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

Last Men Standing

taken from Guitar World, June 1998
Jon Wiederhorn talks to Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman

With a hit album climbing the charts, Megadeth are at long last poised to be the kings of heavy metal. This time it's a fight to the finish.

Ever since he was booted from Metallica in 1983, Dave Mustaine has been struggling to recapture the throne of heavy-metal supremacy. As the leader and figurehead of Megadeth, Mustaine has led his chops-heavy attack over and over again in fan-filled arenas, from which his group has earned massive popularity. But for all the gold-albums and exhaustive touring, Megadeth has been conspicuously absent from rock radio playlists, which have instead shown their allegiance to another arena-packing act - namely, Metallica.

Bull-headed tenacity, however, is one of Mustaine's trademarks, and as he continues to plug his band's latest offering, Cryptic Writings, the tune is starting to change. In a musical climate that shuns heavy metal, Megadeth has defied the odds and infiltrated the mainstream. Cryptic Writings has already gone gold and is headed for platinum, and the band's concerts have been sold out from coast to coast. The record's first single, "Trust", was the most-requested Active Rock track of the year according to Album Network, a record-industry trade publication, and has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Another track, "Almost Honest", cracked the Top 10 on Active Rock for 10 weeks straight, and the hardcore-techno remix of the song was featured on the Mortal Kombat Annihilation soundtrack. Proving that good things come in threes, the band's latest single, "Use the Man", was aired by 88 stations in its first week of release and, as of this writing, continues to gain momentum.

Megadeth is also negotiating for a prime slot on this summer's monolithic Ozzfest, which will feature Pantera and Slayer along with the festival's namesake, Ozzy Osbourne. And just as the band finds itself in the throes of a metal rebirth, Mustaine and his wife, Pam, have recently celebrated the birth of their second child, Electra Nicole.

Yet for all the blessings he has been showered with, Mustaine is surprisingly defensive. Like a dog gnawing on a juicy bone, he snarls frequently and eyes everyone around him suspiciously, as if they were trying to steal his prize. "Every day, I have to go out there and fight like hell to keep what we have," he says. "I can't tell you how many times I still have to describe what Megadeth means and tell people that we're not satanic, we're not pagan, we're not deviates or terrible people."

To be fair, Mustaine has the right to be a bit cantankerous. Despite the popularity of Cryptic Writings, he's still dealing with a fair amount of criticism - from headbangers who accuse Megadeth of selling out, and from a listening public that still equates heavy metal with big hair, groupies and aural (and perhaps oral) overindulgence. Every time he turns around, Mustaine is still pelted with questions about his former years as a drug addict, his reputation for being an egomaniac and his acrimonious age-old split with his former bandmates in Metallica.

What's a band up to? We found out recently when we rapped with the loquacious Mustaine and the group's more subdued second guitarist, Marty Friedman, about artistic integrity, family values, and Mustaine's thoughts on a Metallica reunion.

Jon Wiederhorn: What are you doing up at nine in the morning? That's not very rock 'n' roll.

Dave Mustaine: Man, I've got a newborn. I haven't slept for two weeks. Anyway, when you say it's not rock 'n' roll, I'm not sure that's right. Rock 'n' roll used to be about going against any kind of establishment, and the whole stigmatism of staying up all night is so staid and predictable nowadays.

JW: That's true. Many things that were subversive have become clichés.

DM: Exactly. You see dick-sucking on cigars and stuff, and guys that basically have absolutely no life all of a sudden get tattooed, buy a Harley, and they're "cool." So for me, being pretty much secure with myself, I don't need to pursue those things. I defy everybody's interpretation of what a rockstar is supposed to be. I enjoy getting up in the morning and watching the day progress and getting things done. Just a few minutes ago I was writing a song. I stopped because my wife was on the phone talking to one of her friends, and I threw her out. I'm not one of those guys who takes forever to write, but I'm also not the kind of person who has truck-loads of stored-away ideas. If I start a song, I finish it.

JW: You don't like to juggle many different projects at the same time?

