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Interview: MONTE PITTMAN
Title: Personally

On his latest long-play excursion the versatile Californian guitarist and singer performs his own personal return to the Heavy Metal spectrum.

Surprisingly angular it goes forward this time. Exceptionally personal and individual is however all that „The Power Of Three“ has to offer.

And that the no less peculiar working, Copenhagen based sound-tinkerer Flemming ‚Razz’ Rasmussen, could be committed as producer for „The Power Of Three“, just fits perfectly for the Alternative Heavy Metal of the US trio.

He has become famous for Metallica's „Master Of Puppets“. And so Razz also achieved an optimal result for Pittman, drummer Kane Ritchotte and bass player Max Whipple.

Been knocked about the very special sound of his third album release, the former Axeman of the Groove Metal pioneer Prong immediately gets into the brightest joy!

Monte, to my mind, „The Power Of Three“ owns primarily a ‚timeless‘ character, which I prefer, when it comes to such music. How do you've found your unique style?

„Thanks! You are hearing the band play together in the same room recording analog and tracking to tape. I think that gives it a familiar feel and sound you don't hear a lot of anymore. I write on an acoustic sometimes and that can make things more organic. I wrote a majority of these songs or put pieces together out in Death Valley one weekend. The album was recorded in the order that you hear it. We knew what we were going to record going in but we left some parts open to give room for letting the influence of being in the studio fill in the gaps. My drummer and bass player, Kane Ritchotte & Max Whipple, didn't grow up listening to the same things I did partially because these things happened in music way before they were born. They were both 21 when we were recording. After giving them bands like Slayer, Metallica, and Pantera to listen to, you have people just discovering it and giving it new blood.“

Sometimes the music on your new release reminds me at the special time in the 70s, which was filled by r-e-a-l rebellious minds, huge drug excesses etc. Your opinion about?

„Flemming Rasmussen produced it and he has a unique sound that people will recognize when they here it. He is the perfect producer for me. He's mainly known for Metallica but he also produced Cat Stevens, Rainbow, and Morbid Angel. I love having variety in music. I don't listen to the same thing all the time. That keeps me from getting bored with things.“

Please describe the main musical core of the new album!

„I needed heavier and faster songs in my live set. That led to me writing a majority of this material but then looking at incomplete riffs I had before. I like to use the concept "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue". Flemming had a lot of push with me really focusing on the heavier side. It's influenced by what I grew up listening to but in todays setting.“

I like also your kind of very emotional singing, owns partly a bit of Ozzy's style… Do you like the new Black Sabbath album?

„I have been hearing that! I'm not sure where it comes from other than the way the vocals are layered. I'm just glad Black Sabbath are still making music.The guitar solos are phenomenal! I kind of like some of the new album towards the end. It's not something I'll go to when looking for a Black Sabbath album to put on. I'm not too crazy about the songs that are trying to do exactly what their old songs did. They are more creative than that. The whole Bill Ward scenario is a major disappointment but then again, I don't know all of the story with that since it's none of my business. We still have the classic albums and they should do what they want to do.“

Be so kind and bring your own ‚vocal-history‘ a bit closer! Have you ever taken lessons?

„I took a bunch of lessons. Vocals have always been my weakest link. I've always had a really good singer in the bands I've played in. I started singing because I had to. Somebody had to do it. Before my last album, "Pain, Love, & Destiny". I took vocal lessons twice a week for 3 months before recording. There's so much to learn. Singing is like an exaggerated form of talking like running is to walking. It's like playing an instrument that's in your body. Warming up is extremely important. It makes all the difference in the world. As time has gone by, I've started to understand it more and there is still much to learn.“

What’s your very own personal view about the ‚artistic spirit‘ of the new album release „The Power Of Three“?

„Well, to me music is art. It shouldn't be something made to sell chips or soda or whatever. I spent a lot of time finding the right artwork to go on to the cover because I think that should reflect the music. There should be something you can stare at the whole time you are listening to the album. The textures and the depth should coincide with the instrumentation of the songs. Since I've recorded this album (and my last one, "Pain, Love, & Destiny") in order you can get a better sense of when the audience needs a change in dynamics. I try to make the lyrics as universal as possible where 3 different people could think the song means something different than what the other person thinks it's about.“

Which noteworthy small differences to the previous albums are waiting now for the curious listeners?

