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Dave Mustaine Talks Megadeth’s New Lineup, The New Book He Isn’t Actually Writing & Being A Loony Toon

Written by Emmy Mack on October 16, 2015

Megadeth have touched down in WA and are getting ready to kick off their first Australian tour in half a decade. Tonight’s show in Perth will mark just the second time ever that the band’s new lineup has played together on the same stage, and frontman Dave Mustaine is pumped.

MegaDave hasn’t felt this jazzed since the ‘Deth first started out, some thirty plus years ago. And the good vibes are as electric as his signature Dean V because the band are also hot off achieving a huge personal milestone.

The big four thrash champs just flew in from China, where they performed live in concert for the first time in their whole career (something many artists never get the chance to do at all because of the nation’s strict censorship laws). And as Dave tells Music Feeds, they didn’t care that they had to compromise their setlist in order to make it happen.

From pistol-whipping Marvin The Martian in an episode of Loony Toons to casting aside commercial pressures to record their new album Dystopia on their own terms, Megadeth have always marched to the beat of their own drum. And right now, beating that drum is Lamb Of God stickman Chris Adler, who’s touring with the band after lending his demonic kit skills to their new record.

Adler joins the official new lineup of guitarist Kiko Loureiro, bassist Dave Ellefson and, of course, Mustaine. And they’re all ready to kick Australia’s arses, with a smile.

But before that goes down, Dave took the time to sit down with us and chat about a whole bunch of cool shit: from Megadeth’s new lineup, to the recent media frenzy over a new book that it turns out he isn’t even writing, to his thoughts on black metal, to his return to all-out thrash and the band’s original songwriting values, and that feud with Soundwave boss, AJ Maddah.

Check it all out below.

Watch: Megadeth – Fatal Illusion

Music Feeds: Hey Dave, cheers for taking the time to chat with us today! So you guys have just arrived in Perth after playing only a handful of shows with the new lineup… How’s the tour been so far?

Dave Mustaine: It’s been quick and it’s been very frantic. It started off in China, which was a first for us so that was really great. You know, we worked through some of the requirements that the government had asked us to comply with in order to play there, and rather than getting up on our spiritual soap box and saying “We’re not going if we can’t play Holy Wars” we said (laughs) “Fuck it, we’re going”.

And we played Beijing – which was probably the stricter of the two cities – and then Shanghai, which was just sort of like a normal rock n’ roll concert. You would never know – if you were standing behind everybody and you hadn’t seen their faces – you wouldn’t know what kind of an audience it was, you would think it was just a typical, normal audience.

And it was interesting too to see the security that was there trying really hard not to let anybody know that they were digging the music (laughs). I could see them – they were tappin’ their feet, but they were doing it like, “Don’t let anybody see!”

MF: We’ll we’re psyched to have you guys back here in Aus too. Without giving too much away… what have you got in store for your fans?

DM: Well we’ve had a lineup change. Last year somebody had the bright idea to do the Megadeth reunion with the Rust In Peace lineup and it did not start or end well, and it resulted in people quitting and a lot of upset in our camp. So once we recovered from that tsunami, it was time to start piecing people together.

I think right now with Kiko – he’s played 5 shows, [tonight] will be his 6th show with us and Chris Adler’s 2nd – so we’re just like a brand new band.

I mean, think if you were going into a pub and someone said, “Hey I’m gonna go see this band that’s only played together twice” you’d say “Fuck that!” right? So the excitement on our side is really high because we’ve got something to prove. But then at the same time we don’t have anything to prove (laughs).

The irony of us being able to have it both ways, you know, to have that feeling of exuberance and want to go out there and just nail it, but then also knowing that – you know – all those years of hard luck and having a really loving, intimate relationship with your fanbase has made it so that you can do these things.

We’ve got a really loyal fanbase, as I’m sure you know, and they’ve been with us through thick and thin seeing a lot of bad shit – stuff that happened to me, stuff that happened because of me, you know? And we’ve survived for some reason. It’s like my big sister says, I can fall upwards.

