Modern Fix

MEGADETH – interview by mike bushman


The opportunity to interview Dave Mustaine of Megadeth was truly a mixed emotion. To be able to sit in the same room with the band (or most of the band) that created “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying” and “Rust In Peace” (two of the most significant albums representing the Bay Area thrash movement of the early-mid 80’s) plus a string of platinum albums in the 90’s, this was a chance of a lifetime. As a journalist, Dave Mustaine’s reputation of being rather arrogant and difficult to deal with presented a challenge. Hoping that perhaps some of this dickish behavior was the stuff of rumored exaggeration, I though I’d break the ice by presenting my first question.

Bushman: Why do I feel intimated to do this interview? You have a reputation of being rather edgy. Is that true to form?
Dave: Well, are you a puss?

B: No. Not at all.
Dave: Then don’t be intimated. We’ll have a good time.

Vic is back! (referring to new cover art). Is this a reflection of Megadeth perhaps returning to some earlier ideals in sound and approach?
Dave: We didn’t really want Vic to be gone. It was one of those things where you hire someone to manage your career so you need to listen to listen to what they’re talking about, or you’re wasting your money. One of things we had with our previous management, they said we need to move Vic around out of the forefront so the focus is more on the music. And I thought, “hell, whatever. This record came in at #2, we’ll move him to the back. And with “Youthanasia”, same thing. He got moved to the back. Both of those were platinum records. We changed management; they said we don’t need Vic anymore. I’m thinking, “I don’t agree.” But the guy is a legendary manager and has sold over 80 million records with one band in America and I thought, “My pile is not as big as his pile”. So we listened. The logo disappeared. The second record that they made, “Risk”, Vic was turned into a little icon on the mousetrap. They wanted to send a couple of singles out to radio with just my name on it, and not Megadeth, and I said, “No that’s it.” “Cryptic Writings” was a commercial success. It didn’t sell quite as much as we wanted it to. I don’t think any record with sell as much as anybody wants it to. When it started getting really stupid, like changing the bands name or sending stuff out with just my name on it. It was like that “Don’t Speak” No Doubt video.

How do you see Megadeth in the context of today’s resurgence of heavier bands?
Dave: Probably more so as an influence as a peer. I think it’s sad that a lot of these bands aren’t brave enough or confident enough in themselves to do guitar solos. I think so many people said they are uncool because they just can’t play them.

Al Pitrelli (Alice Cooper, Savatage) has been Marty’s so far replacement. The advance of “The World Needs a Hero” has a song he shares writing credits on. How his addition to the band affecting the writing (if at all?).
Al: I had as much of a hand in the writing as was necessary. My outlook on song writing is if I can make one of Dave’s songs a “greater” (I won’t even say “better”) Megadeth song, so be it. If not, he’s been doing pretty good so far. Twelve great Dave Mustaine songs on an album make for a great record make for a great year. I co-wrote a song called, “Promises” with him, because he was missing part of the song and I happened to fill that part in. If it wasn’t perfect and didn’t take the song from here to here, it wouldn’t be part of it.

What does this new album offer Megadeth fans and new listeners that they couldn’t find on previous releases?
Al: Me.
Dave Ellefson: There’s a lot of more recent fans we’ve picked up with Cryptic Writings and certainly with Risk that it’s probably going to be a bit of an adjustment for them for, “The World Needs a Hero” because of how heavy it is and because its pretty straight ahead with all the riffing. There’s a lot more playing on it as far as solos and intricate drumming. People that have been listening for many years are rejoicing that that’s all back. They are singing our praises. With every record, we have so many fans now that like our band… It used to be pretty simple. You make a record and people liked it. Now there are so many people that have so many opinions… If you ever go to on any given day, there are comments about the songs, the cover, a lyric and there’s always rebuttals and cross talk conversation. For me it’s exciting to see the controversy back. I think that’s probably the one element that’s been downplayed in the last couple of years.

You had a very visible stint with the MTV and their political process in the early nineties. Was that a positive experience for you?
Dave: Yeah. The purpose of why I did it, I was going in to represent the disenfranchised youth of America. I was the unofficial elected official that was going with a microphone to ask pertinent questions that were relevant to us, you included, and no one else had the guts to go up there and ask these politicians questions like that.

Would you do it again?
Dave: It depends a lot on my motivation is. We had got a bill passed into law with Rock the Vote’s Motor Voter bill. So for the rest of my life I’ve contributed to making the world a better place because you can register to vote when they get their license. It’s made it easier for young people to vote. Instead of saying, “Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.” What the fuck does a 19 year old know about trying to find a polling place? As far as going into this and having it be a positive experience for me… yeah.

You’ve been creative on drugs; you’ve been creative off drugs. What’s the difference for you?
Dave: I don’t have a problem with other people doing drugs. If they work with us, or for us, I don’t want to be around them. If you are on the crew or someone who is part of our administration, I don’t want to fucking hear about your drug use. If you do it recreationally on the weekends, or after work or something like that, that’s fine. If you are on tour with us, and you have some kind of medical problem, that’s fine. If you we count on you and you’re fucked up… you’re fucked. As far as drinking, I don’t care about that either.

