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!

There's a Lot of Fire on This Album!

taken from Metal Hammer, March 1997
by Robyn Doreian

"There's a lot of fire on this album!" remarks drummer Nick Menza on Megadeth's seventh LP. Robyn Doreian visits the band in the studio at Nashville as they complete the final mixes for Needles and Pins [tentative title of Cryptic Writings - Ferres].

So much has happened in the meta' scene since we last witnessed Megadeth live at Brixton Academy on March 20, 1995. Sepultura have risen from their death metal origins to release Roots, which continues to nudge the 100,000 sales mark in the UK; Slayer have played a Donington and come out with Undisputed Attitude, a punk covers album so brutal, it scared some of their most hardcore fans; Pantera suffered a brush with death; the Iron Maiden dinosaur staggered on with their '80s look and sound; hard rock has been kept alive by Joe Elliott and co.; Guns'n'who?; and then there's Metallica, who have realized their objective of becoming a household name, selling millions of copies of Load and appearing in every magazine from "Smash Hits" to "Metal Hammer." Away from life amongst the old guard, there's been a new breed of aggressive guitars in the forms of Korn, Deftones, Rage Against the Machine, Downset, industrial-tinged outfits like Fear Factory, White Zombie, Misery Loves Co., Marilyn Manson, the energy of punk reinvented by Randid, Offspring and NOFX, and a gothic-flavored revival headed by Type O Negative. Meanwhile, Seattle has remained on the map with likes of Soundgarden, Screaming Trees and Pearl Jam, when they feel like playing. It must be more than a bit confusing if you haven't been out of the picture for over a year, so just where the fuck do you begin if you're a metal band recording your seventh album? Should you cut your hair, pierce your nipples, rip off Korn tunes, or just give up, because no one wants to hear what used to be called "metal" anymore?

Hence, we find ourselves in Nashville, Tennesee, where Megadeth are completing the mixes for Needles and Pins. It's a good ol' American city of the south, which revolves around country and western music and reading the bible. The buildings lining the ma in street of Nashville alternate between a Pizza Hut, Mrs. Winner's chicken and biscuits or McDonalds and a huge(and I mean huge) church. There are also a plethora of wholesale Bible outlets, catering for your every religious need. Amidst the fervor of Christian worship, after about 10pm, you would have a greater chance of being abducted by an alien aircraft than finding anywhere to get a beer. That's good ol' God-fearing Southern hospitality for ya...

Megadeth have been in and out Masterfonics Studio since September 1996. Mustaine and co. are looking suitably pasty, having developed what is commonly termed "studio tans". Dave Mustaine has spent the most time here, overseeing the mixes with producer Dan Huff, whilst Marty Friedman, David Ellefson (who is no longer referred to as "Junior") and Nick Menza have been back and forth since completing their particular parts for the album.

At this early stage in Needles and Pins completion, we are privy to hearing half a dozen songs which are destined for the final tracklisting. From first listening, the album contains a mix of really heavy tracks and a couple of less straight ahead numbers. The track "Trust" stands out as one which really punches you in the guts. In typical Megadeth fashion, it's structured with fast catchy guitar riffs a la Friedman and a sense of addictive melody, with a surprise interlude from the Nashville Symphony Orchestra three quarters of the way through the song. It seems that the heavy tracks are much heavier and rawer than those heard on the Youthanasia, but the band have given themselves space to introduce and develop some new ideas.

Dave Mustaine is possibly the most relaxed and calm I have seem him for a long time. Focused, confident and feeling a renewed sense of unity with the rest of the band, he doesn't seem phased by the radical shifts in the music scene since Megadeth were last out amongst it. I begin by asking him if he feels at all nervous, with the band presenting themselves as a fullbore metal band in 1997...

"Well, shit, if we went out there as anything else, we'd be faking it," replies the vocalist. "I think obviously the music has to do the talking. Some of the music is going to be fullbore heavy metal and some of it is just going to be really good music. I 'm not going to be one of those guys who says we were never heavy metal, because a leopard can't change it's spots."

"We are a metal band, but we're not just heavy metal, we are speed metal, thrash metal... There was even a time when we were considered black metal! When people saw 'Black Friday' and they heard 'Bad Omen', they thought we were satanic."

"The worst thing is, like, going to a truck stop in Dummoyne, Iowa, and having someone go (imitates Southern redneck voice)'You guys in Megadeth? I heard you are satanic!' They expect us to have dead goats and babies in our buses. You couldn't get anything further from the truth!"

