Pedal To The Metal: Mark Tremonti On A.I., Iron Maiden And His Love Of Classic Cars…
Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti will release his brand new record tomorrow. A Dying Machine – his fourth full-length, featuring bassist Eric Friedman and drummer Garrett Whitlock — is a concept album with a distinct sci-fi flavour.
“I’d never even thought about doing one in my entire life but it just fell in my lap,” says the guitarist. “I figured I’d chase it down and see what happens. “The story itself takes place at the turn of the next century. Over the next 80 years or so, we develop parts where humans become more synthetic and lab-grown – say, livers and kidneys and hearts – and finally, they create a synthetic brain, which pretty much allows us to create a human being in any likeness they wanted. In the book, it’s about the government rolling out thousands of these beings and the story goes from there.”
The album story will also be released as a novel, co-written with Bram Stoker Award-winning author John Shirley (Borderlands: The Fallen, BioShock: Rapture).
“I’ve just finished writing it with John,” he explains. “He specialises in singularity [artificial super intelligence] and where technology is going. He does speeches at Tedx and the Ted Talks; he knows where it’s headed. I’d tell him the story and he’d make scientific sense.”
Tremonti says that working with Shirley has opened his eyes to the huge advances that science and technology is making.
“There were a lot of things along the way where I’d talk about plot points and he’d say that that kind of technology is already in the works and we’re about 20 years away from having that as a reality,” he reveals. “He’d use real references on how that would happen to be believable. He’s a very intelligent guy, so I learn a lot about the scientific side from him.”
But how would the guitarist react if he saw those very changes occur in his lifetime?
“I think it would be very intense,” he says. “It would change the world. It’s already happening now, to an extent, with artificial intelligence taking jobs. I think that’ll become more prevalent as the years ago by, where humans will become less efficient than a machine can do, what artificial intelligence can do. It’ll rapidly change the way we do things.
Next month, Tremonti will tour Europe as special guests to Iron Maiden on their Legacy Of The Beast tour.
“It’s amazing,” he says. “When I was a kid, my first concert was Iron Maiden on the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son tour. To support them is a huge honour.”
But let’s turn our attentions elsewhere. Because we’re also interested in what rockstars get up to in their free time, too. For Tremonti, he’s obsessed by vintage American cars and is the proud owner of a black ’68 Dodge Charger.
But where did his love of cars come from?
WHAT’S YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF CARS?
My father was into racing cars and worked in the pit. He started bringing home all kinds of cool cars when I was a kid. I grew up in Detroit, Motor City, so the whole place revolved around cars.
WHAT CAR DID YOUR FAMILY OWN?
My dad bought my mom a ’69 Camaro and he had a three-window Ford coupe. I think he had a ’55 Chevy at some point, but my favourite was always the ’57 Chevy. That was one of my dream cars when I was a kid.
AT WHAT POINT DID THEY BEGIN TO APPEAL TO YOU ON A PERSONAL LEVEL?
When I was young, my dad had a job at a Buick dealership and he’d take us in there; we got to get in all these new cars and go with him on test drives of all the new models. He went through the [American automobile executive] Lee Iacocca college before he did that, so cars were a massive part of my childhood. He had all these handmade car models around the house and I still have them to this day.
WHEN DID YOU LEARN TO APPRECIATE THE AESTHETICS AND POWER, RATHER THAN SEE THEM AS A MEANS OF GETTING AROUND?
From the very beginning, maybe when I was 8 years old. I’d sit around the house and look at those models – he’d create these cars from rubbish. He was an artist as well, and he’d draw cars. I have all these drawings of cars he did in art school. It was always about the aesthetics and the sound of the engines; it was never just a means to get here and there.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR?
The Pontiac Sunbird was my first car. Nothing fancy!
WHEN YOU FIRST FOUND SUCCESS AS A MUSICIAN, DID YOU EARMARK YOUR FIRST BIG ROYALTY CHEQUE FOR A VINTAGE CAR?
The first car I got that I was excited about was a Jeep Wrangler. I put big tyres on it and it was my mini Monster truck. It was kinda hard to drive on the expressway as it would start shaking if you went too fast with those big tyres, so I ended up getting rid of it.
HOW MANY CARS DO YOU OWN?
I have two collector’s cars. I’ve got the ’57 Chevy and a ’68 Charger.
TV HOST AND COMEDIAN JAY LENO HAS A 130-CAR GARAGE TO HOUSE HIS COLLECTION. IS THAT SOMETHING TO ASPIRE TO?
Oh, man. No, I’ll stick with two. Even at this point, having two classic cars is a huge, huge responsibility. There’s always something wrong with them. You’ve got to have someone who knows what they’re doing close to you to keep on top of it. I think if you had more than two, it would stress you out and you wouldn’t be able to enjoy them as much.
WHAT LED YOU TO PURCHASE A ’68 DODGE CHARGER?
It’s one of my favourite cars of all time. Of all the muscle cars, I think it’s the meanest one there is. It’s menacing looking, it’s sleek, it’s powerful; it’s everything a muscle car wants to be.
DID IT NEED MUCH WORK WHEN YOU BOUGHT IT?
There’s a guy called Dave Ferro at Totally Auto who worked on it for me. I had a 70s Cuda that I was fixing up, and I planned to sell the Cuda so I could get the Charger. He found this little old lady who had one which was almost in mint condition. The car body was almost spot on. We repainted it, put a huge engine in there and put some new wheels on. We had to change a lot of things, because you can’t put a big old engine in there and not change the suspension and so on.
DO FANS ASK YOU ABOUT YOUR CHARGER?
Every now and then. When I got the Charger done, I put a picture up on Instagram. I think of any of the pictures, that got the most attention. I’ve had people ask me questions about it. The car’s a real head-turner. You drive it down the street and people just gawk at it; it’s such a massive, killer-sounding car. I’m very proud to have it.
IS IT NOISY TO DRIVE?
Yes, but in a perfect way. It sounds like a boat. It’s got a deep growl to it.
DO YOU HAVE A GO-TO ALBUM TO PLAY WHEN YOU DRIVE AROUND?
In the Charger, I don’t play anything. I just roll the windows down. I didn’t even put a stereo in there. I just want to hear the engine.
WHAT OTHER CAR WOULD YOU ADD TO YOUR COLLECTION IF IT WAS GUARANTEED TO RUN SMOOTHLY?
That’s a tough one. I like ’69 Camaros and I also love a 70 – 72 Buick Riviera. I don’t know, there’s so many great ones. I like old cars a lot more than I like new ones. You see a lot of people get really excited about Lamborghinis and Ferraris, but I’m not into it. I’d much rather get a ‘50s or ‘60s car. I just think cars back then had cooler designs. Not to be a hater, I just think older cars have so much more character to them.
Words: Simon Young
Tremonti’s new album A Dying Machine will be released tomorrow on Napalm Records.
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