One thing is certain: ever since the controversial release of Risk and the shake up among the band’s troops which followed after the release of The World Needs A Hero, with every album, Megadeth has been getting closer and closer to its roots: the good old thrash metal that made the band a force to be reckoned with. As proof of this, consider the band’s latest album to date, Endgame, released in 2009. First of all, the instrumental track introducing the album (‘Dialectic Chaos’) leads straight into the explosive ‘This Day We Fight!’, an introductive duo which may remind one of So Far, So Good… So What!, Furthermore, the overall quality in songwriting makes it without a doubt the bands best album in a while.
But in two years, time has passed. The major event since then was the return of Dave Ellefson, bassist and long time partner-in-crime of Mustaine’s. Given the judicial war waged upon one another, with its air strikes of law suits, Ellefson’s return was almost unhoped for. But that was without taking into account the strength of friendship and its power of forgiveness which eventually got the best of them. Finally reconciled, both Daves commemorated the twenty-year-anniversary of their breakthrough album Rust In Peace last year. What better way to revive an old friendship than to bring up some old memories?
Now here we are, the past is also here to teach us how to move forward. And that’s what Megadeth is doing, getting ready to release its thirteenth album, appropriately entitled Th1rt3en. An album making Mustaine prouder than ever, promising it to be exceptional.
“The songs we played on stage, if I don’t really feel like “Oh my God, I love this song, I love playing this song, this is the greatest song ever” you can usually tell, because the audience kind of reacts that way too.”
Radio Metal: Your new album is going to be called TH1RT3EN. Have you had any bad luck during the making of the album? Or, on the contrary, do you think this will bring you good luck?
Dave Mustaine (vocals/guitar): It’s been very good luck. We did this record in… in record time – I don’t want to sound silly – but we’ve never done a record this quickly. Well, when we did “Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying?” it was fairly quick, but things were different back then, you know, I had my whole life to write a record. For this record, I’d had to start from scratch with no songs, basically, when we started it. We had some song ideas and we had a couple of tracks that we had worked on before but nothing that had ever been finished.
You recently stated in an interview that the album sounds unlike anything you’ve ever done because it sounds really super-modern, before adding that it sounds like really old classic Black Sabbath with a little bit of a modern edge of Queens Of The Stone Age. Those aren’t really what we can call super-modern bands, especially Black Sabbath! Can you further explain what you meant?
Yeah, that’s a really bad quote that’s gotten out there. What I said was that it’s got some really super modern sounds , because that’s Johnny (K, producer)’s style. The sounds themselves ARE – LIKE – OLD – SABBATH! Right? Now, that doesn’t mean that the songs are like old Sabbath songs. The sound is. Some of the guitars. But when you put the guitars all together, you put the bass in there, and the drums, and you add the vocals, it doesn’t sound the same at all. And what I had said about Queens Of The Stone Age, I was talking about guitar sounds. I don’t know that band at all! I know one song. (He sings the riff from “No One Knows”)
Yeah, that’s “No One Knows”.
Yes, that’s it! I mean, God bless those guys, they don’t need my publicity at all to help them, I know they’re super successful and they’re evidently a great band, but the quote has been really mistaken.
The last couple albums were in the classic thrash metal Megadeth sound and, according to some of your statements, it sounds like you wanted to do something different this time…
No. We’re following our roots right now. We’re right where we want to be, the last record was where we wanted to be. This record is where we want to be right now, getting back to what we do. You know, when “Risk” was finished, I told Marty (Friedman) “We have to go back to our roots”, and he didn’t want to do that. He wanted to play more pop music, so we parted ways. That’s a big statement, for a guy to make a guitar playing change because he does not want to continue down a particular direction. So from “Risk” to here, each record has gotten a little bit more like what’s deep down inside me. You know, when you learn all that stuff like how to write a particular song, something happens to you, when you write another song, that’s still in there. Depending on who’s taught you, how successful it is, sometimes you struggle with not wanting to listen to that because you know if you do those kind of things, it would probably make the songs more successful but… would the fans like it? You know? So we kind of just followed our hearts again, because when we played music for ourselves, that’s when I felt the best about it on stage. And I can tell, the songs we played on stage, if I don’t really feel like “Oh my God, I love this song, I love playing this song, this is the greatest song ever” you can usually tell, because the audience kind of reacts that way too.
