Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)
Interview with Dave Mustaine from Megadeth
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 20 July 2004, 11:58 PM
Megadeth's a band name considered to be among the most historical bands in Heavy Metal history. A band which gave us masterpieces of pure Heavy Metal mania, like Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction but also troubled us with various events going on within the band's roster, with band members leaving while at the same time accusing, others coming just for a while etc. There's one person behind Megadeth though who's never given up (and why should he?) no matter what he had to confront within or outside of the band and that's none other than Dave Mustaine. Eleni and I met Mustaine in Athens, on the 7th of July and he spoke to us about almost everything, ranging from the past (about former band members and Metallica) to his forthcoming Megadeth release, The System Has Failed and even beyond that…he spoke to us about his political beliefs. Read this more than interesting Interview; it might solve a few questions you might have. Enjoy!
It’s been three years since your previous Interview with Metal-Temple Magazine. After that interview, I remember seeing you perform live in Rockwave Festival (2001) in Athens and then, a couple of months later, I found out Megadeth had disbanded. I know you wrote that it was because of your arm, because you had injured it but what I really noticed, even among Megadeth fans, was some disbelief in that reason. What exactly happened to your arm, how did it happen?
Relax your arm. \[Mustaine takes hold of my arm] You feel that nerve right there? \[Mustaine points the nerve he’s talking about, on my arm]. I fell asleep on a chair like this \[Mustaine showing me he fell asleep on a chair with his arm hanging from the back of the chair in a quite crooked and uncomfortable position]. Now if you take a drinking straw \[he picks a drinking straw], this is what a nerve looks like. If you take a drinking straw and you crunch it up like this…that’s what happened to the nerve! It got completely crushed. What happened was, my brain stopped talking to this nerve and the muscle on the top of my hand stopped responding, so I couldn’t pull my hand back like this \[pulls his hand back]. If my palm was faced like this, I could pull my hand back using these muscles but not very much; if my hand was like this \[Mustaine turns his arm the other way around], since this muscle is dead, it just hang like this, I couldn’t lift it up, I couldn’t close my fingers, I couldn’t move my thumb, I couldn’t open my fingers out. They gave me electric shock therapy to make my hand go like this \[Mustaine slightly moving his hand], I had to do exercises – gripping, exercises pushing stuff out like that, exercises turning things this way, turning things that way and the doctor said I would be lucky if I got 80% use in my arm back.You must have freaked out…
I fucking lost my mind and that’s why I didn’t say much in the press because it was very personal and very scary for me.Eleni: Do you feel you’ve recovered 100%?
Well, you’ve heard my record, right?Sure.
Does it sound like I’ve recovered? \[Laughs]It sure does!
And well, you see, I’m not really a fat guy so there’s not a lot of meat there. So when the bone touched there…it was fucked up. In here, if you look at that muscle right there - that’s not a very big muscle because I’m really lean – when I used to make that muscle, there was a hole like this! So I had to grow the muscles back so that the arms were the same – though you can see right there that it is kind of smaller. It took me a while to get the two arms strong again.Well the damage wasn’t only physical I guess, it must have been psychological too.
Oh fuck yeah, it was so hard for me because I was having so much trouble with Megadeth because you know…after Countdown To Extinction, that’s when things started to go like this. Countdown… was huge and successful and these other guys all they wanna do is get their songs heard, write their lyrics, write their music, you know all this kind of stuff and I was like guys, if your stuff is good we’re gonna use it, if it’s not good, we’re not gonna use it; don’t force me!. Then they started getting a therapist, you know, like a counselor. And they would get a counselor, the manager and three other guys and they would just ‘attack’ me all the time saying we have to be a democracy, to vote and all this kind of shit and I was like you know what? I did pretty fucking good up to Countdown, so that’s when things started to go down. Songs got slower, they got more melodic and I hated those guys so much at the time, that’s why I did the MD45 project, I didn’t wanna be in Megadeth anymore!Who exactly were those guys who did that, I mean together with the counselor?
Ellefson, Menza and Friedman, Ron Laffitte - the manager and they had a counselor named Raymond May and a guy called David White that used to come and do this stuff. I was so sad that this had gotten to that point, that’s why I did the MD45 thing. I figured you know what? Fuck you guys and Capitol gave me a quarter of a million dollars to go do that record and I went and recorded it but see, I didn’t know that they had no plans to market it. They figured they’d just give me the money and I’d make the record, I’d be happy and that’s the end of the story. Now, I wanted to make the record cause I wasn’t happy so when it didn’t turn out it was kind of like oh fuck, I’m stuck with Megadeth.
