Photo by Vince Edwards
In 2008 reports began to emerge that Madonna was jamming out Pantera’s “A New Level” on guitar during her Sticky and Sweet Tour. The reaction in the metal community was quite positive, and many wondered how she learned the song. The now oft-told story is that guitarist Monte Pittman was introduced to the pop icon through her then-husband, filmmaker Guy Ritchie. Madonna had given Ritchie a guitar as a gift and Pittman was his teacher. He soon became Madonna’s as well, and that led to a gig as her live guitarist which has lasted nearly fifteen years.
He’s also known in the metal world for his time playing with Prong and for his solo material. His most recent metal offering is 2014’s The Power of Three, which came out on Metal Blade Records. Pittman is part of a small group of individuals who have actually found a way to balance time between the worlds of pop and heavy metal.
He’s back on the road with Madonna on her Rebel Heart Tour, and I sat down with him on an off-day in Toronto to chat about what it’s like adapting Madonna’s heavily-electronic material to the stage. We also talked about where he’s at with his next metal release and why he thinks Madonna and Prong are actually similar. Also you’ll never guess what Slayer song he plays with Madonna in the rehearsal room.
Monte Pittman will be touring the world with Madonna on the Rebel Heart Tour through March of next year. You can check out The Power of Three on Metal Blade Records and watch the video for “Before the Mourning Son” here.
This summer’s edition of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival had more than a little controversy surrounding it. Festival organizer Kevin Lyman caught flack for saying that ticket sales were low because the metal scene had got “bald and fat” and hadn’t produced any new headlining bands. A number of bands publicly disputed his comments included the festival’s headliner Slayer. Guitarist Kerry King criticized the second stage lineup and cited a general lack of organization. Lyman would eventually say that there may not be any future editions of the festival.
There are two things I should admit. I think that King was right about one thing. There was definitely a disparity between the headliners the second stage. However the other thing I have to admit is that I actually had a really good time. Yeah attendance could have been better, but everyone was in a good mood, the sun was shining, and the tunes were loud. I also got a chance to speak to a couple of the stronger bands on the second stage.
First up is guitarist Daniel Trejo from the Texas metal outfit Shattered Sun. They’ve been highly visible after playing a North American tour with Testament and Exodus. They have a unique hybrid thrash sound so I spoke with Daniel about where it comes from and whether it’s been rough opening for thrash royalty.
Shattered Sun is currently on tour in North America with Soulfly, Soilwork, and Decapitated until late November. Their debut album Hope Within Hatred is available on Victory Records and you can watch the video for the title track here.
Next I spoke with guitarist Zakary Gibson of Illinois metalcore act Sworn In. This band definitely add a bit more brutality to their sound than most of their peers, and it turns out that avoiding clichés is something that is important to them. As well we spoke about the conceptual aspect behind their latest album The Lovers/The Devil.
Sworn In are currently on tour in North American supporting Escape The Fate. The Lovers/The Devil is out now on Razor & Tie Recordings and you can watch the video for “Scissors” here.
Earlier in the day I also sat down with Hellyeah guitarist Christian Brady. He’s been playing with the band since 2014, so we talked about his personal experiences over the past year and his developing role in the group. As well we touched upon Hellyeah’s involvement in raising funds for the No More campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault.
Hellyeah will be playing the Shiprocked cruise this January. Their latest album is Blood for Blood, and you can watch the video for “Hush” below, which was a part of their involvement with No More and revolves around experiences from vocalist Chad Gray’s childhood.
Finally please enjoy some bonus photos of headliners Slayer and King Diamond courtesy of Chris Tung of Pink City.
All Photos by Andrew Epstein
In recent years the heavy music scene has experienced a new wave of traditional metal and gothic hard rock bands. The true standout of the bunch for me has been Olympia, Washington’s Christian Mistress. Their sound is a sonic throwback processed through a modern musical sensibility. It’s seventies-style metal with tunes that are too heavy for that decade, but still sound pure enough to stand apart in a scene dominated with extreme metal and hardcore. The lyrics weave tales of personal exploration coupled with a strangely positive sense of morbidity. There are layers there if you want to go deeper, but the songs are easy enough to rock out to if that’s all you need.
Now relocated to Portland, Oregon the band has just released their third full-length album To Your Death. The record has all of the qualities of its predecessors, but with a more confrontational vibe. It delves further into both heavy metal and hard rock, embracing the listener sonically and cerebrally. It’s the sound of a band who seems to be aware of the effect that their music has had on people.
Before their set at Toronto’s Coalition I sat down for a chat with vocalist Christine Davis, who confessed that analyzing her own art is something she’s had to get used to. Nevertheless that’s exactly what she ended up doing, and we managed to get deeper into the sounds and subjects that make Christian Mistress what they are.
Christian Mistress are currently taking their Tour Your Death across Europe along with Magister Templi. Their new album To Your Death is available now on Relapse Records and you can watch the video for “Open Road” below.
Christian Mistress Live in Toronto - Coalition - September 13, 2015
All Photos by Andrew Epstein
The band Raven was an important part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the same movement that made Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Def Leppard international superstars. Like many of their contemporaries they never achieved widespread attention outside of the metal underground. But in 2009 they released the album Walk Through Fire on SPV and Metal Blade Records and toured around the world. They attracted a bunch of new, younger fans and were able to quit their day-jobs and focus on the band.
Over forty years after their inception, Raven is now more popular than ever before. Part of this is the ridiculous energy that the trio exude in their live performances. Brothers John (bass/vocals) and Mark (guitars) Gallagher along with American drummer Joe Hasselvander bring the stage to life in a flurry of sweat, hair, and riffs. The Gallaghers thrash out and throw themselves around the stage in way that makes more than a few younger bands look a bit pathetic.
The band capitalized on the renewed fan interest and created a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the recording costs of their latest SPV release ExtermiNation. They raised over $27,000, which was 80% more money than they were asking for. This is perhaps why the album has a modern and crisp sound but still conveys the rawness of their live show. They also ended up recording a classic rock covers album called Party Killers that they delivered to their campaign backers.
I caught up with John before their headlining set at The Garrison in Toronto to talk about the reception of the new album and how it came together, and we get a bit deeper into his outspoken distaste for extreme metal.
Raven Live in Toronto - The Garrison - September 2, 2015