“To have Dave back is something that I’ve really missed. I was sad about the lawsuit. It happened, and through the whole thing, I maintained the same thing: I love him, I forgive him, I don’t want this to happen”
Last year you did the 20th anniversary Rust In Peace tour. Has playing this old school thrash metal album had any impact, in one way or another, on the writing of the new album?
Is that your question? That’s a very good question! (Long pause) You know, you’re obviously thinking. Because going out and doing that Rust In Peace tour, we did enjoy playing that old stuff. It did, I think in some way, affect this new record, and you’re very wise to have seen that… Good one on you!
Dave Ellefson was quoted saying that it was funny that 20 years ago you guys came off Rust In Peace and then went in and made Countdown To Extinction and that to him this is what this new album feels like. Is this your feeling too?
Well, I’ve got to tell you, to me it’s got the most potential of anything we’ve done since then because “Countdown” was our biggest record ever, and it’s nearing triple-platinum in America, which is a big thing. And I’ve got to tell you, this record… I’m really proud of it. All the other records, you want to say “Hey, it’s a great record, it’s this, it’s that”. I haven’t been just trying to color my answers, I’ve just been saying “This is what it is, you’ve got to hear it for yourself”. I love it! I think it’s great. I think it’s the best thing I’ve done in a long time. But I mean, you’ve got to be the judge. And you’ve already heard songs, man, you’ve heard Sudden Death. You’ve heard Never Dead, the track on that video game. You’ve heard… well, I don’t know if you’ve heard Public Enemy yet, but… I know you’ve heard these songs, you know?!
TH1RT3EN is going to be the first Megadeth album with Dave Ellefson since he returned to the band. Has this changed anything in the writing and recording process compared to the last two records were James Lomenzo was the bass player?
Yes. Dave is a great bassist. When we parted ways, he was really good, but he’s gotten even better. The good thing when you’re playing with somebody you’re familiar with, that you’ve been playing with for a long time: it doesn’t take quite as long in the studio. So we benefitted from kind of speeding things up a little bit, and he also knew my influences very well. So when a part came up, he would suggest stuff like during the recording of Sudden Death. Standing in the doorway of the control room and he goes “Yeah, I think I’m gonna do a part here kind of like Budgie would do”. And I kind of got a boner! And he goes “And I’m gonna do a part here like Diamond Head would do”. And I’m… like… I’m just like “Oh my God, I’m gonna come!” You know, you hear the bass part, and it’s like “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” When I forgave him for what happened during the whole lawsuit thing, you know, I really meant that, I don’t have any weird stuff. Sadly, some guy in Sweden tried starting some shit with me the other day, bringing up some stuff that he said Dave said in the past, and you know, I asked Dave, he said “absolutely not”, the guy was trying to start some problems. And then as soon as he talked to Dave after me, he tried to do the same thing, he tried to start problems with Dave. Something he said I said. And I ain’t got nothing bad to say about Ellefson, you know. When we got back together again, I completely forgave him. He apologized, we hugged, and here we are making great music together.
Dave Ellefson and you have played together for so many years. Do you think that doing a pause of a couple of years in your relation was beneficial in the end?
I think so. And I know it was good for Dave because he started a couple of bands, he had a good job, he learned a lot of stuff, he went back to college, and his bass playing got really, really good. He was also asked to go play bass at his church. Think about it, man, you’re going to church on the week end and you see David Ellefson up there playing bass, you know. He certainly didn’t change the songs, you know, and he’s not playing anything that’s not something appropriate to be played in the House of the Lord, but I thought it was pretty cool. And then he told me he was an elder at his church too, and it totally makes sense, because Dave is so grounded, so spiritually fit. It’s such a great influence for me, and an example for me because even though I’m the leader of this band, I’ve surrounded myself with great people. And to have Dave back is something that I’ve really missed. I was sad about the lawsuit. It happened, and through the whole thing, I maintained the same thing: I love him, I forgive him, I don’t want this to happen, and I don’t want anything to happen to his wife or kids. And it got dismissed, and it was great.
