TREMONTI – “A Dying Machine Is A Legacy Piece, A Bucket List Thing”

June 7, 2018, a year ago

Aaron Small

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TREMONTI – “A Dying Machine Is A Legacy Piece, A Bucket List Thing”

“They’re much more human than they are robots; they’re 90% human, they just have synthetically, lab grown parts,” says vocalist / guitarist Mark Tremonti when describing the Vessels – the centrepiece of his new concept album, A Dying Machine, available June 8th via Napalm Records.

A Dying Machine tells the story of a Vessel named Stella, that has been programmed by a male consumer, Brennan, to love only him, to fill the void caused by his ex-wife’s death. Yet something goes wrong and there’s a Vessel recall, which starts a war – man versus machine. “Yeah, some of the first round of vessels that were created for the public start acting up; there’s a bio-immunity deficiency that causes a skin reaction that needs to be fixed,” explains Tremonti. “So, they recall all 3000 of them. The very first vessel, Ares, can’t stomach the fact that they’re going to recall them, and he starts a rebellion within the Vessel community. Ares tries to rally all these people to fight with him. He’s trying to rally not only the ones in the recall, but more along the way.”

Elaborating further upon the concept, Tremonti reveals that it was, “A woman who created the Vessel technology, her name is Maggie. She created Ares as her security end, and almost as her real-life sex doll kind of thing. She invented a sex device and a security device; he’s like this seven-foot tall war machine kind of guy. He grows very cold with her, he does not respect her. Finally, when she’s killed, he’s free to do what he wants, and he starts this rebellion.”

In addition to A Dying Machine being the title of Tremonti’s fourth album, it’s also the title of the accompanying book! Mark co-wrote a novel with award winning author John Shirley, “It’s been a blast! I’ve been having the best time of my life doing this,” exclaims the six-stringer who also plays in Alter Bridge alongside Myles Kennedy. “It’s been around the clock working, editing, going through the story over and over again. It’s going to be between 300 and 400 pages, definitely hardcover; that’s all I ever buy when I buy books. I want to have that just for myself as a legacy piece. I want my kids to have it. I want all the fans to be able to get it as well. It’s the best way to collect a book, I believe.”

Although the concept album A Dying Machine has a street date of June 8th, a publication date for the book of the same name has not yet been confirmed. “As far as the printing and everything else, I’m not sure. But it’s not going to be too long after,” comments Mark. “This is the first time I’ve done this, so just as soon as I can possibly get it out there. We’ll probably try to get it published; but do a self-publishing thing along the way where we do a limited run of maybe 4,000 books. And then wait until we get a publishing deal; sometimes that takes a year, so who knows? We’ll have the books immediately, but then we’ll probably have to stop selling them for the publishing deal to kick in.”

Mark got together with author John Shirley via management, the two didn’t know each other previously. “I called UTA cause I wanted to write the book myself, but there was no way in the world I’d have time to do it all on my own,” recalls Tremonti. “They hooked me up with three different writers, but I didn’t feel like they were the right writers for the story. So, they sent me another three, and I didn’t feel like they were the right writers for the story either. Finally, they sent John’s name. Every time they sent me a batch, I would read a bunch of their stuff, and John’s seemed to fit perfectly. He’s a futurist. He knows where technology’s going, and he has a good way of explaining my crazy story in a way that makes scientific sense; he did a brilliant job.”

However, comic book fans are out of luck as Tremonti has no plans to turn A Dying Machine into a graphic novel. “No, I think the graphic novel version cheapens it a little bit. I want it to be a full-length normal novel. This is a bucket list thing for me, I’ve always wanted to write a novel, and this turned out to be the perfect time to get it done. I want this to be a stand-alone piece, regardless if you’re a fan of the band or not. I think the book stands on its own.”

Given that the science-fiction themed A Dying Machine takes place at the turn of the next century in the year 2100, and deals with artificial intelligence, it would be easy – but inaccurate – to draw parallels with the Terminator franchise. “It’s much less of an action kind of story, it’s much more on the human side, more dramatic,” reaffirms Tremonti. And that comes across in the lyrics. For example, “The First The Last” is a really sad song. “That takes place in the story – I don’t want to ruin the book for you – but when the main character (Stella) does something she can’t control and kills the only thing she’s ever loved, she’s left alone and that song’s about her anguish and despair in that moment.”

The character names don’t appear in the song lyrics. “I wanted the songs to not sound quirky and stick out as songs that wouldn’t make sense if you hadn’t read the story. They sound like normal songs on the outside, but some of these lyrics might strike you as strange; especially in the song ‘A Dying Machine’. But they all make sense when you read the story.”

