Every Saturday night on VH1 Classic That Metal Show brings you interviews with the biggest names in heavy metal and hard rock. And each week That Metal Gear interviews your favorite TMS guests to find out how some of the genre’s most accomplished musicians got their start playing their instruments and what guitars and amps they’re using to get their sounds. This week we caught up with Mark Tremonti, formerly of Creed, and currently holding things down for Alter Bridge and Tremonti. Mark is at heart a true metalhead who cut his teeth as a teenage thrash metal fanatic and also a true gear nerd when it comes to guitars and amps. Find out what he’s using, what he’s listening to and how he crafts those giant hooks while staying true to his metal roots.
What was your first guitar and where did you get it?
My first guitar was an imitation Les Paul. It was a Tara. I think it was a Japanese guitar or something. I bought it for $10 from my buddy at school. Then I sold it for $100 to upgrade to a Tokai which was a double cut-away pointy headstock kind of ‘80s looking thing. That was my second guitar and then my third was a Les Paul.
So the Les Paul was probably your first good guitar, right?
Yeah. I got that at Music Quarters in Detroit. It was actually a Les Paul Studio Lite. I grew up with that thing. And then it got stolen when Creed played Boston. Somebody stole our trailer with that guitar in it.
Who was the first guitarist that made you want to play guitar?
Watching the movie Back to the Future, and Michael J. Fox got to play guitar and do the Chuck Berry thing. And then, I remember watching Crossroads with Ralph Macchio and Steve Vai. And I loved that. When I would hear songs on the radio, like Boston or the J. Geils Band, where they would just break down to the guitar riff, that would always be my favorite part. My older brother Mike would listen to Kiss and Nugent, and I always thought Ace Frehley was the cool guy in Kiss so I wanted that black Les Paul. I was always just really drawn to the guitar.
What was the first song you mastered on guitar?
I think, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” was one of the first songs I learned to play start to finish. So that was probably it. It was a good one. I was a huge Metallica fan growing up. That was the band that really made me a huge monster music fan.