Tremonti the band has gone to great lengths to establish its own identity beyond just a side project for Tremonti the musician, the guitarist from massive-selling hard rock juggernauts Creed and Alter Bridge. The Mark Tremonti-led metal band, which finds its namesake taking on lead vocal duties in addition to his well-known six-string mastery, has released a slew of music in the past 12 months, culminating in not one but two full-length albums: 2015's "Cauterize," and "Dust," released last month.

Tremonti the band has gone to great lengths to establish its own identity beyond just a side project for Tremonti the musician, the guitarist from massive-selling hard rock juggernauts Creed and Alter Bridge. The Mark Tremonti-led metal band, which finds its namesake taking on lead vocal duties in addition to his well-known six-string mastery, has released a slew of music in the past 12 months, culminating in not one but two full-length albums: 2015's "Cauterize," and "Dust," released last month.

"I think that's one of main goals, to make each band different," Tremonti shares during a recent interview with Headlines & Global News. "I think when we went from Creed to Alter Bridge, we got a singer that sounded nothing like our singer, but the music started out a little similar, and once we got some of the feedback from our first record, we decided to take it in a much different direction. We got Myles [Kennedy] playing guitar - we didn't even know he was such a great guitar player - that added another depth to the band. With 'AB3' we totally took it in a more progressive direction.

"With Tremonti, just having a different rhythm section and being able to do the speed metal, putting those elements into the songs has really let us sound different than Alter Bridge, and my voice is much different than Myles'. Myles is a very trained singer, and I take the caveman approach and just try to get through these songs the best I can without any training. I think between the vocals and the approach to songwriting and the rhythm sections, I try to keep Alter Bridge and Tremonti different. But, that being said, sometimes the melodic content could be a little similar, because that, to me, is the most important thing of any song, no matter what band you're in."

Tremonti, which made its debut in 2011 with an album called "All I Was," also features guitarist Eric Friedman (who tours with Alter Bridge), drummer Garret Whitlock, and on the two recent albums, bassist Wolfgang Van Halen (yes, he's Eddie's son). We spoke to the bandleader about recording "Cauterize" and "Dust" concurrently, balancing the dynamics of heavy and light, the methods he uses to interact with his fans - including pre-concert guitar lessons - and got an update on the next Alter Bridge album and the status of Creed.

How did you decide which tracks would be on "Cauterize" and which would be on "Dust"?

When we first got together, I knew I had Elvis (Baskette), our producer, for a limited amount of time, so we got the guys in the band together for many sessions and we put together about 25 rough ideas, and then we narrowed it down. And when we got to the mixing stage and we had 20 songs, I didn't want to put out a 14-song record and have six songs that were going to be referred to as B-sides, because I felt that we put our heart and soul into every single track, and I wanted them all to have their fair shake. That's when I'd come home every night and I'd place all the rough demos and mixes and try to make track lists, and it took a few weeks to figure it out. Even after I had both albums mastered, I went back and redid the order for "Dust" again. When I divvied the songs up, I wanted to take the best song and put it on the first record, the second best on the second record, and so on, as evenly as possible.

"Dust" seems to be sequenced in a way that there is a lot of contrast between dark and light. For example, after "Once Dead," which is a really heavy song, you have the title track, which is kind of airy and sparse. Did you make a concerted effort to bring out those sorts of dynamics among the songs?

Yeah, I believe in having as much dynamics on a record as possible. I think if you're a heavy-leaning band and you just have heavy songs throughout the record, there's not going to be anything to juxtapose to get that sense of heaviness; it's not going to be as heavy unless you have something slow, something to change the pace and even the mood. I like to have moods that are uplifting paired up with almost doomy to give it some variety.

That seems to be the case within the songs themselves, as well. As heavy and fast as things get, there is a nice melodic current in every song, which separates you from a pure thrash metal or speed metal band.

I think it all comes down to my upbringing. I loved '70s soft rock. When I was a kid sitting in the back of mom and dad's care listening to Rod Stewart and Gerry Rafferty and Steve Miller Band, I loved it, and then I became a real diehard music fan when I found speed metal, and I kind of combined the melodies with the heaviness of the speed metal.

Even though you didn't write the two albums as separate pieces, after you put each tracklist together, did any sort of distinct thread or theme emerge on the albums?