“I like playing with my old band, there’s something really cathartic about that. Going out there, hugging James (Hetfield, Metallica), him hugging me back, letting everybody see that this is real, that we’re friends again. I mean, I’m looking up to the day when James calls me and says “Hey, man, I want to do a record with you and David Ellefson, me and Lars!””
It’s the second year that we see the Big 4 doing shows together and even playing a song altogether on stage. Have the relationship between the bands and musicians evolved because of that somehow? Because in the past, bad things have often been said between bands through the press…
Well, I think the press is responsible for a lot of the bad things that took place. Even after we had done the Big 4 movie, even after the DVD had come out and had gotten platinum in America. Even after all that, we still had people trying to start crap, bringing up the past. It’s like “What do you want? Do you want a love child? What do we have to do to prove to you that there’s no trip between us anymore?” I just got to tell you man, I feel sorry for them. There’s nothing going on with this. We are getting along so great, I think the jam at the end is fun, unfortunately I can’t do it tonight because we’ve got to leave to get to that plane to go to San Francisco, so that’s a bummer. But the other bands are going to play, and I think it’s going to be equally as good. It’s not good because we’re there, it’s good because we’re a part of it, but not solely because we’re there. You’ve got to remember Slayer and Anthrax are going to be there too with Metallica, so…
Yesterday Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax played the Diamond Head song Am I Evil? With Diamond Head. How was it? This is beginning to be quite a lot of musicians on stage!
Last night was a lot of people, but really, honestly it was only one extra bloke. I don’t think anybody else from his band was out there. Usually, not all three bands come out anyway, you know. I’ve been out there every night, because I like playing with my old band, there’s something really cathartic about that. Going out there, hugging James (Hetfield, Metallica), him hugging me back, letting everybody see that this is real, that we’re friends again. I mean, I’m looking up to the day when James calls me and says “Hey, man, I want to do a record with you and David Ellefson, me and Lars!” you know, strange things can happen. I think it would be really cool.
Have you talked about it?
I talked to him about it after the Japanese disaster happened, I just kind of brought it up, off hand, “hey we should do this”, and he goes “well, we can’t do that right now”. He didn’t say no, he just said he could do it right now.
That’s the beginning of a news maybe.
DON’T DO THAT!
(Laughs) You know, tomorrow on every news websites you’re going to have “Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield have been talking about…”
(Dead serious) That’s the quickest way to ruin the chances of it happening. You can say I was joking around about it, but please don’t say that I said that. It was a joke.
Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield have often spoken out about the impact of Diamond Head’s music on them. But what about you? Is this band as important for you?
They’re very important. You’re talking about the bands that influenced us as kids. There were several, but I think Diamond Head was really critical for me and James learning riffs. You know, we’ve surpassed Brian (Tatler, Diamon Head), obviously, but there’s still that style that he had. You know, down-picking, two strings at a time, one string at a time, two strings, one string… You know, really simple great playing, almost like the B-52s, but heavy, and cool. And yeah, It really impacted us, me included. Because we played almost that entire record, “Lightning to the Nations” when I was still in Metallica. We would do “The Prince”, we’d do “Sucking My Love”, we did “Helpless”, we did “It’s Electric”, we did “Am I Evil?”, the only one I don’t think we did was “Lightning to the Nations”. Maybe it was too simple, I guess, I don’t know.
Interview conducted by Metal’O Phil at Sonisphere (Amnéville) the 9th of july 2011
Questions and introduction by Spaceman
Transcription and traduction: Stan
Megadeth website: www.megadeth.com
This post is also available in: French