Guitarist of the Week – Mark Tremonti (Part 1)

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Mark Tremonti has played a huge part in the rock music industry as we know it and his contribution just keeps getting more clear by the day. He has had a hand in creating some of my favourite songs and albums in the past few years. He has astounding skills upon which he has improved and built upon year by year. Only a true musician works hard at his craft and relentlessly pursues perfection.

Mark Thomas Tremonti was born on the 18th of April 1974 in Detroit, Michigan to Italian-American parents Michael and Mary. He grew up in a Roman Catholic family in Grosse Pointe before he moved to Wilmette, Illinois.  He has two brothers called Michael II and Daniel. At around the age of 11 Mark was exposed to bands like Kiss and Metallica by his brothers. Mark bought his first guitar around about the Christmas of 1985.

Mark signed up for guitar lessons, but quit after the first lesson, because they insisted on teaching him Mary Had A Little Lamb, when all he wanted to learn to play was Master of Puppets. Mark then decided to teach himself by reading from tab books and learning to play his favourite songs by ear until he got them right. Mark attended his first concert which was headlined by Iron Maiden and he vowed to become a lead guitarist of a band, someday.

After his freshman year in High School Mark’s life was uprooted once again when his family decided to move to Orlando, Florida. His friends in Detroit shared his love for bands like Metallica and Anthrax. Whereas his peers in Lake Highland Prepatory   Orlando had a preference for pop acts like Milli Vanilli and associated acts. Around this time Mark’s mother was sadly diagnosed with Lupus. Mark started to adopt the gothic trend, he wore Megadeath shirts underneath his white school shirts and secretly smoked cigarettes underneath his car.

Mark started to feel like a misfit in school and with his brothers away at college, Mark decided to find solace in his guitar. As expected Mark’s despair and sadness manifested itself in his music. Music became an outlet for Mark’s feelings and Alter Bridge’s song “Shed My Skin” is a reflection of this time. Mark formed his first rock band in High School called Wit’s End. Wit’s End played  Motley Crüe and other metal covers. Mark became acquainted with classmate Scott Stapp even though they weren’t in the same group of friends.

After High School Mark decided to go to College to study Finance, he attended Clemson University in South Carolina for a year. He rented instructional videos which increased his playing skills immensely. For financial reasons he transferred to Florida State University where he reunited with high school classmate Scott Stapp. Mark had a job at the time as the cook at Chilli’s restaurant. He even wore his Chilli’s shirt to an early Creed photo shoot. Mark improved his guitar skills and even performed at open mic nights. Scott and Mark decided to form a band after a long discussion, they then started auditioning musicians to complete the band. Scott Stapp and Mark Tremonti auditioned a drummer and the drummer’s friend got behind the drums and started playing Living Colour with Mark. Mark and Scott immediately knew they had their man. That man was Scott Phillips. With the addition of Brian Marshall on bass the band was complete. The band gained an extra member in 1995 called Brian Brasher, but he left before the band became famous.

The band struggled to come up with a suitable name, so one day Mark came up with a name taken from a humorous newspaper clipping that he carried around in his wallet, so the band was named Naked Toddler. The name was not well received and the band soon decided to change it. Brian had previously been in a band called Maddox Creed and they decided to use a variation of the name. Scott suggested that the band be called Creed. A creed represents a promise or a belief. Scott Stapp’s ancestors were Creek Indians so the name seemed to be the perfect fit.

Creed’s first recorded song was called “Grip My Soul”, but it was never released. The band performed at Floyd’s Music Store and Jeff Hanson the venue’s manager was most impressed by the two original songs that the band performed. He started his own management and promotion company to support the venture.

Creed’s debut album was recorded in pieces and Creed returned to the studio when they had saved enough money to record. Jeff got the local radio station 101.5 to play the title track of their debut album called “My Own Prison“. The song prompted an instant reaction from listeners and the radio station was overwhelmed by calls from people wanting to know what this new song was.

My Own Prison was released on their own independent music label, Blue Collar Records. The artwork was designed by Mark’s brother Dan an arrangement that has continued for every Creed and Alter Bridge cover to date. Only 6000 copies were printed. They sold their CDs at their shows while they were on tour and managed to sell 5, 000 copies in just 6 weeks. Creed knew they would need the backing of a major label if they wanted to make it big, so they auditioned for many record labels without success. A new record label called Wind-Up Records showed interest and asked if Creed would sign up as their first act. My Own Prison was re-released by Wind-Up in 1997.

Creed continued and their fan base continued to grow as a result. The fans started requesting Creed on their local radio stations. The band drew increasing attention and went from selling 3,000 albums per week to 25, 000 albums per week. My Own Prison was a huge success making Creed the first rock band in history to have four number-one singles off of their debut album. The album has sold 6 million copies in the US alone as recorded up until March of 2011. Mark was honored by Guitarist Magazine as Guitarist of the Year for 3 consecutive years.

