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

A Founding Forefather of Thrash

taken from Guitar for the Practicing Musician, 1990
John Stix talks to Dave Mustaine


Honesty, finely focused and intense, is the best way to describe Dave Mustaine's vision of a band called Megadeth. Mustaine holds nothing back with his opinions, and while his personal truth may anger some, he refuses to play it safe or nice when it comes to his music as well. He knows what he wants and what he can do, and impresses that ideal into the band. From skydiving to performing, his personal drive is relentless and consuming, fueling the fire that has made Megadeth one of the forefathers of contemporary heavy metal.


John Stix: Somebody wanting to be in a metal band today wouldn't necessarily go back to early Priest, Black Sabbath, or Deep Purple. They would more likely start with Metallica, Anthrax or Megadeth.

Dave Mustaine: I think you're right. My influences were Michael Schenker and, believe it or not, Pat Travers. Maybe that's why I play so funky. I was really into Rush, too, before Alex Lifeson went to the moon. Zeppelin was also one of my mentors, as were Kiss, Montrose, Ted Nugent - all the greats of the late '70s. I really dug Budgie, which nobody knew about, until Metallica started playing them. I was into Iron Maiden, Saxon, and AC/DC before I met Lars, and then I got into Motorhead and Diamond Head, and that's basically where the whole riff-oriented approach came in. I was way into Angus' playing, because I thought he had a lot of balls. It's good to see he's still alive.

JS: Have you noticed that bands are no longer starting with Hendrix and Page, though they're still influences, they're starting with people who came after Van Halen?

DM: Yeah, they're taking a shortcut. It's like football. You see how instrumental Joe Namath was, and people like him at that time. But now everybody's thinking Joe Montana. But Montana was a pupil of the greats before him. Everything is derivative of the past, and it just gets better. I can say that Jimmy Page was obviously very influential in my songwriting. People can say I'm a sloppy, soulful guitar player, but I'm a sloppy, soulful guitar player because Jimmy Page is like that, and I dug him and the way he plays. It's like, Marty's Uli Roth, and I'm Jimmy, and that's it. I know how to get down. I don't do it that great, but I can keep up with the best of them. Face it, I'm illiterate when it comes down to sheet music and technology in the studio. I'm inadequate at achieving things by myself. I know how to push a fader up or down, but if it wasn't for the English language, and the fact that I have a good rapport with the people that I work with, I'd be helpless in the studio. It's indicative that if you are honest, and can communicate well with others, and you know what you want, and you don't sell out or bend over, you can get anything you want. I came from a broken home, my mom was a cleaning woman. My main thing right now is not to save the world or anything like that, but just to let people kind of know that, hey, I did it for myself, and you can do it.

JS: To somebody who's into Megadeth, would you say don't study me, study my influences?

DM: By learning how I play, you're inevitably getting subliminally force-fed that stuff. I appreciate Eric Clapton, but there are blues greats way before him who did it for all of us: Albert King, B.B. King. As funky as this is going to sound, I was way into Motown when I was growing up. That had a deep effect on me; the melody, and the soul, the funk. By no means are we going to say that we're into funk now, since Faith No More's milking that cliché, but I think it's evident that there's a lot of soul in what we write.

JS: What's the difference between Megadeth and the bands you're always lumped in with, like Testament, Death Angel, or Anthrax?

DM: I think the difference between us and them is that we're a little bit more socially aware, and that we do progressions and riffs but we're not just doing buzzsaw kind of crap. Slayer, for example, is black metal. Their whole vibe is around satanic stuff. They can't do a song like "In My Darkest Hour." They can't do "No More Mr. Nice Guy." They can't do "Hangar 18." Testament is just like Metallica, and Metallica is my schizophrenic other side. Anthrax was nothing before I went out with Metallica and saw them. We moved to New York and lived above them at this rehearsal room. I went down there and said, "Your singer sucks, that guitar player stinks, and you should get rid of the drummer." We were drinking Mickey's Bigmouth's and eating bologna sandwiches for weeks with those guys, and the next thing you know, I see them in LA, and Neil Turbins, the singer, is history, they got rid of a guitar player, and they got a new drummer. They got Joey singing and Scott Ian and Dan Spitz playing guitar, and now everybody likes them, which is cool. But you know what? They were majorly influenced by Metallica also. And then you have Exodus, which is a great band, and there you have it. Those are the founding forefathers of metal: Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Exodus.

JS: You've got a good ear for lead guitarists. What did Chris Poland, Jeff Young, and Marty Friedman bring to the band?