Surely you don't get that anymore...?

"You'd be surprised. Our producer Dan Huff has been copping a lot of flak from friends, because they think he's working on satanic record. It's funny to see how public perceive things. It's cool to be that kind of spiritual doorway into opening people's minds and showing them how negative and narrow-minded they have been."

"A lot of people who were kind of sitting on the fence in the war between me and some other bands from my past have changed their minds. Now they listen to us and see they have been missing out and have caught up on all our back catalogue. It's weird how people perpetuate stuff that has no bearing on today."

Do you still have the same passion for Megadeth that you've always had?

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't. There was a period of time when the whole world revolved around Megadeth, and there was a period of time when everyone was questioning where we were going next as the industry was changing so much, and we would fight to keep Megadeth pure and not conform to the industry. Regretfully, the industry has suffered, because they are chasing around for the next big thing. We haven't had to conform them and rightly so, and I don't think it would have been Megadeth for us to be con forming. We have never really done that."

"I couldn't live with myself if I would have made a drastic change in what we are to meet what the record business is now. Obviously, to change to what you are doing to be hip takes a couple of months to get what you are doing out, so we would always be chasing our tail. We just anticipate this record being what it's supposed to be, and maybe the sleeping giant will wake up and all these other distractions will go away."

Being in a heavy metal band is not very cool right now. Are you prepared to compromise anything about yourself to get a broader fanbase?

"Who judges what is cool or not is me, not anybody else. If somebody says that being in a heavy metal band is not cool, then that's probably why they're not in this band. I think if you asked any members of Megadeth if being in a heavy metal band is cool or uncool, they would say it's cool. I think saying that we're in a heavy metal band is accurate, but it's so limiting, because we're not like a band, we're kind of like a phenomenon that's started and lasted and gone through severe changes and continued to defy the odds, especially nowadays."

What do you think of what Metallica have done on their latest album?

"I don't think what I think really matters. It's not going to change what they've done and I know people who couldn't care less and I know people who are thrilled. As long as they're happy, then that's the best thing."

So Megadeth aren't going to cut their hair or get tattoos and body piercings...?

"I personally am not going to get any tattoos. On some people, they look great, but some of them look like fucking human doodle pads! Body piercings? My ears are pierced, but I'm not going to pierce my nipples or penis. I don't have any use for that. When I go to the bathroom, I want to be able to pee straight!"

What do you think has kept Megadeth together so long?

"Gum. Band Aids. I have no idea! There is a desire for us to stay together that I cannot put my finger on. There are times when we didn't want to see one another and think we would all readily agree that there were times when we were going through withdrawals to be together."

"Whether anybody is willing to admit it or not, we have become part of history. We have stood the test of time and there is a new chapter ahead of us with this new record. This is record seven and not many bands get to that stage."

What's your vision for Megadeth with this album and beyond?

"I just want to roll with the punches and see where it takes us. Obviously, we want to get back out there playing music, as we have had a nice sabbatical. Everyone has gone to their respective corners in the ring and had a breather, and now we're back tog ether again and made this record. It was effortless. It was so easy for us to do everything. I think that has a lot to do with how secure we are with who we are and how we play and what band we're in."

How do you plan to keep Megadeth on the cutting edge?

"I don't think there's any problem with that and I don't think I need to plan that. I think we have been really gifted with what we do - as long as we stay focused with what the true intent of playing music is and that it is for our own personal joy and satisfaction."

"It is a lot different these days, because we have come in taking risks, really trying to sing hard and playing stuff a little different to what we have done before. We've taken the blinkers off and are still playing heavy stuff and being a little bit more musical, and I think that has opened up a little bit more for us in terms of possibilities down the road."

"We're learning a lot, we're growing a lot, and I think for us to say that we have reached the point where we couldn't get any better would be like hitting and wall. It's just like anything else, music is evolving, and as long as we don't keep making the same record 10 times over, there will always be better songs."

Some of the best music is born at the time when a band is struggling and has something to fight for. How do you keep that edge when you have a lot of money and are comfortable in your life?

"I think it's a misconception that having money makes you totally unadventurous. It's not all about the music being dangerous, because if you play 'Peace Sells' for the millionth time, how dangerous can that be? When I first said on 'Take no Prisoners', 'Don't ask what you can do for your country/Ask what your country can do for you?', that was exhilarating. Now the words have become dated, it's aged. I've come up with a new one on 'Fight for Freedom' on this album. I think just taking chances makes you dangerous."

Describe the feel of this record...

