Megadeth Interviews


On the Phone with Dave :: Out to Lunch :: So Far, So Good for Megadeth :: Rust in Peace :: Dave the Human, Mustaine the Artist :: A Founding Forefather of Thrash :: The Outside Corner :: Music Is Our Business... And Business Is Good :: Deth Rally :: Trial by Fire :: Megadeth Conquers Globe :: Megadeth: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered :: Shooting from the Hip :: I Made It Home Alive! :: So Far, So Good... Now What? :: Megadeth: Online and Onstage :: Sodom and Gomorra :: Metal Is Still Their Business... But Who's Buying? :: Shooting from the Hip II :: Country and Western :: Metal Church :: Get in the Van :: Foreclosure of a Team :: Last Men Standing :: Without the MTV Support :: Set the World on Fire :: Dave Mustaine University :: Heavy Metal Marines :: The Real Line-up of Megadeth :: Risk Factor :: The World Will End in Megadeth :: Megadeth: Crush'em with Ferocity and Finesse :: An Ugly American :: Try to Sue Capital Records! :: Big Boys :: We're Pissed Off Again :: Dave Mustaine's Symphony of Reconstruction :: It Wasn't Fun Anymore :: Metallidethica :: Answers to the Questions Everyone's Been Asking :: Dave Ellefson: Life After Megadeth :: Die Another Day

The Outside Corner

taken from Guitar Magazine, February 1991
John Stix talks to Chris Poland


Guitar instrumental albums are hot. The wordless voices of Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, Steve Morse, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani have been joined by another generation, including the likes of Michael Lee Firkins and Blues Saraceno. They all speak the language of rock fusions in varying degrees. What's new in this modern mix is the thrash metal instrumental vision of ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland

On Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! and Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? Chris Played fast thrash with the best of them. On his new instrumental album, Return to Metalopolis, he retains the speed metal rhythm section and combines it with heavy melodies more melodic than any thrash song, and turbulent riffs and twisting solos that owe as much to fusion as they do to thrash. The big surprise is that the combination works, and by coming at the guitar instrumental from another angle, Chris not only succeeds mightily on his own terms, but he helps broaden the genre into uncharted territory.


John Stix: What is your take on the guitar instrumental records that have come out in the past?

Chris Poland: I've always loved bands like Jeff Beck and Weather Report. I really like Surfing with the Alien. There's songs on the Vai record that I just love, like "Love Secrets." It's what I like out of music. I like to hear what he did with the sequencers, and I don't care if he used keyboards. When you put the headphones on, that's what it's about, you know?

JS: Were either of those records a model for Return to Megalopolis?

CP: No, not at all. I didn't make an instrumental record because Joe Satriani made one. When I was a sophomore in high school, I was listening to Birds of Fire, and people were not being my friends anymore. It was like, "What's he listening to?" When I decided I wanted to play guitar, I wanted to play guitar like that. Those were my goals, bands like [Jeff] Beck and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I like Steve Morse and Eric Johnson, too.

JS: Is it strange that you would play in a speed-metal band and we're talking about fusion players?

CP: I don't think so. I'm sure if you talked to Kirk Hammett, he has some people that he listens to, or I would hope he listens to, that no one knows about, except for other guitar players. When I was in Megadeth, Dave Mustaine told me, "Don't ever tell anybody that stuff you listen to."

JS: What can a Megadeth audience get from listening to Birds of Fire or Heavy Weather?

CP: Nothing, probably. The only reason I think I got into it was because my alternative was 70's rock, and I don't even know what that is. I know I liked Led Zeppelin, and I liked whenever Jeff Beck stuck his head out of the clouds and went, "Yeah, okay, I'll do something." But, otherwise, there really wasn't anything else. I hated disco, but if I had a couple beers, I could dig the Eagles. I guess if they listen to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, they would hear what I consider speed metal. On "Awakening," you've gotta say, "Are they thrashing?" They are! The first time I heard "Dance of Maya" was on The Guitars That Destroyed the World. I put it on and I went, "This is weird. I don't know if I like this." I found myself always putting it back on, or hearing it later and going, "I gotta hear that again." And all of a sudden. I was shaving my head and putting Nehru shirts on.