Are you happy with drug laws in this country?
Dave: I think that if you legalize drugs in this country it would change the perspective of the crimes here. I know that being in some of the countries in Europe, Al and I just did an extensive trek there in the last six weeks. Going into Amsterdam (which is where I got some of the best heroin I’ve ever had in my life) you can buy it right off the street. And when you think about, “They just let people bring needles in, and they give them new ones, and they have a park where people just shoot up all day”. That’s really gross. It’s really fucked up, it’s disgusting. But think about the other things. You don’t have people mugging you to go buy crack. The face of crime is going to change. I think that pot should be legalized as a medical herb. I think that if people want to use cocaine and heroin they should be able to use. I think that if you get busted driving on it… you should get sent to jail forever.

Megadeth has toured and or gigged with pretty much every player in the metal world. What band or tour comes to mind as one of the most memorable you’ve shared a stage with? You know, nothing but good times.
Dave Ellefson: Probably years ago when we toured with King Diamond. Just because we were all out of our fucking minds and it was back in the days when we had nothing to lose. You just rolled all the dice every day. There were some other shows that were much bigger, (Rocking Rio, we did some shows with Metallica, some shows with Iron Maiden, Castle Donington, some landmark shows that we did that were fun to be a part of). But some of the bigger shows have a lot more chaos that go along with them.

How has becoming a parent changed your views on the world?
Dave: I actually had a kid when I was in Metallica, but it had to be aborted. So it’s not new to me. I didn’t know about it until I came back. The girl got pregnant and I came back and I was ready to bone her and she was really weird, and I was like, “What’s the matter?” And she was like, “Oh David…” I hated she called me David. My mom calls me David and the cops call me David. “David, I had an abortion while you were gone.” And I was like, “What?!” So kids to me is nothing new. I’m an uncle. I got lots of nieces and nephews. Is it hard being away from your own flesh and blood? Yeah it is.
Al: I think an interesting twist on that question is, “What’s is like having a rock-star for a father?” Because I have a 15 year old son who is just insulated.

I know you had an extensive career before this band.
Al: Yeah, my kids were always around it, but I was always a stealth hired gun session thing. But now my sons like, “My dads in Megadeth.” And the whole high school football time just became his bodyguards in high school. So it’s pretty cool for him. Being a parent just kind of puts in perspective. I have a mission in life. I have a legacy to look after.

What’s Megadeth’s proudest accomplishment?
Dave: I kept my integrity. At no cost have we ever compromised our integrity. We’ve been pretty much perceived as being bad boys, but we’ve always done the right thing. We just fired a manager. Me and Dave got in a plane and flew all the way from Arizona to meet this guy for 20 minutes. To basically tell him, “you know what, it’s not working out. We’d like to move on with our careers.” Then he got really dirty with us. He told David certain information about my personal business, which was totally unnecessary, and tried to paint a picture of some underhanded dealings that were going on with this band. And when he walked out, he said, “Oh by the way, when you see so-and-so, let him know that I said “hello”.” Which was the guy we were talking about potentially managing us. Now we had not entered into a management contract with anybody. We were doing the righteous thing. There are not many people in the music that do the right thing. It’s so much easier to do the wrong thing, and so much harder to right thing. I have taken an ass kicking from the public because I do my thing. “I’m a pussy because I don’t do drugs or drink anymore.” I am not a pussy. “I’m a born again Christian.” I’ve been talking about God ever since “Peace Sells”. The first line of Peace Sells, “What do you mean I don’t believe in God, I talk to him everyday.” Duh. Where have you been since 1985? Just because some of the stuff is coming to the surface right now, it’s not new. It’s just new to you.

How do you deal with fame? I have a friend who has a friend who tells of a time you asked them for a cigarette. Now they have this, “The time Dave Mustaine asked me for a cigarette” story. Do you realize such small actions ripple so permanently in people’s lives?
Dave: It’s a little weird sometimes. I know a guy who’s got a pizza crust of mine on a mantel in house. The folklore gets pretty insane. I was at a Coyotes game taking a leak and a guy walked up to me and asked for an autograph. I was like, “Right now? My hands are full.” The other thirty guys with their cocks in their hands were leaning over listening to this conversation I that I’m having with this guy.

Who is a Sinner?
Dave: Anybody who doesn’t have a Megadeth collection at his house.

Who is a Saint?
Dave: Anybody who has a Megadeth collection is his house.

What is the coolest?
Dave: Being able to get breakfast in bed. And twenty-four hour hockey games.

What is the lamest?
Dave: The blackout. And having a black ring around your dick after you’ve got a blowjob with somebody who had Skoal (chewing tobacco) in their mouth.

Messages to the masses?
Dave: The masses of Wisconsin?
Al: Thanks for the cheese curds.

(I had brought the guys a bag of cheese curds flown in fresh just days before by Mom Bushman. Dave said they looked like collagen implants. Dave Ellefson vouched for the delicacy they are and even braved eating one. Dave looked at them like I was trying to drug him through cheese products with some kind of ulterior homoerotic motivations. I thought they’d just like some good cheese. Dave Ellefson was kind and thanked me as well as Al. Dave wasn’t thrilled about these cheese at all. Fuck you. I’m from Wisconsin.)