Scott Phillips (seen here on the left), drummer with Alter Bridge chats with Kevin Cooper about how he was influenced by the late John Bonham, playing Wembley Stadium, their latest album The Last Hero and their forthcoming arena tour of the UK
Scott Phillips is an American musician and co-founder of the bands Creed and Projected. In 2004 he formed Alter Bridge with fellow Creed members, bassist Brian Marshall and lead guitarist Mark Tremonti. Also in the original line up was lead vocalist and guitarist Miles Kennedy, with Phillips playing drums. The band is now known for its acclaimed live shows and extensive touring.
Named after a bridge that once existed on Alter Road near Tremonti’s former home in Detroit, Alter Bridge released their debut album, One Day Remains, in 2004. Despite mixed reviews, and driven by the release of the single Rise Today, the band released its second album, Blackbird, to more positive reviews in 2007, embarking on a successful world tour in support. The album marked the beginning of a long-time collaboration with producer Michael Baskette, who has produced every Alter Bridge album since.
Since then they have released AB III, Fortress and their latest album, The Last Hero, which was released in October 2016.
About to embark upon a headline arena tour, Scott Phillips took the time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.
Hi Scott how are you today?
I’m doing just fine thank you Kevin. How are you today?
I am very well thank you and let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
Absolutely no problem, no problem at all.
And just how is life treating you?
Life at the minute is not too bad. We are gearing ourselves up for this run of concerts in Europe and the UK. However, I have to say that it has been nice for me to get to spend a few days at home with the family. It’s been really good.
On the 7th October you released your latest album The Last Hero which was very well received. That must have made you happy?
Absolutely, we are all really excited about this album and we are glad that it is finally out there. We were fortunate enough to have one of our biggest debuts ever with the chart positions all around the globe. So we are extremely excited with just how well it has been received plus the album seems to be getting a lot of positive reviews. I personally am excited by the thought of finally being able to get out there and play some of this new material live in front of our fans.
I had a look at Amazon and the album is currently on their best sellers list.
Really, is that correct. I haven’t looked so I did not know that. That is fantastic to hear.
I have to ask you just who is The Last Hero?
It is actually a metaphor for basically anybody in your life who you would consider to be a hero. The whole album deals with heroes, whether it is the lack of heroes or you are trying to find a hero or simply people who have been regarded as being a hero during their lifetime, that kind of thing. I think that is where the album spawned from.
At least you didn’t say Donald Trump (laughter).
(Hysterical laughter) no, I didn’t but I have to tell you that if I had then that would probably be my last answer (laughter).
My favourite track on the album is My Champion. What was the rationale behind that?
I think that lyrically Myles (Kennedy) has explained this before by saying that it is all about positive words or reinforcement. When Myles was a child growing up he would tell you that he was a little bit of a late bloomer, he was made fun of at school and got poked at. These were sort of the words of encouragement that he used to receive from family and friends. They would tell him to stay positive, to find those words of inspiration and they would continually tell him that everything was going to be alright.
You have mentioned Myles who I have seen in a lot of guises especially with Slash and I personally think that he is fantastic. So let me ask you, just how good is he?
Well, I would have to agree with you, we are certainly fortunate to have him in the band and also to have him as a friend. I think that he is just one of the most talented guys who is out there be it vocally or as a guitar player, and I would simply consider Myles to be a master of his craft. Myles and Mark (Tremonti) work so well together and I am so happy to be a part of it.
Alter Bridge have been together now for twelve years. Looking back over those twelve years are you now in a place where you would have hoped to have been?
I think that we are all certainly happy with where we are now. We have learnt a lot along the way mostly from a business perspective. You kind of live and learn and you make choices which you then have to live with. When it comes to Europe and the UK in general we have certainly found our place and we really couldn’t ask for anything more. The rest of the world seems to be catching up and whilst the USA has been a good market for us it has never been as strong as Europe or the UK is. It seems like it is finally starting to get there but it has been a bit of a longer road I would say.
You have mentioned the tour, are you looking forward to being back here in the UK?
