Interview: Guitar great Tony Montana opens up about new solo project and video release for ‘Misery’
Video provided by Shadow & The Thrill/YouTube

The music industry is a fickle business, musicians come and go as the current flavor of the month. True talent will always remain relevant, however. Tony Montana falls into this latter category. Although best known as the bassist in Great White and guitarist for Jack Russell’s Great White, Montana has quite the resume and has developed the reputation as a musician’s musician. From his Monster Circus residency show in Las Vegas with bassist Rudy Sarzo (Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne), singer-guitarist John Corabi (Mötley Crüe, Dead Daisies), drummer Fred Coury (Cinderella) and guitarist Bruce Kulick (Kiss) to touring Asia with Slash or lending his talent to new bands such as Hammer Down Hard, Montana consistently delivers stellar performances. On Valentine’s Day Tony Montana released “Misery” the first track of his new solo project Shadow & The Thrill. AXS had the opportunity to catch up with Tony Wednesday and talk about the band and the recent video release for “Misery.”(Watch the video above)

AXS: Most people know you from your tenure with Great White and Jack Russell’s Great White, can you tell fans a little bit about your project The Shadow & The Thrill?

Tony “Cardenas” Montana: We started out with a couple of gigs to get our feet wet, opened for Lita Ford in Arizona and that went really well. We opened for Quiet Riot twice as well as Jefferson Starship and Pat Travers. I have played with a few versions of this band. Dicki and Dan from Jack Russell’s Great White joined me for a gig in L.A. They both have been super supportive of me, Jack too. My son even joined me on stage for the first time ever.

AXS: What was that like?

T.C.M.: It was nerve-racking for me because he has never done that before. I know how things are when you get up there it changes. Dicki and Dan are such professionals they can make anybody sound good but I noticed while playing the show that I wasn’t listening to my son play. What that meant to me is he was doing a good job, nothing stood out! I told him I didn’t even know he was there and he got all hurt (laughs). I had to explain that was the very best compliment I could give because it meant I didn’t have to worry about what he was doing I could just focus on my playing.

AXS: Do your kids respect you as a musician?

T.C.M.: Well I have been playing around them their whole lives so they realize I am pretty good. They know I can play. What they don’t get is the amount of time it took to get there. The whole 10,000 hours thing. If someone really wants to play and they really want to get good they have to put in the time. I am not sure if millennials understand that en masse. It is a whole different mindset. I am waiting to see what life is like when it dawns on them.

AXS: Who is in the band Shadow and The Thrill and are the same musicians in your live band on the track?

T.C.M.: No actually. I have only been able to play with “The Thrill,” which is Brentt Arcement, a few times. He is in the video with me and is such a phenomenal drummer and keyboard guy. I mean he wouldn’t be able to play both drums and keyboards live and I can’t play bass and guitar simultaneously so we always knew we would have to bring in other people. We brought in Dave Shultz, who is a great keyboardist here in Los Angeles and plays with Berlin. But like I said, there are a few versions of this band and we are all having fun. The music is fun to play!

AXS: Let’s talk about your new release “Misery.” Last time we hung out you spoke about the lyrics for this song coming from you standing on one side of a front door and dreading having to knock because you knew who and what was waiting for you on the other side of that door. It has to be cathartic to poor all that pain into a song and get it out of you in a way but does it bring up that emotion again each time you play it?

T.C.M.: That’s funny and I have to tell you it is a really great question. Actually yes! It does so much that it is almost distracting. There are times I am playing, even with Jack’s Great White, where I have such vivid flashbacks and start reliving things that I will start f*cking it up. I do tend to immerse myself into music. It is some kind of cathartic thing for me I suppose. I hope it comes across that way to a degree. I want people to see that I am in it and I want them to come along with me. You know, let’s take a little trip together.

AXS: While listening to your new release it seemed like there was a wide range of musical influences on the album. It was as if something really spoke to you and you wrote a killer song about it, then something completely different spoke to you and you wrote another great song.

T.C.M.: That is a great way of putting it and probably exactly how it worked. When I set out to do this it didn’t matter to me if it was an album or if it made sense as a collection. I knew I wanted to choose five songs and make sure that everything about them was excellent. I went back through my entire history of tunes and writing. Eventually, I pulled out more songs and did end up putting together a collection that makes sense. You really get to hear my voice on this album.

AXS: How do you like singing?

T.C.M.: As a kid, all I wanted to do was play guitar but then when I opened my mouth they were like well you’re the singer now. I don’t know why. But now it is a means to an end. I like to play. So if I have to sing in order to play then so be it! When I listened to my first solo album The Tombstone Shuffle I thought, wow I can do that. I feel like now that I am more seasoned my influences will really start to come out.

AXS: What are your influences?

T.C.M.: For songwriting, I love Elton John and Stevie Wonder, Paul Mc Cartney, Zeppelin obviously, Aerosmith, I am a big Pink Floyd fan. I love Cheap Trick, they are one of my all-time favorites. Vocally Robin Zander is one of my all-time heroes. Jack Russell too of course if a huge influence as a singer. I have spent a lot of time listening to Jack sing. On my album Tombstone, I heard people say that it sounded like Jack.

AXS: Make sense you would be influenced by him.

T.C.M.: Yeah, we spent many years locked in a metal tube (i.e. tour bus/plane) with the guy and listening to him every night. The truth is I learned a lot of vocal technique and tricks listening to Jack.

AXS: Is writing for Jack Russell’s Great White different than writing for yourself?

T.C.M.: I do approach things differently. I like things a little funkier, that’s me. That’s where I come from. I prefer things that are more groove-oriented, understanding that groove is a relative term.

Visit the Shadow & The Thrill website for more information on the band, streaming links and upcoming dates.