Alter Bridge have been going strong since being born out of the ashes of Creed back in 2004, with singer Myles Kennedy coming on board to complement guitarist Mark Tremonti's endless flow of riffs, solos and hooks. While the band members — rounded out by bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips — stay busy with a slew of individual and collaborative projects on the side, they've still managed to crank out a new record every two or three years, including their latest, sixth studio release, Walk the Sky, which was just released, on October 18th, via Napalm Records.
Currently on an extensive tour that will carry them into 2020, Alter Bridge are swamped right now, but Tremonti made time on a recent day-off to have a quick chat about new sources of inspiration he's tapped into — including John Carpenter's classic-horror synth lines — improvisational rappers on YouTube, his longstanding love for Slayer, and why he's always out looking for pinball machines to dominate between gigs.
YOU'RE 15 YEARS DEEP INTO THIS BAND NOW, ALL WHILE JUGGLING YOUR OWN SEPARATE PROJECTS ON THE SIDE. WHAT KEEPS YOU GUYS COMING BACK TOGETHER?
MARK TREMONTI Just chasing down the perfect song. We love the group, and we've always had a brotherhood going on and love what we do. So taking these breaks, I think, is healthy for us because we get to come back every year, year and a half, and it's fresh all over again.
ARE YOU GUYS STAYING IN CONTACT OVER THOSE BREAKS, OR DO YOU TAKE TIME AWAY AND GIVE YOURSELVES A LITTLE BREATHING ROOM?
We stay in contact. Me and Scott Phillips live right down the street from one another so we see each other many times a week. Our wives are best friends, our kids are best friends, so we're like family, really.
MYLES RECENTLY COMMENTED THAT YOU GUYS MAKE RECORD SO YOU CAN KEEP GOING OUT TO PLAY SHOWS AND CALLED ALTER BRIDGE "DEFINITELY A LIVE BAND." DO YOU FEEL THE SAME WAY?
I mean, I love the creation process — writing songs, and chasing down the best song you can write — it's been such a part of my life, striving for that, so I couldn't imagine not being able to do it anymore. But, yeah, playing onstage is the payoff.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM A BIT — I'VE SEEN YOU REFERENCE JOHN CARPENTER IN A FEW INTERVIEWS, SPECIFICALLY HOW HIS OLDER MUSIC REALLY HELPED YOU IN THE CREATIVE PROCESS. WHAT WAS THE SPARK THAT SET THAT OFF? WERE YOU WATCHING HIS OLD FILMS?
The spark that set if off for me was when I was driving and satellite radio was on, and a song called "Tech Noir" came on by a band called Gunship. I love it immediately, and I sent it to Myles and said, "This is probably my favorite song I've heard in the last year," and thought maybe we could try to incorporate some of the old-school synthwave stuff, like John Carpenteresque vibe. I'm not a huge fan of modern synthesizers in hard rock or heavy metal, but I think the old creepy original sound that came out when those first synths came about — that's my favorite style of synth.
ARE THERE OTHER MODERN BANDS DOING SIMILAR THINGS, MUSICALLY, THAT YOU ENJOY, LIKE GOST OR CARPENTER BRUT?
You know, just from hearing Gunship's stuff, I've listened to their records and dove into a few other bands. Other people along the way have told me to check out this band or that band, and they're all great! It's not something that I'm going to dive headfirst into and be my new favorite genre, but I enjoy it, for sure.
THERE'S A LOT OF EIGHTIES NOSTALGIA WRAPPED UP IN THAT GENRE WHICH, SPEAKING OF, AREN'T YOU A PINBALL ENTHUSIAST?
Absolutely, yeah. I'm on a day-off and there's no pinball! Usually every day-off, I go search for a nice pinball joint, but I couldn't find one today.
OH NO! YOU MUST HAVE A COLLECTION AT HOME?
Yeah, I do! I love collecting and trading and buying and selling … I love it. When I bought my first home over 20 years ago, I think I was buying a pool table for my game room and they just so happened to have a pinball machine in there, so I bought it and fell in love with it.
