Just don’t call him mundane
Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine plays a dark duet with Lacuna Coil
|Megadeth front man Dave Mustaine really has been to hell and back. Hailed as one of the greatest guitarists of all time this thrash metal icon with the nimble fingers and snarling voice has weathered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and lived to tell the tale. Purportedly a "born again" version of his former demonic incarnation, Mustaine still retains his onerous reputation as a fiery redhead who’s not to be meddled with. "Just don’t ask about Metallica," warned his PR rep moments before this interview. Close to 25 years after his forced expulsion from that band, the story still resonates through the hallowed halls of heavy metal. However, were it not for his legendary ego, volatile temper, creative impulses, intense personality and penchant for revenge, Dave Mustaine might never have led such an improbably long and successful career.|
Though monumental, the path he has carved out for himself is a treacherous one characterized by alcoholism, drug addiction and constant infighting with his fellow musicians and record labels. Having given birth to some of the most seminal albums in the annals of heavy metal including five consecutive platinum releases (who could forget Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? or Killing is My Business and Business is Good?), Mustaine seemed untouchable – until recently. Years of hard living and, yes, old age have finally caught up with the man who brought us Youthanasia. Motorcycle crashes, kidney stones, relapses, radial neuropathy, Saturday Night Palsy, electric shock therapy and radial nerve damage to his priceless left arm have all taken their toll.
"Megadeth was blackballed from early on," he explains. "There were bad connections internally and externally. People misunderstood our lyrics. They thought we were preaching suicide. MTV vetoed our videos because they were pissed at our director – and radio follows MTV. It caused a huge chasm between the credible and the questionable, and we had to adjust to survive. It drove us underground. But that sounds like complaining and I don‘t like to whine."
Rehabilitating himself and remastering his craft, Dave Mustaine’s determination to move forward culminated in his championing of 2005’s Gigantour festival, an Ozzfest-like concert tour that, while gratifying, reminded Mustaine of why he prefers to focus on his own band instead of facilitating others. In fact, this self-professed control freak admits he has learned that he’s better off letting the suits run the show behind the scenes while he concentrates on the music.
"I’m far better off if I keep my hands off of things they shouldn’t be on and on my guitar," Mustaine chuckles. "I have the greatest management team in California by far, and this is one of the most exciting periods for me in my entire career. I’m taking advantage of the fact that I can be completely confident in their abilities, and that’s allowing me to work on all the projects I have lined up including redesigning my webpage. I’d rather worry about what things sound like than justifying myself to MTV armchair quarterbacks."
Megadeth’s freshly minted 2007 release United Abominations signals Mustaine’s return to doing what he does best – pulling devastating headlines from the news and setting them to fantastically intricate speed metal. He confirms the rumour that in preparation for this, his eleventh studio album, he had been hunting down none other than Lisa Marie Presley to accompany him on a remixed version of the single "A Tout Le Monde." Perhaps it’s for the best that The King’s daughter was unavailable so goth princess Cristina Scabia of Lacuna Coil was cast in the role of accompanying female vocalist for the track.
"It was kind of cathartic revisiting that song," he says. "I usually prefer to do a thing once, make it brilliant and get it over with. The risk of going over a piece too much is that it can become seasonally out of fashion. Asking me to go back and reproduce an album is like asking me to go back to the birth of one of my children and saying ‘OK, what would you change about them?’ But, it was actually fun to go back and revisit this idea. I had originally hoped that Lisa Marie Presley would sing on the album, she is a talented singer with a legendary pedigree. Unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out. We had to make an educated guess and it seemed like Cristina had the most credible voice out there. Doing "A Tout Le Monde" as a duet was a no-brainer, the song is a fan favourite and the performance Cristina gives is fantastic. Evidently, Lisa Marie was really sorry she wasn’t able to do it."
As jaded by his tumultuous past as he may seem, Mustaine proves that he still has a few tricks up his three-quarter-length sleeve. His victorious appearance on Music Jeopardy! alongside fellow contestants George "Funkadelic" Clinton and Moon Unit Zappa confirmed his intellectual prowess as well as his ability to laugh at others, if not himself.
"Funnily enough, I watched a tape of that show when I was visiting a friend in England. I thought it was a narcissistic experience. After having gone over a performance once I like to improve and move on. It felt weird and self-consumed to watch myself again. I was just trying to be kind to poor Moon. She’s such a tent peg. Right before the show George Clinton told me he was going to nab my jacket and I thought ‘I’ve got to take this guy out!’"
by Christine Leonard
Originally published MAY 31, 2007 in FastForward Magazine.