Is singing from a character’s perspective, as opposed to your own which you did on the last three albums, make the song delivery any more difficult? “No, I liked it. I thought it was more liberating. I could take my walls down and do things I normally wouldn’t do. For example, ‘The First The Last’ is kind of a love story and I’m singing from somebody else’s perspective; I would never usually sing like that in a band like Tremonti. I can get away with more, singing from these different perspectives.”

Unbelievable yet true, this whole idea came to Mark just prior to taking the stage for an Alter Bridge concert in Hungary. “Yes. The chord progression triggered a melody and I sang over that melody; the words ‘you’re a dying machine’ came out of my head and I wrote one half of the verse; it turned out to be a conversation between the two main characters of the story. I thought it would be a cool concept to have it be about this twisted love story about this woman designed to love and only to love, and a man who is terrified of this woman because she’s stronger, faster, outliving him, and she’s become too obsessed with him; in the end she kills him.” After finishing the last Alter Bridge song of the night, as you can imagine, Mark was scurrying for a pen and paper to write down all these ideas. “Oh yeah. I had the ideas going through my mind all show. I was trying to stay focused and make sure I didn’t forget what I had going on.”

Concept albums have always been controversial, some go over incredibly well, others are absolute duds. “It’s funny, everybody asks me about concept records now that I’m doing one, but they never were on my radar whatsoever in my life. The only ones I can even remember being concept records that I owned were the King Diamond records. By no means did they influence me wanting to do a concept record. I couldn’t care less most of the time, back in the day with my old metal records, sometimes I didn’t even know what the words were; I just rocked out to them! It isn’t something like, one day I want to do a concept record. This idea falling in my lap was straight out of left field.”

Based upon the subject matter, the packaging of the album could be quite elaborate. “All the imagery you see in the videos, a lot of that is in the album packaging. It’s all been revealed pretty much at this point; other than the pictures of the band and some of the lyrics written down in there. I wanted to keep it dark, and not tell too much of the story. I didn’t want to put pictures of the characters in the book, other than the main girl character, and that’s Stella. She’s the only one you see on the record.”

Looking way down the road, imagine if this book became a best-seller, and some studio wanted to make a movie out of it. “It’s funny, we’re going to meet UTA after this interview, and we’re talking with the head of the movie department there. Everybody keeps on saying that every time they hear the story, or they’ve read parts of the book, they think it could be that type of pitch for a movie.” Somewhat surprisingly, Tremonti wouldn’t be interested in a cameo appearance in the film, if it gets made. “No, if something like that ever happened – it’s a pipe dream! I would love for that to happen! I would just love to be involved somehow in the casting, just see it through a little bit with whoever’s passionate about it.”

“Take You With Me” is the debut single from A Dying Machine and according to Mark, “I almost left that song off the record. I just felt like the record as a whole told the story and that song kind of popped out as a more upbeat single. But just for dynamic’s sake, we put it on the record. Then all my friends, family, the record label – everybody who heard it said, ‘that’s got to be the single.’ It forced my hand. I like the song, or else I wouldn’t have written it. I just feel like, as far as the story goes, it’s not as much of a deep storytelling song. It’s a normal record kind of song. The title track, ‘Traipse’, ‘As The Silence Becomes Me’ – they’re all very critical songs for the story. That one wasn’t necessarily a critical one for the concept.”

Comprised of 14 songs spanning 62 minutes, A Dying Machine is altogether an in-depth album, yet it only took “about two months” to record. Reason being? “We went into the studio with demos that were air-tight. We played the demos for our producer (Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette) and he loved them immediately. He said, ‘This is your best stuff! Let’s get recording.’ We didn’t mess around with anything, we got right into recording. Usually we’ll get into a couple of weeks of pre-production; tearing songs apart and re-arranging them. But I had already written all the lyrics and arrangements. Eric (Friedman) spent hours programming drums and recording bass; I’d sing over them all. We had demos that sounded good for demos. So, our producer got to see how these songs were going to be fleshed out in the end. He loved ‘em right off the bat and skipped all that time to get right into tracking.”

Live dates for Tremonti have been announced throughout June, July and August; most notably seven shows opening for Iron Maiden on their European Legacy Of The Beast Tour. “Yeah, it’s absolutely amazing! That’s going to be the biggest opportunity we’ve had with the band; we hope it gets us to a lot of new fans.” If someone had told the 16-year old Mark Tremonti, that in 2018 his solo band would be opening for Maiden... “No, I would have said, ‘you’re full of it.’ That’s the first band I ever saw live, on the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son Tour. It’s a huge honour!” After finishing the Tremonti set, Mark will quickly towel off and watch Maiden side stage. “Oh absolutely. We’re doing a lot of shows with them; not just the ones where we’re direct support, but the festival circuit as well. So, I’ll see plenty of Iron Maiden on this tour.”

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