MEGADETH’s Dave Mustaine - “I'm So Excited With What's Going On With My Career Right Now”
January 20, 2016, 4 years ago
The normally resilient Dave Mustaine was emotionally distraught recently when we chatted about their anxiously awaited new album, Dystopia, out this week. Actually we both were … from dog-losses. It pretty much gutted our holidays, as two families sat in mourning over the absence of man’s best friend.
“We had a dog that just died just a couple of days ago, so the house is a little dark,” Mustaine begins in a somber tone. “Other than that it’s great. I didn’t even know how much I liked the dog, but it’s a big deal. The kids started praying and I started really taking it fucking hard. It’s funny how much we take things for granted that matter in our lives.”
Mustaine has seen some dark days since Megadeth pretty much imploded, losing both drummer Shawn Drover and guitarist Chris Broderick in 2014. So after much soul-searching and behind-the-scenes regrouping and writing, we see a refreshed member of the Big Four complete with Angra’s Kiko Loureiro on guitar and Lamb Of God’s Chris Adler on drums.
“We’ve had an interesting year,” Mustaine states calmly. “At the beginning of 2015 there was no Megadeth. There was just me and a question mark in the bass player position, as Dave (Ellefson) was doing all his solo stuff, and there was no other guitar player or drummer. We have put together what, fortunately for me, a very well received record. I was just talking to David, whom you are close to, and he is a great ambassador for the band for those that don't like talking to me - they always love talking to him. He told me yesterday that it feels so good to be back. I thought about that for awhile and had to agree. It feels good to have your self-respect back when you make the the kind of record that is the music that we love to play.”
How did you feel when you were standing in the mirror looking at the future of Megadeth?
“Hollow would be a good word, like the wheels had come off of the track and not knowing which we to go. When Chris and Shawn had left - anyone who was inside this circle knew that it was coming, as they were aware that there was talk about a Rust In Peace reunion. Once that happened and the cat got out of the bag, those guys went their own ways - the same way I would have. Fire me man - I quit! Good for them, though. I hear they have a great new record out.”
Have you heard the Act Of Defiance material?
“No, I haven't yet. I have heard from a great many people that it's really good. I mean, I don't doubt it, as Shawn is a great player. He's a got a really good musical head on his shoulders and Chris is very talented guy too, so I'm sure its great.”
What do you say to those people who question the revolving door in Megadeth - those who might say Dave Mustaine is hard guy to work with?
“Well, thirty years is a long time and if you take me out of the equation, and then go ask the Ambassador and he will tell ya Gar (Samuelson) and Chris (Poland) were let go for stealing gear. Chuck (Behler) and Jeff (Young), it was the same kinda thing where addiction had destroyed the band. Marty (Friedman) had a nervous breakdown, and Nick (Menza) was let go because of stuff that is already well popularized. After that, we had that real long hiatus. The only thing that was kind of a weird period with (James) MacDonough and (James) LoMenzo was, that as much as I thought another bass player could come in and play those parts, there is just something that Dave (Ellefson) brings to that part. A lot of people have come and gone, and rightly so. Am I friends with them? Yeah, most of them. Do I wish them well? All of them, especially now because we have this great uptick in the Megadeth world. I want them all to benefit from this with whatever they are doing now or with their catalog of stuff that they are doing. That's just the dude that I am - I've always wanted what's best for the whole Megadeth camp, not 'just hooray for me and fuck you!’”
Well, to that end, it's no fun creating works of art on your own, right?
From my vantage point, watching the whole Dystopia world roll-out this year, the way the art was presented and all these little snippets, the mega-machine was firing on all pistons! I can't imagine how much time and energy it's taking you to build this beast, because it’s all very pro and a massive undertaking.
“Thanks, man. I gotta tell you, though, the credit has to go to my new management and to the band coming together with so many positive people. There are some things that have changed, and the overall morale here is great. Of course, Dave McRobb is still in the picture, but we have a whole new IT department over at management, and the ones that were over there from before have total enthusiasm now. It's weird being with a major label who say do what you want instead of give me some radio songs. I thought for sure that was what we were gonna hear again as went into Super Collider, but we didn't. They said we are here if you need our help, and if we didn't just 'bring us a good one home, Dave!' I was just like 'Wow’!”