DM: Well, I juggle lots of other things besides music. But I don't tend to believe that I can't have 10 songs going at once and have them all come out well. It's like sitting down for a meal and having 10 courses out there at once. You've gotta have some sort of a system, otherwise things get so cluttered you end up not paying attention.

JW: Or not enjoying your food.

DM: Basically. Music to me is very nourishing. Sometimes I can be really depressed and hear a good song that will take me totally out of my frame of mind.

JW: Are you still as obsessive about music as you were five years ago?

DM: I am still very possessive about the stuff I write, but I'm not obsessive about listening to my peers. As far as continuing to try to stay at the forefront of what's happening, yeah, I am obsessive about that. But a lot of bands listen to what's out right now and manufacture themselves to be some homogenous replica of what's current. That's not what we want to do.

JW: Yeah, but didn't you tell Billboard that you listened to Rage Against the Machine, Butthole Surfers, Queensryche, Live and the Eels when you were working on Cryptic Writings in order to get a feel for what the public wanted to hear?

DM: Well, we wanted to get some guidance and take into consideration what was popular at the time. Basically, we were listening to those bands as a Rand McNally relief road map to see where our journey was taking us and where our destination was. We used some of this stuff for mileage markers, and we used some of it for detour signs.

Marty Friedman: What I like about a lot of that stuff is these guys are using pedals and really experimenting with guitar sounds. In the '80s, guys where coming up with these weird-ass techniques where they've got five hands on their fretboards, and they've got to shove the headstock up their ass to dial up some tone. Now it seems like the attention is a little bit less on playing, but people are trying to come up with interesting sounds.

JW: Couldn't naysayers argue that you're catering to the demands of the market and not adhering to your own artistic aesthetic?

DM: Well, scoffers can scoff and be damned, as far as I'm concerned, because I don't hear Rage Against the Machine or Queensryche on that record; I surely don't hear Live. What I'm doing is breaking the mold where people are in the doldrums of their own songwriting style and they don't get any new inspiration, therefore they write the same record over and over and suffer from Iron Maidenitus.

JW: You've always been very much in tune with your fans, to the point where you've added songs to your live sets based on their e-mail requests. Do you believe in giving the people what they want?

DM: I would say so. The fans tell us what they want, and we keep them happy. We have a relationship that's much deeper than the dollar sign. If we were so stuck up and conceited and beyond reproach or any kind of learning curve, I think that would be the signing of our death certificate. Some people say that the real sell-outs are the guys that listen to the fans and don't do it their own way. I totally disagree. If the fans want heavy stuff, we'll give you heavy stuff. If you want melodic, we'll give you melodic. And if you want stuff that's in between, we'll do that too.

MF: I totally agree. If I was in it strictly for myself, I'd just play in my home studio in my bedroom and record a whole bunch of obscure, weird shit. Of course, my own self-satisfaction is a large part of my playing, but at the end of the day, I want to reach as many people as possible while still being honest to the music I hear in my head. Any talk about selling out is complete bullshit.

JW: Dave, it seems like your ex-bandmates in Metallica have taken a completely opposite approach from you. With Load and Reload, they seem to be ignoring the demands of the fans and doing exactly what they want.

DM: Yes, and they've suffered the consequences of experimentation. Lars [Ulrich] himself has baited me by saying he wishes I would be more experimental. Now, does he want me experimental as in kissing and frenching my lead guitar player or my drummer? Is he talking about painting my nails, wearing makeup and cutting off all my hair? I don't know, and if he'd like to see me get more experimental, I welcome his ideas. Maybe the two of us should play together again.

JW: would you want to do that?

DM: Of course I would. I think it would be wonderful if it were to happen, but I don't know if it will. And actually, I would rather play with James [Hetfield] than Lars.

JW: Do you think there will ever be a full Metallica reunion?

DM: There can't be, because Cliff [Burton] is dead. But one thing that I think would be really fabulous is if me and David Ellefson went over with Lars and James and put a record out. I think the world would be knocked on its butt.

JW: Do you think you could get far enough past all the bad blood to make that happen.

