Take No Prisoners
Why Dave Mustaine thinks Chris Broderick is the proverbial golden goose, and Radiohead is dumb
By Bobin James
As thousands of sweaty black t-shirted people trooped out of Bengaluru’s Palace Grounds on the night of March 14, most of them would not have noticed this one guy handing out pamphlets at the gate. They had other things to tend to – like aching feet and sore neck muscles from standing and headbanging for close to eight hours. The pamphlets – reportedly given out at the end of most rock and metal concerts there – sought to warn the young impressionable minds about the ill-effects ‘such kind of music’ (read: dark, evil, Satanic blah blah) can have on one’s soul. Pity this concerned individual wasn’t present backstage a few hours earlier, where Rolling Stone India was chatting with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, the headlining act of Rock in India.
Mustaine is known to not take too kindly to discussions about religion. Usually. In this candid freewheeling interview, however, he brings it up on his own accord. “People associate Megadeth with being Satanic. But when I became a Christian, I made it pretty clear that I have nothing to do with Satanism,” Mustaine says. For the record, in 2005, he had offered to pull out from a tour in Greece because he didn’t want Megadeth to share the bill with Satanic metal band Rotting Christ. “That’s had backlashes because people think that I judge other people. I don’t. If you want to be a Satanist, that’s fine,” Mustaine continues in his typical nasal twang. “That’s like jerking off to rape or something…” This pretty much sets the tone for the interview – blunt, no holds barred.
Dave, it’s been 25 years since you set up Megadeth. How has the trip been for you?
It’s funny, because you know they say most people crash within a mile of their own home, when they are driving home, right? And I’m at that place right now where I feel like I made it home safely. I crashed but I crawled with my broken bloody body back and I’m sitting at home where I want to be. It’s a great feeling when I look around on stage. I mean, we all have our ups and downs and personal stuff that affects us, and affects us on stage. The emotions of being away from our loved ones… crew guys that are temporary come in and screw the moment… we had a sound man that we had to let go of and another sound man quit because we let him go and a temporary guy came in and left one of the drums off. So Shawn [Drover, Megadeth drummer] wanted to kill him. And I figured that rather than us playing in prison like the other M band [laughs], we would well get Shawn out of a potential murder case. So we got rid of the sound man and another guy came in. And it’s like at some point you look at all this stuff and it’s like, it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter because it’s us and you – the fans. And it’s like tonight, someone said something earlier, what do you expect from the audience? I don’t expect nothing from the audience. I expect me and the boys to deliver to you. You are here to be entertained. If we need you to make us play better, we shouldn’t be here. If we’re expecting for the audience to entertain us, we are on the wrong side of the stage.
Have you been listening to the bands that have been playing so far – the Indian bands?
Yeah, some of them are good, some of them suck. I mean, that’s how life is. I heard one instrument a half hour, maybe an hour ago, that sounded like the flute. So it’s an indigenous instrument to Asian culture and stuff. You know like the AC/DC song ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll’ - they had a bagpipe in there. Now, who would have a bagpipe in metal? Well, we did. We did it on the last record [2004’s The System Has Failed]. Because I loved how it sounded so much, I put it in a song called ‘Shadow of Deth.’
I don’t know if [the others in Megadeth] have heard anything themselves but I know that with Chris [Broderick]’s guitar playing stuff – he’s got all kinds of degrees and stuff like that – so he’s probably heard stuff these guys have done. He can tell you what instrument, what mode, which guy was doing the wrong note on stage. And we’re gonna go on to the studios as soon as we get finished with this tour and take some time off and start writing. And get ready for the next record which is exciting for us. And Chris being such a learned guitar player, for us it is exciting. Instead of going into the studio and saying why don’t we come up with something, there’s a wealth of knowledge there that we haven’t tapped yet.
How did Chris come along? Was he the absolute first choice?
You know what - he was hired within 24 hours of us finding out that Glen [Drover] had put in his resignation. We had heard that, Glen told our management what was going on and we accepted that. And Shawn had recommended Chris in an e-mail to me. And he says, “All Chris does is he plays guitar and works out all day along. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t get loaded.” And I thought, jeez, that’s like having somebody drop a goose that lays golden eggs right into your lap. You know what I mean. We always know what he’s at, he’s not a troublemaker. He has a lot to learn still, obviously, because he’s only been in the band two months. But he is a very smart guy and I know that he knows that Megadeth is major league and that everything he’s done before that, that’s been in the minors.
