By Jeb Wright
The mighty Megadeth have taken on another Mighty Metal tour, this time celebrating the only object on earth that is faster than the thoughts cascading through front man Dave Mustaine’s mind…the Super Collider, which happens to be the name of their latest album.
The band continue to dominate the Metal community and this time, with the new album, they find themselves on back on the best selling album sales charts, as well as back on a major label. The new album features the many faces of Megadeth, from Thrash to old school Metal to hard rocking songs with…gasp…a true melody!
In the interview that follows, Mustaine talks about the new album, his love of conspiracy theories, how the Metal community is much smarter and nicer than people give it credit for and reuniting with the man known as Junior.
Jeb: I love “Cold Sweat” so before we talk about the entire album tell me how you came to record this Thin Lizzy tune?
Dave: There have been some smart-alecks out there that say that we did it because we wanted to do a Thin Lizzy tune better than Metallica, but we’re not playing that game anymore. I did the song because we had wanted to do that song for a long time. It had been rambling around since Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia.
There are a lot of great Thin Lizzy songs but “Cold Sweat” just called my name because I’m a street kid just like Phil Lynott was. We have a lot in common and, of course, we have several things that are different, but when I listen to those lyrics, I really identify with them. In my estimation, some of the best Thin Lizzy music ever written was the title track to “Thunder and Lightning” and “Cold Sweat.”
Jeb: And that is an album John Sykes was on. The production on the original was too poppy but I have a feeling Phil would be proud.
Dave: I think he would too. I’m hoping that Mr. Sykes is too. When you do a cover song there are three things you can do. You can suck, you can do it as good as the original, or you can do it better. Our goal was to do it as good as the original, as we don’t think we could have made it better. We challenged ourselves as we sped the song up just a little bit, which made it a little more exciting and gave it a different production tone. We made it a little more modern and relevant.
I also added a little part at the end of the song. After we decided to do the song, I had the inclination to see if anyone else had covered it and, of course, fifty bands, or so, had covered it since we first talked about doing it back in the ‘90’s. One thing that was in common with all of them was a high note that was sung in the third interval of the chorus that everyone was skipping. I didn’t hear it; Johnny K (Megadeth Producer) heard it. He said, “Its right there” and I said, “Oh my God, it is there.” I think our version is the closest to the original that has been done, though there are some other good versions.
Jeb: I think there is a fourth option on cover songs and that is to make it your own and I think that is what Megadeth did with “Cold Sweat.”
Dave: Thank you, we tried to do that when we did “Anarchy.” We tried to make it our own song.
Jeb: Let’s talk Super Collider. There is a great picture on the website where they show the Super Collider. That is an amazing object.
Dave: That is over in Switzerland. The cool thing is that we were given permission by the official place to use the artwork. There was a time where people didn’t think that thing existed and then only top secret people were allowed to go in and see it. Now, little old Meger-Deth had the official pictures of it. There are really vibrant colors in it. It really shows how the world has advanced. We don’t even know about what they are doing in the world right now.
Jeb: You like that kind of shit.
Dave: I do. I like the whole conspiracy theory stuff. I was not the guy who wrote songs about aliens, that was Nick [Menza]. I believe in spiritual forces and stuff like that, but as far as life forms on other planets…they’ve searched for how many centuries and not one of these planets has any ability to sustain life? There are not any other inhabited planets out there.
Jeb: You’re lyrics tend to be about mankind. Often they are about his downfall.
Dave: I try to share my life story with our fans. There is an old, ancient saying…I guess that is being redundant saying ‘old’ and ‘ancient.’ What I meant to say is that there is an ancient Oriental saying that says “A smart man learns from his own mistakes, while a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
I think that is part of what being a dad is all about; showing the child the mistakes not to make. It is not all about telling them what to do, but also showing them what not to do.
Jeb: You have some experience with that in both your personal and professional life.
Dave: I don’t know anybody in the music industry that has had as much adversity as I have that continues to be on top. Like I said in the song “When,” I’ve been through stuff most people would die just watching. We continue to be victorious, no matter what the adversity, whether it be the industry at a given time, or the fan base at a given time, or what music is popular, or economic challenges, or misinterpretation of things we say during a song, or on stage; we always come out on top.
Sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong and if you’re man enough to apologize when you do wrong then the fans will forgive you. It’s not about how many things you do right in this business; it’s about how many things you don’t do wrong.
Jeb: You could have self-destructed at any moment.
Dave: Yeah, it was pretty toxic, but a lot of that had to do with how I was brought up. My mom and dad divorced at an early age, when I was four. My mom moved out when I was 15 and that was in 1976, so that would be like a ten-year-old living on his own today.
Growing up, being homeless and having to panhandle for food, the only comfort I found was in a bottle, or in some other form. After my life started to turn around there was still a big black hole inside of me. Yeah, sure I could eat and I had money and a roof over my head but I still had to find something to fill that hole.
Sometimes people use a significant other, or sometimes it is a substance and sometimes, like people talk about in the 12 Step fellowships, it is a power greater than yourself. For me, I think that having that spiritual fulfillment is what has helped turn my life around. A lot of people confuse religion for spirituality. I heard it summed up real simple…Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell and spirituality is for people like me, who’ve been there.
Jeb: Are you doing okay? Are you finally comfortable with life, or do you still struggle?
Dave: I think that life, in general, is a series of challenges and that you just try to stay in the center of the herd. When the lions attack in the Serengeti, they don’t run into the middle of the herd and get the strongest animal, they look for the stragglers. They look for the weak and the sick. As long as you stay in the center of the herd, you’re pretty safe.
For me, I liken it to this: If you get into this business for the money and the fame, then you’re not doing because you love to do it. I did it because I loved to play the guitar and that is why we persevered, because when the money and the fame weren’t there, the music was still there.
