Talking Tone & Thrash Royalty With Monte Pittman
Monte Pittman is one of those guitarists that you can rely on to cover any musical situation you throw at them. Just look at his resume: from Prong to Madonna and Adam Lambert, Pittman has the chops, tone and professionalism to slip into a song with the right balance of musical authenticity and individual personality. In November 2012 he released M.P.3: The Power Of Three, Part 1. Recorded with famed Metallica producer/engineer Flemming Rasmussen, it’s a four-song acoustic-based set which recalls elements of Alice In Chains’ acoustic work filtered through an almost psychedelic 60s ambience. But the metal chops that made Pittman a perfect fit for Prong will be in ample employ on the second disc. We caught up with Monte at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California recently to talk about his new music, working with the man who helped create the thrash sound, and his signature Jarrell guitar line.
How’s the NAMM Show been for you so far?
I’ve been able to see a lot of friends – it’s always great to run into your NAMM friends every year, because sometimes that’s the only time you get to see them. And seeing all the new gear from all the companies, having a really good time. I played a show last night at the Marriott and the place was packed. I played a mainly all-original set, so for those people to not be familiar with the songs and to be sticking around and enjoying themselves, that’s great!
Yeah! I met Flemming a few years ago on tour in Copenhagen, and he’s always been one of my favourite producers. Probably my favourite producer. And I was amazing by the way he captures sound. It’s like the rooms talk to each other. If the drums were recorded in one room and the guitars in another room, he makes the sounds of those rooms be musical together. I was in Copenhagen over the summer and I had a day off. We’d been talking about getting together and recording something, and he got the studio ready and we went in there for one day just to see what would happen. We came out with my new EP, M.P.3: The Power Of Three, Part 1. Then I’m leaving tomorrow early in the morning – the flight leaves at 8am – to go record Part 2. Part 2 is a full-on heavy album. Part three will be blues.
Do you pick his mind for Metallica stories? Cos, y’know… you’ve gotta!
Haha. Well, it’s not like I want to work with him just because of that. It’s a coincidence that he has done some of my favourite albums which got me started, so I can use that for reference with him. There’s a song on my EP called ‘Another Lesson I’ve Learned,’ and we didn’t record anything to a click track or anything. He’s really great at getting that take from you, that special take. And so he had me play it over and over again and I would slow parts down or kind of go with the dynamics of the lyrics and what I’m saying with this song. So I’d done this intro and there was this space, so I said ‘Well, in this song when you did this trick, and that song when you did that trick… do something like that!’
So tell me about your signature guitar. I’ve played it and it’s a very cool, very flexible instrument.
It came out with Jarrell and there are three different models. It’s called the MPS, and there’s one with a Floyd Rose, one with a stop tailpiece and one which is the Classic, the entry model with Jarrell pickups. The other two have Seymour Duncan pickups.
Yeah, sparkly ones! And MJ at the Custom Shop custom-made those. One of the things that’s really unique about that is that those pickups are different to how you would buy them in a store. There’s some special mojo that she’s put into them. She’s switched a couple of things around. And you can only get those pickups in the guitar. The idea is to have a guitar that I can get all kinds of different sounds and tones out of. It’s one guitar that you can use to do anything.I left my main Les Paul, Tele and Jazzmaster with Seymour and said ‘Hey, can you make this guitar do all of these things?’ And there are 13 different configurations, different tones that you can get. Last night when we played at the Marriott, we just went into whatever gear they had. We were at the mercy of the equipment. So the amp that I was using was not necessarily something I would normally use. Kind of a dirtier, meatier, fatter sound, and if you do a lot of technical, fast riffing it’d just sound muddy. So on the guitar I went to the Vintage Stack in the middle position on the guitar to cut through the mix, because you never know what you’re going to be playing through. It’s like the Swiss army knife of guitars.
So what amp do you normally use?
Orange Rockerverb. I’ve been with Orange for ten years now, and I’ve also started using a Fractal Audio AxeFX II. I love that thing. I use Dunlop pedals – I use the Jerry Cantrell Wah Wah pedal and their CAE Boost, the Dimebag distortion, and I use an EQ for a couple of things. I just got a Dwarfcraft Eau Claire Thunder, because I wanted to get something I could hear in my head for the album, a kind of fuzz, almost stoner rock sound, in a way. And I was checking out some of the pedals. A friend of mine lives there (Wisconsin) and he was telling me to check them out, so I got one.
Fuzz is kind of a lost art. A lot of players didn’t really use it outside of a certain set of styles, but now everyone’s making fuzzes and it’s come back a bit.
Yeah, it’s kind of a space-rock sound, kind of a Black Sabbath or Kyuss sound, that grungy, dirty, nasty thing. And there are a couple of places on this new album where that’s gonna fit!