„My first album, "The Deepest Dark", is an acoustic/vocal album heavily influenced by Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, and Jeff Buckley. It also has an Alice In Chains unplugged and Acid Bath influential vibe going on there. I made it that way so I could recreate the songs anywhere at any time. I tried starting a band but getting everyone who is really good together and in the same city at the same time can be a challenge. My second album, "Pain, Love, & Destiny", was originally intended to elaborate from the first but add drums and bass to it. While being recorded, it turned into a "Rock" album with electric guitars and guitar solos. Now with the new album, "The Power Of Three", it's a "heavy" album. There has been a nice progression to bring it where it is now. Slowly and steadily building to this point."A Dark Horse" is the first track off the new album and it makes a perfect transition if you were to listen to the other albums in order. I did an EP with Flemming last year that's just a stripped down acoustic/vocal recording that we did in 1 day. When Flemming was going over all of my demos, he really liked the heavy songs I had. From there, we made plans for me and my band to fly to Copenhagen and record them. After it was recorded, I played it for Brian Slagel and he offered me a deal with Metal Blade. In a way, I look at this as my first album now. It's definitely a new beginning. The previous recordings were like training for this one and the ones to follow.“

Is it allowed to ask you about special musical influences which led to the new material?

„The musical influences come from all the things I love listening to still today that I loved listening to growing up and learning how to play guitar. In my live show, I noticed I needed harder and faster songs and that's what I had in mind when writing this batch of songs. I came up with tempos and dynamics that I didn't have but needed. The Rasmussen era Metallica albums are my favorite albums ever made. Us working together is a bizarre coincidence. Growing up in Texas, Pantera were the "hometown heroes" so they were a big influence on me in more ways than one. We knew about them before anyone else. When they made it, it was like your home team shooting to the top. The vocal layering influence for me came from "South Of Heaven" and Soundgarden's "Superunknown" but somehow people say it reminds them of old Ozzy. Which is fine with me!“

Please tell a bit about the main lyrical content of „The Power Of Three“!

„Every song is different. There isn'y really one theme that the album is about. "A Dark Horse" is me being hopeful that we can make the world a better place with music. "Delusions Of Grandeur" kind of states you have to be a little bit crazy to be doing this. "All Is Fair In Love And War" is saying you do what you have to do to survive. That's a few. "Dark Side Of The Moon" was an influence thematically, I guess. There are the themes of money, time, an eclipse, and insanity.“

What is behind the title of the new release?

„To start, it's my 3rd album and we are a 3 piece band. The "3" in musical theory tells you if the chord is Major or minor. People have asked if it refers to religion. It doesn't but then again that theory exists. I called my EP I did last year "MP3: The Power Of Three, Pt. 1". I wish I called it something different now because everything changed when I signed with Metal Blade. I wanted to call if "MP3" like "Monte Pittman 3" but in retail, calling something "MP3" can be difficult because an MP3 is a music file format. Now to me, "The Power Of Three, Pt 1." wraps up the first era of "Monte Pittman" and "The Power Of Three" starts off the new chapter. Kind of like how the Star Wars trilogies go!“

How long did you need for the complete songwriting of „The Power Of Three“?

„Some parts I've had for years and some parts were spontaneous right there in the studio. One weekend I went on a trip to Death Valley and everything started coming to me. We tracked the album in 5 days and in another 5 days I did vocals and layered the guitars. When I find lines in the lyrics that end with the same word I've used in another song, I'll change it and that can change the entire meaning of what the song is about. I wrote "A Dark Horse" and "Delusions Of Grandeur" at the same time together. I like how one song ends and another begins. To me, that's an art form in itself.“

Is it allowed to ask you deeper about Madonna? What can you tell the Metal maniacs in general about her as a singer, as musician, as an artist and as an character?

„Madonna is great to work with. She expects the best out of you. I think one of the greatest things I've learned from her is paying close attention to the small details and that you can always make yourself better. She takes exceptional care of us on tour and it's been an amazing experience being her guitar player for the past 13 years. She has been very encouraging to me and my solo career. On last years MDNA tour, she sold my "Pain, Love, & Destiny" album at her merch booth. She didn't have to do that and that was really cool of her. That's the kind of person she is. She's always wanting to help others. She has a strong mother-like quality to her. Madonna always has interesting ideas musically. She has been called the Queen of Reinvention. As far as a singer and a musician, she always strives to be the best she can be and pushed you past your boundaries of where you are comfortable. That's one of the reasons why she is where she is.“

Some own words still to the Pittman fans and all other open minded music fans out there?

„My fans have stuck with me through the years and I'm happy that their numbers are growing daily. I'm very thankful to each and every person who has stuck by me to get to this point. With each achievement there is more work to be done and the load gets heavier. Again, hopefully there is something there for everyone in my music and if you like this, tell everyone you can. I'm always focused on what I can do to make all of this better. Everyday you either make yourself better or you make yourself worse.“

© Markus Eck, 10.12.2013

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