Photo by Jeremy Saffer
Guitarkadia: What were you listening to, reading, watching as a kid? How did they influence who you are as a musician today?
Monte Pittman: KISS is what first grabbed my attention as a little kid. This has been said several times before, but they were like superheroes with guitars. As I was growing up, bands like Mötley Crüe all the way to Metallica were coming out and that was something new and exciting that was happening musically. It was rebellious too.
It's always good to look at your roots and remember where you came from no matter where you are in your career. I'm glad I had those bands to grow up listening to.
G: If you had to pick 5 records that made an impact on your guitar playing, what would they be? Why?
Metallica - Master Of Puppets First album I ever learned to play all the way through.
Steve Vai - Passion And Warfare : This kind of got me to start liking deeper styles of music and music that wasn't just heavy. The guitar playing is phenomenal and was a huge inspiration for me to hear as I was learning how to play guitar.
Prong - Cleansing : This album has one of the best guitar sounds ever recorded.
Nick Drake - Pink Moon : This really got me into acoustic guitar playing and acoustic music.
G: A lot of us know the story about your moving to LA in 1999 and Guy Ritchie being your third student after you'd quit your job as a guitar store salesman. What inspired you to become a teacher in the first place?
MP: When I lived in Texas, I used to teach as an apprentice to my guitar teacher and then on my own. Playing guitar and teaching guitar are two different things. You have to know it in a different way. I love teaching and passing on what I've learned. That's another part of me being a storyteller.
G: You've toured & recorded with Madonna for over a decade. What makes that relationship and collaboration work well after all those years? Any successful collaboration that lasts so many years has to be more than just talent and hard work.
MP: I started out teaching her. That created a different relationship. First she was one of my students but then she became my boss. I think it's lasted so long because we love playing music with each other. It works out perfectly that I love playing different styles and her music covers so many of them.
G: How did Jarrell MPS come to be? What was the process like towards developing your own signature guitar?
MP: I got a Jarrell guitar and got really inspired while playing it. They have a different sound and feel that's different from any of the other guitars out there. We discussed making a signature model. As the ideas went back and forth, we came up with the MPS.
G: Why do a Kickstarter campaign for your first record not use your industry connections to produce and release an album the traditional way?
MP: I'm building this as I go. Everything comes and goes in cycles regarding music. Labels haven't been signing and developing bands like they used to. Now there are a lot of small labels coming out. Kickstarter was suggested to me by a few different friends so I gave it a shot. With my new album, it's time to crank it up a few notches.
G: What inspired you to record and release MP3: The Power of Three in three parts? What was it like working with Flemming Rasmussen?
MP: I had one day in the studio with Flemming on a day off. We managed to record four stripped down, simple acoustic songs. The acoustic songs I had written were really different from another set of songs I was working on called "M.P.3: The Power Of Three, Pt. 2". That's the new album and it's heavy, energetic, and raw.
G: If you were asked to provide one tip for each of the following, what would they be?
a) Writing - Study what makes the songs that you like work. Start developing your own formulas that work for you and apply that to your writing.
b) Practicing - Practice slow and precise. Pay attention to the little details.
c) Recording - Know what you are going to record when you start tracking. Plan ahead. Get your sounds right then and there. Don't settle for "it will get fixed in the mix"
d) Playing live - Be entertaining. Connect with the audience. Even if it's just a few random people in the crowd.
G: What's next for you?
MP: Next for me is getting the new album out. I'm playing Saturday, March 2 at the Whisky A Go-Go. I have a couple shows on this year's Vans Warped Tour. Everything will keep building and expanding from there.