DM: Lars, to me, is one of the neatest little dudes I ever met. He's a very, very intelligent man. And I think James is one of the greatest rhythm guitar players and singers that have ever graced the planet. I know that if he and I got together again, people would be so blown away they'd probably have to kill themselves. The only thing I'm concerned about is jeopardizing my relationship with Nick Menza and Marty Friedman.

MF: If you wanted to do that, it wouldn't bother me in the least. I think that anybody should do whatever it takes to get them through the day. We're all just here to make great music. We have a great chemistry in Megadeth, and it will always be that way.

JW: Marty, are you still recording solo on the side?

MF: I released one solo album in 1996, and ever since that came out, I've been so incredibly busy with Megadeth that I haven't had time to think about working on other solo stuff. I like to give 100 percent to something, not 50 percent to two different things. I'd hate to spread myself too thin.

JW: There were reports that hip-hop impresario Sean "Puffy" Combs was going to remix "Trust." What happened with that?

DM: It's not gonna happen. He put out a press release before even coming to me and asking if I would consider it. I learned a long time ago not to say anything until something happens.

JW: Were you opposed to the idea of working with such mainstream figure?

DM: I don't know one thing about this guy. I don't know why he wanted to work with us. We said we would like to keep the lines of communication open, but only for a project that would start from a scratch. It would have to be something very original and unique, and it would have to be beneficial for both parties.

MF: I think I would have been into it. Anything with the possibility of coming up with some cool music at the end of it is worth a try. The worst thing that can happen is you'd throw the tape away.

JW: In an era in which heavy metal is as appetizing to most people as tubs of lard, you've had a very successful year. To what do you attribute that success?

DM: I think it has a lot to do with my previous band doing what they did. People that were sitting on the fence have hopped off on our side, and anybody that was a bonafide, full-fledged Metallica fan is now sitting on the fence.

MF: We've worked really hard, and I think we've developed a whole new audience who are really getting into us. Of course, there are still a lot of loyal fans, and they're really insane. But the last couple of tours have probably been composed of half new fans.

JW: I understand you gauge success not through album sales or airplay but through what you call the "stewardess test."

DM: Well, stewardess see people every day, and they see all types of people, including lots of celebrities. A lot of them listen to the radio when they hop into the hotel, or in rental cars coming home from the airport. So when they start to tell you that they've heard of you, that means you're getting notoriety on a pop-star level, and that's happening more and more now. Someone that I know was talking to Mick Jagger the other day, and he told me Mick said, "Yeah, Megadeth, good band." If it's true, that's a great thing.

JW: Do you think heavy-metal music will be making a comeback any time soon?

DM: I think everything is cyclical, and there's a massive uprising right now of heavy bands. All I know is, if I see one more video of Lisa Loeb I'm going to shoot my TV.

JW: One of the things that reawakened the mainstream's interest in metal was last year's Ozzfest. There are strong rumors that you will be playing the tour this year along with Ozzy, Slayer, Pantera and Soulfly.

DM: That remains to be seen. Obviously our management is in negotiations with them, but I'm not at liberty nor do I want to say that we're gonna do it.

JW: Would you want to do it?

DM: It depends who the bands are, because we don't want to go backwards. Being lumped into the same genre as some of these other bands that we've trying to separate ourselves from would be detrimental to where we're going. We've worked long and hard to make ourselves very, very popular, and we would love to be a household name. The word "Megadeth" is a very offensive word, and we've worked very hard to make it more palatable. If we go out with some of the bands that want to tour with us, I think it may be a hindrance.

MF: To me, a gig is a gig, and once we hit the stage, it's Megadeth regardless of who the other bands are. Personally, I don't have a problem with any of those other bands. Of course, I'd rather be on tour with someone like the Rolling Stones than a bunch of metal bands. We've been lumped into this metal genre for so many years, and I've always believed that our music has so much more to offer than most metal.

JW: What kind of gear are you using these days?

DM: I'm still using Jackson guitars, but I don't know how much longer that's going to last. The guitar plays wonderfully, but the public relations department there is going through a change, so I'm going to see what happens. I'm also using Marshall vintage cabinets and Marshall 9200 power amps, Marshall JMP-1 preamps, custom-mount new electronic switchers, PC electric guitar wizards, a Samson [wireless system] and Marshall power breaks for smaller venues.

