With Alter Bridge’s seventh studio album Pawns & Kings almost here, we chat to guitarists Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti about some of the obscure gear they’ve used to sculpt their tone over the years. Here are seven things about Alter Bridge’s gear that you probably didn’t know.
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Guests of honour
Across Alter Bridge’s past six albums and almost 20-year career, they’ve never featured a guest musician. Their upcoming seventh record, Pawns & Kings, released this month, will not buck that trend. But Kennedy says it will happen in the future.
The Orlando band have come close, Myles even closer. He intended Derek Trucks to lay down the slide parts on his 2021 track Love Rain Down. For whatever reason, though, the collaboration never came to pass, with Myles doing the parts himself.
Nevertheless, there remains a shortlist of musicians that Kennedy and Tremonti would love to work with on future Alter Bridge records, with Trucks, Joe Bonamassa and Eric Gales all touted as potentials.
The Blackbird guitar
The centrepiece of Alter Bridge’s 2007 album Blackbird is its fantastic title track, the solo for which was played on a PRS Modern Eagle, which was retired soon after.
“I still have that guitar,” says Myles. “I used to tour with it but because the Blackbird solo was played on it, that one stays locked away. It has major sentimental value to me now just because that’s the Blackbird solo guitar.”
Kennedy’s sentimental attachment to the PRS is so strong, it seems, that it’s never even appeared on another Alter Bridge record.
The Blackbird bass
When Myles and Mark were layering the guitar tracks for the Blackbird album, they added one with a pink Kramer bass to follow the chord progression and thicken the heavier riffs. The Kramer is owned by Blackbird and regular Alter Bridge producer Elvis Baskette but the band hasn’t used the bass nor the technique since. Why? “We just kind of forgot about it,” says Tremonti.
Dumble amps and FM hits
Tremonti has one of the finest amplifier collections in the world. On Pawns & Kings, Kennedy plays through one of Mark’s Dumble amps. It’s the first time a Dumble has ever featured on an Alter Bridge record, despite Mark having owned them throughout his career.
Myles was inspired to play the Dumble when he found out Larry Carlton, one of the guitarists on his favorite Sirius radio station, Yacht Rock, played one on many of his iconic records.
“It’s funny,” he says. “When my wife and I go for a drive, we listen to Yacht Rock. It’s all these old hits from the 1970s and early 1980s, which are more like FM hits. You have these guitar players that were hired to come in and play the solos, and a lot of those solos were done by guys like Larry Carlton. He always used a Dumble, so that was the sound.”
Tremonti owns two Dumbles but has had six in total. His current favorite – and the one you can hear on Pawns & Kings – is #91. Tremonti also owns a cabinet once owned by Larry Carlton.
Signature (and future signature?) guitars
Following Carlos Santana, Mark Tremonti became the second-ever artist to get a signature PRS guitar. Tremonti’s signature was the first single-cut PRS ever produced, and its controls were shifted to better match those of the Gibson Les Paul guitars that Mark had been using up until that point.
Gibson were not flattered. They sued PRS, citing the control shift as part of their lawsuit. PRS won, enabling them to keep making the Tremonti signature.
He has another in mind too. But it’s unlikely that Tremonti’s “Explorer-shaped” PRS concept will become a production guitar, as he says the body rout would require the purchase of a bigger CNC machine, making the instrument financially unfeasible.
Myles Kennedy was seen wielding a T-style PRS guitar on his recent solo tour. But he’s similarly unsure whether it will become a signature model or a production model in the future.
Denim and baritones
Tremonti owns one of the first PRS baritones ever made. Previously the property of producer Elvis Baskette, it can be heard on albums by Chevelle, Limp Bizkit and Incubus.
Mark describes the guitar’s colour as “denim-burst”. “It had to have been a custom-built guitar,” he says, “because [PRS] weren’t making baritones at the time. Later on, they started making SE baritones but this was a US-made baritone that predated that.”
Tremonti’s arsenal also features a Trainwreck named Kim, with Trainwreck amps traditionally given names rather than numbers. It was originally owned by a man in the former Yugoslavia, forced to flee during the wars and upheaval that ultimately led to the breakup of the country. The amp was among the possessions he deemed important enough to take with him. Many years later, he sold the amp before it ended up in the US at Ultrasound Music in New York, where it was sold to Tremonti. The amp has never appeared on an Alter Bridge record.
Alter Bridge’s upcoming album Pawns & Kings will be released 14 October.