One thing is certain: ever since the controversial release of Risk and the shake up among the bandâs 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 bandâs latest album to date, Endgame, released in 2009. First of all, the instrumental track introducing the album (âDialectic Chaosâ) leads straight into the explosive âThis Day We Fight!â, an introductive duo which may remind one of So Far, So GoodâŠ 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 Mustaineâs. Given the judicial war waged upon one another, with its air strikes of law suits, Ellefsonâs 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 thatâs 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 donât really feel like âOh my God, I love this song, I love playing this song, this is the greatest song everâ 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): Itâs been very good luck. We did this record inâŠ in record time â I donât want to sound silly â but weâve never done a record this quickly. Well, when we did âPeace Sells… but Who’s Buying?â it was fairly quick, but things were different back then, you know, I had my whole life to write a record. For this record, Iâd 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 youâve 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 arenât really what we can call super-modern bands, especially Black Sabbath! Can you further explain what you meant?
Yeah, thatâs a really bad quote thatâs gotten out there. What I said was that itâs got some really super modern sounds , because thatâs Johnny (K, producer)âs style. The sounds themselves ARE â LIKE â OLD â SABBATH! Right? Now, that doesnât 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 doesnât sound the same at all. And what I had said about Queens Of The Stone Age, I was talking about guitar sounds. I donât know that band at all! I know one song. (He sings the riff from âNo One Knowsâ)
Yeah, thatâs âNo One Knowsâ.
Yes, thatâs it! I mean, God bless those guys, they donât need my publicity at all to help them, I know theyâre super successful and theyâre 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 timeâŠ
No. Weâre following our roots right now. Weâre 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 âRiskâ was finished, I told Marty (Friedman) âWe have to go back to our rootsâ, and he didnât want to do that. He wanted to play more pop music, so we parted ways. Thatâs 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 âRiskâ to here, each record has gotten a little bit more like whatâs 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, thatâs still in there. Depending on whoâs 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 butâŠ would the fans like it? You know? So we kind of just followed our hearts again, because when we played music for ourselves, thatâs when I felt the best about it on stage. And I can tell, the songs we played on stage, if I donât really feel like âOh my God, I love this song, I love playing this song, this is the greatest song everâ you can usually tell, because the audience kind of reacts that way too.
“To have Dave back is something that Iâve 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 donât 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? Thatâs a very good question! (Long pause) You know, youâre 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 youâre very wise to have seen thatâŠ 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, Iâve got to tell you, to me itâs got the most potential of anything weâve done since then because âCountdownâ was our biggest record ever, and itâs nearing triple-platinum in America, which is a big thing. And Iâve got to tell you, this recordâŠ Iâm really proud of it. All the other records, you want to say âHey, itâs a great record, itâs this, itâs thatâ. I havenât been just trying to color my answers, Iâve just been saying âThis is what it is, youâve got to hear it for yourselfâ. I love it! I think itâs great. I think itâs the best thing Iâve done in a long time. But I mean, youâve got to be the judge. And youâve already heard songs, man, youâve heard Sudden Death. Youâve heard Never Dead, the track on that video game. Youâve heardâŠ well, I donât know if youâve heard Public Enemy yet, butâŠ I know youâve 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 heâs gotten even better. The good thing when youâre playing with somebody youâre familiar with, that youâve been playing with for a long time: it doesnât 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 âYeah, I think Iâm gonna do a part here kind of like Budgie would doâ. And I kind of got a boner! And he goes âAnd Iâm gonna do a part here like Diamond Head would doâ. And IâmâŠ likeâŠ Iâm just like âOh my God, Iâm gonna come!â You know, you hear the bass part, and itâs like âThank you, thank you, thank you!â When I forgave him for what happened during the whole lawsuit thing, you know, I really meant that, I donât 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 âabsolutely notâ, 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 ainât 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, youâre going to church on the week end and you see David Ellefson up there playing bass, you know. He certainly didnât change the songs, you know, and heâs not playing anything thatâs 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. Itâs such a great influence for me, and an example for me because even though Iâm the leader of this band, Iâve surrounded myself with great people. And to have Dave back is something that Iâve 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 donât want this to happen, and I donât want anything to happen to his wife or kids. And it got dismissed, and it was great.
“I like playing with my old band, thereâs something really cathartic about that. Going out there, hugging James (Hetfield, Metallica), him hugging me back, letting everybody see that this is real, that weâre friends again. I mean, Iâm looking up to the day when James calls me and says âHey, man, I want to do a record with you and David Ellefson, me and Lars!”"
Itâs 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 pressâŠ
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. Itâs like âWhat do you want? Do you want a love child? What do we have to do to prove to you that thereâs no trip between us anymore?â I just got to tell you man, I feel sorry for them. Thereâs nothing going on with this. We are getting along so great, I think the jam at the end is fun, unfortunately I canât do it tonight because weâve got to leave to get to that plane to go to San Francisco, so thatâs a bummer. But the other bands are going to play, and I think itâs going to be equally as good. Itâs not good because weâre there, itâs good because weâre a part of it, but not solely because weâre there. Youâve got to remember Slayer and Anthrax are going to be there too with Metallica, soâŠ
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 donât think anybody else from his band was out there. Usually, not all three bands come out anyway, you know. Iâve been out there every night, because I like playing with my old band, thereâs something really cathartic about that. Going out there, hugging James (Hetfield, Metallica), him hugging me back, letting everybody see that this is real, that weâre friends again. I mean, Iâm looking up to the day when James calls me and says âHey, man, I want to do a record with you and David Ellefson, me and Lars!â 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, âhey we should do thisâ, and he goes âwell, we canât do that right nowâ. He didnât say no, he just said he could do it right now.
Thatâs the beginning of a news maybe.
DONâT DO THAT!
(Laughs) You know, tomorrow on every news websites youâre going to have âDave Mustaine and James Hetfield have been talking aboutâŠâ
(Dead serious) Thatâs the quickest way to ruin the chances of it happening. You can say I was joking around about it, but please donât say that I said that. It was a joke.
Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield have often spoken out about the impact of Diamond Headâs music on them. But what about you? Is this band as important for you?
Theyâre very important. Youâre 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, weâve surpassed Brian (Tatler, Diamon Head), obviously, but thereâs still that style that he had. You know, down-picking, two strings at a time, one string at a time, two strings, one stringâŠ 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, âLightning to the Nationsâ when I was still in Metallica. We would do âThe Princeâ, weâd do âSucking My Loveâ, we did âHelplessâ, we did âItâs Electricâ, we did âAm I Evil?â, the only one I donât think we did was âLightning to the Nationsâ. Maybe it was too simple, I guess, I donât know.
Interview conducted by Metal’O Phil at Sonisphere (AmnĂ©ville) 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