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MEGADETH’s Dave Mustaine

Talks New Album, Big 4, Peace Sells Era - "When People Were Saying We Were Dangerous, We Were Fucking Dangerous"

Posted on Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 14:11:44

By Mitch Lafon

Although MEGADETH are currently recording their new album with Johnny K (DISTURBED, 3 DOORS DOWN, FINGER ELEVEN) at the band's own Vic's Garage in San Marcos, CA, mainman Dave Mustaine called in to the compound recently to promo the band’s 25th anniversary release of their landmark album, Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying, due out on July 12th by Capitol/EMI. We took the opportunity to throw a bunch of random questions at Mustaine including his thoughts on the band's groundbreaking sophomore effort, what fans can expect on album lucky #13 and the burning Big 4 (METALLICA, SLAYER, MEGADETH and ANTHRAX) question; will North America see a tour? Let the chat begin! What initially did the album Peace Sells… mean to the band?

Dave Mustaine: “When we first started Megadeth, we didn’t know how long it was going to last. David Ellefson and I made a commitment to each other that if it didn’t work we’d handcuff each other to a light post and commit suicide with a hand grenade. Although it was very colorful at the time, it wasn’t very smart and looking back in retrospect I’m glad we made it because we were so poor that we couldn’t have afforded a hand grenade back then. Now, looking back at all the success, the fun and the way that that established us as a force to be reckon with… There were a lot of bands in Los Angeles at the time including W.A.S.P., MÖTLEY CRÜE, RATT and all these guys that were going around proclaiming themselves to be bad boys and some were and some weren’t. We never proclaimed anything, but one thing was for sure we were definitely bad boys. I remember the release party we had for Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying, we had rented two limousines and after the party was over I went outside to get into one of the limousines and drive off, but the car was gone. When I asked where the car was, Chris Poland said his girlfriend took off in it, we ended up exchanging words and I kicked him in the face. That’s how we ran and when people were saying we were dangerous, we were fucking dangerous.” Do you think at some point you’ll start playing 'The Conjuring' live again?

Mustaine: “Yes, of course. At some point I might change my mind. It’s kind of like in cooking, ‘when in doubt leave it out’ and I had said in the very beginning that I had to protect myself because being of a spiritual nature I knew that if I made the wrong decision, at this point in my life right now, it would have a very lasting effect on me. I’ve been through all of the black magic, the witchcraft, read the Satanic Bible, put spells on people and it really messed my life up, so when I said, ‘I’m not doing it anymore’, it’s because I had a damn good reason.” Your spiritual awakening came around 1999 or 2000…

Mustaine: “It was in 2001.” I noticed in the new Peace Sells deluxe edition box that you had Lars Ulrich of METALLICA write some of the liner notes. Was this part of the healing process as well because for many years you appeared to have nothing but hate for him?

Mustaine: “I don’t think that’s accurate.” Well, in the press there were many reports of Dave said this and Lars said that and none were too positive or certainly not nice towards each other.

Mustaine: “Well, you’ve gotten a lot of that accurate, but the one thing that is a bummer about all this is that it’s not really 100% true. We had our relationship in the press and then we had our private relationship where we would get together and it would be like, ‘hey man what are you doing? How are you? Let’s go have a beer.’ We’d hang out and do stuff like that. The conversations that were in the press were like, ‘Lars said this’ and I would say, ‘he didn’t say that? Are you kidding me? He said that?’ And usually it would be something that was old or people would say it to be antagonistic because they liked watching me get hurt. They enjoyed saying stuff that would hurt me. You have to consider the source first. Who, in their right mind, would bring up a feud with us right now after all of the work that we’ve done to put the big four together…” That’s what I was going to get to… The Big Four. The question wasn’t to be negative, but rather to set the table to talk about the Big Four which is something the fans have been clamoring for for twenty plus years and it took time to get there. So, how does it feel to share a stage and give the fans what they want and hopefully, bring it to the States?

Mustaine: “Well, we’ve already brought it to the States” One date and you’re doing the Yankee Stadium show in September, but will there be a full US tour?