You still aren't painting a pretty picture of our planet though.
“Yeah, this would be different if this was all reality, and if everything I said was true, with no imagination or no fiction in my writing. I mean, if everything I said was true, there would be Dragons and Wyverns like there are in 'Five Magics'. I look at it like this: for me, there are two ways to look at this world - the optimist way, where it's a good place with some bad people; then there is the pessimist way - a bad place with a few good people. Of the two, I'm an optimist. There are a lot of good people here, and obviously there are a lot of bad people here too. For the most part, many of those bad people can be steered back the right way - I know I was. I was so miserable in my life growing up, and getting in Megadeth helped. Of course, I thought it was going the right direction in the Panic and Megadeth days, but it was until that feeling of family until I really started to heal. Coming from a broken family really does fuck with your head when you are a kid. Having that sense of belonging is essential. I think that's why nowadays a lot of kids have trouble - when they are at home and not getting what they need or the understanding and nurturing and stuff. I mean, how cool can your parents actually really be? Even as Dave Mustaine, I'm still that dorky dad when it comes down to going to school functions (laughs). So, I think that's one of the cool things with us, as we are always trying to be understanding with where we are coming from with the lyrics. We don't want people to take our word as gospel, we are not telling you how it is, we are saying just check it out.”
You are also filling a void with a certain percentage of youth that relates to you growing up - not getting along with your parents or not having your parents around. With these fans, it possibly brings some sort of happiness and fills a void in their life.
“Yeah, exactly. It's good to be able to help people get through the day because there is nothing that feels better than knowing you have made a difference. In fact, I just got this video snippet... I mean, I don't wanna get all weird on ya. If this doesn't apply we will just keep going and you can scratch this.”
It's all good man.
“I said something about the fans helping me get the soup kitchen down in Haiti - this church thing I went to. The dude there said something about getting a soup kitchen up and running down there. Yesterday I got a video clip about it, where it showed that the place was surviving but it was being hit by gangs so it had to move. The place where it moved is now not just a soup kitchen, but it also feeds an orphanage. You know, people can say whatever they want about me, but at the end of the day, to know there is things like that taking place makes it all ok. This is something I had never expected to do, but it does make you feel better.”
You don't really seem to broadcast this kind of thing. I'm not sure I was aware of some of this charity stuff. What other ways do you dabble in the charity world, or is this something you prefer to keep private.
“It wasn't intended to ever really be private. I wanted the fans to know that, without their support, this would never have happened. I like to be able to share this stuff with them. When we did the coffee thing a lot of people thought it was because we wanted to be coffee barons and shit like that, and that was not the case. There is an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico that had a water well that was failing, and they need a new well. Pam and I took the proceeds from that company and bought a new well for the kids - and it was the fans that were buying the coffee. There was also a water well over in Africa in some villages. One of the most valuable things over there is waterso they had several seismology crews that would go over there scouting for water with these huge drills and find the water. So, we have these wells and the soup kitchen. It's not like I go around saying 'hey! I have a soup kitchen', it's just something we are part of. It's also very cool to know that whenever the fans are feeling depressed that they know they have been involved in something great.”
You can sleep well at night.
Back to the biz of Megadeth. Looking at what your crowdfunding did, and the production of all this stuff, we've gone from the brick-and-mortar retail to Megadeth.com, which is now the retail - and, if you are a fan like I am, you want to collect all these goodies. In terms of creating and designing the Dystopia machine, how much are you involved in all that?