Jeb: You are still making great albums where others who you’ve been with do not. Do you ever ask yourself, “Why do I still have this ability when the guys I grew up with do not?”
Dave: Well, I haven’t asked myself that question. I know where you’re going with that, Jeb, but I think for me, if I asked myself that question it would be from the premise of why am I better than somebody else, and I really don’t think that. The alleyways of Hollywood are littered with guitarists who are better than I am. A lot of the people that are my contemporaries are better than I am. I think it is like that old saying says, “The harder you work the luckier you get.” I love to play music.
I think I am one of the few Thrash Metal guys who are brave enough to delve into melody. There is a certain push back from the Heavy Metal and Thrash community when you start getting too melodic. Sometimes songs just tell you what they want. There are songs that you do that just have an awesome hook in them and that hook opens doors to other things.
A lot of people did not like the title track because they thought it was too poppy but here’s the thing…It is the first track for our new record label, which is a major label, they love the band and we showed them that, not only can we write commercial Metal Pop songs that people can’t do anymore, because their either afraid, or they sound like they are hacking up a chicken bone; they just don’t know how to do it.
We also have the super heavy stuff on there and I think that is good because it really shows them everything we are capable of. I think it also opens up a door to a lot of people who just don’t like Metal. They are going to listen to that and think, “I like that one song” and they are going to get the record and listen to the rest of the album and go, “Man, I love this style of music. I’ve been missing out for a long time.” Then Dave has introduced another person to the Metal community and it becomes like that shampoo commercial where they tell two friends and so on and so on.
Jeb: I like all kinds of Metal.
Dave: Yeah, me too.
Jeb: Actually, I like old school metal a lot and Super Collider is slower in a lot of places than your average Megadeth, which is fabulous to me. Was it a conscious effort to be more old school when it came to writing this album?
Dave: Not all of the songs are slow, performance-wise. The beat per minute might be a little lower, but in the song “Dance in the Rain,” I challenge any guitar player/singer to play that part at the end and sing it. It is a pretty challenging song. The great thing about that song is having David Draiman (vocalist for the band Disturbed) on tour with us, so he gets to come out and perform that track with us. It is so powerful with him doing it. David Ellefson pointed out on a social site how blown away he was with David and I just smirked because I knew how good he was.
Jeb: Tell me about writing “Kingmaker.”
Dave: It is funny that you ask about that track, because people ask me what the first track I started writing on the record was, and the chorus riff to “Kingmaker” was the one of the first riffs I wrote on the whole record. That song had so many different lyrics to it…I would sing something and go, “Eh…” as it just didn’t fit the intention to the song. I would do another lyric and it would be too extreme for the song because it would take the beauty of the heaviness and kind of cheapen it.
Jeb: I like that Megadeth, who scared people for years, are deep down good guys still cranking up music. You’re not that scary.
Dave: We are really stoked to still be doing this and to have fans that still follow us. We are in Oklahoma City today and we’re donating all of the proceeds from our merchandise sales and this Gigantour date to the Oklahoma Food Bank and I encourage others to follow suit.
Heavy Metal fans look rough and tough on the outside, and a lot of times we play like we’re dumb for a reason, but when you get to know some of these Heavy Metal guys, then you find out they are loyal and they are really intelligent, but a lot of people won’t give us the time of day. There is such a dichotomy there. People look at us and they don’t think we care and they think we’re lone wolves and social misfits. I’m not; I got very high grades in college. I love that I got the opportunity to cover the National Democratic Convention for MTV and getting into the whole political process.
I had to pull things back lately because the news is so disturbing; I had to stop watching it. Every day the news showcases bad stuff for people. There’s so much politicizing things behind the news. When I was a kid, we had this guy named Walter Cronkite who delivered the news. He’s got to be turning over in his grave about these guys reporting the news these days because it isn’t about the facts anymore, it’s like showbiz.
Jeb: Last one: I have to say I am glad Junior is back. What does it mean to you personally to have reunited with David Ellefson?
Dave: Even during the time we were estranged from one and other, I still cared for him; he was like a little brother to me. You don’t get into fistfights with other people to protect a friend that you don’t care about.
Dave got some funky direction from somebody who told him that I was doing something wrong, and I wasn’t. The lawsuit was dismissed. One time, I was going through Phoenix and I asked if he wanted to have dinner together. I still loved him even though he sued me for eighteen and a half million dollars—that is a lot of money. I still loved him and I wasn’t going to let money, or material stuff, get between our friendship. We went out to the California Pizza Kitchen and he said, “You know, that was the dumbest thing that I’ve ever done. I apologize.” I said, “Dude, I love you and I forgive you.” A couple of years later, we are playing together again.
I think that is the cool thing about Heavy Metal that people don’t see. There are friendships and bonds and loyalty and forgiveness and reconciliation. What a great example of how to break down those boundaries that we put up for ourselves. A lot of our fans have problems with how they are brought up; their parents aren’t doing very good jobs. The parents know it, but forgiveness is such a massive thing. When we get pissed off and hold grudges against some of our very best friends, then we cheat ourselves of really great friendships. A lot of people wrote us and told us they were having a grudge, or a fight, and that they were not friends anymore and, then, when they saw that Dave and I got back together, they ended their grudge. I’ve got my old best friend back and I’ve got my band back too. It is just kind of a cool, feel good, warm and fuzzy thing all around.
Jeb: Thanks for taking the time man. I am so glad that we got some time today. I will see you on the road with Maiden.
Dave: Ok, cool. Come say hello. We’ll have a cup of coffee, or a beer together. You’ve got it on tape. You’ve got proof.