Absolutely, being over there in the UK for us is like being in a home away from home. For myself it has been a couple of years now since I was over there. In fact it was on the Fortress tour back in 2014 that was the last time that I was there. After that Myles and Mark both went off to do their respective projects so it has been a bit of a lull for me. So I am really excited about getting back there especially getting reacquainted with friends and fans. I am just looking forward to it in general.
Do the fans here in the UK appreciate what it is that you are trying to do?
The fans over there in the UK are fantastic and they are really knowledgeable. They actually treat us like family.
You are playing the Motorpoint Arena here in Nottingham on the 26th November. What can we expect?
A big old rock and roll show (laughter). We are bring more production than we have ever bought over before. We will be playing some new material that certainly no one has had the chance to hear us perform yet so we are very excited about it. So it is going to be a really big show and everybody will certainly be happy with the results.
Have you had the chance to look around our fair city when you have played here in the past?
Yes we have. We have managed to take in some of the sites, check out a couple of pubs which I’m an expert at (laughter). Nottingham is an awesome city and this time we actually have the whole day off to enjoy ourselves before the show. We will no doubt get out and take in a few more of the sites.
The reason why I asked you is because we always get grief off the American artists thanks to a certain Kevin Costner. When they see the size of Nottingham Castle they think ‘where’s the rest of it’ (laughter).
(Hysterical laughter) right, well let me tell you I am always impressed (laughter).
Have you found your way into the Trip To Jerusalem, the pub that is built into the castle rock?
I certainly have, I certainly have. I found that on one of our first trips to Nottingham and it was one of the first places that I checked out. I always make it a point to get back there whenever we are in the city.
Where would you say has been your best gig here in the UK?
Oh man that’s a tough one. We have had some really great shows in the UK playing a lot of the big cities there. Getting the chance to play at the Wembley Stadium in London was totally amazing. The name behind it signifies such a lot to us. The crowd there were really phenomenal. This time we have been given the chance to play the O2 Arena in London and I am crossing my fingers that this will be a memorable show. I am most definitely looking forward to that. However, looking back I honestly cannot say that any one show stands out above any of the others.
You mention in your influences that you particularly liked the late John Bonham. What was it about John that drew you to him?
The thing with John was that he was always in the groove. As soon as you heard the drums, the tone of it, you knew immediately that it was John playing. I am a huge fan of Led Zeppelin, their versatility and the fact that they made so many amazing songs. They did that with all different styles of music; it wasn’t just rock and roll, it was the blues and even on a few songs it was a Latin salsa kind of thing that was going on. I loved the way that John felt the music and you knew instantly that it was him. It wasn’t always the classiest of stuff in the world, sometimes it was just the simplest groove. It just had an amazing feel to it.
All of the drummers that I have looked at and have tried to draw inspiration from were all guys who you knew that it was them playing as soon as you heard the music. They all had a certain feel and a certain sound and you could identify within one measure of hearing the first chords of a song exactly who was playing the drums. I think that was the biggest thing with John.
It’s great to see Jason following in his dads footsteps.
Absolutely, and let me tell you I get that same feel whenever I hear Jason play. Whenever I watched Jason playing at the Led Zeppelin reunion back in 2007, the more Jason sounded like his dad. He has the exact same posture, build and feel as John had and let me tell you, he is one hell of a drummer.
What was the first record that you bought?
That would have been Off The Wall by Michael Jackson.
Who did you first see playing live in concert?
My parents took me to a couple of shows when I was a youngster so it could have been Kenny Rodgers or Eddie Rabbitt or something along those lines. But the first real rock show that I went to see was The Outfield. If you want to call them rock (laughter).
What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?
That is a great question. I honestly don’t know but what I will say is that there have been a few. I can be a bit of a weeper if you catch me at the wrong moment.
Scott, on that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me it’s been great. Good luck with the tour and I hope to see you here in Nottingham.
Thank you very much Kevin and if you do get to the show please come up and say hi. You take care and bye for now.