Mustaine: “I don’t think so. I think that in order to do something like that you would have to have a tour to back it up, but when Metallica does their dates (from my discussions with Lars) is that they like to do two weeks on and two weeks off (to spend time with their kids). We can’t afford that, so when we tour we do four weeks on and sometimes five weeks on then two weeks off. In order for us to tour the States and do the two weeks on and two weeks off thing, we’d have to pick up time in between and I don’t know that that’s going to happen. Second off, I don’t know that the States are ready for a Big Four tour. We’re going to see how things go with this Yankee Stadium thing, but I think we’ve hit both sides of the nation pretty well. Representing in the Palm Desert here was pretty great because it was smack dab right in the middle of California in a really great area and I think in going to Yankee Stadium albeit the cool factor of being ‘the house that Ruth built’… Who would ever of thought we’d be playing Yankee Stadium? I played a baseball stadium in 1999 when we played Bank One Ballpark with BLACK SABBATH with Ozzy. It was called New Year’s Evil. That was kind of cool, but that’s not Yankee Stadium.” You’re also playing the Heavy TO (Toronto) show this summer (July 23rd). You played the Heavy MTL (Montreal) show last year and added a secret club gig that lasted ‘till 3AM. Do you think North America is ready for festivals like this and are you looking forward to the Heavy TO date?

Mustaine: “I like playing TO (Toronto) a lot. It’s a city that has always been good to us from back in the days when we used to flop on the floors of fans that knew who we were from the beginning to even now. Our relationship with the city is really amazing. We had gone into Montreal (and I know that’s not TO) many years ago when that ice storm… I remember. I was at that show (Jan 14th, 1998 at Le Metropolis). You had asked fans to bring in non-perishable goods…

Mustaine: “That’s what I was going to bring up.” That was a very special thing you did for Montreal. Most of the bands canceled their shows in Montreal during that period, but you decided to play for the city and you also gave back. You didn’t just show up, take the money and run. You made it a fan appreciation event and that was very spectacular…

Mustaine: “Thanks, but you have to remember the city was frozen and nobody could move. The homeless people on the streets were freezing to death. That’s what compelled me to have a blanket and food drive. We didn’t want our neighbors to be perishing because of the environment or the climate. Fuck, it’s such a drag… I don’t know how many of your readers do this because it takes a certain type of person to do this, but if you ever go up to a homeless guy and offer him some food or something to drink and, yes, sometimes you have to offer him a beer because he’s an alcoholic and he needs that just to function, but albeit… Ask him ‘what happened? How did you end up homeless?’ And they’ll tell you, it’s the craziest stories you’ll here man and I’ve heard ’em all. There’s downsizing. My wife got sick and she died, so I lost everything. I was in the military. I got sued and all these kinds of things. They’re normal people just like you and me. You have to get out of yourself for just a moment and just say, ‘it’s time for me to look at just how much I have been over-paid and how under-worked I am in my life, so yeah I’m going to play for Montreal and give people an opportunity to meet me if they bring some food or some blankets.’ I would absolutely do it again and again and again because it helps me to remember who I am. That I’m nothing special and that you and me are just alike. With a mere switching of the aperture my whole outlook on life could have changed and I could have been on that bench.” I don’t mean to switch gears abruptly, but let’s talk about the new album you’re working on. The quote that was recently attributed to you was that it’s going to be harder and faster than anything in the last few years…

Mustaine: “Where did you hear that? Who did you hear that from? I heard that from somebody else earlier today and I keep thinking, ‘who keeps saying this?’ I don’t remember having said that. It might have been a Tweet or something.” If I’m not mistaken, I think it comes from an interview with Guitar World.

Mustaine: “Hmmm. Ok. So, what was your question?” Let me check the other quote I have. You also supposedly said that you’re going to give the record company twelve songs because you are only contracted to give them twelve songs and no more.

