MEGADETH Frontman DAVE MUSTAINE – “Reality Is A Bitch”
September 25, 2020, a month ago
“It was certainly a lot of fun to do and get everybody’s perspective on it because there was obviously going to be some people that were right, and some people that were really wrong! It’s funny, I learned a couple things myself,” says Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, talking about his new book, Rust In Peace – The Inside Story Of The Megadeth Masterpiece.
Available now via Hachette Books, Rust In Peace celebrates the 30th anniversary of Megadeth’s ground-breaking album of the same name. In writing this memoir, Mustaine included contributions from his bandmates, bassist David Ellefson and guitarist Marty Friedman, producer Mike Clink, and others closely involved with the creation of the band’s fourth studio album.
Excessive drug use between Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson really monopolizes the first part of the book. At one point, Mustaine states, “I love the taste of cocaine, but I hated what it made me feel like.” “Oh yeah, you liked that huh. It’s funny, back in the day when coke was coke, it tasted different. It just had this crazy flavour to it. It looked different, it tasted different, it made you feel different. You didn’t have to stick your thumb up your ass to make your penis pop out when you were getting ready to score on some chick that you spent all night, spending hundreds of dollars of blow on,” chuckles Dave. “Not that I’ve ever done that, but you know, I’ve heard.”
Cocaine wasn’t the only drug abused by Megadeth, as Mustaine attests to. “There’s been times we’ve been places and we were desperate. You would pretty much get whatever you thought you could. I think maybe it was Hull (Quebec), we were listening, of all bands, to Sword. We thought we were really cool cause we were cruising through the neighbourhoods and Gar (Samuelson, drummer) disappears. He comes back and goes, ‘Hey, I got some opium.’ I thought, fuck, let me see that. I didn’t even know what it looks like, I was just being demanding. It looked like somebody scraped the inside of their bong out and crunched a bunch of pot seeds up in some black maple syrup, or something like that. Gar gets into the motorhome, this is how long ago it was, and he goes into the back. He comes back out and I said, ‘What’d you do?’ He said, ‘I had to pull it out of my butt.’ I went, ‘Oh no! The story gets worse and worse and worse.’”
“I was pretty bad, but I’ll tell you what, we were all bad. I remember there were times where it made Spinal Tap look like Teletubbies. But that wasn’t really what we were trying to get off on. We weren’t trying to be big drug users; we got sick. When you get hooked on a chemical, your body demands that chemical enough to get right. Then if you go over, you start to feel like the first time you did it, maybe. Then you start using more and more and more. Pretty soon, it’s like that Chinese saying – the man takes the drink, the drink takes the drink, then the drink takes the man. But fortunately, those days are behind us. We’re feeling really good and excited and everybody’s healthy in this band; if you skip Cancer!” In June 2019, Mustaine revealed that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer; he’s currently Cancer free.
Mustaine was in and out of rehab facilities, even while recording Rust In Peace. The vocalist / guitarist shares what changed within, enabling him to finally kick his drug habit. “I think it’s just a matter of when you realize that there’s something in life that’s better, worth living for, people that are probably more important than you are. After a while, you realize that it’s just not the same. I think that there were a lot of other altruisms that I figured out and I heard, by osmosis, stuff people would say. You stop for a while, and you think you can start up again, and you’re going to get twice as high using half as much; and that never works. Just certain crazy things where you can do it like normal people. When I stopped partying and all that stuff, it was hard. It was really hard. After I got Cancer, the doctors said, ‘You probably shouldn’t be drinking cause it’ll speed the Cancer up. It’s possible that it’s very bad for you.’ I went – no drinking. A lot of people, if they have the right reasons, they’ll do stuff. It’s like those Moms they say lifted up a car when a child was trapped underneath; they had this super-human strength.”
There’s a quote from Marty Friedman in the book that shows the other side, “I thought it was incredibly stupid that they have a band this cool and they would risk fucking it up over getting high.” “Marty got high too; he just didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t find that out until after we broke up. David Ellefson said Marty smoked dope all the time. I didn’t know that. I don’t believe it, but that’s what David said. He said that when Marty sold his house, the realtor had to call up ahead of time and tell him to open up all the windows cause his house was all smoked out. I thought, I wish I would have known that; it may have made us a better team.”
Speaking of Marty, in the book Mustaine admits that finding a guitar player had proved to be nearly impossible. After Friedman joined Megadeth, Dave states, “Marty was such a great guitar player, it caused a crisis of confidence in me… In my diseased mind, he (Marty) was so much better than me that I simply crumbled.” By crumbled, Dave means relapsing into heroin use. That’s so shocking, to finally get what you wanted; and not be able to handle it. “Yeah, but you know what, for somebody who is really an addict, they’re just looking for an excuse to do it. It’s kind of like saying, the dog ate my homework. Did I really have to try that hard to have a reason to get loaded? The truth is, that’s what I said, that’s what I wrote, that’s how I felt. But the reality is, the smack-talker didn’t care. But I do have tremendous respect and gratitude for Marty and his time in Megadeth. I don’t know what’s going to happen after the smoke clears from all this stuff, from trying to get the Rust In Peace group back together, cause it had an effect on all of us. We were trying so hard to get together but there was just so much weirdness; I talk a little bit about it in the book. I’ll always think highly of Marty. He’s always going to be in the top three guitarists in Megadeth’s history.” That comes right at the end of the book, and it seems that money was the big sticking point; it actually got quite ugly. “That’s what it was. It’s very pragmatic, very black and white.”
