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!

At the Start It Was About Revenge

taken from Metal Hammer, September 1999
by Dave Ling


"At the start it was about revenge" says Dave Mustaine about his motives for forming Megadeth. As they release their eight album, Risk, Dave Ling discovers these days it's more about being mega-famous.

"I was so pleased when I saw what Bruce [Dickinson] said on the cover of 'Metal Hammer.' I knew people would bust his ass on that subject instead of mine", grins Dave Mustaine, before our interview begins. He's referring to May's edition, of course, in which the newly returned Iron Maiden frontman openly boasted: "We're better than Metallica!"

And did Mr. Dickinson have a point?

"I guess so," says Mustaine. The Megadeth vocalist/guitarist's ever-confident tone leaves us in no doubt as to his belief that Maiden are indeed a superior musical entity to the band who threw him out all those years ago, but also of his own group's credentials.

For the past 16 years, Dave Mustaine has been a man on a mission. He formed Megadeth in a fit of fury after Metallica had shown him the door, and the band's earliest years were spent with gritted teeth, desperate to prove to his former colleagues that they had made a mistake. Now, thought, he claims to have come through the bulk of all that bitterness, only to be consumed by a new motivation. Mustaine has achieved stardom in his own right. And he has realized that he needs more.

"There's a ceiling to being a star. A thin layer separates stardom and superstardom, but it's really hard to get through. Now we need to make that transition, either with a huge song or with some big break that comes our way," explains Dave.

"We've gotten to that ceiling several times in the past, but each time we were right there on the cusp I would have a problem with my health or my behavior. Both of those things have righted themselves with time - it's been almost four years since I was last stoned, and it was then that I decided it was really time to get my act together if I wanted to get on. We've been so close to that breakthrough, but each time I'd fuck up, there'd be a line-up change or a manager or an agent would do something to screw us."

Before Mustaine's arrival, lensman Mark Allan's revelation that he had recently photographed Paul McCartney had prompted a discussion on the merits of genuine superstardom. Is this the status Mustaine seeks?

"Sure, I guess that anyone who's doing this seriously wants to be able to rule the world," he retorts. "I don't know that I'd buy Buddy Holly's back catalogue or some of the other very peculiar things that Mr. McCartney has, but I'd like Megadeth to become as big as it can possibly get without us having to do something really stupid to achieve it. I'd hate to become famous on the back of a gimmick, like 2 Live Crew and their so-called offensiveness. Or Kiss or Marilyn Manson, who have to reinvent themselves with each album to keep things interesting. That's not about talent at all."

Megadeth's eight album is called Risk, which is kinda ironic as some would say that the taking of chances is exactly what the quartet's music lacked for some time. Mustaine's discovery of melody has caused him to drift further away from his roots, to the point where Youthanasia ('94) and Cryptic Writings ('97) offered just the odd tune of distinction. Am I alone in admitting that '92s Countdown to Extinction is the last of their albums that I enjoy in its entirety?

Nevertheless, Cryptic Writings was a hugely successful release for Megadeth in their homeland. For the benefit of those on this side of the pond, it was another platinum album - a million copies sold - reaching the Billboard Top Ten album chart and spawning four Top ten singles ("Two of those Top Five and one Number One," Dave informs us with his usual modesty). The pressure was on to re-create those achievements.

"We'd reached a fork in the road and knew that we needed either to make a record like this or to go back into a heavier vein," says Mustaine, before revealing that the latter option was explored and cast aside.

"I'd been listening to my roots again," he says. "My classic New Wave of British Heavy Metal albums are all on vinyl so I can't play them, but a friend sent me some CDs of Venom, Motörhead, Mercyful Fate and Diamond Head. And I realized those bands weren't my roots at all, it was stuff I liked when my guitar style had already developed. So I went back even further, as well as bringing in some different influences."

He's not kidding. 'Risk' is a somewhat daring album from a band who were in danger of becoming a parody of themselves. Exploring an unlikely variety of textures and sounds, it requires two or three spins, but once you've got over the shocks, it's worth the effort.

"Listening to a record for the first time is not like fucking a woman - it should get better after the first night," says Dave, unwittingly slipping into the parlance of lusty car salesman Swiss Tony from The Fast Show. "What we wanted was to achieve true greatness, and those are the kind of records that will keep on giving you something new every time."