I read somewhere about you mentioning that his sound is pretty similar to Marty Friedman’s.
Well, no. He says that. I believe that, but I didn’t say that. All I’m saying is what he’s saying; I’m repeating it. His influences are Marty Friedman. And what I said was, “I bet you never thought all those hours of masturbating to Marty Friedman solos would’ve paid off.” [Laughs] And you know, he sounds more like Marty than Glen did. Because Glen was influenced by Chris Poland. Now, since we play more music from the era that Marty was in the band, that’s the reason he would sound better – he is influenced by the guy we play more music by.
It’s been a fantastic year for India as far as metal is concerned. Iron Maiden’s been here twice in less than twelve months. Now you guys are here, Machine Head is here.
Well, we wanted to come here for a while but it’s just so far away from anything that we were doing. I mean, in order to come here from the West, we would have had to play Israel and then connected. And in order to come from the East, we would have had to be playing Australia, Japan or Korea. This last tour, we were able to break down a lot of borders, and get into places that were still pending. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia…
What did you have in mind when coming here to India?
No, I didn’t have any ideas about what to expect here other than what you see in these Bollywood commercials. And then of course you see stuff on the Simpsons which is terribly degrading, I think, for Indian nationals.
We’re staying at the Taj and it was amazing. There are 110 or so rooms there, and 600 people on the staff. We walked in there and there are girls everywhere waiting with flowers and they put the stuff on our foreheads, gave us some juice and there’s this dude saluting us – all this kind of shit and we are like, “Hey, this is okay.” Of course, we know this is not reality in this country. That the normal salt of the earth, the Indian people here don’t live like that. All that does for me is continue to reaffirm for me how important it is for Megadeth to come here and bring our music, to bring freedom and our message of freedom, whether it’s personal or political, to the metal audience. Whether it’s metal or even rock & roll because we appeal to rock people. We even appeal to some pop fans – they know that we are not a real ugly looking band. So there are a lot of people who tend to say, “I can’t believe these guys don’t all look like Lemmy!”
Countdown to Extinction that you wrote all those years back is probably still relevant…
Ya, it is… Totally is…
What’s your take on that?
Peace Sells But Who’s Buying is still relevant…
So did you set out to make music that’s timeless?
I’ve always just followed this itchy feeling inside of me that I get sometimes that I’ve got to say something. A lot of times people won’t say stuff because they are afraid to say it. I think political correctness is for pussies. Or maybe I should say political correctness is for vaginas.
You had a pretty bad nerve injury, and you temporarily disbanded the band. Did you ever think you would be coming back and delivering all these kickass records after that?
Deep down inside, I know that I am not a quitter. It’s like we had somebody leave and he sent us an email and he said – and he wasn’t a musician, he was a staff guy – he said, ‘I hope you understand why I quit’ and I don’t understand why he quit. He was a quitter. I don’t have a quitter bone in my body. So why would I understand what a fucking pathetic quitter is? You know, I can’t even quit drugs.
Going forward, you look at this stretch of success we had, coming here and how long it’s been. There’s not a lot of bands that could withstand the pressures of the music business. A lot of them break up over money, a lot of them break up over women, they break up over drugs. Or they break up because the record companies have destroyed bands.
Lately, bands are being picked off left and right because their revenue streams have been narrowed due to downloading of files. I’m not a guy that would go up to Capitol Hill and demand e-mail addresses myself. But I do think that there’s a difference between downloading some samples or downloading some songs or downloading some pictures or even downloading a small movie from our fan club versus purposely downloading the entire fucking record for free. You can’t tell me that the kids are that stupid that they download an entire record for free – they think that’s how the world is right now. No, they are not stupid. Kids nowadays are brilliant. That’s why they understand computers. But they realise that there’s nothing anybody can do about it.
So until they have some kind of way of regulating that, it depends on the hearts of the fans. If they really love Megadeth [enough] to look within themselves and say, “Just look at everything we do for you guys, look at everything we celebrate with you.” If you wanna download from our website, it’s totally there for you - we’re going way out of our way. But think about some of the other bands that can’t afford to have you download their whole record. Now think about all the other bands that would never be able to come to India because they can’t afford it.
