From a rock and a hard place: an interview with Monte Pittman

Pic Jack Lue

Pic Jack Lue

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?Monte Pittman 1

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?

Monte Pittman bandI 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 Monte Pittman 3patiently 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 @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/monte-pittman-the-power-of-three/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 05/02/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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Monte Pittman – The Power of Three

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    It has to be admitted that approaching The Power of Three, the new album from Monte Pittman there was more uncertainty and doubting expectations than intrigue nudging thoughts. Not having heard his previous solo albums but well aware of his work as long time guitarist for Madonna, encroaching fears wrongly but still with strong whispering made their suspicions known. The fact that the release was on Metal Blade Records allayed some of the dubiety but as always the proof is in the pudding and what a towering feast of adventure and heavyweight metal the release emerged to be. Unleashing obviously hearty and instinctive metallic tendencies aligned to a creative passion, the album is a storming blaze of multi-flavoured sinew driven rock, a magnificent triumph which employs the artist’s musical exploits in numerous styles into one enthused and rigorous explosive treat.

     Hailing from Longview, Texas Pittman’s career can be said to have started its upward ascent once he left a local music store was working in after moving to Los Angeles to begin teaching guitar, though the band Myra Mains he was part of before leaving had already seen some success with their shows and two albums. His third student was British filmmaker Guy Ritchie who wanted lessons after receiving a guitar from then girlfriend Madonna. This led to the musician giving lessons to the lady too which was followed by an invitation to join her on stage at the David Letterman Show to promote her album, Music. Since then Pittman has played guitar on all of Madonna’s live tours, the first being the 2001 Drowned World Tour, and her albums as well as sharing writing credits on some of her songs. Adding to that the guitarist has also played with and co-wrote many songs on the Scorpio Rising and Power of the Damager albums from metallers Prong, as well as on their 100% Live release. Additionally working with the likes of Adam Lambert, Melanie C, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor it has to be said that Pittman has had a rather eclectic background leading up to the new album. In that time he also released two solo albums, acoustic solo The Deepest Dark of 2009 and acclaimed rock album Pain, Love & Destiny two years later, a Kickstarter funded release which raised $65,500 making him the top rock musician raising the most money on the crowd-funding platform at that time. Late 2012 saw the appearance of M.P.3: The Power Of Three, Pt. 1, an acoustic EP which marked the first union of a new working relationship with Danish producer Flemming Rasmussen (Master Of Puppets). Last year Pittman with drummer Kane Ritchotte and bassist Max Whipple travelled to Copenhagen to record the new album with Rasmussen producing, a record which now leaves passions lit and imagination ignited.

     As soon as the opening song, A Dark Horse emerges from a strongly coaxing acoustic guitar lure within a crackling ambience, Monte Pittman - The Power of Threeany previous concerns are sent flying. Rampaging riffs and equally rapacious rhythms are soon flying through the ear with adrenaline spewing from every note. Soon settling into a slightly calmer surge the excellent clean vocals of Pittman adds another dimension to the rampant heavy rock offering whilst a grunge air lays over the more restrained elements of the track, an Alice In Chains lilt soaking the melodic rock enterprise which seduces with every twist and sonic turn. Though arguably the track is not setting a ground-breaking endeavour it leaves senses and emotions breathless with a craft and enthralling energy which simply scintillates from start to finish.

     The following Delusions of Grandeur takes intensity and heat up a few notches with a much more predatory and inciting air to its invasive and riveting breath. Bass and drums rap and snarl respectively with a near bestial rabidity but it is tempered by the impressive vocals and sonic seduction going on around their jaws. The band forge a contagious union of the dark and carnivorous tones of the song’s intent with its melodic beauty and creative flaming, the guitar play of Pittman as impressive and mouthwatering as the raptorial enterprise provided by his colleagues.

    The immense start is easily met by firstly the addiction sculpting Everything’s Undone and the following Blood Hungry Thirst. The first of the two is a rock pop gem, a potent anthemic enticement which reaps the best essences of the Foo Fighters and QOTSA into its own fiery wind of invention and majesty. There is still a growl and sturdiness which intimidates and badgers welcomingly within the lighter yet heated master-class though helping to provide rock pop alchemy at its best and setting a new bar for the album which its successor sniffs at and rampages over with a heavier raptorial urgency and weight whilst simultaneously matching the impressive melodic infectiousness and invention of its predecessor.

    Riding a delicious moody bassline, vocals and nagging riffs bring On My Mind to vibrant life, the song another virulently contagious slab of rock ‘n’ roll. In many ways the song and some of the album reminds of nineties UK rock band Skyscraper, both able to lay a web of hooks and melodic allurements which simply grip and linger with pure imagination. The song makes way for Away from Here, a track where returning almost carnal riffs and basslines gnaw away at the senses whilst melodic resourcefulness alongside thrilling toxic grooves and hooks reap even stronger allegiance to their calls.

    After such a towering run maybe it was to be expected that a slight dip would ensue and despite moments of bordering on brutal riffery and corrosive bass snarling Before the Mourning Son with its dominate melodic croon does fail to ignite like the previous songs. It is still a track though which you can only welcome and constantly return to with its exploratory enterprise and stunning craft.  End of the World which follows is the same, a melodically smouldering song which seduces and invites an emotive reflection through its warm embrace and though like the previous one is impressive and wholly persuasive it just had too tall an order to match up to.

After the again AIC sounding and richly satisfying Missing, the album closes with the thirteen minute All Is Fair in Love and War, an extensive and creatively intensive track with seemingly as many styles employed as the number of fingers working in a four man bobsleigh team. The song is an unrelenting landscape of unpredictability and absorbing emprise but a track which arguably offers too much never allowing the senses and imagination to settle in and fully absorb all of its mastery. At times the track is majestic but too often in its debatably over long length the switches and turns of the song do not flow or sit as comfortably alongside each other as you would wish, the guttural stretch of vocals which break lose mid-away an example and definitely a no-no for personal tastes.

      The Power of Three is quite simply an extraordinary storm of imagination and artistic adventure which throws assumptions forcibly back in the face to provide one of the early rock pinnacles of the year.

http://montepittman.com

9/10

Ringmaster 21/01/2014

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Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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