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

Trial by Fire

taken from RIP, October 1993
Steffan Chirazi talks to Dave Mustaine


Dave Mustaine, Megadeth's brilliant, charismatic and often-volatile linchpin, has courted controversy throughout his career. From his days with Metallica up to Megadeth's ascent to the top of the metal tree with Countdown to Extinction, he's waged a war's worth of battles with everything and everyone from his band members to drugs. Recently rumors about his health were rampant. He'd spent nearly three years, from the start of 1990 to the end of 1992, clean and sober, but the gossip was that he'd experienced a nasty relapse. Dave wasn't talking. He turned down all interview requests worldwide, and a label spokesperson said even they couldn't get a hold of him. Now, though, the time has come, he's ready to tell it like it was. What follows is harsh, but it's the truth, told by a man who's never been anything but honest about his problems


Steffan Chirazi: Let's get to the bottom of what's been going on in your life over these past few months.

Dave Mustaine: Countdown to Extinction started recording on January 6th, 1992. We'd been booked 66 days to do it. Being a realistic producer, I knew that just wasn't going to be enough time. We were under the gun, and every time we needed an extra couple of days, it was a big ordeal. I started to get angry. We were working so hard to make the album happen that I started to spend a lot of time away from my wife. She was in the last stages of pregnancy then, and there was actually a time when she was waiting behind a door when I got home to throw a punch at me! The day Justis was born I'd been recording all day, doing rhythm tracks, so was really tired. At 2 AM my wife goes into labor, at 4 AM we're in the hospital, and at 7:30 the next night he was born. I stayed up all night, so when he finally arrived, I was distraught with tiredness and relief. All I wanted to do was pop open a bottle of champagne; instead I ended up at Jack In The Box with some coffee and a Cuban cigar. We kept on going with the album, and four months later we were finished. We went to Europe on September the 10th, and Dave [Ellefson, bassist] and I started doing press. I got lonely for my wife and son. I'd open up the mini-bars, and there were beers in there. I figured, "I've got a problem with heroin and cocaine; a beer isn't going to kill me." I'd drink a beer and fall asleep. I have so many addictions, it's ridiculous! I'm a gambler; I take compulsive high risks because I skydive and snowboard. I think to myself, "Fuck, I don't gamble," but right there I'm gambling with my life. My kickboxing and karate, that's gambling with my hands. Right now I've stopped skydiving, I've toned down the snowboarding, and it's been months since I've trained. So we did the tours, and going from country to country meant that I got really sick. I wanted to take a couple of days off, and we couldn't. One night I got really fuckin' plowed, really drunk. I was by myself, and I lit a huge fire in the fireplace, sat back, drank and listened to some tapes. I called the record company, my wife and my management and said, "Look, I'm drinking again. I don't feel good. I don't wanna tour right now. I wanna spend time with my son and my wife."

SC: As you were drinking, staring at the fire, where was your head at?

DM: I just kept looking at the fire and thinking about my life, where I was going, and how everybody always compares us to Slayer, Anthrax and Metallica. They're all great bands, but we're not like any of them. It's like saying the Raiders are like the Cowboys. Sure both play football, but they're totally different teams. I also realized I'd reached the point where I was tired of other people telling me what to do. I was 31 years old and was going to do what I wanted. But we kept touring and eventually reached Miami, where I was so sick that I had to see a paramedic. He gave me some cough syrup with codeine in it, which is a synthetic opiate [with similar properties to heroin]. I'd take some before I went onstage, feel good, and not realize that I was waking up that sleeping dragon inside my body. When we got to New York, I went to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who stuck this long tube with a camera on the end of it down my throat. They took pictures of my vocal cords and said, "You can't go on. Take two weeks total rest if you wanna sing again." So I told everyone in New York, "I can't," and everyone said, "You've got to. You're nearing a break; there'll be a few days off." Nobody listened to me. Nobody heard me say, "I'm having a bad time." So I figured, "Fuck, okay, they don't care. They want me to go onstage, and the only way I can go onstage is to do codeine. Me being a drug addict, I can have people cosign for me getting loaded. Fuck yeah, this is great!" But it really wasn't great I knew better, and everyone else didn't want me to do it, but were afraid to tell me. Things got worse and worse. I stopped the codeine because my throat got better, but I was having the occasional beer onstage. That led to a couple more beers, and I started to feel bloated, so I went on to having a shot of vodka onstage. I'd have vodka and 7-Up, which was my favorite drink in the old days. My wife pointed out that I stank of alcohol, and she didn't like the smell, so in my addict mind I thought, "She can't smell valiums." I bought a jar of 500 of them. I was reaching the stage where I knew I'd have to go and get some serious help - not just drying out, detoxing and going right back out on the road, but going someplace where they were gonna look inside my head, heart and soul and tell me what it is that drives me to keep on relapsing.

SC: No one ever told you that maybe the tour was running too hard, that perhaps your schedule needed to calm itself down?

DM: No, there was never anyone to give us reality checks. No one really told us that the pace was too grueling. Everybody kept saying, "Well, this is what Metallica did," and so on. But we're not like Metallica. We are not like anybody else.

SC: So you're still on tour, and you need a rest....

