Exclusive Interview: Dave Mustaine from Megadeth
Longtime fans as well as new fans have spoken with their actions by purchasing the new Megadeth album Super Collider. Megadeth, a heavy metal band that’s been around for nearly three decades, selling more than 38 million albums worldwide, earning 11 Grammy® nominations, now adds Top 6 album to their recent list of accomplishments. Super Collider debuted at #6 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums making this their highest debut since their multi-platinum albums Countdown To Extinction and Youthanasia.
With five consecutive platinum albums already under their belt—founder, leader, guitarist, lyricist Dave Mustaine reunites once again with guitarist Chris Broderick, bassist David Ellefson and drummer Shawn Drover.
Megadeth will also be headlining Gigantour, which kicks off July 3 on the East Coast. The critically acclaimed package festival founded in 2005 by Dave Mustaine—returns in 2013 with an incredible new multi-artist bill featuring metal heavyweights Black Label Society, Device, Hellyeah, Newsted and Death Division, all personally picked by Mustaine.
Rock Confidential caught up with Dave Mustaine to talk about Super Collider, Gigantour and the motivations and inspirations behind one of the biggest metal bands in the world, Megadeth.
With the release of Super Collider and being on a new record label, it seems you’re really anxious or even hungrier to be Dave Mustaine and be in Megadeth.
It feels good to be me right now. I still have moments where it’s kinda hard to get outta bed. (laughs) I enjoy my life. I’m going through a renaissance period right now with the band and it just feels like a second childhood. Especially with the record charting as high as it did. Metal is on the rise. I’m really excited about the times we’re living in. Unfortunately, metal music is popular when the world is kind of topsy-turvy, but hey – the world has been in kind of a fuck for a couple thousand years.
Does your enthusiasm and excitement with the band explain the short amount of time since your last record, Th13teen?
The easiest way to explain it is ‘no rest for the wicked.’ When you have the opportunity to work – especially in the music industry because of the way it’s changed because of file transfers, it’s really hurt a lot of bands no matter how you slice it. We’ve always been one of those bands that did tape trading in the beginning, so we understand sharing music with people – but not hosting an entire record somewhere for people to take it from a band. If people really knew in the long-run that they were putting the bands that they love in a choke hold. We’ve had to tour a lot and fortunately we’re an international band. If I was a band that was only popular in America, Megadeth would be done. There just is not enough work out there anymore. I don’t think anybody intentionally came up with that software to eventually put the music industry out of business and ruining the film industry. I think it was really innocuous when they did it. How does that go – For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? For everything true there is a counterfeit. We’ve been able to adapt and improvise. That’s really great when you have a moment to record. You wanna do it. Going in and making a record was kinda like a pit stop. As soon as we finished the record we got right back out into the circuit again.
I love being at home a lot too and the fans have really made that possible for us – to have a great lifestyle. I was a homeless guy when I started Megadeth with David Ellefson. We were taking turns living in his van. My mom was a maid and I was a very poor kid growing up. I’m not a victim or anything like that because I’ve totally overcome it all, but I get it. I know how hard it is to make it in this business. I’m really, really grateful for the things the fans have provided for us.
I’ve noticed in a lot of interviews lately you’re always asked about the track “Super Collider” being a departure for Megadeth. Any time an established songwriter or artist does something that breaks from their mold it’s considered a risk. Do you remember the first song or album where you expanded on the Megadeth style and were comfortable with the result and how it was received by the fans?
That would be Countdown To Extinction. We went into a more melodic vein after Rust In Peace. That didn’t hurt us and it was our biggest record ever. I think this record would have fit perfectly between Countdown To Extinction and Youthanasia. Youthanasia marks where we were getting pulled in another direction by the powers-that-be – change your logo, change your look, change your mascot and take him off the cover, slow the songs down. Marty Friedman and I parted ways. The whole songwriting process started to fracture during Youthanasia and it was done after Risk. When you get to the point where you’re working with someone you like to write with and you just can’t make music together anymore, something’s happened. I wanted to play heavy music and they didn’t. As a good leader you’re gonna want to have domestic tranquility and compromises. Compromising our musical direction – not compromising our integrity – hurt us. I said then we had to go back to our roots. I took some time to get back there but it’s like turning an ocean liner. You can turn the wheel to the left and you know you’re turning – it just takes a long time for that big ol’ sucker to turn around.
