Alter Bridge in the UK have gone from playing iconic, small venues like The Mean Fiddler and The Astoria (RIP both) to selling out arenas and doing it on a regular basis. It is in the backstage of London’s world famous O2 Arena that Rock Sins is granted some time with Alter Bridge drummer Scott Phillips, one of the most awesome musicians we’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to.
Scott was very eloquent on numerous topics, including touring, the band’s crazy schedule for the next few months, world events, and possibly most importantly, taking dowm the decorations at Christmas. Please read on for all the good stuff. Meanwhile if you haven’t read our review of Alter Bridge’s performance at The O2 Arena in London, that is also available.
This is now your third full arena tour of the UK, that must be something that doesn’t get old…
Scott Phillips: It does not get old at all! It’s been awesome. This is the second show in the UK for us out of seven I believe, we’re extremely excited to be back here, obviously The O2 is quite the venue. First time for us, the last two times we were in Wembley, so this is pretty incredible.
How did Manchester go last night?
SP: It was awesome. Crowd seemed to love it, we had a good night. We’re still dialling in some technical things going with some of the rooms we’re playing in where some are larger and some are smaller. Certainly when you get to arenas the sound can change so we’re trying to get our monitors dialled in and that kinda stuff. It was a great show, I would expect tonight to be even better.
As you say, the last couple of times you’ve been here in London you’ve been at Wembley, and London and Wembley are two of the most important places in the history of Alter Bridge with the DVD, and now you’ve taken the last big step up left to take as far as London’s concerned, unless you hit Wembley Stadium of course.
SP: Yeah I think we’re a ways off from that *laughs*, maybe one of these days though – you never know!
You guys have got a pretty substantial support bill for this tour with Volbeat, Gojira and Like A Storm – are they bands you had any kind of previous relationships with?
SP: With Volbeat we’ve done a couple of festivals together and a few of us have gotten to known Rob who used to be in Anthrax. I haven’t had a chance yet to talk to the other guys as it’s only the second show, but we’ve gotten to know Rob over the years. With Gojira we’re all huge fans. Mark’s had the chance to interact with them when he was doing his Tremonti stuff and they really hit it off well and seemed to like each other. So it’s just cool to have those guys out with us. They’re monster, monster players with cool songs.
Having those guys out with you with them being technically as good as they are, it must keep you on your toes.
SP: It certainly does!! I knew from day one that I wasn’t going to try to match anybody note for note. I don’t think even with my bands I could make my bass drum sound as fast as Mario does. They’re killer musicians and inspiring. It’s a different style of playing than what I do but from drummer to drummer it’s always cool to go and watch someone else who is a master at their craft, you can draw a lot of inspiration from that. And then Like A Storm, we’ve known them for years. They are one of the hardest working bands we know, they’re really right on the verge of finding some success and they’re just good guys to have around and have great songs, and be a cool way to start off the show.
Once you’re done here in the UK you have a few more shows in Europe, and then you actually I believe have a little bit of time off for Christmas at home before you start and go again in the States?
SP: Yeah, I think our last show is in Switzerland on December the 11th and we fly home on the 12th. We get to be home for the holidays and then we start up 2017 with a cruise called Shiprocked, which Mark has done a couple times with Tremonti; This will be the first time for Alter Bridge, we had to bribe Myles heavily to get him to be on a boat, I don’t think that’s his favourite pasttime.
You’ve just pre-empted my next question actually as I knew Mark had done Shiprocked but I wasn’t sure about Alter Bridge playing any of the floating festivals before and what the bands feelings about them were.
SP: I actually went with Mark the first time he did it, just as a guest, the wife and I went and had an absolute blast. I think Myles had a feeling of being claustrophobic and trapped on a boat that he wouldn’t be able to get away and have some quiet time but everybody on there is super nice and very cool about just having fun with the bands and not invading their personal space.
There are quite a few of these floating festivals now and they do seem like a really cool thing.
SP: Absolutely, it’s 20 or 30 bands and you get to hang out with everybody, the shows are great, the music starts at noon and ends at like 2 or 3am.
I guess being on the sea you’re not subjected to some of the noise restrictions and curfew laws of other places.
SP: You can be as loud as you want for as long as you want *laughs*
Once Shiprocked is done it looks like you have a fairly heavy US schedule for the first couple of months after that.
SP: We do. We’re doing about a month and change that we’re doing in the States around the end of February and then we head over to Australia at the end of March and beginning of April. We have another run in the States with some of the Spring festivals that they do there through the better part of May and then probably starting at the end of May we’ll be back over here in Europe for festival season.
So basically you’ll get home a few times to get home, wash your clothes, turn around and go back out again!
SP: Pretty much! Just enough to kiss the wife and daughter and see if my dog remembers me and then head out again.
At least you’re going to get a break for Christmas, what does Christmas look like in the Phillips household?
SP: Way too many decorations that my wife puts up that I end up having to help take down *laughs*. Lots of fun, my brother and his wife live maybe 10 minutes from us and my mom and dad who are also in Florida will come over to the house sometime whether it’s Christmas day or a few days after. Then my wife’s side of the family is up in Tennessee so we always try to get up there for 4 or 5 days right before Christmas and give her a chance to get reacquainted with her family. So it’s busy and hectic but it’s what the holidays are!