In chapter 12, Ellefson describes the relationship between the two Daves as often being “very uncomfortable.” Is it fair to say that the process of making Rust In Peace did irrevocable harm to your friendship with David? “Not that way. I’m certainly not wholly responsible. I think every record had a little bit of withering away. We all had these preconceived notions about how important we were, how good we were. Reality is a bitch. I think that perception is reality and when you see the difference between the people that have been in the band and who are no longer here, who have written new music or haven’t, people who have gone on to do something great, or who have just trotted off to mediocrity; that’s their trip. I have never tried to hold anybody back, In fact, I was just talking to David Ellefson yesterday about him song writing on the new record, because the music’s all done, and if he doesn’t get some lyrics, there’s probably not – well, I think he wrote a little bit of music, not much. I want him involved. So – push, push, push, come on, let’s do some lyrics now.”
Switching focus to producer Mike Clink – who in association with Dave Mustaine – helmed Rust In Peace. Obviously, Clink is famous for his work on Appetite For Destruction. Megadeth and Guns N’ Roses are two very different bands, yet Mustaine and GN’R guitarist Slash are friends. Slash wrote the foreword to the book, and was even asked to join Megadeth at one point. So, Megadeth went into the studio knowing that if Axl Rose called, Clink would take off immediately to do the Use Your Illusion albums, which he ultimately did. Agreeing to those terms seems puzzling. “Right at the very first nanosecond of us agreeing to stuff, those things percolated to the surface as shit started to happen,” recalls Mustaine. “That’s part of the reason we parted ways with that manager, because some of the important things that mattered to us weren’t always right out in the forefront. I didn’t really have that big of a problem with him (Mike Clink) going out to do anything with anybody. I guess it may have been made a bigger deal of by people because GN’R was on fire at the time. It may have been the fact that this guy, I didn’t know him very well, was telling me that if someone else was going to call, he was going to leave, which I guess probably hurt my feelings because I cared about him. I thought he was cool and to get that kind of a reply, emotionally, just causes resentment, a lot of different shit. But don’t kid yourself, I didn’t hire Mike Clink because of GN’R, it was because of UFO. I love his work with UFO. Mike did nothing wrong, and I’m glad that we’re friends now.”
The album artwork, pictured above, created by Edward J. Repka, obviously references the song “Hangar 18”. But look a little closer, and notice the world leaders of the time (British Prime Minister John Major, Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, West German President Richard Von Weizsacker, Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and United States President George H. W. Bush) sitting behind Vic Rattlehead, it certainly dates the piece. Do you have any second thoughts about that? Do you think it makes sense to a 15-year old kid in this day and age who’s just discovering Rust In Peace for the first time? “No, I don’t. I think that the more they get encouraged, and their appetites whet to learn more about the world, the better, because so many people are toying with history right now, and changing the ways that young minds are being filled. It’s important for them to research stuff and make a decision for themselves. I’m not going to tell them what to think, but I will say, think! It’s important.”
There’s talk in the book, specifically from Ellefson saying, “We finished the Clash Of The Titans Tour (featuring Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, and Alice In Chains) in Lakeland, Florida. We recorded that show live, but I don’t know that we did anything with it.” Is there a potential live album or Blu-Ray sitting in the vaults that may come out at some point? “I would rather tell you no right now, because I don’t know what that is he’s talking about. I can check, and I’ll come back with you, hopefully with a yes. But at this point right now, it’s tentative. You’re reiterating the first story I’ve heard about this recording. I first heard it with this book; I had no idea there was one. And you’re just helping me to remember, I need to make a phone call.”
In closing, Mustaine provides a quick update on the new Megadeth album, the follow-up to 2016’s Dystopia. Last we heard was, “We’ve got about eight songs, and then a couple of cover songs.” “Yeah, that’s still the same thing we’re looking at right now. We’ve got a bunch of songs we feel really proud about, and two cover tracks. Kiko (Loureiro, guitarist) is in the middle of his solos right now. I’ve been going over all the rhythms of both of us, all the harmonies and ear candy, just making sure everything’s done before he goes back home, cause I can do all my solos by myself here (in Nashville). But once he goes home, he’s home, cause he’s living in Finland now.”
Do you have any idea of a potential release date? Are you looking at first or second quarter of 2021? “Oh gosh, I wish I could tell you. I really, really do. It’s going to probably be the first couple months of 2021. But there’s a lot of other stuff that they’re planning on releasing. It’s going to be a really, really fun 2021. It’s going to be really fun for all of us. Wrapping up this whole horrible (COVID-19) saga, everybody getting healthy and loving each other again is the hope. I live for the day I get on stage again and look out at all the beautiful fans, and that one guy out there flipping me off.” And hopefully, at some point, there can be a Mega Cruise the way it was initially planned. “Oh yeah! I wanted to do that. I even actually worked on a tan. It didn’t work, but I worked on it.”
(Photos, with the exception of Dave Mustaine with a beard, are courtesy of Mark Weiss and The Decade That Rocked)