Following a few sonic stumbles over the years, Megadeth returned in late January with one of the strongest records of their long and storied career in Dystopia. It was an arduous process leading up to the album’s release, as it initially looked like drummer Nick Menza and guitarist Marty Friedman would be back in the fold, reuniting one of the thrash metal outfit’s most beloved lineups. Instead, Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler and Brazilian guitarist Kiko Loureiro joined the longstanding nucleus of bassist David Ellefson and frontman Dave Mustaine.
Vanyaland caught up with Mustaine for a 617 ahead of the band’s show tonight at the House of Blues to talk about putting together Dystopia, getting baited into controversy by fans and journalists and why politicians should work for free.
Michael Christopher: You’ve just released Megadeth’s 15th album, and it was amidst some perceived turmoil where some fans thought the Rust in Peace lineup might return; instead, you got two new guys in Kiko and Chris. Were you worried the expectations might overshadow the actual music?
Dave Mustaine: [laughs] I had a lot of worries and that was one of them. But I think once we started to all get together, it became really, really evident that we had nothing to worry about; we just started to have fun right off the bat. The very first solo Kiko did was the solo for “Conquer or Die!,” and when I heard that I knew it was gonna be OK.
And it ended up getting some of the best reviews of your career.
Yeah, I’m pretty excited about it. It’s kind of bittersweet, taking me this long to get to it, but I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it as much.
How do you find the balance between giving the fans what they want and staying true to yourself as an artist; for instance the last album you said, “Screw it, I’m gonna put a banjo on this song.” So do you even try to find that balance or do you just do what you want?
I basically do what I think is right for the songs. You’re talking about the songs from Super Collider, but there’s been some really weird instruments on albums over the whole length of Megadeth’s career. For example, on Cryptic Writings, there was a bouzouki on there; so we’ve used different stuff all the time, it’s just what the song calls for, and the records have always been a snapshot of my life. What I was going through with the Super Collider sessions was with my mother-in-law and her Alzheimer’s which was really sad, so that was probably the most appropriate instrument for that song. We were dealing with that for awhile, but soon as she passed away, it was like… kind of got back to business and hooked up with my old best friend David Ellefson, and my two new best buddies Chris and Kiko and we made a very, very fun record.
I talked with Kerry King recently, and he’s in a similar situation as you where he has a new member of the band in Gary Holt, who’s pulling double duty in Exodus and Slayer, much like Chris is doing with Lamb of God. And I want to ask you the same question; was there ever a concern that Chris wouldn’t bring his A-game to the table or that he would be spread to thin?
No. No, I have complete respect for Chris and I think he has enough self respect that he would say if he didn’t feel like he was doing 100 percent.
I was reading a recent interview with you where you had a theory on why you are openly despised by some people and critics. Much of that, in my opinion, is that you’ve been baited in the past; whether it’s been interviewers baiting you or, as you’ve said before, fans who would yell out, “Metallica!” just to get under your skin. As you’ve gotten older, how has the way you’ve handled those sorts of things changed?
Well, a lot of it is that some of the things people say, I just don’t say. When you take an interview and you translate it from whatever language they’re doing it with me in, back to their mother tongue, and then back through another couple different languages, by the time it gets back to English, it’s not what I said. Or, people will say stuff, and they won’t be there and they won’t hear the laugh after it — they’ll think that there’s seriousness. I think one of the things that keeps metal fresh is that for the most part there’s a friendship there where people have a very sarcastic relationship with one another. I know a lot of our guys, a lot of our friends, are very sarcastic with each other.
I think now, especially with me, I’m not as concerned as I used to be with all the stuff that goes along with playing. When the press gets involved or fans and people that write and do stuff like what you’re saying to me, and try and interrupt the flow of the shows and stuff, and I think there’s reasons why people do that shit; they want attention. I don’t even give a shit about it anymore because at one point it did bother me, it doesn’t anymore.
