Megadeth are one of the forefathers of the Thrash Metal movement and on the eve of their announcing their latest touring adventures in support of the forthcoming “Dystopia” album, I had the pleasure of speaking to the bands founder, the great Dave Mustaine. Together we discussed the state of Heavy Metal in this day and age, the selection of new Megadeth members and what fans should expect from the new album and tour. As we didn’t have a whole lot of time to chat, I kept the line of inquiry very quick and to the general point. Here’s our entire discussion.
PiercingMetal: Let me start by saying congratulations on Megadeth surpassing the thirty-year mark. How does it feel to be in command of such a band for that long a time?
Dave Mustaine: I think that anything that you do successfully for a long period of time you have to look at it and ask yourself why is this successful and I think part of that is because we’ve always had one common goal with this band and that was to be true to ourselves and I think that this translates to the fan base. If you believe in what you do, then that starts to lay the foundation for the relationship with your fans that has integrity.
PiercingMetal: Would you think that Metal is in a better place or a worse place today?
Dave Mustaine: It depends because there are so many different genres of Heavy Metal. If you’re saying do I think that Thrash or Speed Metal or Heavy Metal in general is in a better place then it depends because there is a lot of new types of Metal out there. You have Grindcore and all kinds of Black Metal, White Metal, Death Metal just so many other different types but its opened up a lot of doors for different people that are more genre specific that play one very limited type of music and do it really well. I’ve always liked to be able to push the boundaries of what I could do and Megadeth has a lot of influences that are unique to what most Metal bands would do. We have Jazz and Classical influences which I think really helps give us that advantage over a lot of bands that don’t have those influences.
PiercingMetal: Right, right. So let’s talk about the new band first. How did you come to settle on both Kiko Laureiro for the guitar and Mr. Chris Adler for drums? Those are two cool choices.
Dave Mustaine: Yeah they are really great choices. Kiko was actually the last one that I chose so I’ll start with Chris. A lot of talk was going on about the “Rust In Peace” reunion and I was trying to make that thing happen and I wasn’t really down with that whole thing but being a leader, if you want to be a good leader you have to listen to your advisors and a lot of people were saying that this has some potential but we tried it and it just wasn’t meant to be. So during the process we were trying to massage all these different things and make sure we didn’t take any corners too fast and I thought that if this does happen we’re probably going to need someone to come into the studio that is an absolute monster and do the drum tracks and then play live. To do the “Rust In Peace” stuff live and that wouldn’t’ really require us to have to play a lot of stuff off the new record. We would play the staples from Marty Friedman and Nick Menza and when we started talking to drummers to come in and do that stuff, the choices of who I had wanted to use that have that caliber was pretty limited. So Chris Adler’s name came up. Dave Lombardo’s name came up along with a couple of other guys. When I talked to Chris about it, it just became so clear that he was the right guy to do it and as we started to get closer and closer that I realized that this is a guy that I wished I would have known a long time ago for this band. If I had known him before Lamb Of God started I would have asked him to join Megadeth and we would have never had another drummer.
PiercingMetal: Yes, Chris is really a great choice.
