knew about it, even outside our circle. I don't think we were scared to tell them. We were really excited more than anything else. It was kinda like, "Well, all right. Creed's done, but we got this new band that I think is gonna be really good."
VH1: Mark has said he's gone back to his rock 'n' roll roots with you guys. How?
Mark: Well, for me rock and roll roots are the '70s. I was six by the time it was 1980, but I really got into KISS and Ted Nugent and Bad Company, these bands that really had guitar-heavy stuff and great instrumentation. I think towards the end of the Creed days, the songs were really concentrated on [sounding good on radio]. This record is exactly how we wanted it to be in our minds.
VH1: Myles, you're in a band with three guys who've played together for years. How's life as the new guy?
Myles Kennedy: [jokingly] Other than the constant hazing and insults, it's great! When I came down to Orlando I wasn't sure what to expect. Obviously they had been a huge band, and that often comes with a certain amount of ego and character defects. None of that existed with these guys. They're all very down-to-earth, very grounded. That makes it really easy to lock in to and feel comfortable.
VH1: I read that you gave up music after your band the Mayfield Four folded because you had tinnitus.
Myles: I think that article made it worse than it was. I did discover that I had it around that time, and I was definitely taking some time away from rock 'n' roll because I wasn't sure about my ears. There were a few reasons actually. I was burned out. I was disillusioned. The tinnitus thing was a drag, but I learned to work around it.
VH1: How did the addition of Myles affect the music you three were making?
Mark: Well, with Myles, you don't ever have to worry about him not hitting notes. A lot of times when I write melodies, I write [using] my falsetto, which is all over the place! As soon as Myles hears any melody he can pick it up right away. Myles is a really disciplined singer. He practices all day long, which in turn makes us wanna practice all day long. It's good to have four really dedicated musicians in the band.
VH1: Mark came up with the name. What were the other options?
Scott: [jokingly] Scott Rules and These Other Guys Suck, but it was too long.
Mark: Downright was high on the list. We tried that one, but the "Down" was overplayed. We thought of band names for months and months and would write them down. Myles was staying at my house, so late at night - sometimes 'til 2 or 3 in the morning - we'd go through books and come up with phrases and words and everything [like that]. We kept on looking for names.
Brian: For us it was really important to have some symbolism in the name. All the names we came up with didn't have any kind of substance to it. I didn't really like [Alter Bridge] at first, but it grew on me.
Scott: It was very personal to Mark because it very much is where he grew up. Once he explained the story and the symbolism behind it, it kinda sunk in with for all of us. It wasn't personal to us physically but we can all understand it.
VH1: Is the first single "Open Your Eyes" directed at Creed's singer Scott Stapp?
Mark: No. That is definitely not the case. That song is just pretty much about the situations we had all been going through. We felt like a unit. We felt like we could get through all this stuff together, with friends and family to support you.
Scott: You can't help it. There are going to be people who think every song on the album is about Scott.
VH1: You said you'd never play Creed songs. Are you proud of that work? Do you feel like you'll neglect it by not playing them?
Scott: Proud of it? Yes. Neglecting it? No. people will always have those CDs. I don't think it's fair to have Myles do a bunch of Creed songs. It's not fair to our fans who love Creed for Creed, or for all four of us. Scott was obviously a very big part of that. It's not fair to Scott or for us to go out and do a bunch of Creed songs without him.