The only thing was within the artwork and the title tracks, I sequenced them where the first album was named "Cauterize" and the artwork was all about this Armageddon, science fiction figure that comes and cauterizes the earth of its impurities, and the second one, "Dust," was the aftermath of that and how barren the earth was after that, and the shackles in the artwork is the earth free of its impurities, but it's desolate. So the artworks and the titles of the two albums tie in with one another, but other than that, every song kind of has its own meaning.

From a lyrical standpoint, the material is pretty dark, but you seem like a pretty laid-back guy. Where do these lyrics come from?

They just come from me being a fan of metal. I love doom and black metal and speed metal, and I always just loved the intensity of that kind of music. When I write a heavy, intense riff, it's hard for me to sing about something that's not kind of a little on the edgier dark side.

Is it cathartic to play and sing those types of songs?

Absolutely. When I sing these songs, it takes me right back to the image that inspired those songs in the first place, and it's amplified. When you play live, you have so much adrenaline coming through you [that] whatever you felt like when you wrote those lyrics gets amplified.

Do you ever find yourself writing music for one band and realizing it would be a better fit for the other band?

The only time that would happen is if that speed metal element's in there. If I start doing horse gallops or tremolo picking with my right hand and it just sounds really metal-driven, the guys in Alter Bridge, that's not really their thing. We've gotten heavier and heavier and heavier, and that area between the two bands is getting muddied up a little bit, but as far as the real speed metal stuff, that stays strictly Tremonti.

You have a lot of material to choose from for your concert setlists now. Will you be doing a lot of the "Dust" songs, or trying to give a fair shake to "Cauterize" as well, which is still new?

We'll probably start out with four or five "Dust" songs, and as the tour goes on we'll practice other songs and kind of throw them in there, especially on our own shows. A lot of the festivals, there will probably be only three new songs because we have an 8-song setlist and we want to mix it up. But songs like "My Last Mistake," the opening track; "Betray Me"; "Catching Fire"; and the title track, those will be the first songs we tackle live, and then we'll start adding the rest.

How do you feel about the response you've gotten to this band? "Cauterize" got great reviews and the fans seemed to love it, and the same seems to be true with "Dust" so far.

I think the response to "Dust" has been the best we've ever had. It's the best chart positions we've ever had, and it keeps steadily growing. But rock 'n' roll in general these days has turned into a niche market, so it's hard to cross over to that household-name status where rock 'n' roll used to be. The growth in the rock world is a longer drawn-out process, but the good thing about it is once you have believers in your band, they never go away. They only become believers when they're buying multiple albums and coming to shows, and they'll always be fans.

Tremonti
(Photo : Ashley Malie)
Tremonti is about to embark on a European tour in support of "Dust" and hopes to schedule U.S. dates soon.

Will Wolfgang be playing with you on the upcoming dates?

When we came out with these records, Van Halen came out on tour, so it was just bad timing. He missed on all of the tours for these records. And when we were on tour and Van Halen was off tour, he got together with our producer to put together his own solo band, so he's been working on that material now, and we'll just kind of see whenever it makes sense timing-wise to have him out with us. I think it's really up to him, because either he's playing bass in my band or he's the leader in his own band. I respect him for chasing down his vision. I'm sure when he's got nothing cooking he'll be out with us.

Have you heard any of the material he's working on?

I have not. I think it's kind of one of those things, when you're a magician or a musician you don't want to present your stuff until it's mixed. ... I've only heard from Eric and Elvis about the material, and they say it's great. He's recorded about 24 songs, but it's all just music at this point, there's not any vocals done yet. It's one thing to have music; you can't really get a grasp of what a song really is until you hear those vocals on there.

How would you describe your relationship with your fans?

I'm a really easy guy to meet. After every single show we do meet-and-greets for how many ever people want to stay after. If anybody picks up a CD or a shirt or anything at the merch table, we'll stay after and sign every bit of it until the last person is out of the building. People can contact me on Twitter, I'm always on there responding. I especially respond to like technical questions - what amp did you use or what tuning is this song in or how did you do this or that? - I love those kind of questions. And I love to get on there and read opinions of what people think of songs or setlists. So I'm really easy to get a hold of on social media through Twitter. And I give guitar lessons before every show. Before the day starts I do my guitar clinic, so I get to share some guitar knowledge with people before shows, which keeps me on top of my playing; I'm not going to sit in front of a bunch of people teaching guitar if I'm not nice and warmed up and ready to go.

