MEGADETH mainman Dave Mustaine was interviewed on the March 29-31 edition of Full Metal Jackie‘s nationally syndicated radio show.
To see a full list of stations carrying the program and when it airs, go to FullMetalJackieRadio.com.
Full Metal Jackie: Back in December, you had tweeted that Clint Eastwood had inspired you while cutting vocals. Overall, what’s been the defining inspiration guiding the musical direction of this particular group of new songs?
Mustaine: Well, the Clint thing… I kind of look at his expressions when I’m singing because it helps me get into character because I don’t sing the way that I speak, so it’s a little different. It just kind of helps me get into that punk attitude, because I really like punk rock music and I think that’s the cool blend with MEGADETH and their music. I’ve always tried to sing with a little bit of character instead of just being a singer. The new record, right now for us, when we came into this, we had all kinds of amazing things happening because we had made a bunch of transitions to new levels in our career — we’d gotten a great new agency that we’re working with, CAA, and we stepped up to a major new label, our live shows got really exciting with the addition of all that video production. If you don’t know, if you don’t have it, you don’t even know but then as soon as you get it, it’s like, “Oh my God, how could I have missed that?” You see these young bands and you think like, “It’d sure be nice,” and then you take the plunge, and it totally takes your show to a whole new level. We had so much fun doing the “Countdown To Extinction” tour, and we had some songs that we started and we never really got past the demo stage until we got home, so that’s kind of where we were two months ago when we started — no songs, just a new attitude and a new lease on life.
Full Metal Jackie: Over the last couple of years, you’ve commemorated the anniversary of “Rust In Peace” and “Countdown To Extinction” by playing the album live. How does revisiting those classic album influence your mindset as a songwriter who’s writing new music?
Mustaine: Well, it’s always great to go back and look at the stuff that made you popular, because it’s kind of like a golfer — when they get away from their swing, their game starts to suffer. There was a certain swagger to “Rust In Peace” and a certain maturity to “Countdown To Extinction”. I think we kind of started to lose our way after that with “Youthanasia” and subsequent records, although they’re all great records to me. I think that a lot of the fans wanted more of the “Countdown”– and “Rust In Peace”-era music because it was to a degree melodic, but still very heavy. We didn’t really bail on the jazz or the progressive influences, but we learned something and it worked and with “TH1RT3EN”. When we got together with [producer] Johnny K., everything started to click again, because I decided after we started to have a bunch of changes, like put out a record and it wasn’t what anybody thought it was going to be, have some lineup changes, changing labels and stuff. At one point I just said, “What’s happened?,” and you want to do a 180, but it’s like with a big organization like this, I’ve said it before, it’s like turning an aircraft carrier around — you can turn the wheel all the way to the left and you know you’re turning, but it don’t look like it. So I feel like we’ve gotten back to our roots with this record in particular.
Full Metal Jackie: The new album is the second one since [bassist] David Ellefson rejoined the band three years ago. When you listen to the new tunes, what do you hear him doing that makes you think, “This is quintessential MEGADETH“?
Mustaine: Just showing up. He’s my partner. We make great music together. We’ve been trying really hard to get his songwriting back plugged into the MEGADETH machine. He’s a very talented player, he’s a great lyricist and just an all-around decent human being. In the music business, it’s so easy to not like somebody. A lot of people don’t understand me, so they hate me, which is sad, because if you get to know me, then you won’t hate me. That’s OK, but with David Ellefson, he’s one of those guys that you’ve got to like him. He’s just such a straight shooter, and frankly, in most bands, the bass players are the pains in the ass because they’re the frustrated ones and he’s the ambassador in the band and he’s got so many friends in the industry and so many cool bands like us because of him, because he hooks up with them and they talk about music and stuff. For me, I’m always busy or I couldn’t be bothered socializing because of the workload. For him, he loves doing that stuff.
Full Metal Jackie: What could you tell us about your plans for touring this year. Is Gigantour coming back? What do you have in the works.
Mustaine: Well, we’re going to be playing with IRON MAIDEN in May. The tour starts over in Europe. We’re going to do some shows in the U.K. We’ve got an amazing Gigantour lined up for this year. We didn’t know if we were going to continue just to tour on our own or if we were going to do the festival thing again. The whole thing with Gigantour originating was because my arm was hurt and I wasn’t able to play anymore. It wasn’t supposed to be like MEGADETH‘s festival, like every band has their festival and goes and travels. So there was a period where I kind of thought, “You know what?! I don’t need to do this anymore because I’m playing again,” but the lineup that we have for Gigantour this year is really cool.
Full Metal Jackie: Do you know when it’s going to be announced?
Mustaine: It’s probably going to be this summer and I know we’re going to be heading down to South America around September-ish.
Full Metal Jackie: We’ve seen a few videos with some clips from the studio, but anything you want to reveal to your fans about the direction of this record or the sound?
Mustaine: With the music, when we started with this — the deadline was pretty heavy on this. We had signed our contract and we had such and such amount of time to do it but we were out on tour so everyday was ticking away and pressure, it was like biting-your-fingers kind of stuff. When we came in, the first couple songs I wanted to get some of the more melodic stuff out of the way and save some of the full-on, ass-kicking stuff for the end. Right now Chris [Broderick] is in their tracking today. We’re kind of jumping around with a bunch of different songs so you’ll hear different stuff, but the stuff I’m going to play today is going to be five of the first six songs that we recorded. The very first one is the title track and it’s probably more of a simple chord structure, but it’s a really big-sounding song. The second song is about Alzheimer’s Disease. My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a terrible thing and it’s really sad because I know that they know how to fix this just like any other disease it’s just they don’t want to deal with it because you can’t make money off of curing people. Watching someone with Alzheimer’s Disease is like watching an ice sculpture melting — it’s just really painful — so the second song is about that and it goes through more things. The third song is about a relationship that ended really bad and the guy ends up getting depression from it. The fourth song is about looking at your circumstances being really bad and saying, “Okay, let’s make the best of it.” The funny thing is I was in a restaurant and I got some fortune cookies and I was reading the stuff in the fortune cookies and I was like, “We need a song that’s going to be like we’re all in this terrible mess together right now so let’s make the best of it and learn how to dance in the rain” — that kind of a thing. I’ve got a song about arson. Shawn [Drover, drums] had a song that he and I wrote together, Chris had a little bit to do with it — so we’ve got the first time all three of us are writing together. Shawn‘s tentative title was “Face Melter”, and I went, “That’s such a stupid title,” so I went how about we just call it “Ball Buster”, just to bust his balls on it, right? So we had that as a funny title for a while, but that one ended up being called “Built For War”. Chris and I wrote a song together; it’s a really amazing piece of music. It was much more prog than it is now. I mean, you take the prog out of prog rock and you just have rock. I was telling him, “Let’s kind of un-prog this a little bit, dude,” because it is a really great song. You got a couple other songs, something really obscure, it sounds like a Bayou, Southern metal band kind of. It’s really weird the way it sounds and as soon as the chorus comes in, you know it’s me. We wanted to take some stretches on this record —nothing like what we did with “Risk”, because it’s still very metal record. But you be the judge; you listen for yourself.