Mustaine: “That’s an accurate quote. We’re contracted for twelve, but we’ve actually arranged thirteen to make sure that we have the best twelve songs because we were moving along and we had one that started and it had a part in it that was just too good to be thrown into another song. We needed to have a song built around it and when we were done with that one song; we still had this other song that we needed to complete. Do we just want to stop at twelve? I said, ‘no, we’ll finish that song and we’ll see what happens.’ A contract is a contract. The twelve songs are the twelve songs. It’s just arranging stuff. We haven’t recorded thirteen songs. We’re going to pick the twelve and finish them. I’m really excited about what we’ve done. Johnny K is a great producer and I’m not taking away anything from Andy Sneap. Andy is a great producer too. We feel that we’re on to some really new opportunities here. I was listening to the first track we did… We did a song for a video game and that was really successful. It got us a Grammy nomination and Roadrunner is going to allow us to include it on this record. That track, 'Sudden Death', had gained so much respect for us from the gaming community that we had a huge game company ask us to do a song for a new game that they have. I was real excited about it, so I wrote this song ('Never Dead' for NeverDead fantasy action game) and I was playing it the other day for my kids (it was the first time that they heard it) and the first part ends and it’s gets ready to go into the part where the songs takes off and moves…And both of them (my kids) pushed themselves back and went ‘whoaaaaaaa’. So, I knew I was onto something good. It may be about time that we have that kind of music where that inner child in you goes ‘whoaaaaaa’ again when you listen to it instead of listening to it and having four or five dozen bands that sound just like it. It’s been so long since we’ve heard a good record. Do you know what I mean? Do you remember when Appetite For Destruction came out? When records like that came out. You can almost remember where you were when stuff like that happened, but nowadays records come and it’s like a tree falling in the middle of a forest. They come and they go…” I know exactly what you mean. I know exactly what I was doing when I first heard about Appetite For Destruction. I was reading about the album in the Rock On The Rise section of Metal Edge, so I decided to order it from the Columbia House Record Club for a penny and it changed my life.

Mustaine: (Laughs) “Did you get your money’s worth?” I got my penny’s worth…

Mustaine: “I bet you did.” A lot of the bands these days are trying to make albums that capture their ‘classic’ sound. The last RATT album comes to mind. Are you trying to recapture Rust In Peace or Countdown or are you breaking new ground?

Mustaine: “I am not willfully taking a set approach to this record. I’ve never set out to do a record and wanted it to be like, ‘it needs to be fast’ or ‘it needs to be faster than the last record’ or ‘it can’t be fast. It needs to be slow and heavy’ or ‘you’ve never done a concept record – what the hell is wrong with you? Why not do that?’ For me, music is music. It’s like when you put seeds into the ground. You never really know what’s going to break the surface. I still love the serendipity of making a song and not knowing what’s going to happen. You know Shawn Drover, a fellow countryman of yours and amazing drummer who is mind-blowingly good, just left today. We just finished the last track.” So, you’re not studying Youthanasia and thinking ‘ok, I need to write this lyric and play this chord…

Mustaine: “No.” Peace Sells… At some point, will you do a full tour where the album gets played in its entirety?