“Well, if we go back to the beginning with the image that is on this new cover, it was basically a description I had and talked with our artist, John Lorenzi, who is out of Colorado. We had discussed opening up our minds for this campaign for the new Megadeth, because there were so many new moving parts - and part of it was having a new artist. This guy, Brent White, was brought in to do the art, and when we had discussed the concept to he and John and basically said here is the idea and the deadline. We wanted something that showed the world and where it is heading - if everyone keeps taking and no giving - the world is going to be fucked up, like the end of Planet Of The Apes or 12 Monkeys. So, that's when the two guys had the conversation and went off on their way. The deadline came and there was no art from Brent, but there was art from John - and it was really good. So, we said ok, I guess Brent is not gonna do it and that's it. A couple of days later Brent's artwork came in and we were like 'holy shit!'. We ended up using John's artwork for something else and Brent got the cover. So, that's how that basically started. Everything is kind of like a brain trust around here. Also, I gotta tell ya, Kiko is mindblowingly smart, Tim. I know you also know Chris Adler, and he is a leader in his own right. So, between he, Kiko, and Dave, it was really neat doing this stuff. The VR experience was a little out of my comfort zone, as your imagination tells you one thing, but the reality of it is different - kinda like walking blindfolded.”
Let's talk about Chris and Kiko; you certainly threw the whole world for a loop when you announced these two new members with extensive resumes in their own right. Kiko is this gem from Brazil, and Chris, of course, we have all grown up with his Lamb Of God genius. How is that connection working out now?
“I agree that Kiko definitely is a gem when it comes down to his playing. I mean, the album isn't even released yet, and he and I have won a guitar duo poll for Total Guitar. That to me is really super super flattering. I would say that once the fans get the whole record, as I believe you and so many people have, they are going to know that this guy is so much deeper than what he has done on this record - and I look forward to what we do next. We have actually started talking about what songs we are going to add to the set-list. Once we start diversifying the set-list - going backwards in the catalog along with the stuff on this new record - it's going to give us even more opportunity to get to know each other and start working on new music.”
You must be anxious to get back on the road. This is a kickass live lineup you have put together.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Suicidal Tendencies. Mike (Muir) is a great entertainer. Justis has been telling me about Havok, who I am not really familiar with, but I think it's going to be a great show. He has told me they are like a much younger Megadeth kind of thing, so I'm definitely looking forward to checking them out. And, of course Children Of Bodom are shredding players.”
Are you keeping a pulse on some of this stuff? I imagine your son is keeping you abreast of what's going on, feeding you new bands.
“He knows some of the stuff that is cool out there, and Chris does too. Between all the people in our camp, we have a pretty good idea of what's going on. It's funny, Chris and I were yacking it up about Mustasch the other day - we like that band a lot - and we were also listening to Danko Jones too. He was talking to me about some of the bands he really likes a lot. So, we are all getting to know each others personal tastes, outside of the obvious.”
So, you are not feeling old with your tastes?
"No, I'm feeling old without tastes (laughs)."
Nice! (laughs). And the production … you guys spent a lot of time honing this. Is there ever a mindset where you are like we gotta stop producing this - it's perfect now!
“Yeah, that happened through Risk and Cryptic Writings, but for very much longer after that. There was a lot of stuff I learned from watching those guys work on those two records. You start thinking I wonder if this will sound good here, and then you end up taking the crap shoot - do it or don't do it - and you either hit or miss. I think Megadeth records are more kind of stripped down and in-yer-face, and I think it's what the fans want the most. I know it's what I like. When you do songs that are a little different, 'Poisonous Shadows', as an example, it has a dynamic - it's not so obvious when every song sounds the same.”
Looking back at the classic Megadeth stuff, is there anything that makes you cringe when you hear it now, maybe as it relates to the production and not having the budget? Anything that doesn't sit well, or perhaps totally sits well these days?
“No. It's all fine with me. I had heard something a longtime ago where an artist had said something about not being able to listen to their early music without being drunk. I get that. There is stuff I feel better about listening too when I'm drinking because it makes me feel rowdy and stuff like that. That said, there is nothing I need to listen to a certain way to experience it. There are certain records that make me feel different - some make me feel more aggressive than others. Talking about Super Collider, it was kind of like a soundtrack of watching my mother-in-law die. It was a very sad experience. When you are going through that kind of sorrow you are not gonna write happy shit, unless you are insane. But I'm so excited with what's going on with my career right now, that when I look back at some of the personal stuff I had to deal with it was sure hard at the time but I am so glad to be here now and experience being on the other side of it.”
(Top slider photo by Mats Andersson)