Megadeth Press Articles


So Far, So Good... So Mega! :: Marty Friedman's Stepping Stone :: Clash of the Titans - Mighty Megadeth :: I'm a Rock Star, OK? :: The Big Four :: Rust Never Sleeps :: Good Times, Bad Times, Dave Times :: Clash of the Titans :: The Secrets of Hangar 18 :: Simply Symphonic :: Deth Metal! :: Love it to 'Deth! :: A Kinder, Gentler... Megadeth :: RIP Reader's Poll Winner - Best Album: Countdown to Extinction :: I Was Dead and They Brought Me Back! :: Godzilla vs. Megadeth :: Tour of Consequences :: Mustaine Mouths Off :: MD.45 - The Mustaine Side Project :: There's a Lot of Fire on This Album! :: Dethspotting :: Megadeth: Secret Mission :: At the Start It Was About Revenge :: Escaping Capitol Punishment to Reach Sanctuary :: Megadeth's Really Over!

Escaping Capitol Punishment to Reach Sanctuary

taken from launch.com, May 2001
by Bryan Reesman


Success is a bitch. Like a part-time lover, it can depart as quickly as it came, leaving its victims feeling dismayed and betrayed. There are some people, however, that view the concept of success as renewable and as more than a May-December romance - including Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, whose band experienced a drop in popularity with its last studio album, Risk and the recent "best of" Capitol Punishment... Despite that shortfall, Megadeth is as busy as ever promoting its new release, The World Needs a Hero.

Even though Megadeth's last album only sold 300,000 copies in the United States - nearly half a million units less than its predecessor, Cryptic Writings, which spawned four top five rock radio hits - Sanctuary Management (the team behind Iron Maiden, Rob Halford, and Helloween) is convinced that the band is still viable, having signed it to a new record deal via its American imprint, Sanctuary Records. Mustaine himself believes that his group is "still a legendary band, and this new record proves that."

Listening to a three-song sampler from Hero - which includes the hard-driving title track and equally charged "Disconnect" and "Moto Psycho" - it is obvious that Megadeth has returned to a stripped-down, harder-edged approach than its previous two Dann Huff-produced albums. Those CDs explored a more accessible sound that, perhaps inevitably, turned off much of the band's hardcore following, even though both albums featured good songwriting. Mustaine points out that the new album retains some elements of the past two releases, but he says that this time out the quartet wanted to make a fan record.

"[We wanted to make] an album that myself, Al, Dave, and Jimmy would like, because we're fans of the band," Mustaine clarifies. "I'm not going to say that if you cut me you're going to see metal or anything like that, but I like the fact that people walk up to me and say, 'Dude, you're God' or 'You're my hero' instead of, 'Man, Rust in Peace was great, but everything since then is shit!' That's a little bit hard to handle, you know? Although that doesn't happen much, a lot of fans don't like Risk. A lot of new fans do. There's a balance."

A major shift in balance within the band has been the addition of guitarist Al Pitrelli, who joined the band on the North American leg of the "Risk" tour after Marty Friedman, who had played with Megadeth for a decade, announced his departure. Mustaine indicates that Pitrelli has given the band a musical infusion that it has long needed. While the frontman had developed a good relationship with Friedman, his chemistry with Pitrelli was immediate.

"The great thing about making this record is we went back to the core fundamentals of the band, which is guitar riffs," Mustaine declares. "Hooky melodies and sensible, cynical lyrics. Al helped me with the legality of some of the notes. On the first Marty Friedman record, he didn't play one note of rhythm. Al played rhythm on one song on this record. The first Megadeth record Marty Friedman played on, he didn't write one note. Al has already written on this record. Marty was really helpful [in harmonizing to my riffs]. I would ask, 'Is this note legal?' And he would say it is or not. I didn't know what was going to happen with Al, and when I said, 'Is this note legal?' he gave me a couple of alternatives. I went, 'Marty who?' And no disrespect to Marty, he's a fantastic guitar player. I have the utmost respect for him for the 10 years that he served with us and the work that he did and fanbase that he has. [Although] I heard his new record, and Megadeth fans are going to be seriously disappointed. It's techno."

When Pitrelli got "the call" at the tail end of 1999 from Megadeth drummer Jimmy DeGrasso - a friend of almost 20 years and a recent Mega-recruit that same year - he figured it was just another situation to help out a band with a departing member. Cocky and gung-ho, Pitrelli assumed the two-week gig would be a snap, and he soon plotted to make sure, with a guitarist slot vacant, that Megadeth would not hear anyone else.