Dave Mustaine: Now I was looking at guitar players and because when you are a guitar player and you’re on the front end of the stage there is a lot more interaction with the audience and I for whatever reason, the press, the public, tend to demand different things from a guitar player being a person on that part of the stage. When we kind of narrowed it down there are three points that we look at when looking at a new guitar player and that’s attitude, ability and as shallow as this sounds appearance. I had interviewed so many people and they would either have one of the three things or two of the three things but nobody ever had all three. I remember one time I found this guitar player who was so fantastic and he had tattoos everywhere and I said yeah well that’s okay and then I see another recent picture and he had tattoos all over his hands of like flames and stuff and I thoughts “wow, I can dig this one thing” but this is a little bit too much for me. I was really starting to get disappointed and we had another guitar player that we looked at who was really young. He’s actually younger than my son and I thought I know how I feel inside when I think about Wolfgang Van Halen doing this and this isn’t against their decisions that they’ve made or anything like that but I wanted to have someone that was more along the lines of our age group and stuff like that. We got this list and Kiko’s name was the last name on the list so you match the items you want and they either have hair or they don’t have hair, they can play great or the don’t play great. They either have a really good personality or they have something else the matter. The pieces weren’t all there and then one day I get to where Chris sends me a link to this thing that Kiko was doing and it was him playing against Chris Broderick of all people. I watched it and said how that was so crazy and it was so obvious the difference in the two playing styles. The fluidity, the emotion and just the technique which was really, really crazy stuff. There was just so much feeling in the playing and I thought well the problem is that he has a really thick accent but then I said that this didn’t matter so I interviewed him and we talked and then he came out. The extent of his journey out to Nashville was that we went out to have lunch and then had a couple of beers and then we go back to my house and the phone rings. So I’m on the phone talking for a little bit and he picks up this acoustic guitar, a nylon stringed guitar and he starts playing like Andres Segovia on steroids. It was then that I thought to myself “Fuck! This guy’s amazing”. Everything with him is up with the exception of a little down and that is the bit of accent he has when he sings so he is working on that a lot but yesterday morning when we left Mexico City I had not had breakfast with him before I left and we were having a conversation and it was so informative. It was just enriching our relationship and I never, ever have had in my life a relationship with another guitar player in my band where we sat down at a meal and had a conversation that was that……I don’t know what the right word to say is but it was just really fulfilling for me. It was just so cerebral and we were talking about stuff that most guitar players don’t even think about.
PiercingMetal: Excellent so let’s go into the new tour announcement and “exciting” tour announcement that is bringing along Suicidal Tendencies, Children of Bodom and Havok. Now this is NOT a “Gigantour” correct?
Dave Mustaine: No it isn’t.
PiercingMetal: Okay so please give me an idea on how you decided to bring these three bands along with Megadeth.
Dave Mustaine: Well, I like the Suicidal Tendencies a lot because they’re a great band, very talented and it’s no secret that we’ve toured a lot with Children Of Bodom. Alexi is a monster on guitar and Havok is a band that my son Justis Mustaine is managing. We had a conversation about them coming out with us at some point and this just seemed like it was the right opportunity and the right time and everything seemed that this was the right time for it. Now I’m not the type of person who looks a gift horse in the mouth and when something seems right it usually is right.
PiercingMetal: Havok is a great newer band for Megadeth fans to see and I’ve seen them a number of times in NYC and Bodom is nothing new to me. Since I am an “Old School” guy, I’ve been following Suicidal for years so think this is all a great mix for the tour. (Dave asks where I’m from at this point to my reply of NYC, top of the food chain – he laughs). Now Dave I see you are giving us two dates on this exciting tour so that is pretty cool and I also notice that there are two Hawaiian dates so if Chris happens to want anyone to carry his drumsticks just give me a shout. Okay so let’s talk a little bit about the new album “Dystopia”, and it sounds like a very exciting album after hearing the single you have released called “The Threat Is Real” which I have just gotten a listen to and after this I will be focusing in on the rest of the album. What can the fans expect from this new work overall? Are you going back more towards the traditional Thrash as like an elder statesman of Metal saying “Here’s where we are based on what we pretty much helped start back in the day” or are you braving some new territory.
Dave Mustaine: I think it’s a little bit of both. I think having been one of the originators, not THE, but one of the originators of this type of musical style it’s just fitting and is honoring our roots by acknowledging them but I also think that if you don’t embrace the present then you can’t be part of the future.
PiercingMetal: I think that is a pretty good way to be, now we have just over three weeks in the North American side and there are some festival commitments. Do you see a second leg happening or is it too early to decide on something like that?
Dave Mustaine: If you’re talking about a second leg in the states then yeah, I did actually and we’ve announced the dates for this run and we have some stuff coming up in April or May but I’m not exactly sure yet but I do know that they’ve talked a lot about it and some of the stuff is confirmed so we’ll put some dates up. Right now all we have done is announced the dates on the first leg of the US North American run.
