Dave Mustaine In The Firing Line: “So many people misinterpret what I say”

Our no-holds-barred series of interviews continues with Megadeth founder and former Metallica member Dave Mustaine. He talks to DAVID SWAN about The Big 4, Soundwave and the horrors of Nu-metal.

Self-proclaimed “crazy uncle” of the metal scene, Dave Mustaine is not only one of the genre’s most influential guitarists but he’s also probably its most colourful character. So it was only fitting that Mustaine enter the Firing Line ahead of his appearance at Soundwave next month. As the interview progressed it became clear Mustaine had been burned one too many times with people taking his comments the wrong way, and wasn’t prepared to talk politics, despite his outspoken views on 9/11 and a theory that Obama had staged the Dark Knight mass-shooting in Aurora. Still, the legendary guitarist was happy to delve into his past, revealing a renewed bond with Metallica and a real passion for the metal scene that he still clearly loves today, 30 years on from Megadeth’s beginnings.

You’ve talked of putting out an album quickly after the last one, I think you said “time is short.” Where are you at with that?

We always start writing for our new record after we finish an old one. That’s just the way we’ve always done stuff, because in the studio we’ll have parts of songs that are left over that have been taken out for whatever reason. So maybe we’re writing a song and we come up with something else while we’re writing it, so we say “Hey let’s move this to the back so we can have some clean space”, so we’ve got ideas all over the place. But there’s no need for us to rush out and do a new record right away. We love doing that but we’re not in a hurry to do that.

Your new album Super Collider didn’t receive a great reception from critics and the press. Why do you think that was?

I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but the record came in at number six on the Billboard charts. If that’s bad, then shit… give me more bad. I’ve heard a lot of good stuff. You know, people are going to say bad stuff about our songs, I know that a lot of people disliked the track ‘Supercollider’, and I read some stuff about the Alzheimer’s stuff. But that’s my mother-in-law. She’s dying from the disease, it’s kinda sad, but I don’t mind talking about it. That’s what musicians do. We take pain and suffering, and we sing about it. That’s what we do. I don’t expect people to be sentimental about what I’m going through, it’s not why I even did it. I didn’t write a song for people to feel sorry for me, I couldn’t care less. But when you watch somebody die in front of you like that, I don’t know if you know anyone that has Alzheimer’s but it’s painful.

You’ve tried a few times to do solo albums, and they end up becoming Megadeth albums, do you ever feel weighed down by the Megadeth name and the expectations that come with that?

I don’t know, I don’t know how to answer that question. I like playing, but I don’t want to not be myself. There has been times a long time ago when Dave Ellefson and I were managed by a guy called Keith Rawls, who had a couple of opportunities for David and I to do some stuff outside of Megadeth, we both did it, and I didn’t like it. I don’t know if Dave liked it or not but I just didn’t really like it. It wasn’t me. The couple of times that I did do stuff since then, it just hasn’t really felt right I guess.

How close were you guys to playing with the rest of the ‘Big 4’ at Soundwave last year? Were there discussions around that?

No, I didn’t hear anything about that. I think the opportunity to play in Australia, which is always great no matter who we’re with, because we love the country. Of course it would be cool to have the Big 4 thing, but the lineup that’s there this year is pretty insane as it is.

Are you going to jam with Jason Newsted? He’s on the lineup too.

You know, I don’t know… We had done a track with him at the end of Gigantour which was really cool, but part of the coolness about that was that it was spur of the moment. If we start doing stuff and people expect it, then it’s not really that cool anymore.

You’ve said that Slash was the “last true guitar god” is that because they’re laptop gods now? Are people that would’ve been into metal 20 years ago now into Skrillex instead?

Hmm… that sounds like something I would have said. I do love Slash, I think he’s a great player. I’m not exactly sure what the whole importance of what I said was, though … As a music fan that likes Megadeth music, it’s just knowing the way that computers have changed all of our lives and stuff, it’s obvious that they’re into that Skrillex stuff. I didn’t even know what that shit was until recently.

Do you have any thoughts on the US government shutdown, and how Obama’s handled it?

You know, I do but I think that so many people misinterpret what I say when it comes to politics that I’d just rather stick to music. I mean if you and I were sitting down and having a brew or a steak or something, I could say yeah we could talk about it, and I could explain what I mean, but it’s just so weird when people misinterpret what you say.

OK. In terms of your religion, obviously you’re a born-again Christian, was there a single defining moment for you that brought that about?

There wasn’t a moment that turned me into one, because I think that would be kind of trivialising the whole thing that happened. It’s no secret that I had died, and came back from the dead, that’s something that’s pretty crazy when you think about it. I often question why that happened, and the only thing I can think of is that I have a higher purpose instead of just making music and getting myself in trouble from the statements I make.

You’ve said you don’t want to push your faith onto others, but at the same time you refused to play on the same bill with ‘satanic’ bands like the black metal band Rotting Christ, is that hypocritical?

What happened was when I first had made a decision back in 2002, I said “Just for now,” you see people forget those three words: “Just. For. Now.” I said “Just for now I’m not going to play with any bands that have junkies in them, or any bands that have any black metal.” And you see people forget the junkie part, but I said that because I was trying to get my life back in order. I was struggling with my past and everything. And it turned into selective journalism people picking stuff they want to pick to make a point out of it. I’m trying to shoot straight with you, friend. I don’t know you at all, but when you try to pick stuff that’s salacious, that’s kind of sad. And what happens a lot of times, people will try to get me to say stuff, instead of saying “Hey, here’s a guy with a lot of history that can tell me a lot about the genre”, they try to fuck around and be funny.

I’m happy just to talk about the music. Talking about metal then, are you hopeful or pessimistic about its future and what do you see as your role in it going forward?

I think I’ve pretty much done what I was supposed to do as a player, and I’ve influenced plenty of people. I see that the players are getting really, really great. A lot of the new bands, they’re a new breed of players, with all these new vocal styles. It’s cool these guys are all coming together. Man, you sound young, and I don’t know if you’ve gone through the different waves of metal, but they had this wave of metal that came through in the ‘90s and it was called “nu-metal”, I don’t know if you remember it but it was so bad. I would have rather had my eyelids pulled out.

“I would have rather had my eyelids pulled out than listen to Nu-metal”

Limp Bizkit and those sorta guys right? Linkin Park?

No, no. I can’t even remember their names. Linkin Park, those guys are good at what they do. I have no problems with those guys. But I wouldn’t call them nu-metal. I’m talking about the bands that wouldn’t do guitar solos. Guys who get out there and they’d do rhythms and stuff but they’d never do a guitar solo. It’s like… come on, play a solo. But apparently solos aren’t cool. It’s just funny because I come from the school of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, and man, the riff had to be kick-ass, the lyrics had to make sense, and when it was time for the solo, the solo had to rip your face off. And hey I may not be part of the family anymore, right at the forefront… but I’m the crazy uncle.

Do you feel at peace with your past?

You know, I do. I think that’s probably why whenever we do interviews and stuff where people try to get people stuff that’s not nice, that’s why I think “God, do we have to?”, because I really have made peace. I got a present from James [Hetfield] on my birthday, and it’s just really nice that it’s come full circle, and we’re friends again. I think all we ever really wanted to be was friends, and because of what happened, two highly charged individuals, highly charged personalities… it just wasn’t destined to happen that way, but I worked it out. We’re meant to be friends.

Soundwave 2014 dates and venues

Saturday, February 22 – RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane

Sunday, February 23 – Olympic Park, Sydney

Friday, February 28 – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne

Saturday, March 1 – Bonython Park, Adelaide

Monday, March 3 – Claremont Showgrounds, Perth