Dec 2016 19

Up front and no longer playing second, multifaceted metal musician Monte Pittman speaks with ReGen about the creation of his fourth solo album, Inverted Grasp of Balance.
 
Monte Pittman

 

An InterView with Monte Pittman

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Monte Pittman’s prolific resume reads like a veritable who’s who of modern music, reaching across the metal and pop genres in such a way that it’s a wonder his own name isn’t more widely known. Known largely for his work as Madonna’s guitarist for over a decade-and-a-half, he has been a member of PRONG, shared the stage with members of Metallica and Spinal Tap, and has been a stage and studio performer with Scarlett Cherry, Melanie C., and Adam Lambert. Besides that, he’s amassed a sizeable solo career, both as a musician and as a guitar teacher. 2016 saw the release of his fourth album, Inverted Grasp of Balance, presenting listeners with some of his heaviest and hardest hitting material yet – at once melodic and aggressive, his brand of metal transcends its root genre to incorporate elements of thrash, alternative, and even pop thanks to his thoughtful songwriting. The album is also notable for the inclusion of virtuoso bassist Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big) and drummer extraordinaire Richard Christy (Iced Earth, Death), with production dutifully handled by Jay Ruston, whose credits include metal heavyweights like Anthrax and Steel Panther. Pittman took some time just prior to the album’s release to speak with ReGen and offer some insight into his latest sonic creation and what his plans are to take his music and career to the next level… no more playing seconds; like his music, this is Monte Pittman up front and in-your-face.

 

For your latest album, you’ve teamed up with renowned drummer Richard Christy and bassist Billy Sheehan. How did you come to work with these two powerhouse musicians, and in what ways do you feel their presence on Inverted Grasp of Balance affected your approach to the music, if at all?

Pittman: I know them both through Metal Blade. Richard and I both have the same management also. They helped bring the album to life. I gave Richard the demos, but told him to just use those as an idea. I also said if he wasn’t sure what to do on a part, play as fast and as crazy as possible.

Besides your own music, you’re known for your long association with Madonna – in what ways would you say your working relationship with her has had an impact on how you approach your own music? What do you feel has been the most important lesson you’ve learned working with her?

Pittman: When we get ready for a tour, we rehearse for three or four months before we play our first show. I always say, ‘paying attention to details’ might be the greatest thing I’ve learned from her. She’s definitely had a huge impact on how I view songwriting and performance.

Inverted Grasp of Balance is your second release with Metal Blade Records, and amid all the discussions about the relevance of the record industry, metal labels seemingly continue to thrive. What are your thoughts on why this is?

Pittman: All things musical revolve in cycles. We’ve been in a transition of how people listen to music. I don’t think it will ever be the same as it was. But on the bright side, more people can hear your music than ever before. Somehow it all balances out one way or another.

You worked with producer Jay Ruston for this album – how would you say that working with him brought out the strongest aspects of your music for this album, and in what ways do you feel it contrasts with Flemming Rasmussen’s on your last album?

Pittman: They were two different experiences. Jay really helped with melodies and vocals. He also helped me decide early on what it would sound like and what I would be doing. I recorded my own guitars for this one and gave them to him to do his thing. I recorded all over the planet, wherever I was. With Flemming, we flew to Copenhagen and were able to record as a band. He kept pushing us take after take to get the performance he was looking for. I’ve loved working with both of them. They both have changed my life and taught me so much.

Thematically, how do you feel Inverted Grasp of Balance progresses from where The Power of Three left off?

Pittman: Inverted Grasp of Balance is about when you think you’ve got it all figured out and the rug gets pulled from under you. It’s a massive step forward from The Power of Three. Each album is an evolution from the next one. I knew I wanted faster and heavier songs in my set. That’s usually how I write.

As you experimented with different chord and tonal structures, scales, etc., was there ever an instance where you challenged yourself more than you had anticipated? How did you overcome the challenge, and how pleased are you with the results?

Pittman: I’m lucky to have a lot of close friends here in L.A. that are just phenomenal guitar players. They really pushed me to make myself better. Like anything, you have to take it one step at a time. I was on tour when I recorded my guitars, so I was playing eight hours a day. Before we left for tour, we were rehearsing sometimes 14 hours a day. I’m very happy with how everything came out. This is the first album I’ve ever been a part of where I didn’t have to stop because I ran out of studio time.

 

 

As a guitar teacher, what are your thoughts on the way younger generations are approaching the educational aspects of music – not just with regards to the guitar, but to music as a whole?
Also as a teacher, in what ways do you feel you become more inspired in your writing as you pass your knowledge to up-and-comers?

Pittman: I’ve noticed a bunch of kids going back to classic rock… or the same thing we all grew up on. Kids seem to really love AC/DC. That’s something that resonates with everyone. Sometimes they will want to learn something from a new band, but they get bored with it quickly. As long as they are learning something, that’s what matters. Anyone can reach me for online lessons at lessons@montepittman.com.

Besides your guitar playing, you have an excellent singing voice; are there any particular exercises you do or recommend that have helped you to maintain such a strong vocal presence?

Pittman: Thank you! That’s what I’ve had to work the hardest at. I’ve had a few different vocal teachers. For this album, I started taking lessons from Ron Anderson. He really helped me understand what to do. I had been doing everything backwards before working with him.

What’s next for you? Are there any plans to tour for Inverted Grasp of Balance?

Pittman: I have no idea what’s next. It’s really weird. Usually, my schedule is booked up months in advance. There’s nothing on my calendar after this album comes out. It’s kind of eerie. Hopefully, something good! I definitely plan to tour. I have to find a booking agent that will take me on first.

 

Monte Pittman
Website , Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Metal Blade Records
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Photography courtesy of Metal Blade Records

 

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