DM: Chris brought a jazz influence that I liked. He was definitely a good player. I actually asked him to be my teacher and he thought I was kidding around. I was serious. He knew that I was rated over him in Europe, as one of the best guitar players in Europe, and he thought that I was being facetious. I told him, "Screw your band, why don't you just play with us?" And he did, and came and went, and really affected my life, as far as personality and some of the things that we did outside of being musicians. As far as writing, it worked out really well. I learned a lot about playing guitar from him. He learned a lot from me about playing rhythm. I think the best solo he's ever done is in "Good Mourning/Black Friday."

JS: What did Jeff Young bring to the mix?

DM: It's kind of hard to say, because Jeff had so much potential, yet he wasn't very focused. I still think he's a great guitar player. He says his motives were to be in the band to further his career. I don't know if that's true. He told me at the time that he liked playing with us. What he brought to the band was interest in exercising, as far as practicing and doing scales and more of the methodical technique. Chris brought a lot of the soul and feeling. Jeff brought a lot of the scales and mechanical parts of playing. I'm pretty sure he had some training.

JS: Did you know what you were looking for when Marty came in?

DM: We had auditioned people for so long that it got to the point where I was ready to retire. I have a career as a producer. I know how to get something out of somebody. I've got a good ear for capturing my performances and knowing if someone can do something better, or knowing what works. I was ready to forget playing and just produce. We tried and tried to find people, and Marty's CD had been sitting there the whole time and I saw a picture of him. Honestly, I love the little guy, but he looked like a poser to me, because his hair was two different colors. I was impressed by Dragon's Kiss then I had to sit back and get on my role as being a starving band leader looking for the right guy and not just grasping at the first kid that came along that could shoot from the hip. So I let my management and the record company listen to it. They both said, "Yeah, he seems like he's got the vibe." And then we auditioned him. The audition for Megadeth was relatively simple, except the guitar approach was difficult, as far as a different technique per song. "Wake Up Dead" is one style of playing. There's a thing where you do a chord with the first and ring fingers on the A and D strings 7th fret, slide down on those fingers and then you hammer-on with the middle and pinky. That, for me, was like a spider technique that I'm not going to say I created, but I used it in Metallica, and Metallica used it, and I think now a lot of punks out there think that Metallica was the innovator of that chord, and it was me using it in the scene. I'm not trying to blow my own horn, but that was one of the things that I wanted to see if somebody could do. The way I approach playing rhythm is pretty in depth. I think the rhythm is much more important than the lead solo, because the melody of the song is played over the rhythm! The vocal is just a melody that embellishes the song. We do a lot of the bottom string heavier stuff. A lot of muting, a lot of choking, a lot of down-picking. The other song that we did in audition was "In My Darkest Hour," Which had an odd solo that Jeff had done. "Wake Up Dead" had some of Chris' good solos. "Hook in Mouth" was another one of Jeff's weird solos. That was the one that sounds like a Russian kind of scale, and that had some pretty odd pedaling in it too. I mean the chunky mega-fourth on the E string, the bottom end, and there was down-picking, too. I think that last song that we did for the audition might have been "Peace Sells." To make a long story short, Marty had all four songs down, plus a few more, and we just kind of looked at him like, "What's the big idea, guy? Are you trying to impress us?" Which he did. He was tattered, he had crap gear, his blue jeans were ripped up, and he had cheesy cheap hi-tops on, and he looked like he needed his hair cut. He looked like a typical starving Hollywood guitar student/guitar teacher. So we put him through the ringer, got rid of his crap, got him back in line with playing Jackson guitars. We made sure that he had money to move to a real apartment. Got him a car. Made him get his personal hygiene in touch with where he is now. He got his hair all one color. And after a week, we said, "Well, I've got some bad news for you, dude, you're in the band." He kind of went, like, "Really?" I know he was elated, but you know Marty. That's like spitting out words of joy.

JS: How was working with Mike Clink on this record? On every other record you're co-producing with somebody.

DM: I can't take any of the credit for this record, 'cause Mike Clink is a genius, and no other man that I know of, or have met yet, would have been able to capture this band at this level. He had this wild animal, and instead of shooting it, he caged it. He didn't shoot down our dreams, tell us it had to be this way or this way. He was kind of like a Jesuit. He would say, "What do you guys think about this or that?" Subliminally Mike would feed us certain ideas to get us to do things his way. That's his approach. I've got nothing but praise for him, and I've already asked him to do the next record. Then we used Max Norman, who has brilliant ears, to mix, and Mike is definitely the best man for the tracking. The combination is superior to just about anybody out there.

JS: You're a very precise rhythm player and you have a thing with time signatures and precision, yet you're not schooled in any way. How did you come to approach odd time signatures?

