Brian Marshall – Interview

We did this interview way back in 2010, but felt it was worth bringing back to the fore.

Since “One Day Remains” we’ve been fans of Alter Bridge, and have been long term fans of Creed too. We’d like to think we’re part of the silent mass majority who are grateful that two bands like this can co-exist, have unique qualities, and do equally as well as rock bands. It seemed that for some time that the only bands that had forged the path ahead were the likes of Stonesour and Nickelback, and that although both of these bands were superb, it was only the latter that had gained mainstream airplay. But with the welcomed resurgence of Creed, and formation of Alter Bridge, they’ve both shown that there is room for more quality rock bands to do well at the top.

We interviewed Myles Kennedy back in 2008 on the Blackbird tour, and when people ask us who the “best” interviews have been, first to mention, always, is Myles. We were taken aback with how modest and genuine he was, but more importantly, how passionate he was about Alter Bridge. On that same tour we chatted briefly to Mark, who genuinely looked disappointed we weren’t there to interview him (and he promised us one “next time”), so we had a great impression of what Alter Bridge were like as a group behind the scenes, and they are a bunch of absolutely sound guys, loving what they’re doing. Fast forward to now, 2010. and we get to speak to Brian Marshall, who actually apologises for being a bit tired!

Nade – Thanks for taking time out to speak to us ahead of the Rock City gig. We caught you guys on tour 2 years (Blackbird Tour), have you noticed a difference in the fanbase and their reactions since then?

Brian – Well, we’ve spent quite a while away. We were working on two different projects, but from the “get go”, we wanted to come back, we were definitely coming back here, we were going to be doing another record, we’re not breaking up. We wanted to make certain everyone knew that! But as far as the reaction, I think everyone’s just really excited about the new record, everyone seems to be onboard with the direction we went with it, even though that process just naturally happened.

Nade – While you were producing the album, Myles made a post saying that he wanted to wait to get fans reactions before saying anything himself so that he didn’t influence their perceptions of it. So now that it’s out, what are your thoughts on the album?

Brian – As I’ve mentioned before, naturally, it was just kind of an evolution of the band. We didn’t sit down and decide, we’re going to go a little darker, a little heavier or whatever. We just got in the room, and started writing together, and it just naturally happened.

Nade – Do you take a different approach to writing songs with Myles and Alter Bridge then you do with Scott, in Creed?

Brian – Yeah, definitely. Myles is a major contributor, song writer in this band, and when we all get together, it sort of happens the same way, but being with Scott it does take a different direction when we’re going about things. But it just comes together in the end with both of them very well. Personally, sure it’s a different vibe, a different sound, but personally I think I get a bit more creative with Alter Bridge in my opinion, because I’m given a bit more time to work with the songs and as a result take them home with me a lot more and get a bit more time to concentrate on what I can do to add to the song and make it better. I do that with Creed too, you know, I always approach a song just wanting to make it better.

Nade – Congratulations on Roadrunner! Have you noticed a difference in the way tours are handled etc?

Brian – Yeah, it’s been a lot different, they’ve shown a lot of passion, they’re right behind the band. They’ve shown up at shows (smiles), really working with the band, for the record, getting guys like yourselves coming around doing interviews, it’s great! Something we haven’t felt as much previously. It’s a very exciting time, Roadrunner is a great known force in the industry.

Nade – Social Networks and sites like Twitter have been around for a while now, but has that changed how you interact with your fans?

Brian – You know, I started doing the whole Twitter thing pretty recently, and initially (and honestly), I had someone do it for me, and he would be texting me asking “Hey, what do you want to go on there?” So I just said, give me the password and whatever, and I’ll start doing it. So I started doing it and it seemed like that whenever I posted something about Alter Bridge or Creed, there were two fanbases who just seemed to be at war. I would post something about Creed, and you’d get “No no, Alter Bridge is better”, so I stopped reading it, or I would post something about Alter Bridge and I would get a someone saying “Don’t you think it’s not right that your promoting ABIII while you’re still on the Creed tour?” I thought it was always time to promote both! I think it’s a good media, to get out there, and I follow some people, it’s kind of cool and fun, but I’ve backed off from it a little as far as reading things, and I may “tweet” stuff from time to time. I learnt a long time ago from the message boards that it can get under your skin, that one person can ruin it for your whole day. We’re just trying to make ends meet out here!