The hired gun made sure he impressed his new bandmates every night. "I still do!" Pitrelli confesses. "Dave probably has got the most incredible work ethic of anybody I have ever dealt with, and I've dealt with a lot of people. He's meticulous, he is a perfectionist, and he is relentless in his pursuit of what he wants to do. It's like being on a football team and you are watching the films of the game after the game. When we get on a bus after the show, he's got the tape from that night's show. He critiques [everything]."

Prior to joining Megadeth, Pitrelli honed his chops recording and/or touring with Alice Cooper, Savatage, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. His first major tour, as musical director for Cooper's successful "Trash" tour in 1989, saw the guitar hero leap from playing Long Island clubs to arenas as big as Wembley. "My musical chops came up pretty quick," he recalls. "I thought I had it going on, until I jumped on the bus with these guys."

The guitarist can still be challenged and taught after years in the business. He admits to being lazy in the past, just getting by on his abilities. "You rely on your instincts, and you go into your same bag of tricks most of the time," observes Pitrelli. "I could have gotten away with that if this was a Megadeth cover band. But being in Megadeth, and being scrutinized, it was back to Guitar 101. It's been great."

Pitrelli admits he was a "fixer-upper" in terms of a rock-star transformation. Image changes aside, he diligently studied guitar parts that Friedman had videotaped for him, but some of the lessons were incorrect. So Pitrelli and Mustaine were forced to go back and listen to the albums to decipher the chord changes and melodies. "One of the most beautiful things in my entire career," notes Mustaine, who has played guitar professionally for 20 years, "[is that] I can close my eyes when Al's playing and it sounds like Marty. It sounds like Jeff. It sounds like Chris." Indeed, Pitrelli can play everything by all the past axemen in Megadeth.

"It's a really great thing for me, because I'm a spoiled rock star, and I've played with some of the best guitar players in the world," Mustaine boasts. "There's only one other guy in the history of rock 'n' roll that has ever left his first band and went on to play in a second band was equally as popular: Ozzy. I look at where we're at right now, and we're poised to rule the world. We have a fantastic record coming out, we have a drummer who's one of the most talented, unbelievable, healthy motherfuckers I've ever seen. He loves to play. He's got a shit attitude, but he's got a great personality, and his attitude is a front because he's such a nice person. Everything works together. Al and I are playing like a guitar team right now. What took Marty and I a long time to get, Al and I got right away."

Pitrelli's debut was certainly a baptism by fire, for he was put onstage two days before he had planned on being there. The group was performing a concert on January 17, 2000, and Friedman had not arrived at the venue approximately 30 minutes before the band was scheduled to go on. "I'm hanging out in the dressing room before the show, and Dave said, 'You should probably get dressed now, you're playing tonight,'" recalls Pitrelli.

In spite of the spontaneous substitution, the show went well. So well, in fact, that some fans did not know a lineup change had occurred. "Someone comes up to Al after the concert and goes, 'Marty, will you sign this?'" marvels Mustaine. Pitrelli adds: "It was a very odd moment for me, because I was playing in Megadeth with a Marty Friedman Jackson guitar, looking off to the side of the stage, seeing Marty sitting there. I thought it was strange."

Surreal stage moments notwithstanding, the renewed Megadeth is optimistic about its new album and impending tour. They're certainly are happier with their current label and management following their soured relationship with Capitol Records, with whom they had been signed for over 10 years. In fact, the title of the group's recent "greatest hits" compilation, Capitol Punishment..., sounds like a double-entendre about its problems with the company. "It's seemingly a dig at the record label, but they've been gracious enough in letting us go," Mustaine says diplomatically. "In fact, I think it is very intelligent of them to recognize the limitations that they have." The frontman certainly was not happy with the promotion that the label gave Risk. He remarks that Capitol Records is better known for selling catalog than catering to modern rock trends.

"Go look at the top 10 bands that are on Billboard right now, and I would be surprised if any of them are Capitol acts," asserts Mustaine. "Look at the top 20, I would be surprised. I would imagine that they probably have two or three acts in the entire top 200." In fact, Mustaine scours the Billboard Top 200 during the interview and discovers four Capitol acts, with only one in the top 20: the Beatles.

Aside from the fact that Megadeth was battling the nu-metal trend when Risk hit stores in fall 1999, Mustaine says that the second single from the album, "Insomnia," seriously hurt the group's momentum. It was released to radio with only a lightweight remix that Mustaine hated, but which their former manager and producer particularly felt would reach a mass pop market - something the rocker was not interested in, particularly with modern rock radio getting heavier.

"They forced that [single] not only on alternative radio but on active rock radio," complains Mustaine. "Now, you don't give an alternative mix of Megadeth to active rock. They want in-your-face, bone-crunching, blood-splattering, teeth-jarring Megadeth. We have a relationship with rock radio right now, we don't have to patronize them." Consequently, the remix broke the band's string of top five singles.