MF: And we know your fans here in Aus are frothing to see the new lineup in action. What’s the dynamic been like on stage between you and Kiko, have you forged a kind of sacred guitar bond yet?

DM: Well it’s really really great. He is so wise when it comes down to music, and as a human he’s just a super-intelligent guy. We have some real cerebral conversations in the morning when we have breakfast together, he’s a real loving husband and dad, and just the combination of all those things just makes him somebody that you wanna be around, you know?

And with the last guy I was playing guitar with [Chris Broderick] – I asked him all the time if “You wanna get together and play guitar? You wanna get together and play guitar? You wanna hang out? You wanna eat? You wanna play guitar? You wanna play guitar? You wanna play guitar?” And I don’t think I can count on one hand how many times the guy came to my room and we played guitar together.

Yet Kiko and I have only been in a band since this spring [Australian autumn] and we’re closer than – god, I don’t even know if I’ve ever been this close with any of the other guitar players… Maybe Glen Drover? Because Glen was really a loveable guy. But, you know, that is so important when you’re playing with somebody too. If you feel like you’re just punching a time clock, there’s no magic in those moments, when you’re playing one of those solos when we’re doing stuff in harmony and it just takes you to another place.

MF: That’s really exciting to hear – and yeah, I’ve always been a firm believer that a band’s relationships offstage will impact on their performance onstage.

DM: Yeah you’re right, you’re not off base at all, you’ve got to have that relationship, cause it’s like a marching band in high school. And you want the people that you’re playing with to be passionate about what they’re playing, because if not, they’re just kind of going through the motions and that’s awful.

People work really hard nowadays to make their keep, and concert tickets aren’t necessarily cheap when you’re talking about seeing an international band that’s travelling around. So for a band to come in and not give its absolute 100% all – it’s not fair.

So we’re excited! I guess the long-winded answer to your question is we’re gonna try our best to kick everybody’s ass, but very nicely with a smile.

MF: (Laughs) Sounds like a good time. Going back to what you said about hanging out and playing guitar with Kiko – have you guys had any shred-offs or guitar-style pissing contests, just for kicks?

DM: Well I would readily admit that Kiko is a better guitar player than I am. My job as a songwriter and as a band leader, producer – that kind of stuff – is really, really involved. And especially – because of who I am – I say a sentence and it turns into international news. I was answering a fan’s question on Twitter the other day about if I was ever gonna do another book – and I said “yeah, I’m workin’ on it” and now all of a sudden it’s fuckin’ headlines.

MF: (Laughs) I actually saw that today and thought – “I wonder if I should ask Dave about this ‘new book’”

DM: No, no, it’s nothing, it was kind of like saying, “you know what? I don’t really have an answer for ya so I’m gonna say ‘I’m workin’ on it’.” And then I see – it’s all these sites that I like and some that I absolutely loathe – and they’re trying to get the scoop on this ‘new book’ that I am not working on right now but that – you know – ‘I’m working on it’ means kind of like how they say ‘eating an elephant’ – one bite at a time. Now honestly it’s pretty evident that I’m on tour, I’m not at home working on a book!

MF: So would it be more accurate to say that it’s something you’re planning on working on at some point in the not-too-distant future when you actually do have the time?

DM: No, no, the book is finished – it was something that I had written and turned in to Sanctuary [Publishing] years and years ago. It was about all the songs and stuff like that. But the publishing company folded, they gave me back the book…

It was done maybe between 10 to 13 years ago and there’s been a lot of songs written since then! So all I’m essentially doing is putting the other songs that need to go in there and deciding “Is it gonna be every single song?” or “Is it gonna be the relevant songs off each record?”

Cause it’s gonna be an anthology – there’s almost 200 songs in there – and I think that having 200 songs where the story about it being written is kind of fairly similar would be a bit redundant. I think if you just go to the main songs it would be great. And that’s what my plan was, but – like I said – when Sanctuary folded, they gave me back the book, so I don’t really have to work on it.

