EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW - DrownedMadonna.com had the privilege of interviewing the one and only Monte Pittman. He is well known for being Madonna's guitar teacher, her guitarist and co-writer of some of her most intimate songs. But Monte is first of all a great artist, whose second album, "Pain, Love & Destiny", is out now and you can buy it here.
Drowned Madonna: What are your inspirations, your favourite guitarists?
Monte Pittman: Right now, I’ve been listening to the old blues guys on Spotify, like Freddie King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Elmore James. Also, Jeff Beck is a big influence. Vogg from the band Decapitated (from Poland), John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk have been massive influences on me too.
DM: What is the music you like and listen to the most?
MP: I like a little bit of everything from the heaviest to the softest and everything in between.
DM: Which is your favourite song?
MP: Ever? “The Long and Winding Road” by The Beatles. Lately I’ve listened to “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen over and over again for some reason. “Like Rock & Roll and Radio” from Ray LaMontagne is one of my favorite current songs. “Help Is On The Way” from Rise Against stays stuck in my head.
DM: What are the secrets of your guitar setup?
MP: It’s all about balance.
DM: You worked as a salesman in a guitair store... did you already know how to play guitar?
MP: Yes. I’ve been playing since I was 13.
DM: When and why did you decide to become a guitair teacher?
MP: My guitar teacher (Robert Browning) had me teach as his apprentice as part of my teaching. You have to know it at a different level to be able to teach it to someone else.
DM: One of your students was Guy Richie. How did he become your student?
MP: His assistant at the time found me by calling the Guitar Center asking for guitar teachers and I was referred by someone there.
DM: When did you meet Madonna for the first time?
MP: When I was at her house to teach a lesson.
DM: Were you nervous when you performed with Madonna an acoustic rendition of "Don't Tell Me" at the David Letterman Show?
MP: Not really. I was really, really cold. It’s like being in a freezer in that studio. It went by so fast there was no time to be nervous. I stayed in my dressing room before going on and worked up the solo I played. I wasn’t really aware of anything going on anywhere else at the time. After the show, Paul Schaffer came up to me and told me he liked how I started the solo with the melody. That was a cool moment. He doesn’t miss anything.
DM: Was that your first time on TV?
DM: Madonna looked very nervous and humble. Do you remember her feelings?
MP: I can’t speak for her. I thought she did incredible. She probably wasn’t nervous. That might be a way she looks before she kicks your ass. You could substitute any Chuck Norris fact with Madonna. There aren’t too many late night TV performances out there that people still refer to 11 years later.
DM: The next summer Madonna wanted you to be the guitarist of her Drowned World Tour...
MP: We were tuning our guitars and she asked if I wanted to go on tour with her. It was that simple.
DM: Since then, you went on every Madonna tour. Which was your favourite and why?
MP: There are great memories from each tour. It’s hard to just pick one. The Drowned World Tour was my first with her. It was a new band and she hadn’t toured in over 7 years or something like that. The Re-Invention Tour and Confessions Tour were incredible experiences too. The Sticky & Sweet Tour brought in a new band for her so that was another incredible experience in itself. I’ve had the pleasure to play with the musicians in both incarnations that I’m very proud to have played with. We’re all pretty different with our backgrounds sometimes and instead of focusing on how we’re different, we focus on how we’re alike. That’s when the magic happens.
DM: But at the same time you were working with your bands, like Prong and The Citizen Vein. Was it hard to manage both?
MP: Somehow it worked where I could go back and forth with each. Prong isn’t “my” band but I love that band like I started it. From The Re-Invention Tour on – I was also building my band The Citizen Vein. In a way, what I’m doing now with my solo career is where that band left off.
DM: Doesn't it feel strange to be a heavy metal guitarist and at the same time the guitarist of the Queen of Pop?
MP: No. Both have alot of attitude in them. The notes and the chords are the same. It’s the dynamic and the effect you play it with that puts it in a different genre. I actually look at Prong as heavy dance music. A cool coincidence: Prong started at CBGB’s. Tommy Victor was the soundman there. The original drummer and bass player also worked there. That’s also where Madonna played with her late 70's band (The Breakfast Club) before becoming a solo artist.
DM: "Easy Ride" is one of our favourite songs ever. Can you tell us something about the writing and recording process?
MP: Cool. I’m glad you like it. It came about by being a chord progression you can play the Harmonic Minor scale over.
DM: Which are your favourite Madonna's songs?
MP: “Angel,” “Love Profusion,” “Another Suitcase In Another Hall,” “Open Your Heart,” “The Power Of Goodbye.” So many to choose from.
DM: "Pain, Love & Destiny" is your second album as a solo. Which way is it different from your debut album, "The Deepest Dark?"
MP: "The Deepest Dark" is just an acoustic & vocal album. I did it that way so I could recreate it anywhere and it still sounded like the album. "Pain, Love & Destiny" is built around the acoustic & vocal element but also has drums, bass, electric guitars, blazing guitar solos, jams, programming and is more band oriented. I took what people liked from my live shows and incorporated that into my current material.
DM: How long did it take to write and record it?
MP: Two months. Every day with the exception of a few. Two of the songs were first written before I moved to LA, but I overhauled everything before recording it and rewrote everything with what I’ve learned to this point.
DM: What were your inspirations?
MP: Taking everything that’s ever made me who I am at this point and putting them together with what works live or what people really liked in my live shows.
DM: How would you descrive each songs with a few words?
MP: It’s hard for me to describe them. What I wrote them about may mean something completely different to someone else and I like to keep it that way. I try to make it where the lyrics could mean multiple things. Right now some of the lyrics mean something different to me than they did a month ago.
DM: Is there a song that you like the most?
MP: That changes all the time. Right now “Keep Shining” almost seems like a personal message to myself for right now.
DM: Are you planning to film a video?
MP: Yes. In the next couple of weeks.
DM: Will you tour to promote "Pain, Love & Destiny"?
MP: I’m headed to Texas to do some shows at the beginning of December. I’m not able to do a full “tour” but playing anywhere and everywhere I can.
DM: How long are you not taking a holiday?
MP: How long am I not taking a holiday? That sounds like a trick question. I’m not taking any breaks. There’s no time to.
DM: Madonna will tour again next summer. Are you planning to tour with her again?
MP: If she’s playing somewhere and asks me to join her – I’m there. She gave me my break. She comes first.
DM: What do you want to say to your and Madonna fans?
MP: Thanks for all of the support, especially recently. I’ve been getting a great response from my new album. On the Sticky & Sweet Tour, Twitter & Facebook were relatively new. Now more people are on and it’s great to hear from everyone. There are some people I haven’t seen in years. So that’s great to be able to get information out to so many people at once. It has it’s bad side sometimes but over all it’s really cool.
DM: Thank you so much Monte, it was such a pleasure to talk with you. We hope to see you soon on stage with Madonna.