When I connect with Megadeth main man Dave Mustaine on an October afternoon last year, he is in a talkative and forgiving mood. The forgiving part worked out especially well for me personally when, a minute before Mustaine came on the line to chat, I was forced to reboot my normally reliable computer that contained the list of questions I had for the musician.
Having to stall one of heavy metal’s most vocal (and arguably one of the most important) people hadn’t played into my plans when I found out I would be interviewing the legendary musician.
Thankfully, Mustaine’s Canadian record label manager swoops in to save my ass and makes small talk with the singer until I’m ready to go.
An eternal 90 seconds after my unanticipated reboot, I am finally ready to chat.
Megadeth will be making their inaugural trip to the Maritimes, making up for shows with their tour-mates Slayer that were supposed to have taken place in October 2009 and January 2010. The concerts ended up being pushed back due to a back injury that Slayer front man Tom Araya had suffered.
Megadeth was formed in Los Angeles in 1983 amid an explosion of heavy-metal acts in America. Along with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax, Megadeth were a vital part of helping define the thrash metal genre while simultaneously achieving a sizeable commercial following in the years that followed. The band has racked up sales of more than five million records units in North America alone and remains a consistent draw in arenas world-wide.
Last summer, Megadeth and Slayer joined forces for a trial run of shows; it was the first time the two bands had shared a stage in well over a decade. According to Mustaine, there was a little apprehension on everyone’s part going into the initial dates.
“Luckily, we were able to settle our differences with Slayer and make the tour happen,” Mustaine says.
“The first couple of dates we played together were such a success; the Canadian audiences responded so well.
“And I think that Megadeth and Slayer playing on the same stage was a dream came true for a lot of people. The shows ended up being so exciting that it ultimately convinced us to bring this package elsewhere. Our crowds really embraced each other and that’s why we’re coming back for more.”
Although Mustaine doesn’t elaborate on what the differences were between the two metal bands, many people know that Mustaine isn’t exactly one to bite his tongue. We could speculate that this might have something to do with a supposed rift between the two groups.
From the group’s rehearsal space in California, Mustaine concedes that his mouth has brought him a fair share of misery and criticism.
“I don’t have a brake on my mouth,” he admits. “I am a highly charged person and will sometimes say stuff before I think it through. I have definitely said stuff and regretted it but there are some things I have said that I don’t have any regrets about whatsoever.
“I have people on my side, you’ll have people on their side and then you have those people in the middle of it all. There are so many of these so-called feuds that have been buried for so long but people manage to keep them going.
“I have had a bulls-eye on my back for a long time and have had a very colourful career so far. I have endured a lot of public struggles and though I’m sure a lot of people would have given up, this is something I simply don’t want to give up.
“I think that’s one of the things people like about me though. And I think that is what is so great about the heavy-metal community. We really hold each other up and help each other get through stuff.”
Mustaine goes on to say that he feels the legend of both he and his band has taken on different proportions as of late. Rather than being shrouded in negative publicity, he feels that the public’s opinion of both himself and Megadeth is shifting for the better; it is an accomplishment he notes that he is extremely proud of.
Last year, Mustaine was awarded the prestigious title of Revolver Magazine’s Golden God, a nod that seemingly humbled the singer.
“It feels great to know that I’m an influence on others. I never could have anticipated being voted number one in that poll. It is extremely vindicating for me,” he quietly admits.
Over Megadeth’s 26 year career, there has been no shortage of people entering and exiting the group.
No fewer than 10 people in the world can call themselves former members of the multi-platinum band. Various reasons can account for the multitude of departures over the years; Mustaine has been the only constant in the band’s seemingly ever revolving line-up.
Mustaine is feeling confident in his fellow Megadeth members but acknowledges that, like any band, they have their more than their share of ups and down.
“I think every band goes through those ups and downs. Some stuff is able to be remedied; some stuff leaves wounds. It’s not a cut and dry thing all the time,” Mustaine says.
“There are guys who played in the band in the past that I’m still friends with, and some that I am not on good terms with. There were band members who really mattered and those who didn’t. I feel really confident in this band’s ability though. I sense that we’re on the verge of something really great. I can definitely foresee a viable future for these guys in the band but I do think we have some more work ahead of us yet.
“Our latest record (Endgame) is doing great but we’ve had ups and downs with the whole project. Being critically acclaimed doesn’t necessarily count for much sometimes.”