Who would you like to have had that sort of access to when you were a young musician?

My band was Metallica. They're the reason I'm doing what I'm doing to begin with. I fell in love with "Master Of Puppets," and that made me just a music fanatic. From there, I hunted down the heaviest, coolest, darkest, doomiest. They really inspired me, and I've gotten to do a lot of shows with them now and gotten to meet everybody in the band a few times, and they're still a big inspiration to me.

When we spoke for "Cauterize" last year, you said you were still learning how to be a frontman. Is that still a work in progress?

Yeah, it's still evolving a lot. I still have got a long, long, long way to go. When I see some other bands that have been doing it for years I'm always blown away with the way people can keep the crowd engaged. I watch a lot of other bands now a lot more than I used to just for that, to see how people keep the crowd engaged. And you see people like Lajon from Sevendust, who's a brilliant frontman. We've done so many shows with them. It's a skill that people don't necessarily categorize as a skill. When people have polls for best guitar player and best singer, they should have best performer [too]. There's frontmen that are geniuses at keeping the crowd happy and engaged, and that's an art in itself that you can't practice in your bedroom. You got to get up there and get thrown to the wolves to really experiment with new things at a show.

Tremonti
(Photo : Ashley Malie)
Tremonti has released three studio albums.

Alter Bridge is recording a new album now, right?

Yeah, I've been recording every day. I'll be in the studio later on today. Myles has sung about half the record, and I'm coming behind him singing all the harmonies. I've got one more solo to lay down, and 10 more songs to sing, and I'll be done and ready to mix.

When do you hope to have it out?

In a perfect world, we'll get it out in September. That's our target.

Have there been any discussions or plans to record or play with Creed again?

Right now it's just not a possibility. We're just so busy right now. We haven't even gone on our first tour for the "Dust" album, and we're alreadyscheduling tours throughout the rest of the year for Alter Bridge, and I'm trying to find a gap to come back to the States for "Dust," hopefully later this year or early next year, so the next two or three years are really cram-packed with the new Alter Bridge record and the new Tremonti record. AndScott [Stapp, Creed frontman] is also working two bands himself. He's doing his solo band, and I don't want to ruin the surprise, but he's about toannounce that he's working with another group of musicians, so that's exciting as well.

Hopefully that perfect storm of all this intermingling, all these bands and all this promotion, will come together maybe for a future Creed tour.

Did anything change that has made you open to working with Creed again?

I've learned to never say never in life. When years go by, you always seem to forgive and forget. You always give people in situations second and third chances and see where it takes you. I just learned to be more open-minded as the years go by. I used to be the kind of guy that never forgave or forgot and held grudges, and it's not healthy. I just try to go day by day and see how things turn out.

TREMONTI EUROPEAN TOUR DATES

27/5/16- GER, Dortmund @ Westfalenhalle Arena

28/5/16 - CZE, Prague @ MeetFactory

29/5/16 - GER, Munich @ Rockavaria

31/5/16 - GER, Aschaffenburg @ Colos Saal

1/6/16 - GER, Freilburg @ Jazzhaus

3/6/16 - SWI, Lucern @ Sonisphere Festival

4/6/16 - HOL, Nijmegen @ Fortarock

5/6/16 - AUT, Vienna @ Rock In Vienna

7/6/16 - GER, Saarbruecken @ Garage

8/6/16 - GER, Berlin @ Columbia Theater

10/6/16 - FRA, Paris @ Download

12/6/16 - UK, @ Download Fest

13/6/16 - SCO, Glasgow @ 02 ABC

14/6/16 - IRE, Belfast @ Limelight 1

16/6/16 - HOL, Heerlen @ Theater Heerlen

17/6/16 - FRA, Clisson @ Hellfest

19/6/16 - BEL, @ Graspop

21/6/16 - SWE, Stockholm @ Debaser

22/6/16 - NOR, Oslo @ Parkteateret

24/6/16 - DEN, Copenhagen @ Copenhell