Then we did Cryptic Writings which is really good and then Risk comes out and I was just so bummed with the whole process by then; Ellefson cut his hair off, Martycut his hair off and they’re all listening to alternative bands…I remember standing in a lobby one time and a guy from fucking Matchbox-20 comes in and him and Marty are talking and they know each other…and I’m thinking if you’re in Megadeth, how the fuck do you know MatchBox-20?. The reason that he knew that was because you know, that’s what he wanted to do. And then the record wasn’t slow enough, it wasn’t melodic enough, it wasn’t alternative enough and when we did the reissues I got all the old band members together and we did this thing where I played them the remixes and got their points on it, if they liked it or not. With Marty, we did it over the phone and he said the reason to what happened to Risk was my fault. He goes me, the managers and A&R from the company wanted the record to be really alternative and we names it Risk but I don’t think we took a risk at all cause if we did it my way, we would have taken an even bigger risk, a more alternative and more successful and I’m thinking there’s no way that record would be any more successful unless you would have made it more Metal.
After Risk I got fed up with everybody trying to do things their way and I said we’re making a Metal record again and that’s when Marty said I quit, cause he didn’t want to make Metal.Speaking of Marty Friedman, how’s your relationship nowadays? I remember you saying that you were going to visit him in Japan just because you miss him as a person, as a friend. Did you go there?
No. I was gonna go after the end of this trip but the record company in America hasn’t finalized the deal with the Japanese record company yet so we don’t know what’s going on in Japan yet, there’s no sense me going over there to promote a record when we don’t know who’s going to release it yet.Do you speak over the phone at least with Marty?
I talk to him a little bit. You know, it’s really hard talking to Marty because I was really angry and really hurt with the compromises I made to make Risk and then him leaving in the middle of the record, in the middle of the tour like that. When Rust In Peace came out, when Marty joined the band, that record was completely written. All he had to do was come in and do the solos and it was a hugely successful record. When Countdown To Extinction came out, I started working with him a little bit more and it was too a very successful record. When the personal attack started happening on me, things started to go away. With this record – I wrote every note – this is a Megadeth-Mustaine style so you don’t have to worry about Ellefson, Friedman, Menza. Like on Risk you had Friedman, Ellefson, me, Bud Prager \[manager] and a singer from Bad Company all writing on that record. No wonder it sounds like that!What about Nick Menza. I read he’s back in the band.
He is, I hired him last week.Is he going to be a permanent member?
He’s gonna play with me, I don’t know…For the tour…
Yeah, we’ve resolved our issues. I’ve always loved Nick, he’s always been a good kid. He’s really grown up though, I remember him having really thick glasses, really funny teeth and all of a sudden he’s a God in Megadeth and – excuse me \[looking at Eleni] – but he’s got more pussy than he knows what to deal with. He kind of changed a little bit you know, changed a little bit very fast and he started doing things like he had his own guitar pics and people would go Nick why do you have guitar pics, you’re a drummer and he’d go cause I’m a guitar player too. There was stuff where they would always be talking about their songs and how they sing, their guitars, their projects and everything like this. Everytime you turn around it’s like Marty is doing a new solo record and like is this fucking Megadeth or not?
When Nick and I went our separate ways though I still stayed in touch with him cause I still loved him. The way I was let go with Metallica was wrong. It just was very wrong. And the way that they say that it happened is close but it’s not the way that it happened. I’ll tell you what. If those guys would have said get your shit and get out!, I would have kicked all their asses. You know, they wouldn’t talk to me like that and I guarantee you that they wouldn’t talk to me now like that.Yes but hey, you were at least friends back then, I mean, even slightly…
I don’t know so much about the friendship thing but they just wouldn’t talk to me like that. So, I didn’t want to fire Nick that way. Even after I let him go, I kept in contact with him.Well, is he at least convinced by now that he’s a drummer? \[Laughs]
I think so! \[Laughs] I hope that he’s focusing now on being just the drummer for Megadeth and putting everything else aside.What about Ellefson? We’re talking about Megadeth’s bass player for a long, long time. What happened in the end? Weren’t you like really good friends?
