MEGADETH - The Skull’s Disintegration

October 9, 2009, 5 years ago

Aaron Small

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“It sucked and I hated it,” admits Shawn Drover. Those were the drummer’s honest feelings about his brother, guitarist Glen Drover, leaving MEGADETH. The siblings joined Dave Mustaine in late 2004, and over the course of three years, played together on the That One Night - Live In Buenos Aires CD/DVD and the United Abominations album. In early 2008, the official announcement was made that Glen had left the band. “It was a huge change,” recalls Shawn. “But I realized it was the right thing for him to do, once I stopped being so selfish and trying to talk him out of it. The reason was really valid and that was because the touring and increasing amount of time away from his son was really eating him up. I didn’t see it at the time. When you’re on the road, things are happening on a day-to-day basis, you’re touring the world and having a good time. Looking back now, it’s very clear. In the end, it was the right thing for Glen to do and he’s much happier now, which makes me happy.” Glen’s replacement – Chris Broderick, formerly of JAG PANZER and NEVERMORE – appears on the new Megadeth album, Endgame. “Glen and I recommended Chris,” says Shawn. “When Glen told me he was leaving, we needed to get a replacement. There was a break in the tour; we had about 11 weeks off before the European leg started. We tossed around some names, the list was very short and Chris was at the top of it. Within 24 hours of Glen leaving, management was on the phone to Chris, which led to Chris talking to Dave. It was probably one of the fastest band member replacements in heavy metal history and it’s worked out well. We’re all thankful for that.”
With the Megadeth lineup firmly secured once again, touring in support of United Abominations was completed and work began on what would become Endgame. The two albums couldn’t have been recorded any more differently. United Abominations was done in four different studios – two in California and two in England. Conversely, Endgame was recorded in one studio – Vic’s Garage, in San Marcos, CA, located a mere 30 minutes from Mustaine’s house. “Both projects were fun for different reasons,” enthuses Shawn. “Being in the middle of nowhere in England at a 16th century mansion that used to be owned by David Gilmour of PINK FLOYD and is currently owned by Trevor Horn who played with THE BUGGLES and YES – I’m a massive fan of both those people. That was an amazing experience! We were there for 16 days and cut all the drum tracks at that time. What we did this time, recording at our own studio (Vic’s Garage) that we had built, was far more comfortable. It was our home away from home really. Dave did it right. He converted a warehouse/office into an amazing recording facility. It has a big living room with a big screen TV, all the comforts of home. That made me more at ease recording this record than I was recording United Abominations. I had just as much fun recording United, but it was a completely different experience. Polar opposite really.”
Going into a brand new studio, essentially being the audio guinea pigs, for Megadeth’s 12th album could seem somewhat daunting. Yet according to Shawn, there weren’t any bugs that needed working out. “No because we did all the demo work – constructing and creating the songs there, and we recorded demos as we went along. If there were any bugs at all, and honestly I don’t remember any. But if there was and we needed something for the control board or whatever, we just went to Guitar Center to get it or we ordered it in. It didn’t deter from the creative process that we had. By the time we actually pressed the record button for real and started tracking the record, we’d already gone through several months of the demoing process. So any bugs that did exist, were worked out way before we recorded for real. It was a really smart way to do it. Instead of going to a small, little rehearsal space and then going into a newly built studio and perhaps experiencing some bugs at that time, we had already worked out any bugs way before that because we demoed the entire album at the same place. I had the same drum set, the same microphones, everything was the same from demo to final product. So it really worked out to our advantage.”
Not only did Shawn play drums on Endgame, he co-wrote the album’s first single, ‘Head Crusher’ “I’ve been playing drums for 30 and guitar for 28 years now. I wrote 90% of the material on the six EIDOLON records on guitar, so writing a song was not a new endeavour for me at all. Even with United Abominations, Dave welcomed ideas from other band members. As far as ‘Head Crusher’ goes, Dave had some meetings in LA. He told us that if we wanted to work on any material we might have, feel free to do so. With that, Andy (Sneap, producer/engineer) and I went back to the beach house that night and decided to get to the studio the next day and start forming a song with my ideas. That’s exactly what we did. We spent the entire morning and part of the afternoon with me recording the drum, bass and guitar tracks for the song. So when Dave showed up the following day, I had a full studio quality demo for him to hear. HE thought that was great – the fact I went through the effort to do that. He liked 50-60% of the song and rearranged/rewrote the rest of what is now ‘Head Crusher’. But that stemmed from me seizing an opportunity that he presented to me, which is a really great thing. That’s one of the benefits of me being able to play more than one instrument. The fact that it’s the first single and video, that’s icing on the cake! I had no preconceived ideas about that ever happening at all; let alone the song even making the record.”