"Feeling wise, I think there is more of a relaxed atmosphere with the process of making it, but I think the music is a little bit more thought out as far as where we're going with it. We were trying to make sure that there were no self-indulgent parts, where things just fell out, or parts in songs that had no meaning there. I don't believe there are parts in there just for the sake of it. We have given a lot of thought to arrangement on this record."

Have you dealt with many social/political issues on it?

"Some of it is contrived, some is fantasy and some is very, very real. In 'Use the Man', I didn't lie, but somebody else did. I went to where this guy had lived and I saw a lot of his stuff. There was a bunch of photographs of him, 'Guitar Player' magazine, song lyrics and song he had written. This guy had plans. He planned on shooting heroin just one time and getting his life together, but he died."

Is the song "Trust" written from personal experience?

"Yes, it was. I could tell you a lot about it, but no matter how I justify it, it's not going to come across as painful as it was. Many times, I have had beautiful relationships destroyed by being led astray. I'm not going to say I am perfect without blame, but I think singing about it is maybe a healing process going back in my life."

"I have been around the world so many times and have experienced so many things and there is so much baggage. There are so many wonderful experiences, but possibly, equally as many painful ones."

How does drinking and drugs figure in your own life now?

"If you're asking how I'm doing, I'm doing OK. If you want me to say anything heavier than that, I'm not going to, as it is part of my private life."

Did you find the MD.45 project liberating, in the sense that you didn't have to sing and play the guitar?

"It was really good for me. It was a side project that kept me really busy in between the Megadeth project and the previous one. It reminded me a lot of being back in Metallica and just playing guitar."

Megadeth have a very serious image. Do you feel it's all become too serious?

"If you are comparing us to the likes of some of these political bands who are fighting to save this or that, that's not us. As far as what goes on outside of the band, if people think we are serious, they have totally missed the mark. I probably know mor e jokes than anyone I have ever met in my life! I enjoy laughing and having a good time and we all do crazy stuff."

Do you get upset when people slag you off?

"No, but there are times when I feel kinda sorry for them. If my opinions didn't matter, neither would the people who have opinions about me. They are entitled to them. You can find the flaws and wrongs in everyone, but I choose to ignore that."

"One of the things I have noticed in this business is that a lot of the journalists have become bigger superstars than the acts they cover. Some of them have become very popular and they can be very humble about it, but others are just frustrated musician s who live vicariously through bands. I have seen it in a lot of magazines that I used to read all the time and I have watched them become something just barely above what I would line the bottom of the birdcage with."

Are you the same person you were when you recorded Youthanasia?

"Yes, I am the same person, but my belief systems are not the same. They have improved, but again that is kinda private thing. I still believe in God, but I know a lot of people pucker up when they hear that someone has some spiritual beliefs. I'm not going to go heavy on that stuff, as it is my own trip."

"I believe there is nothing more rewarding than me being in my position, being able to touch the lives of other people and show them someone is there for them and someone believes in them, showing them some kind of success story that they too can face in surmountable odds and overcome them."

"I am in college now, taking a course in Business Management. This is a kid who got tremendous grades in school, got way ahead of the class, started acting like a clown because he got more popular telling jokes than getting straight A's, then ended up dropping out of high school. Then I was going to night school, dropping out, going go college to get high school credits, then dropping out to move to San Francisco with another band I played with. Then I came back, got my high school diploma and am now back studying again."

"I didn't want to do science or arts. Bachelor degrees either come in business or science, and I don't see myself as a painter. Nick is a painter and my art is music. I just wanted to challenge myself. I have been able to overcome every other thing that h as been put on my way so far, and I wanted to keep myself occupied. I get bored very easily, so when I am not touring, I like to apply myself in other areas of my life."

"I'm not the boy in the plastic bubble anymore, living in the Megadeth world. I am experiencing life on life's terms. There's so much out there that I have not been experiencing. When we would travel, I would not get out of the tour bus or the hotel. I'd just go right from the bus to the hotel to the venue and would be playing physical ping-pong, with the bus the net in the middle. But today, I am actually going places, seeing things, participating, being a part of life. Instead of going though life, I am experiencing it."

Away from Megadeth, the other three band members have been busy pursuing interests beyond their primary gig. David Ellefson has been working on a book which should be published this month. He's been writing it for some time now, utilizing his downtime whilst on tour. According to its author, it offers insights for aspiring musicians on how to break into the music business.

Drummer Nick Menza has a side project, SOMA, and professes to be constantly involved in writing and playing music. As for Marty, and extremely accomplished and prolific guitarist, he released a solo album, True Obsessions.

