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Private Parts

In an exclusive Guitar World lesson, Creed's guitarist Mark Tremonti drops his D's and shows you his greatest licks, including "One," "What If" and "What's This Life For."

By Andy Aledort

"One thing you discover out on the road is that food can be a real adventure," says Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti. "The further up into Canada you get, the less hamburgers taste like hamburgers. They begin to taste like something very unfamiliar. A good burger becomes one of the comforts of home that you really miss." "In England, the food is awful," he says, continuing his culinary line of thinking. "I got a burger there and I thought, What the hell am I eating? And Germany is the weirdest of all. As soon as we walked in the door at the venue, they presented us with this assorted meat plate that looked like it was straight out of the Flintstones--huge blobs of meat with giant bones sticking out the ends. Man, it was nasty!" Though Tremonti and his Creed bandmates' hunger for foreign meats may be nil, their appetite for worldwide success has been satiated a thousand times over via the multi-platinum sales of their sophomore effort, Human Clay (Wind-Up). In the three years that have passed since the release of the group's debut, My Own Prison, Creed have been logging some serious road miles, and fine road dining is probably the only thing the Tallahassee, Florida-based quartet can complain about. With Human Clay -- which spawned such recent hits as "Higher," "What If" and "With Arms Wide Open"-- Creed's popularity have shifted into hyperdrive, positioning them as the biggest new band in rock. Tremonti was kind enough to take a short respite from the band's current North American tour to give us the inside track on how to play a handful of Creed's most beloved songs.

GW: You were born in Detroit in 1974, and by the time you were nine, you were a confirmed Kiss addict. When did you put your first band together, and what songs did you play?
Tremonti: I started my own band when I was about 12. We played some Black Flag tunes, but from day one I really wanted to learn Metallica songs. Soon, we were playing Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, know, the good ol' heavy stuff.

GW: Out of all the music written by your favorite bands, is there one song you wish you had written yourself?
Tremonti: "The Call of Ktulu" [from Ride the Lightning] is probably my favorite Metallica song. It's a very atmospheric instrumental; it has lots of peaks and valleys, and it takes you on a ride. I love that, and I try to do similar things in our own music.

GW: A signature element of your guitar style is the use of alternative tunings.
Tremonti: In addition to standard tuning, I use droped D [low to high: D A D G B E] and, for a couple of songs on the new album, I use an unusual open D tuning [low to high: D A D A D D], in which the top two strings are in unison. I use that tuning on "Faceless Man" and "Are You Ready?"

GW: "One" [My Own Prison] was a big hit for Creed. It always reminds me of U2 and the Smashing Pumpkins.
Tremonti: I can see what you mean. As a matter of fact, we all got together with Billy Corgan a while back, and he was super-great to us. He gave us the "big brother-little brother" rap--what we should look out for, and what he learned from his experiences. We really appreciated how warm and open he was toward us. "One" is played in standard tuning.

GW: How is the chorus section played?
Tremonti: guitar lesson...

GW: Right before the second chorus you play a fast series of artificial harmonics.
Tremonti: That's an old Death Angel death-metal trick: (Lesson #3) (After this there are a lot more lessons, the guy asks him about playing WTLF. He gives some instruction, then makes an interesting comment, so I stuck it in here)
Tremonti: This is probably the most basic song of ours, but it's the biggest pain in the ass to play live. It's the last song we play before our encore, and before I start the song, I do a little two-minute, unaccompanied "classical" piece, similar to what's played on the original version of My Own Prison. Then, I start the song, and I hate picking all of the individual fucking strings! All of the attention is on me, and if I miss one note, it's all downhill! The million-mile-an-hour stuff is actually easier to play, and the cleanly articulated, simple-sounding stuff is the hardest stuff to get perfect every time. That's the only time of the night where I'm thinking, Fuck--I've got to concentrate! For the chorus section, I switch on my "dirties" [distortion]. This section is basically made up of the same chords as the verse, but they are strummed. (okay, so I stuck in a little Now more lessons, then another comment when the writer asks him about who's heartbeat is it in the beginning of WAWO)
Tremonti: [laughs] That's just your regular "heartbeat" sample. (more lessons)

GW: Is it difficult to recreate the dense guitar textures of your albums in a live situation?
Tremonti: Yes, it is. I've changed many of the album guitar parts because I need these parts to sound "bigger" live. I'll play full or partial chords in place of single notes wherever I can. Creed originally had another guitar player, but he was kind of an Eddie Van Halen-type of guitarist: he could solo all day long, but he wasn't big on rhythm. He would also come onstage barefoot, and was kind of a "happy hippie." whereas the rest of us are unhappy hippie-haters! (LOL) Now that I'm the only guitar player, I have a lot more respect for one-guitar bands. You can't just go out and wail all night; you've got to fill in the space. I'd love to have a side project where I can just solo like crazy over everything.

GW: What's your current gear setup?
Tremonti: One recent change I've made is that I now use Paul Reed Smith guitars exclusively. They gave me one of their single-cut Les Paul-style guitars, and it's absolutely killer! It's the baddest guitar in the world--it blows away any other guitar I've ever had. It's technically perfect. Even the super-heavy guys, like the guys from Sevendust, said, "Damn, that guitar rules!" (now he lists amps and pedals and all that stuff)

GW: What can you say about the massive success Creed has achieved?
Tremonti: We've taken it step by step, and we haven't allowed ourselves to be too overwhelmed by anything. We haven't been an overnight success; it's been a steady, positive slope over the last five years and we've had to fight for everything we've earned. So I know it looks like we came out of nowhere, but we've been busting our asses for a long time.

Thanks to V from the creed discussion list for typing this up!!