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— by Joe D'Angelo

With a lineup that's essentially the original incarnation of Creed minus Scott Stapp, Alter Bridge seem like Mark Tremonti's attempt at backtracking to a simpler time, before the Stapp-related tensions that eventually crippled the group ever began.

Still, the guitarist insists Alter Bridge are no Creed continuation. With Creed having run their course — a forthcoming greatest-hits album notwithstanding — the energies of Tremonti, drummer Scott Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall are focused on their future with new singer Myles Kennedy. And since none of the bandmembers has spoken to Stapp in the four months since the split, it doesn't look like Creed will be rising from the ashes anytime soon (see "Creed Break Up").

Not that Alter Bridge have been sitting around: The band has already completed its debut album, One Day Remains (due August 10), and Alter Bridge begin a five-week acoustic tour in July, performing for radio stations in much the same way that Creed did before "My Own Prison" became the radio smash that opened so many doors. A full-scale tour is scheduled for September.

As Alter Bridge prepare to introduce themselves to the world with their first single, "Open Your Eyes," the bandmembers discussed the group's formation, their future and why they're ready to let their memories of Creed go, like water under a bridge.

MTV: What's an Alter Bridge?

Mark Tremonti: Alter Bridge is a bridge in [my birthplace] Detroit that the families there wouldn't let their kids cross, because it was this really great neighborhood on one side, and the other was a drug-infested, horrible place. To me and the other kids at that time, it represented the unknown. It was kind of like this band going in this new direction. The symbolism is that we don't know what's to come.

MTV: You obviously didn't need to put a "musician wanted" ad in the weekly music paper, but how exactly did the band come together?

"Towards the end of Creed, me and [drummer Scott] Phillips would talk about how we were always going to stay together and work in the future."
Tremonti: Towards the end of Creed, me and [drummer Scott] Phillips would talk about how we were always going to stay together and work in the future. When Creed was finally over, we talked about calling Brian, because he fit with us so well. We're used to playing with him. So I called Brian in October, and we hit it off like old friends. Once Brian was on board, we had tryouts for singers, and Myles just shined above all the rest. He had that passion in his voice, and he was on the same page: He wanted it just as bad as we did.

MTV: So you guys hadn't kept in touch with Brian since he was fired from the band in August 2000?

Brian Marshall: I just took some time to clear my head. I did a lot of leisure activities, and then I got back into music. I built a studio at my house. I started doing some writing and recording with a band [Grand Luxx] and we actually started playing some shows and things started rolling when Mark called me. I had kind of moved to a different role, kind of a musician/producer sort of thing. So when this came along, I was real excited to come back and play with these guys. I've been missing them so bad, and just hearing Mark and Flip [Phillips] play again ... it's like a rebirth. Real exciting.

MTV: You were fired right after you publicly insulted Eddie Vedder when a radio DJ compared Creed to Pearl Jam for what must have been the umpteenth time. Was that it, or was there more to the story?

Marshall: It was a real low point for me. Ultimately, for the band to progress, it had to happen. Stapp and I were at our wits' end. He and I couldn't share a stage together anymore, or even a room for that matter. It was an unhealthy relationship and, for the good of the band, I was unceremoniously dismissed.

MTV: Did it mean something to you that your replacement, Bret Hestla, was always considered a touring bassist and never a full-fledged member of the band?

Marshall: I think probably there was some discussion about bringing in another bass player, and they didn't find somebody or it just wasn't the right time or they were just waiting for the right moment to call me back. It was one of those things. But yes, it meant something. I felt like I was never replaced. It's nice to be able to jump back in.

MTV: How did Myles come into the picture?

Myles Kennedy: Apparently, they were fans of mine when [my former band, Mayfield Four] opened for Creed in 1998. We didn't know each other that well or anything, and then I got a call from Mark around November. He sent me some tunes, and I sang on them. Apparently he liked them, because I'm sitting here now.

MTV: What was your first impression when you heard the new music? Could you immediately imagine yourself singing it?

Kennedy: My first impression was that they had that [Creed] sound. The music was so melodic, so intense, so beautiful. Mark's the man. There's one track in particular, called "Down on My Last," [that gave me] instant goose bumps. The minute I heard it, I knew that it would work for the way I sing.

MTV: So how exactly do you sing? Did you have any formal training before Mayfield Four?

Kennedy: I started off as a rock guitar player, and when I decided to sing, the whole "grunge" scene was happening in Seattle, so I didn't want to cop their deal. I was really trying my best to find my own voice. I remember as a kid hearing Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life and really gravitating towards that. And I had a friend who turned me on to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, and that's where I really cut my teeth, on those two records. I just listened to them constantly and absorbed them as best I could. I didn't listen to rock for a few years. I was basically just an R&B guy. But I don't know who I really sound like now. I'm sure people are going to try to compare me [to other singers]. For the last 10 or 12 years the big thing has been baritones; there haven't been a lot of tenors. There's only a handful of them out there still singing rock and roll, so I don't know where people are going to throw me. I'm working really hard to establish my own voice, something unique that hopefully people will enjoy.

MTV: Even though most of the tracks were written when recording started two months ago, Myles was still able to contribute. How is working with him different from writing songs with Scott Stapp?

Tremonti: It's great, because Myles has worked hard for years, and he lives music just like us. He got out there with Mayfield Four. It didn't work out the way that he wanted it to, and I think that this is his second chance. When we break out a guitar, we have a whole crew of people who want nothing more than to make this happen, so we'll work around the clock. That's the main difference: the level of drive. You need that to really survive.

MTV: Myles, are you prepared for the inevitable comparisons to Stapp's style? Have the other guys given you any advice on how to deal with critics?

Kennedy: Absolutely. The comparisons are inevitable. All I can do is just be honest and do my best. These guys established their legacy with Creed, but that's Creed and this is Alter Bridge. I hope that the fans can understand that these guys wanted to move on and start something new. And we'll do our best to establish something that will hopefully mean something to them, hopefully as much.

MTV: How do you guys define Alter Bridge in terms of your career? As an extension of your success with Creed, or are you starting over at square one?

Tremonti: Well, we're definitely not going to start out touring arenas. We're going to concentrate on playing some smaller venues, like House of Blues at first, and really start over from the grass roots. We're not going to do shows opening for other bands — maybe here and there for big acts, just to say that we did. We mostly just want to go out there and start to earn every fan all over again.

MTV: But if the cycle repeats itself, are you worried about the same kind of thing that happened with Creed eventually happening to Alter Bridge? Have you instituted any precautions?

Tremonti: When Creed was at its wits' end and this band was starting to become something, Phillips and I made a pact that we weren't going to do this unless it was fun, and that if we had to continuously battle [with each other] to make this happen, then it wasn't worth it. We would rather just move down to the [Florida] Keys, play in cover bands and have fun. It's all about the fun. If we start noticing this getting tense and turning into too much of a business, I think we'll take a step back and really rethink it.

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Photo: Wind-Up Records

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