First falling for guitar as a metal-hungry 13 year old, Texas native Monte Pittman has since built a reputation as a versatile studio and stage guitarist with the likes of Prong, stand-in Queen vocalist Adam Lambert and Madonna. He cut his first solo record, The Deepest Dark in 2009. His latest solo work, Inverted Grasp of Balance, released this year, features former David Lee Roth and Mr Big bassist Billy Sheehan. He’s not a man to be pigeonholed and his 5 essential album choices are typically eclectic.
Steve Vai - Passion And Warfare [Relativity, Epic, 1990]
Where I grew up there was no MTV, it wasn’t allowed in the city. These girls that I was friends with, they would give me a ride home from school, and one of them went to Dallas a lot and would take a VHS tape and just record MTV when she was there. Then we would go back to her house and watch videos after school and I saw The Audience Is Listening video.
Steve Vai scared the hell out of me in the Crossroads movie. I mean, I know Steve a little bit now and he’s the coolest guy - I took one of his master classes and it changed my life - but still, if I’m standing next to him, if I’m around him he’s like ‘you alright? Why are you acting weird?’ I’m like [acting starstruck] ‘I’m cool, I’m cool.’ I was scared to death of him…
When I first got that tape I took it back because it wasn’t heavy enough. Then when I starting getting back into it again I was like, ‘what, why would I do that? I got it again and it’s become one of my favourite albums. Last time I met Steve I had him sign it. I said, ‘hey man will you sign my album? It changed my life.’ He was like ‘oh, mine too!’
Joe Satriani - Surfing With The Alien [Relativity, 1987]
I heard that in a record store where I grew up. To be 13 years old and just getting your first guitar and to hear that, and what Steve Vai was doing, it just sounds impossible. ‘How do you even play that?’ What caught my ear was, I was with my friend’s mom and she was like ‘eurgh, what is this noise?’ I was like, ‘Oh, you don’t like that, huh? Hmmm, what is this album? [laughs]
What I like about Satriani is he’s a melody guy. It’s not just shredding for shredding’s sake. There’s some of that in there but there’s a melody that you can sing. He is a genius with that. When I write a solo, I usually just keep playing over something over and over again and listen for what keeps coming out, what keeps hitting and sticks in my head.
Pantera - Cowboys From Hell [Atco, 1990]
They were our hometown heroes there in Texas. I was always the youngest out of all my friends and I was at a party. Everyone else was partying and I didn’t do that. Well, my friend had a Pantera CD there and I’m like, ‘wow, they’ve got an album out? They’re a big band?’ Cos they were just the local band always playing the Million Dollar Sandpiper in Shreveport and places like that. He said, ‘you haven’t heard Cowboys From Hell?’ I’m like, ‘no.’ He played it and I said, ‘wait I have heard this!’ I heard it on the radio but didn’t get to catch what the song was. I was with my parents on vacation and we were driving through Dallas and I heard Cemetery Gates. I didn’t know who it was and, of course, I lost reception on my Walkman [laughs].
Dimebag had the most badass guitar tone. It was what I had in my head and would try to get out of my amp. I just thought that would be the ultimate sound.
- Road Trippin': Prong
- Steve Stevens' 5 essential guitar albums
- John 5's 5 essential guitar albums
- Prong, live in Los Angeles
Freddie King - Are You Ready For Freddie? [Fuel, 2000]
He’s the best guitar player that ever lived, and Have You Ever Loved A Woman, that’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard. He grew up ten minutes away from me; I’m in Longview, Texas, he grew up in Gilmore. I live right on the edge of Longview, right on Gilmore Road. I didn’t know that until I became a fan of his, and that happened when Spotify first came out… You would have the related artists like I would listen to one thing and it said you may like this…
I’d always read Stevie Ray Vaughan talk about him in interviews and stuff like that. Now, he’s a huge influence on me because of his attack and his choice of notes. Of course, there’s things that guys like Eddie Van Halen and Malmsteen have done but if I had to choose one guitarist, Freddie is the one I’d want to hear.
Gary Moore - Still Got The Blues [Virgin, 1990]
I think he had one of the best lead tones, especially in the song Still Got The Blues (For You). That end solo he does. One day I worked it out and I’m like ‘oh, that’s all that he’s doing?’ Sometimes you can have such an amazing tone, it sounds like something out of this world. He had Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac’s Gibson ‘59 Les Paul. Just the way that guitar was wired, it’s just such a sweet tone. [note: Green’s Les Paul was famously, and apparently accidentally, wired out of phase. With both pickups selected, it produced a unique ‘nasal’ tone] And there’s his touch… He could play anything and I really like that in a guitar player. I try to be versatile like that.
My guitar teacher turned me onto Still Got The Blues. He turned me on to a lot things I wouldn’t otherwise have heard. I was just into metal bands like Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, Testament. He would teach us in a class and we would say, ‘will you teach us this song?’ whatever it was. He would say, ‘I’m gonna do that but first I want you to learn about this guy [jazz guitarist] Joe Pass.’ So, he would always teach us about something outside of our knowledge and when it was all said and done he would say ok, now, how are you going to apply that to your heavy music? For me, it helped me from getting bored.