Shifting gears a bit, there’s a new book out by Greg Prato called Scott Weiland: Memories of a Rock Star, and one of the people he interviews in the book is Dave Ellefson who said you and Scott really connected and had a kinship. And not a lot of people know this, but Megadeth was the first big act to take Stone Temple Pilots out on the road. What Dave was saying reminded me of what you wrote in your book about Alice Cooper warning you about the dangers of doing drugs. You sort of did the same thing for Scott, and obviously it didn’t help in the very end. Do you think that people are going to choose their own path no matter what.
Well it’s power of suggestion and the mind; if I tell you don’t think of a pink elephant, what did you just do?
Thought of a pink elephant.
Fuck yeah — right? And the thing is, it’s like when you’re a little kid and they say don’t out put your hand on that hot stove, you gotta do it. I was coming from a place of love and experience of having gone down that very bad road and trying to tell Scotty, “Hey, don’t do this.” I told him, and my exact words were, “You’re gonna be big, people are going to be pouring money [your way], throwing girls — I used a different word — and tons of drugs your way. No matter what, you have to stay away from heroin; it will bring you to your knees.” And I started seeing pictures of him in magazines and I knew he was doing it. I was so sad for him.
The last time I saw him was at the Classic Rock awards thing, and we had gone to a thing before then, when he released his clothing line, and he didn’t look well then. I’d heard that his wife had thrown all of his shit out because they were fighting again, and I don’t know man. I think that that was a young man, very talented, wonderful human being tht was crying for help and for whatever reason couldn’t find it. It made me very sad when I heard he had passed away.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you what you thought of what was going on in politics right now. You’ve already gone on record saying how scary of a time it is, where do you see this current situation headed — do you think someone like Donald Trump has a chance at being president?
Of course — anybody does. I’m not going to go on record and say that I support anybody, because I don’t, but first off I think it’s sad that whatever choice you make that you’re gonna be ostracized and perhaps even worse. But even if I did pick somebody, it shouldn’t matter, it should matter what a person decides, they should have their own truth. I think personally, make all politicians work for free, and then you’ll really see who loves America. Because these dudes get paid for the rest of their lives; who’s not gonna say what ever the hell they have to say to get a job there. And the sad thing is there’s these beautiful young minds that are out there doing caucusing and rallying for these guys, and they don’t understand the whole delegate thing yet. I remember when I was young and dumb and I thought that it was really, really gonna be down to the popular vote, then somebody explained to me about the delegates and it was like, “What are you talking about?”
How about I do two things for you?
One is a band I really dig right now called Mustasch out of Sweden. I’ve been introduced to them from a friend of mine named Patrick Scott who’s an old friend of mine from back in the Metallica days.
And of course, the other thing that I’m really excited about is our wine business that we’re doing. We just released a super Tuscan. When we first did this, it was just about doing something cool with the symphony, and I never thought that we would keep it going like this. I thought that we would grow something and it would be a private little deal, but this is our fourth bottling now and I’m excited about it, really super excited. It’s about what I like, it’s not about what I think you would like, and if you like what I like, then hey, here it is. I’m not gonna do what’s trendy or popular. We wanted something that would be like a social lubricant between [both the symphony and metal], and the wine was exactly the right thing to do. It’s actually really fun.
::SEVEN OF SOMETHING
Give me seven artists or bands that people might be surprised you listen to.
Crowded House would be one of them.
We were just listening to Krokus because of the whole Brian Johnson and AC/DC thing, and [Krokus singer Marc Storace] could do it.
Right, right. So Angel was all dressed in white and Kiss was all dressed in black, so it was like, “Come on!” You expect to see, “Here’s our new band, they’re called Flamingo! And they’re dressed in pink!”
And the last one, continuing the aviary topic, Budgie. Three piece from Wales — a great band.
There’s some pretty surprising ones on that list.
Yeah, I could’ve told you stuff like Aztec Camera or Neneh Cherry or really weird stuff because I was just thinking the other day someone was talking about Lyme disease and I remember Neneh had gotten that and we were with the same management company and I told her how to get rid of it.
MEGADETH + SUICIDAL TENDENCIES + CHILDREN OF BODOM + HAVOK :: Monday, March 21 at the House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St. in Boston, MA :: 6 p.m., all ages, SOLD OUT :: Resale tickets