MF: I've always gone for a direct sound without a lot of bullshit on it. So, for the most part, I plug straight from my guitar into an amp. I like the real straight-ahead rock guitar sound. I use a Crate Blue Voodoo [amp], which is a lot like a Marshall, but it's a lot more consistent. I've used them around the world in different voltages in different countries, and they always sound the same. My guitar gear is Jackson, and I've got my own model, which you can buy in the store off the wall. It's exactly the same as what you'll find in my rack.

JW: How has your playing evolved over the years?

DM: I think in the beginning, my riffs were really circular. There would be a cool riff, and then I would make it a revolving pattern that would go three times, and then the fourth time would be a variation of it. And that would go anywhere from four to eight times, and I would have something inserted to break it up, like a bridge or a middle-eight part. And then there'd be a different riff for the lead solo section, and then the outro of the song would be something similar to the beginning of the song, but just a little more aggressive. I found that I was wasting so many good riffs in the past because I would play them for a such a short period of time. For me, if you focus more on a single riff and make sure it's more structurally sound for the song, you don't need to have so many riffs. Any one of those old riffs could have been the core riff of the song if I would have been a little more attentive and perhaps made a little change here or there. For example, in the song "Wake Up Dead," there are probably a dozen riffs there, and a lot of them are really good, but they just fly by so fast that you just miss them all. I think in the beginning that was motivated by a will to succeed and prove to doubters that I was a capable guitarist.

MF: For me, I'm definitely into making the notes count and letting them breathe a lot more than I used to. I'm playing less on the beat and more in between the beats in order to make my playing like a voice. If you listen to the best singers, they rarely sing right on the downbeats. They're always singing in and around the beats to give the music a human quality.

JW: As complex as some of your songs have been, you've never resorted to mere sonic masturbation.

DM: Yeah, 'cause I hate that shit. I went and saw Allan Holdsworth one time, and everyone was into this Holdsworth-Fripp-Yngwie nonsense. You know what I remember the most about Holdsworth? He had a bottle of Heineken, and the thing was empty, but he picked it up to his mouth four or five times after it was empty. I couldn't remember a damn note he played. All I remembered was that he was a nervous twit, and he kept picking up the bottle and trying to get something out of it. You don't have to play stuff like that in order to make an impression. The world is not full of guitar players; the world is full of people.

JW: Yeah, but different people like radically different forms of music.

DM: Well, music is a vibration, as you know, and the body is 75 to 85 percent water based on how fat someone is. The music someone listens to has to coincide with their vibrations. Now, some people that are really tense and disturbed like to listen to really, really fast, aggressive vibrations. And when I go and see something that's in a time signature that you need a slide ruler to stay in time with, it's no fun.

MF: Some people called my last solo record a guitar record, and that bummed me out, because I hate guitar records. It's like work to listen to those things. I really dig someone like Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac, who's a master at playing for the song, yet having his own personal sound and style. I also love Keith Scott from Bryan Adams.

JW: Dave, you were a loose cannon early in your career.

DM: Yeah, but it was so predictable, the way I was. To go 180 degrees in the opposite direction, that's rock 'n' roll. I still live on the edge; it's just a different edge. You don't know how difficult it is doing Megadeth, going to college, having two kids, being married, having dogs as big as horses shitting all over my backyard.

JW: Has age brought you wisdom?

DM: My body is just a package that my spirit comes in, and I believe my spirit has always been far older than my body anyway. Maybe my body is catching up to the knowledge that my spirit contains. But the bottom line is, when I get up there onstage, I'm not 36 and I'm not 18. I'm just me.

JW: If your body and soul were starting anew, would you do anything different?

DM: I wouldn't change nothing. Granted, I would have liked to eliminate the trips to jail, but I wouldn't change anything. It's been a very exiting, interesting ride.

JW: You just had your second child. That must have been quite an experience.