James – I always find that a bit odd, we have feet in both camps and are fans of both Creed and Alter Bridge, I mean they’re two different things…

Brian – Yeah, I mean, I just want to say to both set of fans that both can exist, can’t we just get along!

Nade – So you have Creed and Alter Bridge doing well, but you also have Mango Moon, where do you find time for all of this!?

Brian – Well, about three years ago the music business wasn’t doing very well. We were looking at getting out of Wind-Up (Records). I guess we were kind of in a holding pattern. We then started writing Blackbird I think and my wife and I just decided to try and find something different to do. She was at home, and yeah we had a nice house and she was taking care of all of these things and we weren’t making any money, so we just kind of went on a whim and a friend of ours invited us down there, he had started a bar, and basically went looking for a small hotel or something that we could afford and that wasn’t overwhelming to run. So we found this place, and three years ago sold our house in Florida, and we’re getting out of here, so….

Nade – So you spend all your time there when not on tour

Brian – Yeah, I either flop around at friends and my families houses, or I go straight to Costa Rica. Yeah it’s great. It’s a nice change of latitude after the rigours of tours and stuff!

Nade – You’ve also got a Fine Arts degree, I hope we did our research right! (Brian laughs).

Brian – Yeah, you did it right, and I do. I worked as a draughtsman for a while and I still have an interest in drawing and architectural rendering. I just designed a little seven sided house in Costa Rica, I did a small space plan for it, you know it was an existing building that was real old and termite infested. So basically drew up the plans and we’re starting to gut it right now.

James – Sounds like a great project. Just wondering, do you have a “gallery” of works online or anything, I ask because we discovered the likes of Jerry Horton from Papa Roach, was an avid photographer.

Brian – Haha, No! Actually, I don’t have THAT many drawings, usually I just draw, well, I like the technical side of drawing. And I still like to do that by hand, even though you have AutoCAD and all that, I still like to do it by hand (smiles).

Nade – So if we can talk a little about the equipment you use, you swapped to a Sadowsky bass, what prompted that change?

Brian – Yes, I was playing Fender Basses from when I first started playing and I ended up, I was on a Creed tour, and I was going through this phase where, if I didn’t particularly like a certain Bass, I would smash it! (laughs) So I like, smashed one or two, then bought a Rickenbacker, and I ended up smashing that one. So then my Bass tech, he was on a previous tour someone who played a Sadowsky, and they’re basically modelled on the Fender Bass, but I like it. It’s a Sadowsky J Bass, and it’s like a Fender J, a Jazz, but they’re all handmade instruments, I mean they only make something like twenty or thirty instruments a month. It’s like the old school, you know, if you’ve ever bought an old vintage Fender Bass, it just feels different from the mass produced factory models. So these Sadowsky Basses had that quality feel, that high standard. So I went to the factory, picked them up and they felt good, the right thing. And I’ve been with them ever since!

James – I read that you use Mesa Boogies, but I was looking, and they didn’t look like Mesa Boogies to me.

Brian – Well, I’m using Ashdown now, they’re an English company actually (smiles). Got a good sound to them.

James – The first record, “One Day Remains”, seemed like you guys finding your feet, the second, “Blackbird”, you came out with all guns blazing, and then ABIII came out and taken it to another level, but for the first time, I found myself listening to all the music parts. As a guitarist and fan of Satriani and co I don’t always full appreciate the Bass or the Drums, it seems like you really came together for this one even more so.

