MEGADETH – “Excuse Me, I’m One Of The Four Horsemen”
June 29, 2013, a year ago
By Martin Popoff
Very much like IRON MAIDEN and RUSH and even CLUTCH, Dave Mustaine and MEGADETH have quietly, by degrees, clawed their way to classic status through sheer determination unto longevity. What helps in all these cases is a stable lineup and an enthusiastic attitude toward both creativity and touring. So the shows get bigger and the records come out the other end and get critically praised ‘cos they’re written well and infused with sweat equity.
So yeah, Megadeth are one of those, firing on all cylinders, healthy, built (for war) around the heritage nucleus of Dave and Dave Jr., and then supercharged by two metal supermenchies in nine-years-onboard drummer Shawn Drover and ex-JAG PANZER wizard Chris Broderick.
At the tour end, Dave’s been smart enough to brand Megadeth live, and that brand is called Gigantour, heating up as you read this for a sweltering summer of Megadeth’s alloy of thrash, speed metal and old school American branded power metal, along with the likes of BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, HELLYEAH, DEVICE, NEWSTED, and walloping baby band DEATH DIVISION.
Of course, firmly on Megadeth’s collective mindspheres as they roll through your town will be their new album Super Collider, which, rendered live, hopefully won’t reduce the earth to a blacker-than-black, compressed, basketball-sized chunk of hyper-mass (seriously, that was one of the predictions on the running of the Large Hadron Collider).
“When you look at the records as they progress over time,” begins Mustaine, immediately heading off some of the chatter about the record’s recurring non-thrash elements, “you can either copy and do the same record over and over again, and then your fans, some of them get what they want, but after a while they’ll grow tired of it, because they’re listening to the same record. Or you can make some experimentation and try some different stuff like we did with Risk, which went a little bit too far. Or, you can stay kind of within the goalposts of being melodic and being really heavy. The thing is, we’ve got basically two kinds of groups of people that—and it’s not that these groups are polarized—but there are people that want ‘Black Friday’, and there are people that want ‘Symphony Of Destruction’. And with us going back to Universal right now, it’s been really a breath of fresh air, Martin, because, as you know I wasn’t happy when we left Capitol, and I wasn’t happy at Sanctuary and I wasn’t happy at Roadrunner. And over here it’s been just like a second childhood—it’s just amazing.”
With typical provocative snarl, the first taste anybody got from the album was the stadium-shaking title track, which turned out to be one of the precisely three biggest departures on the album. But as Dave’s proven time and time again, write a great rock song, and fans won’t be able to get it unstuck from their humming playlist. Bottom line: ‘Super Collider’ is the sturdiest, most dependable, summertime shed tour anthem on the record, and maybe of the summer’s metal offerings in total.
“Well, it was a real simple song,” figures Mustaine. “I think that a lot of people... and you know, Martin, you know I’m a very polarizing figure. People will find fault in anything I do, no matter what it is. It’s the nature of the business and who I am. Was I apprehensive about that song? Sure I was. Was I apprehensive to put out ‘Built For War’ too, and that’s one of the most aggressive songs on the record? Sure. But I think that’s probably just that little tiny seed of self-doubt that we all have. I mean, the whole reason I got into playing guitar was because I wanted to fit in. I was picked on in school, and I was a skinny little kid, and as soon as I started playing guitar, I mattered. And deep down inside, I still want to do songs that matter. I don’t get the same kind of… It doesn’t reward me in the same way, because that hole’s been filled a long time ago, but you still want it to matter, and you still want people to like them. And there’s a lot of guys that make records to get out of record deals that are just rubbish. I can never do that.”
“As much as we were unhappy with our last couple of labels,” continues Mustaine, “all those records, they were legitimate, serious attempts at making records that fit the music industry at that time. People don’t look back and say, well, shit, when The World Needs A Hero came out, there was something called nu-metal and nobody was playing solos, and the climate of music back then was so both bizarre. Or when Endgame came out, or United Abominations came out, it was a whole true metal thing—if you didn’t have six billion mile-an-hour solos, then you weren’t true metal. Excuse me, I’m one of the Four Horsemen (laughs).”
True metal. Interesting. I doubt Dave even meant this, but Megadeth has been, maybe with the exception of two records, more true metal than he even suspects. And that’s ‘cos the almost Benelux definition of that term is akin to the original and almost forgotten meaning of power metal, as derived from mostly US bands from the mid-‘80s, essentially METAL CHURCH meets Metallica meets the Metal Blade roster from ’82 through ’87. That’s where Megadeth has hacked out a unique place in metal history—they aren’t so much thrash as... well, true metal. Not kids’ wall of hyper-prog-death true metal, but music in the flesh and blood that might look exactly like Chris Broderick.