DM: I don't know. I've never tried to figure out what I do, because I think once I understand what I'm doing, then someone else is gonna figure it out, and they're gonna do it. Then I'm gonna be copying them doing me. What I did with Metallica was a little more straight-forward. What I do with Megadeth is a totally different thing. A lot of it has to do with what I listened to growing up. Much of it was more epic-oriented musical orchestrations. I'm not gonna say it's classically influenced, or any of that mumbo jumbo, because I really don't know where the hell it all came from. All I know is that, for me, I see something and it comes out my finger-tips. It's aggression that I feel. I get pissed off at a lot of people and the next thing you know it's the riff in "Holy Wars," "Hangar," or "Five Magics." A lot of the stuff that has been created with this band is directly proportionate to the aggravation that I have.

JS: Can you get off on that sound? Does that also help you create?

DM: I can create riffs that I like as moody pieces on an acoustic guitar. "In My Darkest Hour" was created on an acoustic guitar. A lot of the times I pick up a guitar and it doesn't matter if I'm plugged in or not, 'cause sometimes there's not an amp handy. The majority of the riffs that I write I do in my head. I can hum guitar and figure it out with my eyes where the fingering goes. For "Hangar 18," the very end riff, I was watching this news thing, and there was some little blurb on there, some weird goofy thing, and I went "Wow, that's kind of cool." So I picked up my guitar and tried to emulate it, and it came out totally different. "Looking Down the Cross," on our first album, has a part where I'm holding my first finger on the first string at one fret, and my fourth finger on the opposite side of the neck at the same fret, and then I'm hammering-on up at the 24th fret of the G string. So I'm plucking both E's and then hammering with my first finger on the G string at the second octave, and I slide down from the 7th fret to the 6th fret. That was my "Captain Nemo." I kept thinking of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," how the submarine sonar used to sound. I'm not gonna say Adrian Belew's an influence, but I guess what he can do with the guitar I kind of like doing my way. I like trying to make sounds that other people can't decipher unless you come out and say, "I was trying to play submarine with my guitar there."

JS: What does equipment mean to you?

DM: Sound is really important live. It's critical, because in order to re-enact the sound that you hear on ghetto blaster or Walkman, you have to have this immense sound that's almost picture perfect. A lot of that has to do with your sound engineer. Our sound engineer, Dave Kehrer, is brilliant. He did Guns N' Roses and Great White and a couple of other big bands. I'm amazed at the way he's gotten us to come into synch when we go into the houses. We've done performances with some of the greats of thrash and sonically I think we're slaying everybody. Performance-wise, we may not be as good because we're four guys that really don't care about parading around on stage, or having upside-down crosses and all that kind of crap. We play music, we go in, we get the job done. We don't have 30 Marshall cabinets up on stage, we don't have exploding bombs of pyro and all that. I don't think that your ears can see that. They can definitely hear the concussion bombs, because that's all they hear for the next 30 seconds when they miss the beginning of the next song. My rig uses VHT power amps with Bogner preamps and Tubeworks effects. There's all kinds of things in there I don't even care to know about.

JS: I understand you and Marty record your rhythms in unison. It's interesting that you would choose to have another guitar player do the rhythms. I would have thought that you would either double it yourself or stack tracks going through a machine.

DM: No, that's not fair to the listeners. The integrity and the sincerity of Megadeth has always been first and foremost. A lot of the bands that play this same kind of scene (and have the same first letter in their name) do stuff in the studio where one guy plays all the rhythm and then live they go out there, and the guy that plays the lead on the album sucks at rhythm. Again, taking the Jesuit approach, giving someone the opportunity to think for themselves, and being their teacher, but letting them learn on their own incentive, makes them a better, well-rounded guitarist. Marty's turning me on to playing a little bit of lead, although I really don't dig his style for me.

JS: You've always worked with guitarists who are more technically proficient, yet you've always played some leads.

DM: Yeah. That may be construed by some people as being an ego thing. That is precisely why, on this record, I didn't play as much lead as I have in the past, because I didn't want people to think, "Oh, well Marty Friedman's in the band, he's a guitar hero, and Dave's trying to prove he's still a contender." But I still write the music and I still go in there and say, "This stays or that stays." I'm not gonna act like I'm a totalitarian dictator. But I still know what fits the songs. A lot of times there's rhythms going on where, no offense to Marty, Jeff, or Chris, they couldn't nail the rhythms, live or in the studio. Live is just as important to me, because with this kind of band, the only income that you have is live performances, merchandising, and record sales. You don't get that much radio play or MTV. I think that has to do with the fact that maybe it's a little bit too high-energy for them, and they can't figure it out.


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
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