Around this time Paul Reed Smith approached Mark and offered him a signature guitar model. PRS crafted its first single-cutaway model, moving the pickup toggle to the top, and sent it to Mark. With the PRS Tremonti Signature guitar Mark became the second guitarist(after Carlos Santana) to have a PRS signature model. PRS produced a limited run of 100 and each was signed by Mark.

Creed released their second album Human Clay to immediate success, Human Clay sold 11 million copies. Human Clay was one of only 100 albums ever to be certified diamond status by the RIAA. The first single off of the album “Higher” spent a record-breaking 17 weeks at number 1 on the mainstream rock charts. In 2000 Brian Marshall left the band due to tensions within the band. The band never replaced Brian instead opting to hire a touring bassist which was Brett Hestla of Virgos Merlot.

In 2001 Creed accepted the Grammy award for the Best Rock Song for”With Arms Wide Open“. At this point in Creed’s career the band had sold 13 million albums in 5 years and had charted seven consecutive #1 singles. In early 2001 guitar pedal maker Mortley worked with Mark to design and make a signature wah pedal called the Mark Tremonti Power Wah.

Creed released their third album in 2001 called “Weathered”. The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 and it stayed there for the next 8 weeks. Mark was again approached by Paul Reed Smith to develop an entry-level signature guitar. Mark’s world was turned upside down with his mother’s tragic passing in 2002. Creed started to experience some problems as relentless touring,  disagreements and Scott Stapp’s demons begun to take their toll on the band. Despite all the negative tension the band was experiencing the silver lining of 2002 was when Mark Tremonti married his girlfriend Victoria Rodriguez on December 14.

When the time came for Mark and Scott to sit down to write the fourth Creed album, they were constantly fighting and found that they were going nowhere creatively. Creed announced their break-up in 2004, Wind-Up then went against the band’s wishes and released Creed’s Greatest Hits album in November 2004.

Mark spent the majority of 2003 and 2004 at home honing his technical skills practicing for up to 8 hours a day. He attended classes to learn how to use Pro Tools and he took singing lessons as well. He recorded some demos at home without knowing what would become of them. Mark and Scott Phillips decided that they would like to form a new band. Mark wanted to refocus on his personal goals that he set for himself and go about achieving them with Scott Phillips who shared the same desire.

Due to the impression Mark Tremonti has made on the rock music industry this feature will be split into two parts. Readers can look forward to more insight into the guitar legend’s life next week.

You can follow Mark on Twitter here:

Rock Regards,

Lauren K

Guitarist of the Week – Tomo Miličević

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The Rock Riff has featured 2 of the three members of 30 Seconds To Mars recently and this week its Tomo’s turn, the sometimes underrated, but always quirky and interesting lead guitarist of the band.

Tomislav  “Tomo” Miličević was born on the 3rd of September 1979 in Sarajevo (SRF Yugoslavia), Bosnia to a Croatian family. His first visit to the USA was as a baby and travelled back and forth until his family permanently emigrated to Troy, Michigan when he was about 9 or 10 years old.

When Tomo was a teenager he was hit in the leg by an errant bullet while he was standing in front of his father’s Dunkin Donuts store in Michigan. Tomo wanted to keep the bullet, but the hospital wouldn’t allow it.

By the time Tomo turned 18 his parents Tonka and Damir Miličević had opened a restaurant in Los Angeles. Tomo has a brother named Filip Miličević and a sister called  Ivana Miličević. Ivana was born on the 26th of April 1974 and she worked as a model during her school years. In 1996 she made her film debut in Jerry Maguire as the Former Girlfriend of Tom Cruise’s character. She made a guest appearance in Seinfeld, she played but parts in Vanilla Sky, Love Actually, Head Over Heels, Paycheck, Running Scared and landed a recurring role in the CBS TV series “Love Monkey“.  She appeared in Casino Royale as one of the three Bond Girls. Ivana is currently starring in the TV Series Banshee. Filip Miličević is known in the US as a semi-famous abstract artist and he is a top executive at the AT&T Corporation.

“Tomo’s uncle, Dr. Željko “Bill” Miličević is a virtuoso violinist and orchestra teacher at Farmington High School in Farmington, Michigan.” – Quote obtained from Wikipedia

Tomo attended Athens High School in Troy, Michigan and he is a certified executive and pastry chef. Tomo spent two years in culinary school. Tomo married his longtime girlfriend Vicki Bosanko, in Crete, Greece on July 4, 2011.

