Monte Pittman is as about as versatile as they come. A self proclaimed Steve Vai fanatic, former member of Prong, and guitarist for Madonna for the past 15 years, Monte Pittman is an artist that knows no limitations or boundaries. In 2016, Monte Pittman will release his latest and by far his best solo release to date, Inverted Grasp of Balance.
Monte took time out of his insane schedule to talk about the new album, what it’s like playing clubs, arenas, and stadiums, and just why he thinks that Steve Vai is the ultimate guitar hero. Monte was a really awesome person to chat with and I hope that after reading this you will check out his latest album and give it a good listen. I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know more about a great guitarist and a great guy, Monte Pittman.
Monte, thanks so much for taking the time out to talk to me today.
It’s my pleasure, Don. Thanks.
I’ll be honest, when I heard your last album, the Power of Three, I wasn’t all that into it but on your latest one Inverted Grasp of Balance, really grabbed me.
Thanks. I love that. I really wanted to make an album that would grab everybody’s attention so I’m glad to hear this.
Monte, I know you do a lot of press but what is that one question that you get asked so much that it drives you batshit crazy?
[laughs] Honestly, there isn’t one. The question I get asked the most is when am I going to tour. I don’t have a booking agent. I need to get one and that’s one of the things we’re working on now. As soon as we get an agent, hopefully I can go out as an opening act for someone.
I just read a few days ago about how insane your rehearsal schedule is for Madonna. I was exhausted reading about it. First off, being a metal guy, when you went into that world, were you able to take some of that into that gig and blend it into what she was doing?
Yeah. The main thing Madonna was looking for was attitude and that’s something that just comes naturally from playing this style of music and versatility. She plays so much attention to details. For the last tour we did, we started rehearsals at the beginning of May and went until the first week of September when we started the tour. Part of that is working up the setlist and the other part is actually rehearsing the show with the lights, props, everything. We had 14 hour days on this last tour rehearsal. There is that work ethic for sure and paying attention to details. Dynamics, versatility, keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s happening and what’s about to happen. I’ve also learned a lot from her songwriting structures. Madonna’s had so many incredible producers over her career so I’ve really picked up a lot things.
In your career, you’ve played everywhere from the dive clubs to huge stadiums. Is there one in particular that you prefer as a musician?
I like them all equally. Playing stadiums is a great experience but sometimes I feel like it’s too big and you don’t connect. With arenas you can connect. Madonna’s always got a huge stage so the arenas can seem small [laughs]. Then again, in clubs, you really connect with people. You can reach down and touch them. I don’t have a preference one way or the other but if it was my own tour and I could pack stadiums, that would be my answer [laughs].
What are you looking forward to the most as far as getting this material out to people live?
Well, I’ve got an amazing set list and show now which I hope to play for people sooner than later. I’m just so excited and I want as many people to hear it as possible. That’s another thing going back to what we were just talking about. I’ve played the stadiums and there’s a lot of things that I’ve experienced but I’m not even thinking about that right now. I just want my music to get out there to as many people so with each album I do, more and more people will get on board. Also, like you said earlier, maybe if you don’t like this album, you’ll like the next one, or the one after that.
Or maybe people will see these songs live and come away from it with a whole different perspective. I can’t tell you how many times my mind has been changed about a song or songs after hearing it live.
I was just talking about that in another interview. The song “If You Have Ghosts” which is a cover that Ghost did, when I heard the track, I didn’t hate it but I wasn’t going to listen to it again. When they played it live, I was like, “Whoa.” Now it’s one of my favorite songs and I listen to it over and over again. Your live perception of seeing something can completely change how you like something. It could be the opposite to. It could make you hate the song [laughs].
Modern technology has really enabled just about any and everyone to make an album for better and for worse. When it comes to technology like this, do you see it more as a friend or foe?
Oh, it’s definitely a friend. Even though you have Protools, you can still play it like you’re recording onto tape. You want to get that performance, that emotion of when you’re playing. You don’t want to just get little pieces here and there.
What is your favorite guitar record?
If I was to pick one, I would have to say Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare. That album came out when I first started playing guitar and it just seemed like something impossible. Like, how can you even play like that? [laughs] It was just insane. Joe Satriani’s Surfing With the Alien would be right under that one but there’s something about Passion and Warfare. There’s other great albums but if I had to choose one that’s the one it would be.
Have you ever had the chance to meet him and share this with him?
I went to one of his master classes once and I learned so much from him and we became good friends after that. He’s always been one of my favorite guitar players. He impresses me not just because of his playing but he’s also just really cool. I love his singing voice, his songwriting, and he’s just a great dude. I’m just a huge fan. For me, if you were starting out and you were going to model your career after someone, Steve Vai would definitely be a guy I would look to. He’s played in bands like Whitesnake, David Lee Roth, and Frank Zappa but then he’s also a very successful solo artist.
If you could play guitar in any band for just one night who would it be?
Oh, Metallica but I’d want to be the third guitar like in Lynyrd Skynyrd [laughs]. I wouldn’t want James or Kirk to be gone so that would be the only way I could do it [laughs]. I’d love to, even if it was just in room, to jam with Vinnie (Paul), Rex (Brown), and Phil (Anselmo) just to do that.
Who do you feel is a terrible underrated guitarist?
Um, I’d probably have to say Tommy Victor. I just don’t think he’s ever known enough as a guitar god.
How about the flipside to that question. Who do you feel is the most overrated guitarist?
I can’t answer that because I may be friends with them [laughs]. They won’t invite me over to their parties or anything. Also, you never know who’s a fan of yours [laughs].
If Hollywood was to make a movie about you who would play you?
Whoever the best looking guy is out there. Hm, Brad Pitt! [laughs] I actually used to teach him. My first acoustic album was going to be music for some movie he was going to do but it just never happened.
So are you still giving guitar lessons?
Yes I am actually. I teach online guitar lessons to anybody, anywhere in the world. Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monte, thank you so much for your time and it was so great to learn more about you.
Thank you so much, Don. This was fun.
For more on Monte Pittman, check out http://montepittman.com