It’s something that I do when I’m not doing something else, which is pretty… almost always I’m doing something for the band. Does that make sense?

MF: That makes a lot of sense. But it’s still pretty exciting – I would buy that book! But let’s talk about something that’s going to be coming out a lot sooner which is the new record – Dystopia. We’ve heard the new track Fatal Illusion, which definitely harks back to the more vintage Megadeth thrash sound. Can we expect much of the same from the rest of the record?

DM: No, not the same because I try not to ever do two songs that are the same. I think that there’s gonna be elements of speed and thrash metal, and a lot of the stuff that we learned as we matured as songwriters, too.

Probably one of my favourite songs is Poisonous Shadows, it’s a very dramatic song – it’s not like, a thrasher – and it has a lot of significance to me. There’s that, but then there’s also songs like the next single that’s gonna be coming out called The Threat Is Real, which is full-on thrash metal. It’s not speed metal – and there’s a huge distinction between the two – and I think sometimes people miss those two things.

And then you’ve got songs like Bullet To The Brain, which is a super aggressive, kind of modern – I think for us – modern kind of approach to songwriting. A lot of really great songs on here that – when they were in my head – when we were first doing ’em – you know, I thought they were gonna turn out good. But after getting Chris Adler and Kiko to add their chemistry to the record – cause people, they know I’m consistent, they know Ellefson’s consistent, but they’ve never heard these two guys. And to have a super modern drumming magnate like Chris, and then having this guy that has more depth to his guitar playing than anyone I’ve played with… because I’ve had great guys I’ve played with… but I think Kiko has the widest expanse of guitar playing knowledge. It’s just given the record all of the flavour and tone that I’ve always wanted.

Because Megadeth have a lot of minor stuff, a lot of Spanish-sounding stuff, a lot of very emotional chords that have that kind of Middle Eastern flavour too, and when you try and do that – like, for myself – I can’t play those scales as well as Kiko can, as well as any of the other guitar players I’ve chosen. Part of the reason why I choose those other guitar players that way is because I [wanted to] pick someone who is very well at [doing] the things that I’m not.

MF: Yeah so it’s kind of like a Yin and Yang relationship.

DM: Right – cause if there’s two of us that are exactly the same then one of us is unnecessary, and you know who I’m gonna choose to get out! (Puts on a voice) It ain’t me. (Talking over hysterical laughter from the interviewer) Find your own lifeboat, buddy!

MF: Now Dave please understand that I would never have forgiven myself if I didn’t ask you this next question. I always remember seeing you on an episode of Daffy Duck when I was a kid… I have to ask – because a Megadeth/Loony Toons crossover is so amazing but also just so completely random – how did that even come about?

DM: The Duck Dodgers episode? Well I think that when we’re kids, we all have that thing that makes us, you know, a kid – whether we’re Australian, whether we’re American – we love to watch cartoons. Whether it’s in the morning before school or it’s on the weekend or whatever. So Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, all that stuff – the Loony Toons group – they’re iconoclastic, it doesn’t really get much bigger when it comes down to cartoons and comics.

So there was a guy that was one of the producers on the program and he was a huge Megadeth fan, he said “What would you ever think about doing this?” And I said “Are you kidding? I would love to do that! As long as it doesn’t make me look silly because, you know, we’ve got a hard enough struggle as it is with society not wanting to hear from heavy metal bands, so I don’t want to do anything that’s gonna misrepresent our community”. And he goes “No, I’ll make sure, I’m a huge Megadeth fan” and I was like, “Really? OK so let’s go for it.”

So, you know, there’s some lines in there that I think are really cool, like “I was raised by wolverines”. My personal favourite thing is that, you know, growing up I always thought that Marvin The Martian was cool, and to kick his ass is even cooler.

