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The year may be young but it has already seen one of the most thrilling and inventively riveting heavy rock/metal albums likely to bless the year released. The Power of Three from Monte Pittman is a towering feast of adventure and multi-flavoured sinew driven rock fused to heavyweight metal. Renowned and acclaimed for his work with Madonna and the likes of Adam Lambert, Melanie C, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, the Texan with the Metal Blade Records released album unleashes his always eager creative and passionate metallic tendencies. Given the pleasure and opportunity to find out more about the magnificent triumph, we talk with Monte Pittman and find out about his early days and inspirations as a budding musician, songwriting, Prong and much more…
Hello Monte and many thanks for taking time out to chat with us.
Before we get into the meat of your excellent new album The Power of Three, can we get some insight into the background of Monte Pittman before the musician and what was the first spark or moment when music drew you to its bosom?
I grew up in Longview, Texas. I’ve wanted to play music since I can remember. I was always fascinated by it. I was very lucky to be a little kid and have bands like Kiss to bands like Pantera as influences. I was one of those kids who would stand on the bed with the door closed pretending I was Ace Frehley to my sisters Kiss records. My cousin, Jimmy, had a few different bands in Dallas and I would see him rehearse as a kid. That’s what started it all.
What have been the major inspirations on you musically and especially in regard to your guitar craft?
That’s something that always changes. The first song I ever learned how to play on the guitar was “One” by Metallica. “…And Justice For All” had just come out. That was an exciting time to get your first guitar! My guitar influences now are Jeff Beck and Freddie King. I’m also heavily influenced by John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk, but they’re not guitar players. As far as bands, a lot of fellow Metal Blade bands…Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, and Amon Amarth…also Holy Grail. Great guitar players! Great songs! Great bands!
Aged 24 you moved from Longview to LA; why, was it purely for music reasons?
My cousin, Natalie, lived there and I went to go visit her. As soon as I got there, it felt like home. When I went back to Texas I immediately started making plans to move there as soon as I could knowing the longer I took, the better the chance of talking myself out of it. I moved to LA to work as a professional musician one way or another.
You were already in the relatively successful, certainly locally, band Myra Mains at the time, what were the opportunities you felt could be lying in wait in LA which encouraged you to leave band and family etc. behind?
It was hard leaving but I knew I could always go back if it didn’t work out. I didn’t know what to expect.
Jumping forward a bit and you became guitarist for Madonna; we covered it in our review of your album but can you fill in further for the readers how this came about?
I worked at Guitar Center in Hollywood. I quit and started teaching guitar lessons. One of my first students was Guy Ritchie. He was dating Madonna. Then I started giving her guitar lessons. From there, she asked me to play guitar for her.
You obviously are a heavy weight rocker at heart and creatively so were there any doubts about linking up with the Queen of Pop or was it a no-brainer decision?
No because we already knew each other and she was cool. I love all kinds of music and in her shows we play several styles of music.
As well as all the positives from working, playing, and writing with the lady has there been any, not exactly negatives but may be doubts from people towards your solo work before actually hearing it because of that creative union, their expectations making assumptions about your sound maybe?
I’m sure there would be some people who would be on the fence with just that information but hopefully the music speaks for itself.
As we mentioned earlier you have just released The Power of Three, a contagious rock ‘n’ roll beast of a record, what were your feelings about it and its possible reception compared to your previous solo releases?
I wanted to make an ultimate metal album with all the things I loved. I reached a point with my song writing where everything came together…the old with the new. People like different things. Hopefully that leaves something for everybody down the line. The new material has had the best response for sure.
The album is a multi-flavoured and genre varied inventive temptation which draws plenty of essences from your eclectic work and numerous collaborations over the past years; do you feel that yourself and was it intentional or just an organic evolution?
Most of it was an organic evolution. Sometimes you have to just forget everything and start over
I read somewhere that the album was originally going to be a three part release with acoustic, blues, and metal tracks? If so what changed in your thinking taking it into being an all-out metal and muscular rock adventure?
I had written acoustic songs. I had written heavy songs. I had written blues songs. I made an acoustic EP with Flemming Rasmussen. We made plans to record the heavy songs and the heavy songs kept coming. The flood gates were open. I played what we recorded for Brian Slagel and he signed me to Metal Blade.
You also linked up with Danish producer Flemming Rasmussen for the album, a repeat from your earlier acoustic EP as you just mentioned; how did you first meet and what sparked your creative union?
I met Flemming on a day off when I was on tour in Copenhagen. We stayed in contact and eventually made plans to work together. We did the acoustic EP on another day off when I was back in Copenhagen again.
What is it in particular about the man that helps him connect so potently with your ideas and music to help guide it to the right final place?
He knows when to push you. He knows when to be invisible. He puts you in the right frame of mind for what he’s trying to get out of you. He becomes that next band member that’s there recording you.
Is there a general process you go through when writing your songs and music?
I’ll come up with some guitar riffs and then a melody will stick in my head. Then I find words to fit the melody. I can change one word and it changes the meaning of the song so it’s like you are writing a story.
How would you say your music has evolved over the years and specifically between last album Pain, Love & Destiny and The Power of Three?
I looked at what I needed for my live show. I needed faster and harder songs. That was in the back of my mind for everything I was writing at the time. It all started out with me playing solo acoustic shows on my own and that’s grown to what it is now.
Is there a particular moment or essence within the album which gives you an extra tingle?
Somewhere around “Away From Here”, you can really hear us get comfortable. The album was recorded in the order you hear it. The first song was the first thing we recorded. We all recorded at the same time in the same room. You can feel the excitement throughout the album.
Are you an artist who goes into the studio with finished songs or prefers them to either be born in that situation or certainly evolve into the finished article there?
There should be a little of both. I made a general demo of the whole album but we left room to do whatever we felt like doing right there and then in the studio.
Listening to certain tracks on The Power of Three you get the feeling there is a more carnivorous and heavier sound waiting patiently to break out. Do you feel that yourself and is it a future exploration maybe?
This definitely paves the way to get heavier.
Will this upcoming year be a concentrated time supporting the album live and writing or are there already collaborations and varied projects lined up too?
Getting the word out about this album will take up all my time. (hopefully!) We’re playing the Whisky-A-Go-Go in LA February 22 and we’re about to start adding more.
One of our all-time favourite bands here is Prong who you have played, toured, and written with extensively these past years. How did you link up with the guys and is this an on-going thing including their upcoming tour?
When I first moved to LA, Ivan DePrume introduced me and Tommy Victor. From then on, I would wind up going back and forth between Madonna and Prong. Prong has a killer line up right now and Tommy is working on a new album. They are one of my favorite bands too. I’m happy I got to work with them and I’m always there to help if needed.
A big thank you Monte for taking time out to talk with us, any last thoughts you would like to leave us with?
Thanks for talking with me! Great questions! We did a video for “Before The Mourning Son”. Check that out if you haven’t seen it yet. There are some videos of some of our NAMM performances on YouTube at MontePittmanMusic. Keep checking in at www.montepittman.com
Lastly what are the five most important albums in your inspiration over the years?
- “Master Of Puppets” – Metallica
- “Vulgar Display Of Power” – Pantera
- “Pet Sounds” – The Beach Boys
- “Pink Moon” – Nick Drake
- “Shout At The Devil” – Motley Crue
Read the Power Of Three review @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/monte-pittman-the-power-of-three/
The RingMaster Review 05/02/2014
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