DM: We were in Canada, and I was eating valiums by the handful, these 5-mg yellow ones. I was drinking cognac again too. I was off to the races. One day I was in the back of the bus, and I'd just taken my valiums. There's a big bed in the back of it, so my wife, son and I can sleep, and it's all mirrored back there. I'm trying to hide these valiums behind the VCR, forgetting there's mirrors everywhere. My wife asked me, "What's this behind the VCR?" I grabbed them and told her, "Look, I'm tired of this. I got valiums because you didn't like the smell of alcohol. I don't like touring anymore. I don't like my agent. I don't like my manager, my band or anything." I dumped all the valiums down the toilet except for 36, which I threw into a basket with washcloths in it. The next morning we flew back to California, and I ate them all in a day.

SC: That sounds like an overdose where you might have died.

DM: I should've died, but God's kept me around for some reason. I think it's so I can share these experiences with other people going through the same stuff. I went to the hospital, and the doctor was trying to detox me. What does he shoot me up with? More valium! I ended up dripping blood from everywhere. My wife came in and found me slumped on the toilet, bleeding. I was dying. I knew I was being overmedicated. I knew I had to get out of there. So we flew to Phoenix. I don't remember getting on or off the plane, driving to this place or anything. Eight days later I finally realized where I was. They said the morning after I got to the hospital they'd taken me to the emergency room because I was dying. I stayed at this place for seven weeks. I told my manager that I didn't know if I wanted to play music again, and I sure the fuck didn't wanna play right then. I was seriously thinking of retiring. I started thinking, "Is it time to quit?" I thought of my wife, and of my son growing up with a dead father. So I went to this place, and I really had to get honest, which was very painful. But I kept thinking about the fact that I was doing this for myself, my wife and my son. If I continued to play, great. I didn't know if I wanted to play with Megadeth anymore. I knew that if I stayed in music, the least I'd do was produce, maybe write music, and if I decided to get in a band again, I already had a side project. I've been talking with Lee Ving [ex-singer of Fear] and a couple of other guys about putting together the Beverly Killbillies [a tentative name for MD.45]. We've got some songs written. My wife came out with my sisters, and we had a "family week," where a lot of heavy stuff was coming out. And then we had the band "family week," which was also very heavy. In the beginning they all said they wouldn't come out to Phoenix, and I'm thinking, "You guys are willing to play music with me, but you're not willing to do this?" That was when I seriously thought, "Fuck this business, man. It really changes people." They were angry about stuff that had happened on the tour, but they came out. We all went through a very grueling week of hell, and then on Thursday we decided to fire our agent [in the US]. He'd been talking a bunch of shit to me, saying that I couldn't blame my relapse on being overworked. And I said, "The hell I can't! I'm overstressed, overworked, nobody listens to me, and I'm a depressive." Right now, though, I'm actually pretty happy with where I'm at. I've got a wife who loves me, a son who calls me Dada, who actually enjoys being held by me, and a dog that would kill a man for me.

SC: In the middle of your plunge, how did you summon the strength to recover and get back? How did you pull yourself out of it, rather than go all the way?

DM: I was trying to commit suicide when I overdosed on the valiums because I was tired. I had lost the will to live. No one was hearing what I was saying-my agent, my manager-the relationship with my band had gone to shit, and I didn't want to play anymore. I'd lost the fun of playing. My heart wasn't in it. Going out to Arizona, I got my power back. I don't want anybody else's power; I want my power!

SC: Many said all along that your fanatical obsession with sobriety was going to result in you putting too much pressure on yourself.

DM: Yeah, a lot of it was "pressured sobriety." I was getting humiliated whenever I would do anything wrong. Everyone was pointing the finger at me and blaming me whenever anything went wrong within the band, and I felt that was uncalled for. Now I realize that if people don't like what I do, then okay, that's their reality. I don't read interviews or reviews anymore, because that's someone else's reality. Another thing I've come to terms with is, when I get up onstage again, it's just me, my God and all the fans. I never realized that the fans are critics, too, and that I've actually been getting critiqued since the beginning of my career. You wanna know another thing that messed with me: The record coming into the charts at #2. I remember thinking, "Still #2. We're always gonna be second fiddle to someone." Finally, though, I'm so sick of all that shit.

SC: You've just recorded a brand-new song for Last Action Hero titled "Angry Again." How did that come about?

DM: Basically, after talking with our producer Max Norman, who I have a wonderful relationship with, I rewrote the song. When I got to the studio, the band built the song in an hour - this after one of our old agents told us songs couldn't be written on demand! Initially the recording was meant to start while I was in the treatment center, and I told my manager that if anyone could put it back, he could. I said, "Don't you guys fuckin' get it? Me, the person, is more important than the band right now." I couldn't have just left and recorded without finishing my treatment. That would've been like getting chemotherapy and leaving before the last treatment. These days there are no more snap decisions. I take my time over things and plan them out.

SC: So, to conclude, you'd have to say that you've come through to the other side, and that it's been as positive a relapse as anyone could have?

DM: Every time I walk through the fire, I become stronger and stronger. I know that my next drug and my next drink are right around the corner, and it's whether I have the mental and physical defenses against it. It's really important that I put my priorities in order. My recovery's first, then my family, then it's music. By doing that, I can come to the music and really focus on it. And also by learning what I went through, I realized that everybody goes through the same stuff. When I say I had problems as a child, and then I hear the person next to me say the same, I think, "Wow." It was important for me to know that I'm closer to the rest of mankind than I ever thought I was, and that I'm not some android-esque alien. But you know what? Today's a good day. When I was training, I used to think that today was a good day to die. Now, today's a good day to live.


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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