by Ryan Meehan
Born and raised in Longview, TX, Monte Pittman made the decision at 24 to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a professional musician, and unfortunately having to leave his family, friends, and band Myra Mains behind. Upon arrival in LA, he made ends meet by working at a local music store. Realizing he was better at teaching than selling, he left to start providing guitar lessons. As fate would have it, his third student would end up being British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, who had just received a guitar from his then girlfriend, Madonna. Soon after, Monte was introduced to the iconic performer, and became her guitar teacher as well. A month later, Monte was invited to join Madonna on stage at the David Letterman Show to promote her album, “Music.” Monte has since played guitar on all of Madonna’s live tours and albums, starting with the 2001 Drowned World Tour, and shares writing credits on some of her songs. Monte has also played guitar for the band Prong. He is credited with co-writing songs on “Scorpio Rising” and “Power of the Damager” to which he also added backing vocals and bass. He also played guitar on Prong’s live album “100% Live.” In November 2009, Monte released his debut acoustic solo album, “The Deepest Dark.” Almost a year after its release, a special bonus version of “The Deepest Dark” was released and immediately reached the No. 1 spot on the Best-Selling Acoustic Albums list at CD-Baby.com. It was also No. 9 in the Top 10 Best-Selling CDs for the Fall of 2010. In 2011, Monte launched a Kickstarter campaign for his second album, “Pain, Love & Destiny”. It raised a staggering $65,500, making him the top rock musician to raise the most money on the crowd-funding platform at that time. Monte met his initial goal of $5,000 in under 24 hours. It was released later that year and within its first week made it to No. 1 Rock Album, No. 1 Pop Album, and made it onto the Top 10 Albums chart on CD Baby. In addition, it cracked the iTunes Top 200. Monte performed at the 2012 Super Bowl with Madonna and toured around the world on the MDNA Tour. He also performed at the 2012 Artists In Music Awards where he was given an award for Best Solo Artist in addition to being nominated in four other categories. Monte has also been honored with a Career Achievement Award from the Hollywood F.A.M.E. Awards. The Los Angeles Music Awards nominated him for Best Male Singer/Songwriter and Best Modern Rock Album for “Pain, Love, & Destiny”. In November of last year, “M.P.3: The Power Of Three, Pt. 1″ was released. It’s a stripped down acoustic EP marking the beginning of Monte and Flemming Rasmussen’s working relationship. In 2013, Pittman, along with band members Kane Ritchotte on drums and Max Whipple on bass, went to Copenhagen to record the upcoming album “The Power of Three” with producer Flemming Rasmussen. This marks Monte’s return to heavy music, and we are pleased to have Monte Pittman as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What was your first guitar and what are some of your earliest memories involved with playing the instrument? Was it the first instrument that you learned?
MP: It was called a Terminator by Synsonics. It had a built in speaker. My parents got it for my for Christmas when I was 13. Once I got it, that’s all I did. I played and made up sounds by getting familiar with putting different notes together. I eventually learned “One” from Metallica note for note by taking it one measure at a time. That was the first song I learned how to play. Later on my parents got me a black Ibanez RG 560. That helped me progress drastically.
RM: How were you able to apply the listening skills that you developed growing up to teaching guitar lessons? Did you struggle teaching at first? In other words, did you find that you had to tech yourself how to teach?
MP: Teaching is different than playing. You kind of have to “unlearn what you have learned” with it and separate teaching, playing, and writing. For teaching, you have to stick to the rules in order for the student to learn what you are teaching them. For writing (and for playing) you can throw all of that away. The theory is merely a guide because there are a lot of rules in music that can be broken because of substitutions. Ironically, my first student wanted me to teach him “Beg To Differ” from Prong and that’s how I started getting in to Prong.
RM: Which aspects of music do you find to be the most fascinating? Do you think that you’d have a different answer to that question if the drums or bass guitar were your primary focus?
MP: I just like playing and writing what I want to hear and what I don’t have to listen to. Sometimes you write something that you wouldn’t think you would write. I actually started playing drums because that’s the closest thing to playing in a rock band the school had to offer.
RM: How did the same guitar player that jammed with Prong end up performing with Madonna for so many years? Do you consider your ability to work with a variety of musicians in different genres to be one of your most valuable skills?
MP: There are only so many notes to play so that’s the way I look at it. I started playing guitar for Madonna from giving her guitar lessons. She was one of my students and said she was going on tour and I should come play guitar for her. So, of course, I said yes! I met Tommy Victor through Ivan DePrume. They were actually jamming together for a minute when Tommy was going to start Prong up again. They were one of my favorite bands and still are. That’s how all of that started. I joined both bands around the same time and would go back and forth between the two. Variety is the spice of life.
RM: How can you tell when a guitarist is spending too much of their energy focusing on the technical side of the instrument? Is it more than just a lack of raw emotion?
MP: Like anything in music, it’s all about balance. You can learn more about “playing” by showering in a truck stop, touring, being on the road, playing every night when you’re exhausted and sore (which if you DON’T feel that way – you’re not doing it right), and missing your family & friends than you can learn out of a book. I never went to a music college because I thought most of the players sounded like each other and I didn’t want to play like that. – With that said, you can never learn too much.
RM: Your new record “The Power of Three” is set to be released on Metal Blade Records January 21, 2014…What is the story behind the name of that album and how would you summarize the material that appears on the disc?
MP: “The Power of Three” is the 3rd “Monte Pittman” album. We are also a 3 piece band. Three’s are very significant in music also. As far as the material goes, there is a little bit of influence from several things I’ve loved growing up. The comparisons I’ve heard people say is old school Metallica, Ozzy, Pantera, Alice In Chains. All my favorites! Flemming Rasmussen recorded and produced it. Some of the same gear and mics he used on “Ride The Lightning” and “Master Of Puppets” were used on this album. He gets a familiar tone and a familiar sound that I think people will love. Or I hope they will. We recorded all live together in the same room and tracked on to tape. He captured the live energy that was happening while we were playing. People will hear a lot of things that I think we’ve all been missing.
RM: What made you choose “A Dark Horse” as the single?
MP: It’s the first song on the album so that’s the first song I usually play for people. The intro sets everything up. It’s got a nice transition from what I’ve done before to where it’s all going now.
RM: What’s your take on guitar beyond the six string landscape? Do you use a 7 string at all and would you have any use for an eight string?
MP: A friend of mine just got an 8 string and I was checking his out. It’s cool! 6 is enough for me. I was thinking of picking one up in the future for writing or to come up with some ideas maybe. I could take that and apply it to what I do now. I’ve already gotten a little tired of that sound. It’s great for Meshuggah though!
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2013 and into 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
MP: My new album “The Power Of Three” comes out January 21st and I plan on promoting the album all year. Getting it to each and every set of ears that I can. I have a headlining show at the Whisky-A-Go-Go – Saturday, December 7th. If you’re in the area, come out for that.
Official Website: http://montepittman.com/
Monte on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MontePittman
Monte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/montepittman
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