"Imagine how that made me feel?" says Mustaine. "'Trust,' 'A Secret Place,' 'Use the Man,' 'Almost Honest,' 'Crush'em' - all top five singles across the board in America. Then we lose it because these guys did not consult with me or even tell me them that they were doing this one song, take-it-or-leave-it boner. I was in Kansas City with Marty Friedman and we were doing a meet-and-greet at a radio station. Everything was cool and we were laughing and talking and playing music. Then they put on 'Insomnia' and I went, 'Why didn't they play the version from the album?' It was like the heavens opened, and a lightning bolt hit me right in the head - I'd been duped."

By that point, the band felt that its relationship with Capitol Records was permanently damaged. Once they delivered the new album with Pitrelli, they told the label they wanted out of their deal and wanted to get the rights to their new CD back. Initially shocked, the label agreed, but only if it could take the songs "Kill the King" and "Dread and the Fugitive Mind" for a "greatest hits" package that the band would have little control over.

Despite his hesitation over giving up "Dread" and not being able to do a proper "best of" with full liner notes, rare tracks, and outtakes, Mustaine took the deal, because it gave the band an out. "Now, am I bitter that we put out a 'greatest hits' record and it didn't sell?" he asks rhetorically. "Fuck no... I mean, we're free!"

That freedom is bringing about a return to Megadeth's roots. Its mascot Vic Rattlehead returns on the cover of Hero. The band and Sanctuary have a DVD in the works that will include all 25 of Megadeth's videos, a narrated tour by bassist Dave Ellefson of his and Mustaine's old Hollywood stomping grounds, and narration of all the videos by Mustaine. Furthermore, a Behind The Music special on the band is coming soon to VH1, featuring interviews with current and past Megadeth members as well as members of Metallica, the band Mustaine played in prior to Megadeth.

While the group's two Daves have negative memories associated with Capitol, Mustaine stresses that they also have many positive ones. And while the sales trend with their former label has been downward from Youthanasia to Cryptic Writings to Risk to "Capitol Punishment being virtually non-existent", it's a trend "we're hoping is going to be reversed right now".

Among the teeming masses of metal poseurs over the years, Megadeth has been a standout in its purposeful shirking of banal sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll topics and in its willingness to embrace numerous topics of social relevance. But given the fact that he now has a comfortable lifestyle, is raising a family, and is getting older, does Mustaine feel like he can maintain the fire and edginess from his younger days?

"Am I still a sociopath now, and it is possible for me living in a million-dollar home to still talk about anarchy?" he shoots back. "Absolutely! Just because my lifestyle is comfortable doesn't mean that I can't rally the troops and say, 'Change your existence.'"

The frontman subtly switches into motivational speaker mode here, sounding like the Tony Robbins of metal. "When you change your master agenda, when you're talking about something only a few people can relate to, you need to think about something that people were relate to." One of the topics he feels can unite people is living conditions, which he says will lead to a consistently predictable stream of questions and answers.

"'Are you being paid what you think you're worth?'" Mustaine queries. "The answer is no. 'Would you like to make more money?' The answer is yes. 'Do you like your current living conditions?' The answer is probably no. 'Would you like to have a better lifestyle right now?' The answer is probably yes. 'Do you need the key to unlock your future?' Yeah."

Mustaine believes that the trick in tackling such an issue is not to let people know that you're teaching them. "People don't want you to talk down to them, [standing] on a moral hilltop screaming that you know more than them and that you're better than them. The best way to do that is to make them feel like there's a bond, because you can accomplish great things when you get together with somebody. No matter what their background is, if there's a common thread, great things happen."


So Far, So Good... So Mega! :: Marty Friedman's Stepping Stone :: Clash of the Titans - Mighty Megadeth :: I'm a Rock Star, OK? :: The Big Four :: Rust Never Sleeps :: Good Times, Bad Times, Dave Times :: Clash of the Titans :: The Secrets of Hangar 18 :: Simply Symphonic :: Deth Metal! :: Love it to 'Deth! :: A Kinder, Gentler... Megadeth :: RIP Reader's Poll Winner - Best Album: Countdown to Extinction :: I Was Dead and They Brought Me Back! :: Godzilla vs. Megadeth :: Tour of Consequences :: Mustaine Mouths Off :: MD.45 - The Mustaine Side Project :: There's a Lot of Fire on This Album! :: Dethspotting :: Megadeth: Secret Mission :: At the Start It Was About Revenge :: Escaping Capitol Punishment to Reach Sanctuary :: Megadeth's Really Over!

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