A lot of artists are shifting from a record label format to, say, a Wal-Mart or a Starbucks. What do you think about that?
The Wal-Mart idea was great. The Starbucks idea was I think poor. I don’t necessarily think that Starbucks distributing music is a bad idea because they are everywhere. But I think it was a poor choice by Starbucks because Sir Paul’s record was a dud. The Eagles record going into Wal-Mart, you know the Eagles are a guarantee, you can’t lose. Now what we intend on doing when our contract’s up, we’re going to be looking at our options like that because we are with the same management as the Eagles. And [we will] consider placing records in a situation like that or making them available through digital download, something like an iTunes.
Like Radiohead’s In Rainbows?
No, that was dumb. And you know it backfired on them. I’m not gonna purposely… intentionally put my record up someplace for someone to download for free. What I said was to sell the record through downloads. That’s what a lot of people are doing right now. They’re leaving the record labels because the record labels are imploding. Their greed and the corporate insanity has destroyed the music industry. You know, we talk about this all the time – music business is two words right now. When we started it was one word, it was ‘music business.’ Now it’s two words – we are the music and they are the business. They don’t give a fuck about us. They don’t care about us at all. All they care about is moving units, and shifting sales and when they get to their break-even point, then they start to turn the thumb screws and reduce the marketing money and expect more out of the bands. I don’t like that. I don’t like being treated like luggage. This is a legendary band, I’m a legend. And you know what, I’ve been in this business longer than half the people I’ve met in some of the record labels we’ve been with.
Gigantour – any chance of it coming to these regions?
Gigantour is basically a festival that is meant to be more than one show. Coming here, I think, it would hurt our promoter unless we did it as a team. And out of respect for him and the Indian metal audience, we want to be supportive here, not divisive. And I think that if I brought Gigantour here, I would want to do it with the promoter’s blessings and also take into consideration what the fans really wanna hear. That’s how basically we pick the bands. Listening to what the fans suggest and I’ll see names and stuff and I’ll listen to somebody and see if I like them. Some of the bands that aren’t there, I like them. Some of them, they aren’t… they’re good… I respect them but it’s not necessarily something that I would listen to while having sex.
Is there a dream band for you at Gigantour?
No. It’s very fair. It’s very democratic. Megadeth and Gigantour are not connected. It’s not Davefest. The beautiful thing about this is that we can step off Gigantour and it can go on, we can rest and be with our loved ones. Because we are going home for a month and we are going back after two months. James has a daughter, I have children. He’s got a wife, I’m divorced. We’ve got family at home. Shawn is married with two children and Chris has a girlfriend and you know, there’s loved ones at home… we can’t be away forever. I think the guys that tour and don’t go home are hiding something or they’re hiding from somebody.
Something a lot of Indian fans would want to know. When are you guys coming back?
Well, honestly, when we go home tomorrow, there’s this month off… we end this tour… June 11 is the last date.. we’re gonna go down to South America on the 11th of June, and 12th we’ll be going home. They’ll be going to their houses and I’ll be going to the hospital… [laughs] and we’re gonna be going into the studio to wrap up some projects that we have. Little things that need to be fixed like bonus material for the last record, some stuff for the Gigantour DVD from last year, stuff that’ll kinda keep us busy and occupied while the ideas start rolling. We got a recording studio that travels with us, basically a porta-studio - that’s what you call it - and once we got Chris up to speed on everything, we started on putting stuff into the porta-studio.
This is new material?
Yes. Right now, the stuff that we have – that James [Lomenzo, Megadeth bassist] and I have been working on – is transferring the stuff that we have at my house in all of the drives into one particular place where we can see what the next record is gonna consist of. With my stuff and as that gets laid out, James is gonna get a chance to listen to it and see if he has anything compatible with it or how we do the old stone suit where everyone joins in and adds something. Same thing for Chris. As we work together - since Chris is right down a freeway from us… actually north a couple of hours - he’s gonna be at an advantage to be able to hear those pieces. Because Shawn’s already heard them all - we listened to them last time while we started the last record. And we got to the studio and they said we want you to do two more records. Two more songs is what a record is called you know… basically in a contract. I said no, the contract is for eleven and they ended up getting us to agree to twelve and they ask for two more and it’s like their guts… It’s not cool… So we had to go back in and add two more records and during that process we learnt a lot about ourselves.
© Bobin James/Rolling Stone India, 2008