You touch on several real-world, emotional parts of life on Super Collider – teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, a struggling economy, Alzheimer’s disease. With things like that combined with a 24-hour news cycle a person needs an outlet or we’ll all go nuts – you just happen to have your outlet with Megadeth. How could anyone not be influenced by everything going on in the world today?
Well, if you’re drinking the kool-aid you won’t get influenced by it. For anybody watching what’s going on, not just in our country but around the world, we’re living in some really difficult times. That’s what Super Collider is about. I reached a fork in the road with my on-stage persona. Who I am on-stage is not who I am off-stage. Sometimes I’ll walk off-stage and think, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.’ Check your sources. Don’t believe anything you read and only half of what you see. Make your own educated decisions. You’ll feel a lot better about sharing what you believe. And honestly about the political stuff – if you don’t vote you can’t bitch.
Do you sometimes feel you have an obligation to inform your fans of things you think are important?
There was a point where I felt that was my calling. My career and taking care of my family is really important to me. There are so many things to be talking about. For me to be pointing out the wrongs in politics – man, if I think I can make a difference I better pack a lunch. As far as singing about things that have happened to me, I have 100% experience with that and this is what happened and this is how I feel. It’s more about ‘Can you identify with that’ instead of saying ‘this political party is doing this and this political party is doing that.’ They’re really all the same. Heavy metal music is just punk rock with long hair. People don’t get that. People that aren’t metal fans don’t make the connection. I was watching a song by a band called Havok the other day and I was looking at the guy’s lyrics. Wow, I could have written those lyrics. It’s the same kind of stuff I used to write when I was younger. I think a lot of us right now, one political persuasion or another, we’re concerned about what’s going on right now with the whole 1984 stuff.
The funny thing is, there’s a lot of guys who say, ‘How does Dave know all this stuff? He’s always right on the money.’ Some people like to say, ‘Mustaine’s on his conspiracy kick again.’ All of a sudden – excuse me, there it is in black and white – Dave is right again. That’s OK. I used to eat crow, too. Now they get to.
Gigantour starts in a couple of weeks. Looking back to it’s infancy, it was started because you were injured and wanted to stay involved in the music business. Would you have ever imagined it would be such a fan favorite, highly-anticipated package tour?
No. Like you mentioned I was injured. My left arm, my fretting hand, had gone numb and I couldn’t play anymore. That was really scary for a guitar player. Your craft is being able to use those digits dexterously. In fact, it returned when we did the Mayhem festival and my arm went numb again. That’s what prompted me to get surgery. I’d actually had a bad chiropractic adjustment and had a bone fragment in my spinal cord that was causing all the problems. Granted, I had degenerative disc disease and arthritis from headbanging. I’ve also got a nerve disorder called stenosis. The numbness scared me and I wanted to be a part of the music business. I figured I had all this experience and all this knowledge – I’ve got to pass it on to somebody else. If I take it to the grave – what a waste. Even if I could just be there to say what not to do.
We’ve got to see you celebrate Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction live. How did those tours inspire you as a member of Megadeth?
It was pretty fun! Nobody’s ever asked me that, believe it or not! Those were our most popular records. The interesting thing is, if you took a cross-section of our fanbase right now it’s not just fans that are 38-years-old because they were teens when they heard Countdown… and we haven’t expanded our fanbase. We have young teens coming to shows. Some are middle-aged. Some are older fans that are bringing their teenagers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at one of our VIP meetings and a guy will come in with his kid and they’ll look identical. I’ll ask the kid, ‘Is this your dad?’ Yeah. I’ll tell the dad, ‘Thanks for being a cool dad and passing the tradition on.’ That ain’t no sweat off my back for me to say something like that. To compliment that dad and make his son feel his dad is cool, to make that dad feel respected. I’m a dad. I love the way my kids have turned out. Not enough people affirm the men in America as parents anymore and that’s why a lot of ’em bail. A lot of fathers give up. That ain’t cool. Life is difficult. That’s why people get fat and lazy.