JS: Do you think today's fusion audience, who like John Scofield and Scott Henderson, wouldn't want to thrash out?

CP: Gar and I had been playing the kind of music that I just mentioned, trying to play a guitar-oriented version of that. Growing up, that's basically how I learned how to play, with Gar. He joined Megadeth and he told me about it. He said, "Yeah, this guy's writing some music; it's not boring, it's a challenge to play it, and it's a cool way to tour instead of trying to write that stuff." You're not gonna make any money, and no one cares about jazz players, except for people who appreciate that music, and I'd never considered myself one anyway. That was my unreachable goal. I wanted to bop. Not that it's unreachable, it's just that I was more into a distorted, Clapton kind of sound. Inevitably, no matter what I did, I always went back to it. Anyway, he joined the band and I listened to it, and said, "Yeah, I'll do it," and I started learning the songs, and here I am.

JS: Is there anything you're particularly proud of on those two records?

CP: "Rattlehead," off the first record. I hadn't heard it in a long time and one day at Andy Somers place he goes, "Listen to this song and think back." And he played it, and I went, "Wow, that's really good." I like pretty much all of Peace Sells... When we first made the record, I wasn't especially happy with it, because there were a lot of things that we just let go, but now I listen to it and appreciate it all. I say, "Yeah, it's sloppy, but so what?" I think Gar's drumming, on both of those records, is what made it so different. Gar gave it this flow. Gar's not a real drummer. He can start anywhere, at any point, and come back down on a downbeat, which made it real easy to play guitar. It kind of lifts you up to the next level of your solo, which was a problem, because Dave wanted me to always do the same solos live, which is something I always thought was wrong. Why would I do that? Wouldn't I want to hang myself at the end of a tour, doing the same solos every night?

JS: During the Megadeth period, were you still listening to fusion music?

CP: Oh, yeah. I was listening to what was happening. I'd be on tour and we'd be at a record store and I'd grab a Weather Report tape, or a Yellowjackets tape. I'd go, "remember Mysterious Traveler?" I hadn't heard that in a long time and we found that one day, and we put it on, and we were just going, "Whoo!"

JS: Another person I would say you listened to is Allan Holdsworth.

CP: Of course. For a while I wanted to play like him. I've heard everything he ever played. I think my biggest influence, though, is Jeff Beck, as far as a guitar hero. But I was definitely influenced by Allan Holdsworth, especially his vibrato.

JS: Which is often with the bar.

CP: Well, a lot of that I don't do with a bar. It's that vibrato that's never-ending. You can just go from string to string, and it sounds like bells. A lot of it involves the meat of the middle, ring and pinky and you're shoving the string. You come up onto it and you're making it go flat. You can make the vibrato go really far, which is cool. Sometimes, when you get it just right, it inspires you to do something that you wouldn't normally go for, 'cause it sounds good.

JS: What originally made you want to pick up the guitar?

CP: When I was real small, there was a Ventures record at my house that, every once in a while, I'd listen to. I didn't even have a guitar. I'd just listen to it and sing the "Walk Don't Run" riff. I never wanted to play guitar; it was just "that's a great song," even though it was already 10 years old or more. Then one day on the radio I heard Josť Feliciano do "Light My Fire," and I had heard the Doors do it right around the same time, and when I heard his version, I went, "Wow, that's really good." I didn't know I wasn't hip. My sisters listened to R&B all the time; that was kind of cool. Every once in a while there's, like, really nice guitar in there. My cousin Eddie was a blues player, and he turned me on to Eric Clapton, Cream, and B.B.King. I bought Disraeli Gears and brought it home and my sister freaked out. She goes, "Mom, he can't listen to this. I'm telling you, this music is not good." So, she takes me back and she buys me the Mamas and the Papas and the Turtles.