“Chris, he is, to me, a very gifted guitar player,” begins Dave, asked what Broderick brings to the band. “Best one I’ve played with. And that’s not taking anything away from the other guys, because they were all really talented. But he’s just like the complete package. Because, you know, with Poland, he was a great jazz player, but we had our problems. With Jeff Young, he was a great player, but we had our problems. With Marty, you know, Marty melted down. I don’t know what happened; he just melted down. And after that, it was kind of like, it was really just being lost in the wilderness for a while. And with Pitrelli coming in, nice guy, but he wasn’t right—he knew it; we knew it. And Glen, he fit a place for a while, and really helped us, and it was Glen who recommended Chris. But Chris was the only one who, believe it or not, of all that talent—and I’ve got to say, probably the second in line would be Drover—Chris was the only one who really studied the previous guitar players’ solos, and did them right. I remember, after Randy Rhoads died, Brad Gillis had gone out and played and Brad is such a great player, but he didn’t do the solos the way the we know them. And it’s kind of like, where’s the solo?”
“And I remember how that affected me, and I swore after that point, if there was ever a song played by a guitar player in Megadeth, that if it wasn’t their solo, then it would be as close to the original solo as possible.”
“This year, we’re having an MC,” continues Dave, asked about any evolutionary aspects we’ll see at this year’s Gigantour. “Jim Florentine, the guy from That Metal Show, is going to be out with us, and he’s going to be hosting and interviewing fans, and interviewing bands, and we’re going to have a lot of activity at our site. In Oklahoma City we’re doing a charity baseball game for the tornado victims there. We’re going to be having a lot of opportunities for the fans to come meet the different bands, with VIP packages and stuff like that. And opportunities for people to hang with bands after the show. A lot of our venues that we’re playing are going to be outdoors, so it’s going to be good summertime music stuff, and you’re not trapped inside of a building. You can actually get some sun while you’re at it. To me, those are the fun kind of shows when you get outside. I like playing indoors too, especially when it’s raining or snowing (laughs).”
Another cool feature of this year’s jaunt is the return of Jason Newsted (and if you notice, there’s a theme—every band, right down to Death Division, has got in their personnel somewhere, a guy or two who’s been a metal star on some level, from somewhere else).
“We talked, but not quite as extensively as I would’ve liked to,” says Dave, asked about Jason’s putting aside of the paints. “But we have talked, and you know, the cool thing about Newsted, was that we were friends long before he was in Metallica, from back in the FLOTSAM & JETSAM days. I’ve known him longer than those guys have. And he’s a guy I’ve gotten close with. And I knew him when he was really, really young, and we... I think we’ve got a really unique relationship, and I look forward to seeing him and playing. And he had said something about us jamming a Metallica song or something like that, and of course, it’s up to David Ellefson. He’s the bassist in Megadeth—if he wants somebody else to come out there and playing on stage with him, that’s up to him. But I know Dave, and I think you know Dave pretty well, and he’s always been the nice guy in Megadeth (laughs).”
“I do now,” says Dave, on knowing ZAKK WYLDE as more than a passing acquaintance. “I didn’t when LoMenzo was in the band. But I do now. But when we had seen each other in passing back when James was in the band, I think there was some tension between the two of them, and I never really got a chance to get to hang with Zakk, and I’ve always loved his guitar playing. Remember when he first came on the scene, chicks loved him, guys feared him, but I thought he was just totally bad ass. And it’s kind of a bummer that it’s taken this long for us to go to do something together. But don’t forget, there’s always been those Ozzfests that we played. But this has been the first proper tour where we’re going to get to roll and hang out. Crazy guy, man, energy for days. I talked to him on the way back from the last show in Paris. I was riding in a car for about three hours, and the next thing you know, I’m doing an interview with him for his sports show.”
“We have such a different relationship up in Canada than we have in a lot of other countries, so we’ve always played rare stuff, every once in while,” offers Mustaine in closing, asked about track selection on the tour. “We’ve done things where we only played in one particular area. So there’s no real telling what we’re going to do. Although we did a lot of the Countdown record, we pulled a lot of that out, and because now a lot of it is based on... we’ve got our program that we have. There’s a lot of songs, but there are so many other songs from the past we’d like to bring up, because this year’s Gigantour is very aggressive. I don’t know if you’ve seen all the different bands that are playing. I don’t know if you’ve heard the opening band yet, but just about everybody I’ve talked to is really, really impressed with this lineup. And then there are a couple people that are not fans of one or another band, but that’s cool—that’s why you have more than one band (laughs).”