Tomo practiced to become a concert violinist from the ages of 3 to 19 years of age. He started writing his own music at the age of 17. Tomo started to discover heavy metal and asked his dad to help him make a guitar, the guitar they made was used to record the song “A Modern Myth” one of the songs from 30 Seconds To Mars’ second album “A Beautiful Lie“. After graduating from culinary school Tomo decided to sell his musical instruments and to leave the music industry for good, that was until Shannon Leto told him about the auditions that 30 Seconds To Mars was hosting. Tomo was already a fan of the group and he decided to audition. Tomo was selected from a group of 200 musicians for his talent and his easygoing personality.

On the 3rd of February 2003 Tomo played alongside Jared Leto, Shannon Leto and Matt Wachter on The Late Late Show With Craig Killborn. Tomo cites some of his influences which includes Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Metallica, The Who, Alice in Chains and Slayer.

Tomo’s favourite song is “Take On Me” by A-Ha. Tomo is left-handed, but plays guitar right-handed.

If you would like to hear 30 Seconds To Mars’s fantastic new song, you can listen to it here:

30 Seconds to Mars’ ‘Love Lust Faith + Dreams’ will be released on May 21st 2013 and I can’t wait!!

30 Seconds to Mars, ‘Love Lust Faith + Dreams’ Track Listing:

1. ‘Birth’ 2. ‘Conquistador’ 3. ‘Up In The Air’ 4. ‘City Of Angels’ 5. ‘The Race’ 6. ‘End Of All Days’ 7. ‘Pyres Of Varanasi’ 8. ‘Bright Lights’ 9. ‘Do Or Die’ 10. ‘Convergence’ 11. ‘Northern Lights’ 12. ‘Depuis Le Debut’

Follow Tomo on Twitter in his “ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME” style. 😀

You can follow Tomo on Twitter here:

You can Subscribe to Tomo’s updates on Facebook:!/TomoFromEarth?fref=ts

Rock Regards,

Lauren K

Band of the Month – The Fray

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The Fray is an American rock band that was formed in 2002 by schoolmates Isaac Slade and Joe King. Three of the band members attended Christian schools and they helped lead worship in Denver’s churches. Slade, Joe King and drummer Ben Wysocki attended Faith Christian Academy. Ben and David Welsh played in the same worship band. Isaac Slade and Joe King reconnected and started to play and write songs together. Zach Johnson was later added on the drums and Isaac’s younger brother Caleb played bass. Caleb was later asked to leave and this caused a rift in the brothers’ relationship and inspired the song Over My Head (Cable Car). The song is about the brothers’ wanting a relationship. Following Caleb’s departure Zach Johnson left the band to attend an art school in New York.

Dave Walsh was added as lead guitarist and Ben Wysocki joined as the drummer. The band decided to ask people to put band names on a piece of paper. They later drew the name “The Fray” randomly. The band employs a touring bass guitarist . The current bassist Jeremy McCoy has been with the band since 2009.

The band struggled to launch a single despite positive reviews, Denver radio station KTCL rejected 8 of their songs before the band decided to send a demo of Cable Car. The song received airplay from KTCL and the station received a lot of requests for the song shortly afterwards. The band was voted the “Best New Band” by Westword in 2004. The band was discovered after Epic Records A&R man Daniel Davis read the article in Westword. Epic Records officially signed the band on the 17th of December 2004.

The band’s debut album was released on the 13th of September 2005, “Over My Head (Cable Car)” was released as the first single and it peaked at number 37 on the Modern Rock Tracks Chart. The song was the fifth-most downloaded song of 2006. It reached its peak place at number 8 on the Hot 100 chart.

The song “How To Save A Life” was first aired during a second season episode of Grey’s Anatomy and then on a fifth season episode of Scrubs. Despite not having been released as a single the song entered the Hot 100 on the 15th of April 2006. The song was released as the second single. On the 18th of August 2006 ABC announced that the song would be used for the main advertising promotion for the season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy. How To Save A Life was inspired by Slade’s experience as a mentor trying to help a crack addicted teen.

The song peaked at number 3 on the Hot 100 chart and it tied for the seventh longest charting single of all time on the Hot 100 chart with Santana’s Smooth for 58 consecutive weeks.

The third single “Look After You”was released and it was the first single from The Fray to miss the Top 40 and their fourth single “All At Once” failed to enter the Hot 100 chart.

The success of the first two singles was enough to launch the band into mainstream success. How To Save A Life reached the Number 15 spot on the US Billboard 200 chart and the album was certified the best-selling digital album of all time breaking the record previously held by Coldplay’s X&Y album.

The Fray promoted the album by launching an extensive worldwide tour and by releasing a live album called “Live At The Electric Factory: Bootleg No.1” on the 18th of July 2006. How To Save A Life was re-released as a CD/DVD set with exclusive content. On the 4th of September 2007, the band released another live album “Acoustic in Nashville: Bootleg No.2. The band released a live cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” as a Christmas single in 2006.