JS: Were you a good player right away?

CP: I don't know. There was a point, when I was 16, when I knew I was good. You know, there's a point where you say, "Yeah, I can play now," where before you were like, "Well, I'm kind of OK, I guess." I used to sit at home and put a record on and that would be my band. For a while I knew every Leslie West solo there was off Mountain's Greatest Hits, and whatever records I could scrounge around from people. I can still play note-for-note the solos from "Theme for an Imaginary Western" and "Mississippi Queen." The chord structure behind that "Theme" solo makes you want to weep. I love Jack Bruce, and Leslie West was God for me for a long time. I used to jam with Cream records up in my room with my little Jordan Fuzz boxes that plugged into your guitar. I used to sit up there for hours, man. My mom would be like, "Are you gonna eat?" So, I thought, "Geez, if I can play this, I must be OK."

JS: What is the fascination that brings you to thrash, because you started off with players who didn't play a lot of notes.

CP: That wasn't of my choosing. I had done all that. I had loved the blues and played it. We used to have a band where we'd go to bars and do cover songs from the Billy Cobham Crosswinds album. We'd do "Red Baron" from Spectrum. I loved Jan Hammer. It's like, I tune my guitar to McLaughlin chords, 'cause I know that it's in tune all over if I do that.

JS: So you weren't headed for a Megadeth group at all. You had a fusion head?

CP: Yeah, that's why I kind of like Holdsworth, because he wasn't afraid to use distortion. But no one knew whether he was rock or jazz, so he just sat there in limbo.

JS: What have you done since leaving Megadeth?

CP: I did a couple of tours, playing bass with the Circle Jerks, which was really fun and different from touring with Megadeth, because there were no egos involved. It was just four guys and their "have a good time" songs.

JS: What did you learn about playing guitar from playing bass for a while?

CP: I realized that a bass player doesn't have to be busy, even though I'm kind of busy on some of the stuff. I appreciated bass more; I appreciated which note you can play to a chord. In "Killing for Jesus," I had my chance to sneak little Stanley Clarke licks in, or some Pastorius stuff. I had to play a big '62 P-bass with the neck that's huge, but they're really good basses. It was a loose gig. It was jazz-punk; that's what it was. But before I even joined for those tours, I was thinking about starting to play again.

JS: Why do instrumentals, as opposed to forming or joining a band?

CP: That's a hard question. I had started doing some vocal stuff with my brother Mark, who plays drums on the record, and it wasn't working out. It was too AC/DC, which isn't bad, 'cause I love AC/DC, but there's already one AC/DC, so that didn't happen. Then, I thought, "I'm just gonna do what I want." So, I put the tape machine on and I'd play something and I'd hear this melody, and I'd go, "Yeah!" It's really easy to play it, but when you're hearing it, it's pleasing to the ear. But it's still kind of heavy with big drums. I said, "Why not?"

JS: The beds of these songs could have been for vocals. A vocalist could have gone over them.

CP: Right, right. Wherever the melodies are is where the vocals could have gone. But I wanted to make it so that you weren't missing them. I didn't want you to say, "Geez, where are the vocals?" And still there's a couple songs on there where I didn't quite cut the mustard, as far as getting the melody to replace vocals.

JS: By the same token, the melody lines were more melodic than a thrash singer would have been.

CP: Well, I don't want a thrash singer. I want a cross between Bon Scott and Lee Ving, the lead singer in Fear. I think Lee Ving is a really great singer. If you ever listen to his stuff real close, you can just tell that he can sing his ass off, but I want more of a blues singer who has a really good attitude, really powerful. Someone who's not afraid to sing his heart out.

JS: One thing I like about this record was that the songs were short.

CP: The songs had to be short. I didn't want to drag it along.