The album's lead-off tune, "Insomnia," ushers itself in with a wall of feedback before a cello instigates the song's heart-stopping riff. Meanwhile, all manner of sounds including an electronic-sounding rhythm track have been incorporated into the wall-of-noise. In a quote directly attributed to Mustaine, the record company's biography suggests that "Insomnia," was "inspired by a lot of the English rave bands like Prodigy and Republica."

"No, I'll tell you the truth," he scowls. "I'm aware of the Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers, but it was more Elastica and Republica when I wrote 'Insomnia'. Marty [Friedman, guitarist] is also a big fan of Garbage."

"But if that song's inspired by anything at all it's about too much cocaine," continues Mustaine. "If you listen, the lyric is about not being able to stay asleep. I've just finished a college class in psychology and one of the inaccuracies that I learned about was that insomnia's not about having trouble getting to sleep, but more to do with staying there. It could be chemically induced as well - especially the part that goes 'I know you're out there'. That's a little psychotic, and it's something that anyone who has ever been into staying up all night partying can relate to."

Don't go thinking that Mustaine has sold his fans down the river. He's still the same old traditionalist, and when asked whether he has an opinion on the growth of hip hop in metal, he smiles: "I do, and it's not a positive one." In fact, Risk took its name from a sarcastic comment from Metallica's Lars Ulrich, who suggested in print that more changes should have been taken on Cryptic Writings. Does Mustaine imagine that this one will be more to the percussionist's liking?

"I really don't know," he half-sneers, "and I really don't give a shit."

Something that Ulrich and the rest of the world must acknowledge is the growth in band's playing. Since Friedman joined in 1990, the line-up of Mustaine, bassist David Ellefson and drummer Nick Menza (recently replaced by ex-Suicidal Tendencies/White Lion/Alice Cooper sticksman Jimmy DeGrasso) have established themselves as arguably the most musical of the extreme metal bands. That proficiency is still there, but with Risk there's also an economy of notes.

"When you slow things down there's more space and your timing has to be perfect," he agrees. "If there are less notes they should be good ones - like when you go to a very expensive restaurant and they give you a tiny portion of meat that looks like a piece of chewing gum. Some places'll give you a whole bucket load because it's crap, but we'd rather give you that superior option."

Could the Megadeth of old have played something as challenging as "The Doctor Is Calling"?

"No," laughs Dave. "I don't think so, even though the idea for that song has been around since we did Rust in Peace (in 1990)."

"I'll Be There" might even be Megadeth's first full-blown pop song.

"It's a pop song, but it may be our second or third," he responds. "Although we're still a real heavy metal band we've been going in that direction for quite some time now, 'A Tout Le Monde' [from Youthanasia] may have been our first real pop song. But 'pop' is just short for popular, and we've always wanted to be popular."

Megadeth' second pop tune would have been "Trust," the standout track from Cryptic Writings. "Crush'em" is the newie's most likely effort.

"With the last album we had no alternative airplay, 'Crush'em' has already been added to 157 stations in its second week. In the first week of 'Trust' we got 81 - that says it all."

The song's origins lie in a clever piece of man-management from Mustaine's business representative.

"The idea for 'Crush'em' came from our manager," Dave reveals. "He asked me what we could do that my ex-band never managed, something that would make them say, 'Goddamnit, why didn't we think of that?' I thought he was teasing me because people bust my chops about that fuckin' band all the time."

"I've been a season ticket holder for the Phoenix Coyotes for three years. When there's a goal they play Gary Glitter's 'Rock and Roll Part One', at powerplay they play Metallica's 'Enter Sandman' and if the team needs firing up we get Guns N' Roses' 'Welcome To the Jungle'. I was so sick of those three songs that I set out to write something that would get rid of them."

Not only was "Crush'em" eventually picked up by the NHL for the play-offs, but America's football and baseball authorities wanted it too. It has also found its way into Jean-Claude Van Damme's new movie, "Universal Soldier - The Return".

"It doesn't get much better than that," grins Mustaine.