Well, everyone thinks that he was my best friend. He’s not my best friend, he’s never been my best friend. We were close because of business. Dave lied to me in the press, he said that my arm injury was fake, went around town and slandered or slugged me in town and we made him a really good offer and he said no. I mean, if I give you an offer and you don’t take it, it means no, right?Yup.
Ok, so he said he never said no and I’m thinking fucking idiot so…I don’t wanna talk bad about him. He helped me a lot over the years by being a solid member and it was his choice, it’s his loss.Is The System Has Failed going to be your last album as Megadeth?
I don’t know. Last record as Megadeth I don’t know; my last record ever, no.How do you feel about the album? After recording it with Chris Poland etc, how do you feel about the outcome?
I liked it! I think it turned out really well. I was scared when I first started it because there was so much pressure from people, you know, this has to be back to form man, you have to make a real Megadeth record and it has to be Rust In Peace part 2 and I was like… …leave me alone
Yeah, I just wanted to be kind of left to do my art. A person from the record company told me do this for yourself – write a record for you only and that’s what I did, I wrote a record that I like. I listened to it last night on the plane again, I hadn’t listened to it for weeks.You hadn’t?
No, because I don’t really listen to my stuff once I’m done with it. I mean, once it’s done it’s done. It’s like when you make a painting. If you sell the painting and it’s in someone else’s house, I’m not going to knock on the door and say hey let me take a look at my shit, you know. It’s like cutting the umbilical chord and letting the child go.This is another Megadeth anti-system album, right? About how you feel on what’s going on in the world. So, let’s have it in spoken words instead of lyrics – how do you feel about what went on in Iraq?
It needed to happen. The Americans went in there to liberate Iraq. A lot of people don’t think they were being liberated because France didn’t join in, Germany didn’t join in and neither did Russia. The reason they didn’t join in was because they had billions of dollars in stake with building the oil fields in the North of Iraq. The reason Russia, Germany and France supported us when we went into Afghanistan was because Afghanistan is a shit-hole. The people \[of Afghanistan] I believe are probably very lovely people - I’ve never met any Afghanis but, you know, Russia wasn’t making billion dollar oil fields up there. Afghanistan was known for its poppy production which results in heroin. Afghanistan is renowned for its hashish. If Germany, France and Russia went into Iraq, public opinion would be different. People in the music business, in America, are talking bad about Bush…you know what? Shut the fuck up! You’re a musician; you don’t know a thing about running a country! If there would have been a better man to run the States right now, we would have picked him, it’s a democratic process. There are a couple of guys who run for office, everybody picks him, he goes to the next level. Shut up, he’s the fucking president! There’s gonna be an election, if you don’t like him go for the other guy. Don’t sit back there and just piss and moan. I see all these guys like Michael Moore going off and I’m like dude, you don’t have a fucking idea about what you’re talking about.You don’t like Michael Moore?
I have no idea who he is. Like what are you doing?, we’ve got young men and women over at Iraq by now sacrificing their lives every day because they love their country and their doing what their country told them to do. It’s not their fault, it’s not their fault we’re at war. And I don’t think that the spirit of the Greek people would wanna watch one American die needlessly. I don’t think that’s how you guys are over here.Well, we don’t want to see anyone die actually.
Right. And I think that because there’s so much bullshit going on with self-advancement in America that people are trying to make what Bush is doing look bad. Now, am I a republican? No. Am I an American? Yeah. Do I consider myself to be patriotic? Yes. Do I think the war with Iraq was wrong? No! Saddam Hussein was a terrorist. He was a dictator and he tortured people.Eleni: So are you going to vote for Bush in November?
I don’t know but I can tell you right now I’m not voting for Kerry. You know, one of the other things they have is fill and blank and you can write in anyone you want; maybe I’ll write my own name in!Back to The System Has Failed now. Is it done or is there any remixing left to be done?
No, it’s done. What you heard yesterday is the finished record.Eleni: So it’s going to be out on…
My birthday! September 13th. That just worked out that way, I didn’t plan that! \[Laughs]Great coincidence there!
Yeah, it’s nice.Future plans?
Next summer, to come here \[Greece] and play festivals.Finally Dave, I’d like you to send out a message to all your crazy droogies who’ll be reading this interview.
It’s really beautiful here today…but you can’t see that! Haaaa-Haha! \[Laughs]