(Laughing) Thank you so much for answering that! That episode and the song Back In The Day were pretty much my gateway drugs to Megadeth.

DM: Uh oh. Blame it on Daffy.

MF: And you’ve had a couple of other TV cameos since then – on The Drew Carey Show and stuff – do you have any more plans to guest star in any other TV shows or movies any time soon?

DM: Well I’m not gonna rule anything out. I think that for me, music is my priority, and if an opportunity comes up for me that I can help make Megadeth more of a household name around the world so that other people can hear what we sing about cause – you know – Megadeth music isn’t just what’s in my head, it’s what I feel, and it’s what our fans and friends feel too.

And that’s part of how – you know – we kind of went through that nadir during Risk and so forth, where I was kind of writing music that was not for me so much, it was about other things that I thought people would like. And with this record – going back to writing for myself – it seems to have been the ticket for us and what we need to do.

Cause up ’til Cryptic Writings I had been writing strictly for myself and what I wanted to do because Euthanasia was kind of the beginning of us chasing the music industry and stuff like that. But it’s been until this record that I completely said “I wanna write songs for me and if they don’t get radio play or people don’t like it, I don’t care anymore. I’ve gotta write for myself.”

MF: Yeah well I mean, you guys have had so much commercial success over so many years, it kind of feels like you’ve earned the right to be able to, respectfully, do whatever the fuck you want now.

DM: Respectfully, yes. I think that’s the thing that our record company has been so congenial about letting us do what we wanna do, because we haven’t been disrespectful about it and we certainly feel like it’s a partnership.

You know, when you have a record label that’s that big – I’ve got my own label on Universal – so that makes it a lot easier for us to get what we want accomplished because we’re all working for a common goal. And that is to make this record as easily accessible to our fans around the world – and especially in a lot of countries where Megadeth has not been able to break the barrier, like what we just did in China – fabulous.

We were banned in Malaysia and they just lifted the ban off of us because [years ago] some kid thought it was smart to paint ‘Megadeth’ on the wall at a black metal murder site. And it’s like – if I could have talked to the judge in the case, I would have said “You know what? I don’t even really like black metal” (laughs) you know? “C’mon, dude, gimme a break!”

MF: That’s great that the ban’s finally been lifted – so when are you looking at heading over there?

DM: We’ve got to get all of that stuff in order.

MF: Well like I said, we’re stoked that you guys have been able to make it down here to Australia so early in your touring schedule. We were a bit upset we didn’t get to see you at Soundwave last year – I know there was a bit of stuff happening between yourself and AJ Maddah at the time. But at this point now, do you think consider coming back to play the festival again? Maybe after the new record is released?

DM: Well it’s not so much about who’s running the festival, it’s about how it’s being run and I think what’s good for the Australian audience has gotta be the most important thing for us, after what’s best for us.

And I don’t thing that it is a secret that AJ and I are friends, but that AJ’s had run-ins with people like this in the past and it was foreign to me because I’ve never had a friend – you know – call out in the public a personal issue like this because it’s business, the fans don’t wanna know about this shit.

So, would I do the festival? Of course I would. Would I do it if he was doing it? As long as we continue to maintain our friendship and we treat each other with love and respect, yeah. Because I completely forgive him – I know he’s got a heavy job and I know he’s got a lot of stuff he’s gotta do so – you know – we’ll see what happens. Put it this way: I would like to play here as much as possible.

MF: Well the feeling is very mutual. Dave Mustaine, thanks so much again for taking the time to chat with us, is there anything else you’d like to say to your Aussie fans before the tour kicks off?

Just that I’m looking forward to seeing them at the concert and I’m looking forward to sharing this new page in our life with them. I feel personally – it’s as exciting as it was in the very beginning.

Catch Megadeth performing with Children Of Bodom across the country from today. Check out their full list of tour dates here.

Their new album, Dystopia, is due out on January 22nd, 2016.

Watch: Megadeth – Super Collider

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