DM: It was. I delivered her myself. We were in the hospital and the doctor asked me if I wanted to deliver, and I said, "Yeah." That's rock 'n' roll, babe. That's what I'm talking about. You take these tattooed tough guys - if they saw a baby come out, most of them would faint. I cut [my son] Justice's cord. I don't see how it could get any better than that. The next one, I'll probably be delivering the epidural.

JW: Did you videotape the birth?

DM: Yeah. It will serve as future sex education for my kids. When my son gets older, I'm going to show it to him and say, "If you put this in there, that's what comes out." Hopefully, that will encourage him to use birth control.

JW: Do you have any fears that someone will steal the tape of your daughter being born and sell it over the Internet?

DM: No. I don't think that will happen, and if it did, I would find out who did it and let my son kill them.

JW: Have you seen the now infamous Pamela and Tommy Lee sex tape?

DM: No. Come on - how many people want to see Tommy Lee having sex with someone? Not me. Even if you want to see her doing it, you still gotta look at him. That's why I wouldn't want to see it, aside from the fact that it's against my morals to be watching pornos. I'm not going to say I'm a prude or anything, but for me to sit down and watch a porno has just never really done anything. The thought of sitting there with a hard-on, watching two people having sex just doesn't turn me on. Maybe it's just not a value I believe in. I would rather sit there and watch a good kickboxing match where someone is getting their head kicked in than sit there and watch someone getting head.

JW: Are you still competing as a kickboxer?

DM: Yes, I have two black belts. Kickboxing is very spiritual for me and it helps keep me healthy.

JW: You're back in college now, right?

DM: Yeah, I'm working on a degree in business management. It's been a real mind-opener. I'm really into educating myself right now, because it's really fun for me to be able to talk to anyone about anything. It's a bummer when you can't meet people at their level. I think relating on the same level is the quickest way to make friends in this world.

JW: Is that an important pursuit for you?

DM: True enemies are better than false friends, I think it's better to be injured by a friend than kissed by an enemy. I would rather find out who my friends are right out of the gate, and if I talk to them about the things they like to talk about, I tend to find out if they want to be associated with me because of what I do for a living or because of who I am. To be honest, I don't think I have more than maybe five real friends that would drop anything they were doing to help me unconditionally.

JW: Have you thought much about the next Megadeth album?

DM: Yeah, there's a lot of material that's started and a lot of lyrics that are in the embryonic stage. I was coming home from the Howard Stern show a week ago, and I was writing lyrics on the back of a barf bag. That's pretty much how I operate. Whenever anything inspires me, I document it.

JW: What direction do you plan to take with the next record?

DM: If you're asking me what the lyrics on the barf bag were, I couldn't tell you. I was half asleep. On the last record, we divided it into thirds. One part of the record was really fast and aggressive, one-third of it was the really melodic, in-between stuff and then the final third was really radio-orientated music like Youthanasia. I think what we're going to do this time is split it in half, and make it half radio-orientated and half really heavy like Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? Along with the bands and CDs that management is going to suggest I listen to, I'm going to go back and listen to some of the heavier stuff I used to get into when I was younger - things like Mercyful Fate, Diamond Head and some of the new wave of heavy metal. I want to get back to some of my roots. I don't want to forget what got me here.

JW: Will Dan Huff produce the next album?

DM: Hopefully. Dan's a great guy. The only way I would see us not working with him is if he were dead, incarcerated or living on some remote desert island where no one could find him.

JW: I understand Alice Cooper is your godfather. How'd that happen?

DM: When I got sober in 1988 I decided I was going to change my life, and it took a lot for it to stick, because old habits die hard. I called and talked to him about something, and he offered to be my godfather, and I accepted. I'm very grateful. We have a great relationship now. We have played with him many times, and his wife and my wife are very close. We have a restaurant we own together called Alice Cooper's, down in Phoenix. And it's been a blast.

JW: Do you have any other entrepreneurial investments other than a restaurant?

DM: I have a digital-editing company in Nashville, a skate-and-surf clothing company in San Diego, [and] my wife is breeding $100,000 horses. I don't really see myself as an entrepreneur. I see myself as being intelligent and being prepared for when my good graces have been all used up, so that I can continue to enjoy my lifestyle.

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

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