PiercingMetal: The climate of touring is on everybody’s head right now based on all of the recent happenings. What are your thoughts on some of that stuff.
Dave Mustaine: I really don’t have a lot to say on that but a lot of it is unfortunate but there’s a lot of reasons to continue to play and I think that you have to live your life and go on with your life. Part of the whole thing with making somebody feel afraid is making them feel that they can’t go someplace and do the things that they normally do. I think that by showing (garbled) …. healthy here is healthy in certain circumstances, I think that you have to go on and live your life.
PiercingMetal: Let’s go back to the new album. How involved was everyone in the assembly of the tunes.
Dave Mustaine: Yeah they did. I remember when we listened back to some stuff that was done we would send them to everybody and for example with the bass stuff, nobody else was really listening to it to critique it as much as they were getting excited about it because David Ellefson is such a great bass player and when the stuff was done being able to say here’s how the pieces are starting to come together, see if you can dig the swing and the feel of it. One of the things that Megadeth had and I take a lot of pride out of is that I had three sisters who were big Motown fans so I grew up with a lot of rhythm and blues music. It’s funny because like I was saying how I was flying in from Mexico City and there was a Blues channel on the radio and it started off with Robert Johnson doing “Crossroads” along with a bunch of songs that I knew even if I didn’t know the actual artist at the moment and then B.B. King came on and then T Bone Walker and it’s just when you hear music like that – it’s the kind of stuff that stands the tests of time. That’s what I’ve always wanted our music to sound like and to watch the guys get excited when we send these tracks around – let Dave hear what Chris has done, let Chris hear what Kiko has done and let all of them hear what I just did as a group and part of that is for them to enjoy it and also to be able to say that if you don’t like it then now is the time to say whatever it is you have to say because I don’t want to move on to the next part if you guys are reluctant in any way. They’re three musicians that I love and respect in every way and I want to get their real opinion on things.
PiercingMetal: Well I have to say that I am very excited and interested in seeing the new lineup along with you and Dave because like I’ve said I’ve been a fan for a number of years and have been reporting on your guys with this outlet for about a decade now and I guess I should just close this with “Vic Rattlehead for 2016”???
Dave Mustaine: Sure, you know the thing is that if there was any truth to that where there was somebody who could run for political office. It’s funny because when you look at all the people who are candidates you gotta ask yourself is this the best that we have. Everybody seems to have something that they’re pandering to or somebody that owns a piece of them and it’s just really weird. There’s just so much stuff on TV and you see these guys who look like they would be perfect Presidents or great Prime Ministers or stuff like that but they’re actors. I think that one of the things with this album “Dystopia” and all of the songs that are on it is that it really breaks down that divider between us and a lot of our foreign fans and says in its music that this is what Megadeth is about and these are the things that we believe in and we know that you believe in it too so let’s just get down and Thrash about and have fun. For however long the record is playing is the amount of time that we don’t have to stress about over life anymore.
PiercingMetal: Any inside scoop on how the stage is going to look this time around?
Dave Mustaine: Actually you know what that’s a good question and I haven’t got that question in a long time but we haven’t really put much thought to that yet. It’s a great question.
PiercingMetal: As a photographer I kind of like a big stage
Dave Mustaine: That’s killer, I’m going to have to take that into consideration.
PiercingMetal: Just tell them Ken’s looking forward to a nice big stage so we have to do this now guys.
Dave Mustaine: (laughs) Yeah…thanks a lot.
As our chat drew to a close Dave inquired as to where I was calling in from and when I said it was New York he stressed how I didn’t sound like that was the case. He felt that I had a more European voice to myself and I admitted that some ancestry hailed from both Ireland and Russia which he found very interesting as a mix and how I sounded like neither side. I took that moment to break into each respective imitation to send him off to his next interview with a laugh. It was nothing less than fantastic to speak to such an accomplished Metal figure and you can bet for sure that I am planning on hitting one or both of the NYC appearances to root Dave and company on from the media area and with the Metal hungry fans in the swirling crowds. These shows are going to be something my friends so don’t miss out at all.
Official Website: http://www.megadeth.com