With Dave Mustaine elsewhere in the plush studio, three quarters of Megadeth talk about their experiences recording Needles and Pins:

Is writing and recording a democratic process for Megadeth?

"This year reminds me a lot of what it was like in the early days," explains bass player Ellefson. "Dave is the primary songwriter now. Everyone likes to write and everyone is prolific in writing, but not necessarily in writing Megadeth songs. With this album, we all kind of took hands off approach and let Dave create most of the material and where he would ask for help, we would contribute. Most of the brunt of the work has landed on Dave's shoulders, but I think it is by choice."

Did you have it in your minds that you wanted to make a really heavy record?

"We had an idea of what we wanted to do when we were on tour, then in the offtime, we started getting a different idea and began writing songs in January '96", Ellefson remarks. "It was really about being hungry and making the best record we could. There are some songs on this record which sound like old Megadeth, but done in the '90s. I was laughing recording it, because it's fast uptempo stuff and we haven't recorded stuff like that since Rust in Peace, so I guess the challenge was trying to play those songs now without making them sound like we had rethreaded some old Megadeth material."

Do you feel Megadeth have something to prove in 1997?

"Could be," David answers. "We've been around a long time by today's standards, where a band usually gets a one or two-record shot. We have kind of seen that it's been this long uphill struggle the whole time, but the good thing is that our career hasn't been a flash in the pan. to be around and making seven albums is virtually unheard of today."

"There aren't a lot of bands doing this kind of music that are still able to work and be successful," adds Nick. "It's tough, I don't see any bands in the media or hear them on the radio with this type of angst. Our music is very aggressive, very heavy, and this is just another point in time for us. This record is reminiscent of early Megadeth stuff. It's hungry and has a lot of fire on it. We're playing hard!"

"We definitely don't follow trends of what the musical scene is right now," qualifies Marty Friedman. "Our album is not alternative, it's just Megadeth. Hopefully, we will turn the trend around, and rock and heavy music will come back again."

Does this band ever feel like "Dave Mustaine and Megadeth"?

"From the beginning, this was Dave's band," comments Ellefson. "He conceived it. I have always got like a founding member credit, but in all honesty, just to the extent that I have been the only guy who has recorded and played as a bass player. I think a lot of this record is getting honest about all of that and getting back to what really works. Dave has done pretty good with his vision for this band over the years. If it wasn't working, then there would be a reason to question it, but it has been working great for the past 13 years. For me, I am much happier when called on to contribute material, and if not, show up and be the best bass player I can be."

Nick, there were rumors at one point that you were thinking about leaving...?

"No, they were not true," replies the drummer. "It was just rumors. I was getting all kinds of calls and people were saying all kinds of stuff about me. I was like 'This is cool. At least people are talking about me.' I had no idea where it all came from ."

"This is like the longest time we have been off the road, which has been kinda nice," adds Dave. "A lot of musical scenes and fashions have been going on. We've been lying low and flying under the radar whilst all this stuff has been going through. We're kind of on the backside of all that and ready to put out a record at that time, rather than be caught up in the cycle."

Metallica came clean on their drug usage with Load. Are you guys going to unleash a secret side of yourselves?

"We did all that drug thing early on," comments the bassist. "The earlier you get done with that, the better the chance you have of getting your musical side to grow," adds Marty. "If you're still doing that when you're 40 years old, it will probably stunt your career."

So, Marty, underneath it all, you're not the wild man of rock then?

"I am like the George Harrison of Megadeth," replies the guitarist. "I think you view my aggressive side in music. If I was on 12 all day long, I wouldn't have the energy to go out there and play with as much angst and over the top excess which I like to put into my guitar playing. My personality is like that. When I play music, I could rip your head off, but when I'm talking to you, I am very calm."

Marty - are you ever going to run out of guitar riffs?

"No, as a matter of fact," replies the pint-sized guitarist. "Particularly this time, since we had so much time off. In that time, I did a solo album and I've really been working as opposed to kicking back. A lot of people think of me as this guitar player technical guy and I don't want to be pigeonholed into that. I want to be more the guy who plays the right solo for the song - the Brian May or someone like that, not the Joe Satriani or the Steve Vai. They are great players, but I want be the guy who doe s the great thing for the song, who makes you want to explode when you hear it."

What did you think of the MD.45 record?

"I haven't heard it" answers David.

"Neither have I," adds Nick.

"I have heard one song and it was cool," concludes Marty.

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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