JS: It's a short album, so I got a kick that there's a bonus cut on the CD.

CP: The audience that's probably going to react to it first are gonna be Megadeth fans. I felt that "Heinous" would find them going, "What is this?" And I didn't want to "vibe" them. I just wanted them to remember that I played in a speed metal band for a while. Not all of it is Megadeth related. A lot of it is.

JS: By the same token, I noticed you're not afraid of a major key.

CP: No, that's something that I thought about, too. When I did "Row of Crows," I'm like, "This is kind af a happy tune." I started getting sick of this, "Well geez, is so and so going to like it or not?"

JS: Is the monkey on your back, regarding the thrash audience, put there by you?

CP: Yeah. In the back of my head, I'm thinking about how people who listen to aggressive metal think about music. I'm thinking, let them think what they want. I think the songs are good.

JS: In listening to it, the songs weren't A-B-A form. It wasn't like a Larry Carlton record, where he does the melody twice, plays the solo, and then does the melody again.

CP: "Beelzebub Bop" is a song like you just mentioned. It's kind of like a "song" deal. But I didn't want to make it too pop, because that's a standard pop formula. I didn't want to do that, and I still did it on some songs, because I couldn't come up with any better ideas. But I tried to keep you guessing what the next part would be. I think the best songs on the record are "Alexandria," "Fall of Babylon," "Row of Crows," and "Theatre of the Damned." I think just those four songs right there are worth ten bucks [laughs]. That's the way I look at it.

JS: Is it the songs, or the performance of the songs?

CP: It's the songs and the performance. Those are the songs that I was like, "Yeah, that's what I said. That's what I meant." Now, "Khazad-Dum" is still a good song, but it's just a little exercise. It's got a nice little melody in it, and the out's a fun solo. When you first write, you're really excited about it, and you listen to it over and over, and then you finally just say, "Well, I don't like it any more." That's kind of how I am. It's like, you listen to it for a while, and you're like, "OK, I know that once it pleased me, but I have to go move on now." On the other hand, I listen to the solo in "Theatre of the Damned" and go, "Whoo!" I had read this Beck article where he said, "Sometimes you've just gotta go for it, and if you get it right, everybody's gonna go "Whoo" and if you get it wrong, they're all gonna laugh at you, so who cares anyway?" I said, "Okay, I'm gonna go for this solo right now." It's right at the end, and I just closed my eyes and said, "Do it." And it happened. That's the way I love to play guitar. That's the way I want to hear it on tape, because then I can listen six months from now and go, "Whoa, God, that was great. That was something." I don't want to hear something that I can play. I want to hear something that I can't play twice. If I can't play it twice, I know it's good. That's the way I look at it. I know that if I have trouble copying my own solos, then I'm doing the right job.

JS: The guitar sound on the record was particularly good.

CP: That's something that I've been worried about, because I'm a perfectionist. That's just the nature of the beast. I was worried about the production. I thought it was good, but I want it to be better, and I'll probably go to my grave thinking the same thing about whatever records I make.

JS: I was talking about the guitar sound itself.

CP: I do like the melody and the lead solo sound. What was weird was that I had just gotten this rig together with Bob Bradshaw. I didn't want the whole deal, so I just took a Rane graphic and used Marshall and Boogie preamps. I had never worked with any of them. I had never even seen one. I said, "Okay, I want this." So when I got in there and the Yuris are staring me in the face and I got the mikes on the cabinets, and I'm doing the sounds, I didn't feel like I had to go in there and say, "Well, here's my sound. This is the sound I've been used to." So I had no paranoia, because I didn't have a clue what I sounded like. "Well, that sounds good," and Randy would go, "Let's go!" That made it kind of cool, because sometimes I felt that we were just going, "Oh, that's good enough." But when you have nothing to judge by, and you're working with new equipment, you say, "Yeah."

JS: Tell me about your guitar arsenal for the record.