THE LAST TIME I PLAYED WAS ON ONE OF THE ADDAMS FAMILY MACHINES — IT WAS GREAT. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE?
I actually have the Addams Family machine at home, but my favorite of all time is probably Medieval Madness.
SO OUTSIDE OF SYNTHWAVE, WHERE ELSE HAVE YOU FOUND UNEXPECTED SPARKS OF INSPIRATION?
On this record, I tried to find inspiration in places I would never think of going. I'd get on YouTube and find these royalty-free, almost hip-hop grooves, and watch improvisational rappers using that kind of stuff just to get a different vibe out of it. The last record I did was my solo record — I wrote a lot of that over metal drum loops, and I was wanting to step away from that to try and get a different vibe going for this record. So I tried to tap into as much as I could and dive deeper and deeper into different tools.
WHEN YOU ARE LOOKING TO METAL FOR INSPIRATION FOR YOUR SOLO MATERIAL, WHAT ARE THE BANDS YOU GO BACK TO OVER AND OVER?
I'm still just a speed-metal guy. You know, the stuff I grew up, it predates all the modern metal with growling vocals — this was all back when people were doing speed metal and singing, and that's still my favorite era. I still love some of the newer stuff like Gojira and Opeth, Mastodon, all great bands. Back in the day, it was all Slayer and Megadeth and Metallica and Exodus and Testament.
HAVE YOU SEEN SLAYER ON THEIR FAREWELL WORLD TOUR YET?
Yeah! I mean, I've seen them so many times now. I've seen them in every form, and we've done so many shows with them now. It's been great. I remember the first time I saw them at the House Of Blues in Orlando, they just blew me away. Actually, I take that back — the first time I saw them was on the  Clash of the Titans tour. I don't know if you remember that, but it was Megadeth, Slayer … I still have the ticket at my house!
SO BACK TO WALK THE SKY: YOU'VE SAID THAT THE LAST RECORD YOU GUYS DID TOGETHER WAS REALLY STRESSFUL BECAUSE YOU HAD A TIME CRUNCH IN THE STUDIO. WHAT DID YOU DO TO PREVENT THAT THIS TIME?
Because of our touring schedules, we only had five weeks to record the record, which is just crazy to me. When I heard that, I pushed back as much as I could, but it was just kind of one of those things where everybody throws their hands up and says, "It's just what it is, and we have to deal with it!" So Myles and I took it upon ourselves to create fully fleshed-out demos, whereas before we would just have ideas with multiple parts, then we would get together and put each and every song together.
This time around the record is pretty much half my demos and half his demos thrown together, then we would get with the rest of the band and put the Alter Bridge spin on it.
I KNOW MYLES DOES MOST OF THE LYRIC WRITING, THOUGH YOU'VE HANDLED SOME, TOO. HOW INVOLVED ARE YOU WITH THE SUBJECT MATTER YOU'RE TACKLING IN THE ALTER BRIDGE SONGS?
Yeah, I do lyrics. Like on this record, I wrote all the lyrics to "Godspeed" and the song "Forever Falling." Then I wrote a lot of the the melodies, like I would write the key lines that would kind of get a song written around them. A lot of times I'll write a melody and Myles will take the liberty to finish the lyrics.
WHAT SUBJECTS ARE YOU DRAWN TO THE MOST, LYRICALLY?
The last record I did was my solo record, and it was kind of a science-fiction concept record — I actually wrote a book that went along with it. But with this album, "Godspeed" is actually a tribute to a friend of mine who passed away last year, and we've had a few songs about loss but this was more vague and more of a tribute to him.
I wrote another song about drug abuse on this record. You know, lyrics and songs just kind of write themselves sometimes. You start singing and the subject matter materializes as you go.
WAS THERE A MAIN THEME YOU WANTED TO HONE IN ON FOR WALK THE SKY?
The only thing that reoccurred was kind of this seeking a zen state, almost like a meditation quest for finding peace. It's kind of the antithesis to the  AB III record. I think it's just living life. You go through different moments and different things inspire you, and that's the moment we're in.