Brian – Well the first Alter Bridge record, well, I wasn’t with Creed for the Weathered record, and I was playing some music with another band, but when Alter Bridge was first formed I hadn’t seen Scott or Mark for 3 years or so, and they invited me into rehearse and play, and I was like “cool”, but that record came together kind of quick and a lot of the songs were nearly in the same vein as Creed a bit. It took some development, and the evolution of us playing together, touring together, for Blackbird to happen. We’ve known each other for almost 15 years, so we have a history, we know each other, we know what it takes. In writing, it’s a process we all know, there’s a lot of listening and talking about the songs. Some of them come together quickly, some take a good while you know. It’s usually, when I first attack a song, I want to be the lead part (laughs), I want to take it to the next level. It takes all of us to sit back and look at it. We’re proud of this record, and during the writing process we were very optimistic. There were times I wondered if we were going round in circles, some of the songs sounded similar to other ones. I guess though, sitting in there day after day you kind of get burnt out, and it took the producer Elvis, he came in, in like the third or fourth week or writing, pretty much done with all of the arrangements and everything, sat down an dissected all the songs. And it took those new ears, that fresh perspective to get us on with it. In the end we recorded seventeen songs, and we’ve never put fourteen on a record! You know, we liked all the songs and it was so hard for us to choose which songs were going to make the album, and I was pretty adamant about “Breathe Again” (laughs), I really liked that. They were like, “it sounds a bit like Before Tomorrow Comes”, and I was “No, it doesn’t! It doesn’t sound like that to me”. SO, Myles had handed that song to one of the guys that was playing with Slash’s band and he sent me an email saying “everybody likes Breathe Again, this song should make it onto the album”. So I voted for it again (laughs), finally Mark was like “You know what, we’re going to put fourteen songs on the record! Let’s just do it!”

James – Well, we’re glad you did!

Brian – Yeah, me too!

Nade – Myles mentioned before that rock music would never be the same mainstream as it was in say the 80’s, with the excess, would you agree with that, and do you think it’s a good thing?

Brian – Personally I still listen, go back to, all the classic stuff, Rush, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, that was kind of where I built my foundation. Those bands I still go back to and listen to. I can’t really get into the new stuff too much. There is a new band that I do like, that I was listening to last night, Karnivool, they’re like kind of that exception to the rule, they’re almost aliens (laughs), very talented band. And there are heavier acts that I like, you know, like Avenged Sevenfold, they’re pretty cool, Sevendust, I mean they’re great bands. I’ve always been a rock fan, nothing else really gets me by the go, and I’m pretty happy with the music business right now. And I know music piracy is an issue too, maybe that has an effect, but if you’re doing it, well, I’m not here to bag on anyone, but yeah, we’re all trying to survive, make a living. But yeah a lot of the old bands seem to be coming back releasing records again, or doing reality TV shows (laughs). With rock music not being as mainstream, I don’t know. It’ll always be there though.

Nade – Thank you for your time!

The interview draws to a close, and we’ve really enjoyed chatting to him. Sheepishly we ask if he can sign our ABIII cd’s, we know he’s tired, he’s given us a great interview. He answers “Sure why not”, he then spots Hunters white Ibanez RG350DX and asks if that needs signing too with a smile, and runs off with it to the dressing room (zoink) whilst Hunter apologises for it not being a PRS. Scott is on his way past, and spots an ideal opportunity to deface a guitar, “You need a black sharpie for these!!”

For us now, Brian, Myles, Mark and Scott have been the nicest guys we’ve had the pleasure of chatting to. We hope to catch up with Mark and Scott some other time (even if it’s just to ask Scott what was with the Goldfish bowl at Rock City), and certainly wish Creed and Alter Bridge all the best for the future.

We’d like to thank Kirsten, and the wonderful people at Roadrunner for making this possible, to Brian for sparing us some of his time during a very busy tour, and to Alter Bridge.

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