CP: I'm using Paul Reed Smith guitars. When I went in the studio I had a bunch of guitars: a Jackson, a Hamer, a Music Man and a Tele. Paul sent me a guitar in he mail the next day and "Apparition Station" is the only song that doesn't have a Paul Reed Smith guitar on it, and the rhythm sounded different. I love those guitars. There's something about them. I don't have to worry about the arm. I know it's not going out of tune, and it feels real natural. It feels like a Fender. I like Floyd Rose bridges, but in a situation where you want to stay in tune, it's tough. I like everything about the PRS guitars. Every note is happening. But, again, I was playing through all this equipment I had never played through before. But, out of all the guitars I had in the room, the only guitars I touched were a Jackson, a Music Man, and that PRS. The rhythm section for "Heinous Interruptus" is a Jackson and the melody is a Hamer. The rhythm guitar for "Apparition Station" is a Steve Morse model Music Man with a Duncan JB in the bridge. The rest is the Paul Reed Smith.

JS: Going in, had you demoed everything including solos?

CP: Yeah, which was pretty stupid, because you get these solos on your demo tape, and you find the right one when you're at home. You get to go over and over and over until you finally get one where you go, "Wow." But in the studio, I had a day and a half to do each song... two days at the most.

JS: Did you go in and do one song at a time, start to finish?

CP: That's the way I wanted to do it, because I didn't want to have to come back another time and go, "What's this song mean? What's it about? How do I feel about this song?" I wanted to do the whole song and try to get the solo, either the same day I did all the overdubs or the next day after I had worked with the song, and with the bass or something, 'cause I wanted to be into "that song" mode.

JS: So you would go in and just get a good performance of a solo you already knew?

CP: Uh-uh.

JS: But you said you worked out the solos.

CP: Oh no, I didn't work out the solos, I waited till I got solos that were good. Actually, I followed the original idea a bit on "Khazad Dum" and "Fall of Babylon," but originally, the solo on "Theatre of the Damned" was kind of a Hendrix solo. I had just gotten lucky in my room. I tried to follow that same vibe, because I thought it was incredible and I was like, "Where was I? Where was my head at?" The original way I did it, I came in at a different downbeat or something in the song and that made it sound really intense. But I couldn't find it again.

JS: You did the bass parts and everything one at a time?

CP: Yeah.

JS: For the next one, would you do that again?

CP: Oh no. I gotta get a band. I'm working on getting a band right now. I have a bass player, Dave Randi. Nick Menza, from Megadeth, introduced us. I'm looking for an insane frontman and we're off.


On the Phone with Dave :: Out to Lunch :: So Far, So Good for Megadeth :: Rust in Peace :: Dave the Human, Mustaine the Artist :: A Founding Forefather of Thrash :: The Outside Corner :: Music Is Our Business... And Business Is Good :: Deth Rally :: Trial by Fire :: Megadeth Conquers Globe :: Megadeth: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered :: Shooting from the Hip :: I Made It Home Alive! :: So Far, So Good... Now What? :: Megadeth: Online and Onstage :: Sodom and Gomorra :: Metal Is Still Their Business... But Who's Buying? :: Shooting from the Hip II :: Country and Western :: Metal Church :: Get in the Van :: Foreclosure of a Team :: Last Men Standing :: Without the MTV Support :: Set the World on Fire :: Dave Mustaine University :: Heavy Metal Marines :: The Real Line-up of Megadeth :: Risk Factor :: The World Will End in Megadeth :: Megadeth: Crush'em with Ferocity and Finesse :: An Ugly American :: Try to Sue Capital Records! :: Big Boys :: We're Pissed Off Again :: Dave Mustaine's Symphony of Reconstruction :: It Wasn't Fun Anymore :: Metallidethica :: Answers to the Questions Everyone's Been Asking :: Dave Ellefson: Life After Megadeth :: Die Another Day

The Realms of Deth
Interviews | Home | Back to the Top | E-mail