Over the years, Mustaine has made wholesale changes to his life and personality. Those outspoken opinions remain, yet gone is the eccentric drug-fiend who always jumps in the feet first. The singer/guitarist has enjoyed multi-Platinum success since Rust in Peace and has used his rewards to fine-tune his lifestyle. Happily married with two children, he admits to deep spiritual beliefs. He has not only taken the aforementioned psychology class, but studied nutrition and business management among other subjects. For someone whose lifestyle in the '80s and early '90s was just about as hedonistic as it got, returning to the rigidity of the classroom was an extremely unlikely move.

"Well, I do lots of interviews and I've gotta watch what I say," he retorts. "It has to do with wanting to make educated statements. It's about bettering myself. For instance, my nutrition courses have really helped me to take care of myself on the road; I don't have to see the doctor for antibiotics the way I used to. Plus, I like to set a good example for my son, who's doing really good at school. I sit and read with him every morning. He's so physical, I watch him beating the shit out of other kids in ice hockey and that's great because I wasn't doing that at his age. Hopefully, he won't be bullied in school."

What was his motivation when he started Megadeth, and what has it now become?

"At the start it was revenge, but wanting to get back at my former band has been replaced by something that's almost as addictive," he admits. "Success has lead to an appetite for more."

The singer has been rumored to dislike the road for some time, but acclaim has made such things easier to bear.

"Our conditions have improved considerably due to the bigger venues and the caliber of people that we travel with," he says. "We've made big changes with our agency in America, and it'll be interesting to see how that affects things. I still enjoy playing and we work hard because every audience deserves to see us at our best."

Material rewards have arrived, but does he also have peace of mind?

"I've had all that stuff for a few years now. I'm OK with myself, but I couldn't name a defining name. I know it would've been around the time that Cryptic Writings began to happen we all knew that we had nothing to prove. To anyone."

Some have said that Mustaine has been born again.

"Yeah, but although I believe in God - and in the devil - I don't have any specific religion. It's easier to say that I try to treat people the way I wanna be treated. Since I stopped drinking and taking drugs my career has been born again, and so has my relationship with my family."

Nevertheless, Nick Menza's departure didn't sound too Christian. The way the drummer tells it, he was in hospital having a tumor on his leg removed when Mustaine informed him on his sacking by phone.

"Actually, the tumor had already been removed," Dave corrects me, "but we'd been growing apart from Nick for a long time. It had nothing to do with music, I'd had grounds to fire him because of his behavior a lot earlier. Nick said he'd fight my decision and I told him, 'You should have fought it a couple of years ago'. The problem with his leg sped up his departure."

It's been speculated that Menza really lost his job because he was drinking and because he was more difficult to control than Ellefson and Friedman, yet Mustaine holds firm.

"I won't go into that because Nick's a good kid and I don't want say anything bad about him."

Although he's been clean and sober for four years, Mustaine has relapsed in the past. Does he still grapple with substance abuse?

"Not any more. I'd quit after we'd played Castle Donington in 1988, but it's like a runaway locomotive - you can put the brakes on and sparks will fly, but the train takes a while to come to a stop. A couple of times I'd go a year without using, but then there'd be a couple of months of drinking. But four years is a long time, and since 1988 I've spent nine or ten of those years sober. So, although it's nobody's business but mine, it's not really an issue for me right now."

When it's suggested that he has everything he needs and could give it all up tomorrow, all he'll comment is: "I guess you're right."

But still the Megadeth machine rolls on, with British headline dates lined up at Nottingham Rock City on September 8 and London's Forum on October 1, plus a support tour with Iron Maiden that takes in America and mainland Europe. Whatever his motivation, does Mustaine envisage doing this when he's as old as Aerosmith or the Rolling Stones?

"Either of those, but we'll know when it's time to stop. We owe Capitol Records one more album and we're free agents," he says. "Unless we get a considerable offer from somebody then that may be it. It'll be interesting to see what happens when the contract expires. Until we made our drummer change we were incapable of playing the real heavy, older songs, but now they sound great."

"If at the Stones' age we're still alive and capable then we'll probably continue. But I know they hear all those 'too old' comments, and out of respect for my family I'd have to consider them. Liv Tyler said she was embarrassed about her dad grabbing his crotch, and I wouldn't want my own daughter to feel that way."


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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