The Fray released their self-titled second album on the 3rd of February 2009, the lead single from the album You Found Me debuted online on the 9th of December 2009 and the song debuted at number 28 on the Hot 100 chart and the song peaked at number 7. It is the band’s third single to sell 2 million digital downloads in the US. The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart selling 179,000 copies in its first week of release. Q challenged the band to write a song within 24 hours in celebration of Valentine’s Day and the song was called “Be The One”. The demo of the song was released worldwide on the band’s official website on the 11th of November 2009. The band also covered Kanye West’s song “Heartless” and both of these songs were included in the deluxe edition of the band’s second album.The Fray’s third live album was released on the 7th of April 2009 “The Fray: Live from Soho”. Never Say Never was released as the second single off of the album and Syndicate the third single off the album was released on the 12th of January 2010.

The Fray collaborated with Timbaland on his album Shock Value II which was released on the 8th of December 2009. The band was featured on the song “Undertow” and I happen to love the mixture that Timbaland and The Fray created on this song.

The Fray’s third album Scars and Stories was released in early 2012 and the band is now busy writing and recording their fourth album with a target release date for Christmas 2013.

I have respect for The Fray’s music, because it is emotive, sensitive and thoughtful. It evokes strong emotions within the listener. I don’t think I have ever listened to the song “Happiness” without slightly tearing up. Another powerful song from the band is “Say When” which takes the listener on a journey through love and war.

You can follow The Fray on Twitter:

Rock Regards,

Lauren K

Front(wo)man of the Week – Hayley Williams

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Hayley Nichole Williams was born on the 27th of December 1988 and she is currently best known as the lead singer of American rock band Paramore.

After her parents divorced in 2002 at the age of 13, Hayley moved from her hometown, Meridian, Mississippi to Franklin, Tennessee. Before she was discovered Hayley was frequently bullied as a teenager and she was very timid growing up. She met band members Josh and Zac Farro in her new school. While still attending school Hayley tried out for a local funk cover band The Factory where she met Jeremy Davis.

In 2003 Hayley Williams was discovered by managers Dave Steunebrink and Richard Williams. They signed Hayley who was 14 years old at the time to a two year production deal. Hayley was introduced to Atlantic Records A&R Tom Storms by  Richard Williams’ attorneys Jim Zumwalt and Kent Marcus and eventually was signed to the label by Jason Flom. The label’s original plan was to turn Hayley into a solo pop artist, but she rejected this by saying that she wanted to be part of a band and play alternative rock music.

Atlantic decided to go along with Hayley’s wishes and Paramore was born as a result. The band consisted of Josh Farro (lead guitar/backing vocals) , Zac Farro(drums) and Jeremy Davis (bass guitar) at the time. For the sake of the image of the band it was decided that it would be better to have their music released through a cooler niche label called “Fueled by Ramen”. Paramore’s debut album was released in 2005 when Hayley was just 16 years old.

In 2007 Hayley appeared in the music video for New Found Glory’s “Kiss Me”. Hayley won Kerrang!’s 2008 poll for “Sexiest Female” and again in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Hayley wrote and recorded the song “Teenagers” which appears on the soundtrack for the movie “Jennifer’s Body”. In 2010 Hayley appeared on alternative rapper B.o.B’s debut album “B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray“. The single “Airplanes” was hugely successful and peaked in the Top 10 in 19 countries including number 1 in the UK and New Zealand.

In 2006 Paramore started touring outside of the United States for the first time, which included a headlining tour in the UK supporting The Blackout on the Give It A Name Festival in Europe.

The band has released three studio albums All We Know Is Falling, Riot! and Brand New Eyes as well as 2 live albums and 3 EPs. In June 2009 Taylor York was added as an official member, even though he was playing as a touring member with the band since 2007.

In December 2010 two of the founding members (Josh and Zac Farro) of the band left. It was announced on Paramore’s website by Hayley. Josh posted a controversial blog post confirming their departure.

Paramore almost ended entirely, but it took a while for the band to get used to the new lineup and they decided to continue playing music. The band went on a mini tour of South America just to ease back into playing live and getting used to the new lineup.

The band wrapped the recording of their fourth album which is self-titled “Paramore” on the 1st of November 2012. The album will be released on the 9th of April 2013. Their first single called ” Now” was released on the 22nd of January 2013. Paramore will start touring in the early spring after the album comes out. The band is still looking for a drummer, but as far as the touring goes Paramore’s crew is pretty permanent.

The music video for the latest single from Paramore “Now”. I love the message behind the video and the video itself is captivating.

Hayley’s voice is crisp, clear and angelic, but the contrast her voice creates when combined with alternative rock music is fantastic! I can see why the music industry wanted to turn her into a solo pop artist, but I’m so glad she stood her ground.

You can follow Hayley on Twitter:

You can follow Paramore on Twitter:

Rock Regards,

Lauren K


Paramore - Hayley Williams by ~madradjessicaSource:

Paramore – Hayley Williams by ~madradjessica