Producer/engineer Andy Sneap (ARCH ENEMY, EXODUS, STUCK MOJO), who also worked on United Abominations, pushed Megadeth to capture a classic feel and sound this time around. Most fans consider that to be 1990’s Rust In Peace. However, Mustaine has said that he can’t and won’t write Rust In Peace part two. “Andy’s all about the metal, as am I,” confirms Shawn. “There was no argument there. The whole Rust In Peace 2 and Peace Sells part five crap – that’s just a bunch of nonsense! You can’t recreate the past. And if you do, it’s forced so it’s fake. When Dave wrote Rust In Peace and Peace Sells, it was something genuine he was feeling at the time. 20 years later… it’s certainly cool to revisit that era and listen to it, but to go back and try and rip off riffs from those records, to me would be asinine and uncreative. But having said that, the album ended up being heavier and I’m thrilled about that! But it wasn’t taken from the blueprint of those records. Most artists want to keep moving forward, despite what the hardcore fans say. Believe me, I love those records just as much, if not more, than any fan out there. Peace Sells is one of my all-time favourite metal records period. But I would never want to dissect each track to try and recreate it with a couple of different key changes. That’s ridiculous. I understand the way some of the fans feel about it. They measure band’s efforts from what they’ve done in the past – they do it with all bands: MAIDEN, PRIEST, RUSH – you name it. To a lot of fans there’s a pinnacle for a band that’s been around as long as these bands have. I’m the same way to an extent, but I would never want Rush to go back and write Moving Pictures 2. It doesn’t work.”
There’s a political undercurrent running throughout Endgame. From the artwork on the disc itself, featuring the U.S. Department of Homeland Security seal to lyrical rants about: FEMA, the President of the United States, the Patriot Act, the FDIC, the economy and of course war. Is Mustaine obsessed with politics? “No. But throughout the years now, there’s so much interesting stuff to talk about; it’s ridiculous. With every new President, so many different things occur, it’s just an easy thing to write about and it’s an interesting thing to write about. He’s been doing it way back when on the earliest records. I think he’s comfortable with those topics and he’s very knowledgeable about a lot of politics. He’s been on CNN and all kinds of different talk shows about that kind of thing. So why not write about something you know about that can be interesting to other people? I think that’s a great thing. The things he writes about are quite intelligent. I haven’t seen him write a bad lyric yet. His batting average is very high.” Ironically, amidst the discussion of Dave’s lyrics, Endgame begins with an incredible instrumental, ‘Dialectic Chaos’. Shawn reveals it wasn’t a conscious decision to start the album that way. “Not at first. We didn’t go in there with any preconceived notions. We just wanted to make a heavy album with a bunch of good metal songs. Once that started to come together, it became pretty obvious, pretty early on, that this could be a great instrumental track. For me, being such a fan of So Far, So Good… So What! I’m thinking this could be great. The first time since ‘Into The Lungs Of Hell’ that he’s done anything like that. So why not throw that curve ball in there and excite the listener right away?”
Megadeth has tour dates booked until the end of the year, but don’t expect to see Shawn perform a drum solo onstage any time soon. “No. This band has about 150 songs now – 12 albums and the extras. To cram that into 90 minutes is impossible. For me to be self-indulgent and do a four-minute drum solo with fireworks, is redundant and boring. It’s been done a million times. I’d rather cram another song in there, ‘cause some fans will be so happy that we played that tune from that record. A lot of the time during a drum solo, everybody has to go pee or go get a beer – or both. The drunker ones will pee while they’re getting a beer. They’re there to see Megadeth. Let’s give them a show with as many songs as we possibly can in the allotted stage time we have. With SLAYER on Canadian Carnage, we had 60 minutes each. That’s not a lot of time. That’s 12 songs if you’re lucky. If we played a four-hour show like Rush does, maybe. Just to give the other guys a break. But I want to keep the fans on their toes. That’s what we’re there for, to entertain people.”

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