I’ve just realised, Happy Thanksgiving!
SP: Thank you very much! Just had my fill of Turkey and Cranberries.
You found somewhere to do a proper Thanksgiving dinner then.
SP: Actually the catering here at The O2 was gracious enough to cook us a Thanksgiving meal, so that was very nice.
Little things like that when you’re on the road must make all the difference.
SP: It certainly does.
Obviously the new Alter Bridge album has now been out for about a month, and the reaction to it has been incredible with the fans and the media alike; You guys must be delighted.
SP: We certainly are and thank you for mentioning the acolades. We are extremely proud of this record, as we are with all of them, and really feel like this is the next evolution of Alter Bridge as a band. We’re glad to see that there has been critical acclaim as well as fan acclaim with it. We are very proud.
With Mark and Myles having other well known active projects Alter Bridge is quite well known for having periods of downtime in-between records. I know you’ve had your other project (Projected) for awhile, was anything going on with Projected during the latest batch of downtime?
SP: It’s all stopped for the moment as we’re all focused on Alter Bridge stuff right now. My other project, Projected, is a band with John Connolly, the guitarist from Sevendust and Vinny Hornsby, the bassist from Sevendust and Eric Friedman who’s the guitarist in Tremonti. We got together in 2012 and did a record just for fun, there wasn’t any touring with it. We wanted to get out and support it but with everyone’s schedules being what they are it was all very hectic and it was difficult to lock in some dates. We have actually recorded the next two Projected records so we’re waiting for the right time to release those. We’re all busy doing what we’re doing. Next time there’s a Tremonti something we might try and tack on with that, being that there’s mutual members of the band or if Sevendust are doing something in the States but I think they’re on their downtime right now. We’ll find a moment to put it out there which makes sense, whenever it doesn’t interfere with Alter Bridge or Sevendust or when Mark is working on his stuff we will try and pursue that again.
Did you get a dedicated batch of time to work on The Last Hero, or was it a couple of weeks here and there?
SP: Mark and Myles are constantly writing and constantly working on new material but we didnt get a chance to sit down and approach any of it as a band until the beginning of this year. Middle of January it was when Mark and Myles were using facetime to bounce ideas off of each other and then Myles came down towards the end of January which is when we all got in a room together, went through ideas, decided what does and what doesn’t work. We had Elvis (Michael Baskette), our producer involved, really from day one where we did about a month of writing and pre-production all at the same time and then I started tracking drums at the beginning of March. It was a much quicker process than we’ve done in the past, but I feel like it worked out pretty good.
It seems with some of the songs that you’ve almost predicted the future in some ways with some of the lyrical content on certain songs…
SP: *laughs* It’s kinda scary isn’t it. A lot of it was written during the US “primaries” for presidential elections where the parties were picking who their candidates were going to be and listening to just a lot of things that were being said…
You probably won’t be surprised to know that this time around it’s probably had almost as much attention here as it did back home for you guys.
SP: Oh for sure I’m not surprised at all; Back home it didn’t matter where you were or what you were doing or what channel was on it was just constantly in your face. I know a lot of that really crept into some of the lyrics and the thought behind this record.
But at the same time, and I think it’s something you guys have always done either sub-consciously or consciously, there’s some really good uplifting songs with positivity on there as well.
SP: Yeah! Absolutely, and we need it now more than ever. There’s a wide gamut of all of those emotions and everything that we’re going through as people and countries, multiple countries, obviously you guys have also taken a big step towards change here also. Whether it’s a step for the better or not, I’m sure people can apply a lot of what’s in the lyrical content of this record to the situation here in the UK as well.
With the new album, as a drummer is there any one of the new songs in particular that’s most enjoyable to play?
SP: There’s a few of ’em yeah. Island Of Fools is a lot of fun to play so we’ve worked that into the set some. We have just kinda finished The Last Hero and This Side Of Fate, we’ve performed The Last Hero a few times, This Side Of Fate we’ve not unleashed quite yet. They’re both very complex songs, especially Last Hero, there’s a lot of meter shifts and tempo changes, going from 6/8 back to 4/4 back to 6/8 and back into 4/4 again. It’s a little bit of a tongue twister and head scratcher so I have to be on my toes a little bit. The thing is as quickly as this album was put together and then recording it, none of us have actually played any of these songs together until basically doing a day or two of rehearsal for this tour. So it’s brand new to all of us and we’re trying to feel our way through and remember what we came up with seven or eight months ago.
You guys are getting something of a reputation for “epic album closers” now.
SP: We have a problem *laughs* and that’s the seven minute will always be a part of the Alter Bridge repertoire.
I don’t think too many people are complaining….
SP: That’s good, because they won’t stop any time soon!
Awesome, that’s great news, personally I would love to see the title track from Fortress live as that’s a big favourite.
SP: Yeah, we’ve done that sparingly and it’s a really fun one to play, but it’s been at least a couple of years since we’ve done it. I don’t know that it’ll be coming out anytime soon but that’s definitely a fun one.
Alter Bridge’s new album The Last Hero is out now on Napalm Records. A review of The Last Hero is available to read here on Rock Sins right now. Alter Bridge can next be found in the UK sub-headlining to Aerosmith on the final day of the 2017 Download Festival in June.