There's something else you should know about Mark Tremonti: He REALLY loves pinball! Less than 24 hours before my scheduled interview with him, it was announced that Creed had officially broken up. As if this news and the ensuing media attention weren't distracting enough, Mark was also in the middle of moving into a new house while spending the rest of his days and nights recording songs with his new band, Alter Bridge, for their debut album, "One Day Remains." And yet despite all of this activity, he still made time to share his fantastic pinball collection with GameRoom readers!
Scott Voisin: How long have you been collecting pinball machines?
Mark Tremonti:I've been collecting them for about five years. It's very addictive! (laughs) Back in the college days, of course, there was no way I could afford to buy them, but in the last few years, I've been able to get more involved in the hobby.
SV: What was the first game that you bought?
MT:The first one was actually South Park. One day I went to a place called Birmingham Vending and was just looking around. they had it set up, I played it and really fell for it.
SV: Is there a specific thing you look for in a pin that will determine whether or not you buy it?
MT:There's nothing really specific, but I like the serious adventure games where you have a lot of levels in it. I also like games that are fast with a lot of toys and gadgets. At one point, I got on the internet and found a list of the 100 top-rated pinballs ever made, so I look at that, too, whenever I'm thinking about buying one.
SV: Do you have a lot of friends who enjoy pinball?
MT:Well, I think pinball is one of those things that a lot of people don't really think about. It's not until they're actually in front of a machine and playing it that they realize how much they enjoy it. When I'm on tour, there are some promoters who know how much I'm into pinball, and they'll have a couple of machines set up. A couple of years ago, a bunch of us were playing the Elton John game Capt. Fantastic, and guys who had never said a word about pinball before were playing and having a blast.
SV: Do you have a favorite game in your collection?
MT:I'd say my favorite is probably the Star Trek: The Next Generation game. With all of its missions, there's just so much stuff to do in it, and the music and the voices really make you feel like you're in that universe. It's really one of the best games I've ever played. But if I was going to enter a tournament, Medieval Madness is probably the game I'm the best at.
SV: Pinball is a pretty self-destructive game. Have you learned how to do repairs on your machines?
MT: Not really. I can do a few basic things, but when it comes to something big with the electronics, I have someone come in to fix it. I don't want to mess it up even more! (laughs)
SV: Cosmetically, I noticed the games look like they're in mint condition.
MT: Yeah, that's something I'm pretty particular about. When I want to buy a game, I'm willing to spend a little extra to make sure it's the cleanest and nicest looking one I can get. In fact, when it comes time to move the pinball's into the new house, I'm not letting the moving company touch them. I'm going to do it myself to make sure they don't get dropped or rammed into any walls. (laughs)
SV: Is there a certain place you buy your pins from?
MT: I've gotten several from PinballSales.com. They've been really good to me. In fact, the owner, Jack Guarnieri, told me that once I get moved into the new house, he'll send someone over to make sure everything is still working just in case anything happens.
SV: With your busy schedule, do you get much of a chance to enjoy your collection?
MT: No, not at all. In fact, being here and seeing all the games turned on is really making me want to play! (laughs)
SV: When you were growing up, arcade video games were all the rage. What is it about pinball that made you want to collect those instead of the video games?
MT: I loved playing both of them as a kid, but what I love about pinball is how clever the games are. It has stuff that you just can't get from a video game. Video games back then were so repetitive, and if you played them enough, you could learn the patterns and anticipate when certain things were going to happen. Pinball is unpredictable, and it's never the same game twice because you don't know where the ball is going to go or how it will react when it's bouncing off the bumpers. When I was a kid playing pinball in the arcade, I'd play a game a few times and then it might be years before I ran into that game again somewhere. It took me having my own machine and playing it over and over to appreciate just how great a game can be.
SV: Pinball is still alive, even though Stern is the only company left making them. Do you think there's a future for it?
MT: I think there is. Stern is coming out with some great games. I really liked Roller Coaster Tycoon and Terminator 3. With all of the talent Gary Stern has working for him, I don't see why they can't keep producing quality games to keep up the interest.
SV: Are there any more games you're looking to add to your collection?
MT: There's a few more, but I think the next one will be Lord of the Rings. That looks like a very cool game!
SV: Before I go, I'm a huge Star Wars fan, so I wanted to ask you about your Episode I pin.
MT: That's an amazing game. I'm a fan of the movies, and the Pinball 2000 format is really put to good use with the theme. In fact, I've got it set on the maximum number of balls you can have in the game because it's so challenging. (pause) Do you want to play it?
SV: Are you kidding...?
MT: Let me get it set up...
And with that, my "official" interview with Mark came to an end. As I played Star Wars: Episode I with him looking on and talking about the finer points of the game, it became perfectly clear that even though Mark Tremonti is a rock 'n roll celebrity, he's also a regular guy who truly enjoys the pinball experience.