Mustaine: “I don’t know. We had the Rust In Peace tour where we did it for the anniversary thing and that was cool, but the problem was what was meant as a celebratory thing around the anniversary ended up being something about the entire year playing that record which came out in that year and it was no longer an anniversary tour. It was a year long tour based around a record that came out in 1990 and if that’s the case, at some point, I’m going to start doubling up on records when there’s the five and ten year anniversaries of stuff and it’ll get to the point where we won’t be playing anything new. It’ll all just be anniversary stuff. I like the idea of doing stuff that’s off-the-cuff. I remember what I wanted to tell you before… We were talking about serendipity and writing songs. Shawn, when we were talking about the song writing process, he had been in another band called Eidolon. He was the songwriter in his own band, so he knew about the writing process and stuff like that, but he never worked with anybody like me before. When he came into the studio, at first, he had songs and I said, ‘I don’t write songs. I basically assemble riffs’. So, the next record we basically put together a whole bunch of riffs and I said, ‘ok, this is not what I’m looking for in riffs, but this is what I’m looking for in riffs. So, we’ll use this, this and this. Now, let’s look at your lyrics – well, this is not what we’re going to use”. So, the next record (which is now), we’re at the point where he’s already established at writing music with me and now he’s writing lyrics too. It’s really awesome to watch him grow like that, but for me I don’t going into writing a record saying, ‘this is what I want to do’. You had asked me if I had any preconceived notions going into the record with what I wanted to accomplish and, no, I don’t want to make a record that is extremely fast. Although, that seems to be one of the only ways to garner any kind of credit anymore… By having a record that is as extreme as it possibly can get. It would be funny if you could have a band just hit one note… One shrill oscillating note that would just vibrate at a deafening sound non-stop for like three seconds and it would make everybody have a climax. Then it would be over and they would say, ‘I did it. I finally found music that’ll make you cum’. That would be what people are looking for right now and not that many people listen to music for enjoyment anymore. Shawn was saying something to me the other day that was so funny. Whenever I get into my car, my wife or kids when they drive my car have the country station on… I don’t have anything against country music and I think there’s a lot of great songwriting in there, so I get in there and hear some of the stuff and Shawn said, ‘I know you love listening to country and stuff like that, but…’ I don’t like listening to country. It’s just on in my car whenever I get in. So, people have these preconceived notions of who you are. I like all kinds of music. I listen to all kinds of stuff on my computer. I’ll put Pandora on and listen to different stuff. You never listen to just one artist. I listen to all kinds of stuff and I think that’s the beauty of Megadeth music because we started off as a punk rock band… I was a surf punk when I was a kid that liked classical music, the British Invasion and The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. That combination of those ingredients was pretty remarkable because nobody that I knew was doing that. I loved AC/DC, but I also loved the exploration of songs that bands like DIAMOND HREAD or MERCYFUL FATE would write. They were not your standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus-out. Their songs would weave a tale and have really remarkable progressions. I heard somebody say that Peace Sells… was one of the first progressive metal records ever and I thought, ‘I wonder if that’s true?’ You think of 'Wake Up Dead' and that’s definitely a progressive song. I think back on all this stuff and it’s been such a blast to do and if we get the opportunity to do an anniversary date or dates for this… and the thing about doing 'The Conjuring'. I might do it depending on where my headspace is at. Singing songs like 'Anarchy' – can I do it? Of course, I can do that, I just need to change the words.” Can you separate the art from the artist? Can you say ‘look I’m just singing a song. This is not me’.

Mustaine: “No. No, I can’t do that. That’s a lie for me.” You can’t do that?

Mustaine: “I can’t. I am what I sing and it becomes a part of me as a storyteller out on stage. I become the song. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that can go out there and say, ‘well, it’s just a song that I’m singing,’ but that’s why you’re not me.” I see it as being a movie actor. You do the role in a film, but it doesn’t mean you’re actually a mass murderer.

Mustaine: “That’s different though…” May I ask you one last question? You have our proud Canadian, Shawn, on drums. The fantastic Chris Broderick on guitar and, of course, Dave Ellefson, back on bass. How does this formation of the band feel, musically, to you?

Mustaine: “Put it this way, if I had met Shawn in the beginning, Megadeth would never have had another drummer. He’s the right drummer for Megadeth. He’s got a great personality and a great spirit. David is doing great and Chris is very low maintenance. He’s a very peculiar guy because he’s the ultimate weapon. You never see him. He’s where he’s supposed to be. He plays like he’s from another planet and he’s awesome. He’s dedicated to his job and he’s not a trouble-maker.” He’s like the “Seals’ Team” of Megadeth.

Mustaine: (laughs) “Put it this way, he definitely seems like a kind of cyborg dude. He’s some kind of future alien guitar player.” If you had your wish, would this be the Megadeth line-up until you retired to the old folks home?

Mustaine: “Yes, and no disrespect to the fans and their preferences over the years. I have certain solos from certain songs from the past that I prefer the melodic interludes from, but thinking about the people and all of the combinations that went along with it… The ups and downs and all the hardships, I would take this line-up over any of them. I’m still friends with a lot of those guys and a lot of them I’m not, but there’s a reason for that. However, they all helped me get to where I’m at and I’m grateful for them. I wish them well and I hope that any of the Megadeth alumni have the same success that I’m having right now. We should all be able to experience in that gift. We were all brothers at one time.”

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