Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge, Slash and the Conspirators, The Mayfield Four) recently caught up with Metal Wani’s Carl Rourke to talk about Kennedy’s upcoming, sophomore solo album, ‘The Ides of March’. The pair talked in depth about the album as well as how Myles recently rediscovered his love for playing lead guitar, what his thoughts are on what makes a song a hit versus what makes a song a classic, as well as how he came to adopt the neighborhood cat, now named Azrael Kennedy, and much more.
Asked if a new solo record would have been possible if he hadn’t had to stop touring, Myles said,
“I think there would have been a record. Because I knew that I had kind of a studio date, not set in stone, but you know, because I’ve got these three different bands and everything is very scheduled at this point, you know, everything has kind of gotta follow, you know it’s like, I kind of have a three-year plan at all times. So I knew that if I wanted to do a solo record I would have to get in there in the fall of last year. And I was concerned. I remember having a conversation with my manager, like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to write a record between now and then because we were touring the ‘Walk The Sky’ [Alter Bridge] record. And then the lockdown happened and I had all the time in the world. So to answer your question, yeah there would still have been a record, but it certainly, I don’t think I would have had the time to focus on, and I don’t know if the songs would have been as inspired lyrically because I was definitely, there was plenty to draw from just given everything that was going on in the world and so there was no shortage of inspiration.”
On rediscovering his love for lead guitar, Myles shared,
“So I rediscovered my love and passion for lead guitar probably three or four years ago. And you know, I focused for so long on being a songwriter and a singer, but I started as a guitar player and a lead guitar player in particular. And so yeah, I just missed it. And I, that was part of the reason this record was more of a plugged-in, amplified affair versus a full-on acoustic record because I knew that that would help facilitate that. And it’s been a lot of fun. I mean I, man, I forgot how much I missed playing the lead, you know? I play some lead with Alter Bridge, but not a lot, and also, more blues-based, this record is definitely, there’s a blues-based kind of current throughout it which, that seems to be where I’m most comfortable as a lead guitar player. So it allowed me to kind of step out and do a lot of hoodly – hoodly’s.”
Asked what led to him falling out of love with lead guitar in the first place, Myles recalled,
“it actually happened a really long time ago. It’s interesting. So, I started in, not to sound like I’ve been doing this since the prehistoric times [Laughs] but I started playing in the mid-’80s, you know, and we did have color TV back then [Laughs] we had running water [Laughs] But yeah, so, that was the thing. That was what was cool, it was fun! And then a record came out and it changed everything and it was the big Nirvana record [Nevermind] and suddenly lead guitar was just dead. And so I kind of started to shift away, even though I loved it, I was kind of burned out with it as well. Things were just oversaturated, there was too much of it, it was just kind of, 80’s rock had gotten to a point where it had just kind of run out of options. So it was a refreshing change with the whole movement that came about in the ’90s. And I really focused for, the next few, jeez, almost twenty years on songwriting. That was my thing. That’s what I really wanted to develop. But come about 2018 or so I was like, hmm, I was doing some of those old licks and was like ‘this sure is fun’. It’s funny, I was talking about this recently in an interview, and I think that it was, I saw a documentary, it might have been on the ‘Crack The Sky’ documentary where Brent [Hinds, Mastodon] talks about, he’s talking about lead guitar playing and he makes, from Mastodon, and he’s talking about how, I think he says something the effect of ‘Who doesn’t like to play lead guitar?’ or ‘it’s fun’ or something, something to paraphrase. And I was like you know what, that is so true. Because it’s very, the thing about playing the lead, or improvising, it’s very Zen, you know? It’s very, once you build up the musical vocabulary, you’ve got your bag of tricks and licks, most guitar players, if you ask any producer, they’ll tell you really every guitar player has like the three licks that he just kind of reinvents and plays in each song! [Laughs] It’s kinda true! It’s kind of true. So you have your three ticks and you kind of, you know, do what you need to do and use them but what you’re doing is you’re speaking a language. That’s the beauty of improvisation. That’s why I love jazz so much. When I listen to John Coltrane, that guy is speaking fluently. Like, crazy fluently! Myles Davis, the same sort of thing. It’s about being here. It’s about being present. Because the thing is, when you’re improvising if you’re worried about what’s coming up or you’re thinking about what you just did you fall off. And so there’s something very challenging and very beautiful and very meditative about it. And I think that’s why I have rekindled my love with it.”
In support of his debut solo album, ‘Year of the Tiger’, Myles embarked on a hybrid tour, performing both solo acoustic shows as well as full-band performances. Asked whether a tour for ‘The Ides of March’ would follow the same formula, Myles said,
I’d like to do the combination. I thought that was, it was fun. It felt like people who came to the shows enjoyed that. And, you know, I’m a weird one, ’cause I do love playing acoustic. But I also love to rock out, you know? And the band is, they’re awesome dudes and it’s a family affair and so, yeah, I hope to do, I hope, if the world can, you know, reopen in time, to do a little bit of both again.”
While discussing the pros on cons of not being able to tour, Myles shared the story of how being at home led to him adopting the neighborhood feral cat.
“I do genuinely miss performing and seeing the fans, there is something about that ritual that has such an important role in my life and has for as long as I can remember. But at the same time, I have really enjoyed waking up in my bed, hanging out with my wife and my dog and no we’ve adopted the neighborhood feral cat, which has been a whole new thing as well. There was this black cat that used to hang around the neighborhood for years, and it’s a beautiful cat, but he was just this feral cat and would just run around. And he started taking a liking to my wife, so my wife would be out gardening or whatever and this cat would just hang out and watch her. And now he lives in the house, and he’s a cool man! His name is Azrael, angel of death, he’s totally badass. [Laughs]”