An Interview With Alter Bridge’s Scott Philips At Download 2023: “I think all of us had that mindset of let’s get out there and play”

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Alter Bridge - Download Festival 2023 by Abbie Shipperley
Alter Bridge - Download Festival 2023 by Abbie Shipperley

Over the 20 years of the Download Festival so far, Alter Bridge have been one of the mainstays. Making their first appearance in 2005, The US hard rock quartet have been regular visitors to Donington with slots growing each time, to the point where many, ourselves here at Rock Sins included, have been clamouring for them to headline the festival for a number of years now. They have sub-headlined the festival a whopping three times, warming things up for Aerosmith in both 2014 and 2017. They were meant to do it in 2020 too for Iron Maiden, before a certain global pandemic put a stop to it. Six years after their last Download Festival appearance Alter Bridge returned, putting in one of their career best performances directly before Metallica on the opening day of Download 2023 (You can read the full review of that performance, and the whole first day of Download 2023 on this link). A few hours before they took to the stage in front of tens of thousands of people on the hallowed Donington turf, Rock Sins was delighted to catch up with our old friend, Alter Bridge drummer Scott Philips (aka Flip) to talk the band’s evolution over the years at Donington, other anniversaries and much more.

Rock Sins: Welcome back once again!
Scott Philips: Thanks!

Rock Sins: It’s the 20th anniversary of Download Festival; You guys first played here in 2005, over the years you’ve been main stage, second stage, back to main stage, to the point you’ve sub-headlined the festival multiple times now. It’s really been a touchpoint in your career over the years, it must be a special place for you guys.

Scott Philips: You know it really is. The first time we ever played Download it was like a 1pm or 2pm slot, it was on what I think was Ozzfest for the day on that Saturday in 2005 and it was just such a special day. We could see really early on that the UK and Europe were going to be a really strong market for us. With a performance like that, a lot of people didn’t know who we were, but they were still reacting, showing their appreciation and their support, it’s special. It’s a lot different to anything in the States, you know the States is starting to catch up now, they’ve gotten the concept of what festivals are like over here now, how they run and the type of bands that people really want to come out and see. It’s getting there, but you guys set the benchmark. It (Download) is the high point of how to do it. We’re super excited to be back, it’s six years since we played, we were supposed to do 2020 but we all know what happened there. It’s been six long years to get back here, for the chance to go out and have fun on that stage.

Rock Sins: Obviously you mentioned European festivals, you guys are going on to Hellfest and some of the other big European festivals after this.
Scott: Hellfest, Graspop, Sweden Rocks, a few others we’re doing along the way. Each one of them are different and special in their own way, whether it’s the location or the other bands playing or the way they’re set up. I think all of them we’ve done before, so it’s nice to go to familiar places.

Rock Sins: Alter Bridge, Halestorm, Wolf (Van Halen) all seem to be following each other!

Scott: Laughs I know, exactly! Especially Mammoth (WVH), we’ve been out with Mammoth for the last couple of shows and they’ve toured with us on and off for the last seven or eight months. We’ve got tours in the fall planned as well, those guys are near and dear to us. We’ve been friends for a real long time, so it’s nice to be on the road together and to get to hang out and enjoy each other’s company. Halestorm we’ve done several tours together over the years, most recently just last year over here, so it’s nice seeing bands that you’re good friends with and that you like and continue to enjoy, it’s a comfort level thing you know? It’s very comfortable to be able to be here with all of your friends, it makes for a good time.
Rock Sins: Halestorm in particular I think have played with you on three of your arena tours here?
Scott: I think so! I think it started back in 2013, the first one they did with us. We constantly get to see each other through the years, whether it’s on a Shiprocked cruise or an arena tour here, festival shows in the States or whatever. They’re such awesome people.

Rock Sins: The way Alter Bridge, Halestorm, Black Stone Cherry who obviously aren’t here this year, the way you’ve all come up together to the point that you can all do arena tours now, either together or doing things separately. It’s a cool thing to see the way that’s happened for that whole group of bands.

Scott: Oh absolutely. I wholeheartedly agree. We just saw Ben, the guitar player for Black Stone, he came out to our show in Louisville (Kentucky) last month just to catch up, it had probably been a couple of years without actually seeing each other. It was just great catching up. We’re becoming the old guys at this stage now, knowing the bands who’ve come up with us and also a lot of the bands who’ve been following in that group’s footsteps so it’s been really nice to see.

Rock Sins: In terms of the relationship between yourselves and Mammoth WVH, it started with Wolf and one of the others playing in Mark Tremonti’s Tremonti solo band right?

Scott: So Wolf played bass on the first tour with Tremonti, and then played bass on the second album but didn’t do the tour, he was going back to do Van Halen stuff and Garrett the drummer, I’ve known since he was like 16 or 17, local to the Orlando area, and a band that Mark was producing called Submersed, were looking for a drummer, I actually played on some of their first record and then they met Garrett, who came in and is a phenomenal human being and just a bad ass drummer! To watch him through those years of doing the Submersed stuff when we toured together, when he was like 19-21 and feeling his way through the music industry, playing with Mark for quite a stint and now being out with Wolf, they just crush it every night. I’m so proud of them they’re all such good players. It’s so awesome to see them making their mark here now.
Rock Sins: I literally walked past their set on the main stage on the way to come and have this chat with you and they had an absolutely huge crowd.
Scott: Good, good! That’s what I like to hear!

Rock Sins: It’s been about nine months since the new album (Pawns and Kings) came out, you’ve been pretty much on the go ever since it came out with a few short breaks, you’ve had time to see how it has been received, all the new songs seem to go down really well live.

Scott: I’m so happy with the way the new stuff goes down live, the album has a diverse feel from song to song, everybody’s been really accepting to it, after all of us having to sit at home for so long, not being able to do anything from 2020 up until early to mid last year, when the restrictions lifted, I think all of us had that mindset of “let’s get out there and play”, lets work this as much as we can while we can. Album cycles these days compared to when we were youngsters, you could go out and tour anything from eighteen months to two years, now you get maybe about a year out of it. So you have to do as much as you can and then move on to the next one.

Rock Sins: As you’ve already touched on, you’ve got the US run coming up with Wolf and co, and Sevendust as well.

Scott: Yeah I’m really looking forward to that.
Rock Sins: You’ve played with Sevendust before right?
Scott: Oh yeah, we’ve known those guys for …..twenty six years now. I’m the godfather for John Connolly, their guitar player, his daughter. We’ve been friends for a really long time, did a lot of touring together in our previous incarnation in the Creed days, some with Alter Bridge but we always see each other when we go through each other’s towns, go out to each other’s shows. It’ll be nice to get to do that tour, especially when you have three bands like that where everybody is friends, I’m really excited for it, it’s going to be a really good time.
Rock Sins: It’s so nice for you guys that as you say, after so long off the road, all of your first tours back have been with friends and people that you really get on with.
Scott: Exactly, exactly. It’s been really great.

Rock Sins: There’s a big anniversary coming next year for a certain album…..(Blackbird is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary in 2024).

Scott: There is! Laughs.
Rock Sins: Is there anything in the pipeline for that, any special shows, special edition releases, anything you’re allowed to talk about?
Scott: I would think there might be something in the works, I’m not going to get specific about it laughs, I don’t wanna get in trouble. I think whatever it is, if there’s anniversaries to celebrate, there are some things we can do, whether it’s a vinyl, a limited edition, or something signed, I’m sure we may have something floating around out there.

Rock Sins: Are you guys planning to get back in the studio again soon? Or is it time for Mark to do his solo stuff, is Myles going off to do Slash stuff?

Scott: I think next year Mark’s gonna do some solo stuff, Myles is gonna do some solo stuff, the Slash stuff might pop up, everything’s kinda up in the air right now as to what the plans are. As far as Alter Bridge stuff, we’re not 100% sure right now, it depends on all of those other things. If there’s demand for it (shows) then there might be something limited with dates here and there. None of this is in the works right now, this is just me spitballin’, but yeah certainly with the Blackbird anniversary I think something will happen.

Rock Sins: The last time we spoke here, it was around the time hints starting dropping about the Orchestra shows (with the Parallax Orchestra which took place at London’s Royal Albert Hall in October 2017) and I think I spent most of the interview trying to get it out of you…. laughs

Scott: I have been coached well! laughs
Rock Sins: It’s hard to believe those shows were almost six years ago now.
Scott: I know. Two very, very special evenings. It still feels like yesterday. I don’t watch our stuff very often but I will go back and watch (the DVD) from those shows sometimes. It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago, but obviously it was that long ago. Honestly, two of the greatest nights of my life.
Rock Sins: Would you be open to doing something like that again in the future?
Scott: Yes! If the schedules worked out, I don’t think there’s anyway anything like that could happen on this album cycle, it’s something we loved so much, it was so much work going into it but when it was finished, I think both ourselves and the fans had so much appreciation for it, were that opportunity to present itself in some form again I’d love to do it.

Alter Bridge have just kicked off their Summer 2023 US tour with Sevendust and Mammoth WVH. For full information and tour dates, please visit the bands’ official website.

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