Interview: Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine discusses “Endgame”



 Dave Mustaine has nothing left to prove to the world of heavy metal and could easily hang up his guitar with his legend intact. But the man simply refuses to rest.

You know Mustaine’s story: After being booted from Metallica in the early ’80s, Mustaine set a goal of creating a band that would rival Metallica in power and aggression. That band, Megadeth, certainly accomplished its goal: With Mustaine as singer, primary songwriter, co-lead guitarist and unstoppable energy source, Megadeth released a string of critically acclaimed albums in the ’80s and early ’90s – such as “Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?” “Rust In Peace” and “Countdown To Extinction.” Mustaine’s influence on legions of metal guitarists has been huge and the musical impact of Megadeth can be heard everywhere today, from the “neothrash” movement to new metal superstars such as Lamb of God and God Forbid.

After suffering a serious nerve injury to his hand in 2002, Mustaine disbanded Megadeth and could have retired forever. But relaxing is not in the man’s nature. Instead, Mustaine underwent a year of physical therapy, regained his ability to play guitar (defying the prognosis of his doctor, who said he’d never play again) and returned Megadeth to its thrash roots on albums like “The System Has Failed” and “United Abominations.”

Last week, Mustaine and bandmates Chris Broderick (guitar), James LoMenzo (bass) and Shawn Drover (drums) released “Endgame,” an album as technically precise and sonically vicious as any of ‘Deth’s major classics. In its first week, the band sold enough copies to break into the Billboard Top 10.

During a recent phone interview, Mustaine said he is still sometimes amazed by his legendary status.

“When I was a kid playing the guitar, no one ever told me I’d be the head of a multi-million dollar corporation,” Mustaine said.

Mustaine plays guitar in much the same way the killer robot from “The Terminator” blasts humans – relentlessly, with a level of aggression that almost knocks the listener down. That guitar style, Mustaine said, developed naturally.

“I’m self-taught and I don’t know a lot of theory. I picked up the guitar and learned how to play it,” he said. “A lot of guys talk about loving the guitar and loving to play it. I always thought you should punch it in the stomach.”

While Mustaine has shared the stage with many sharp shredders over the years, the recent addition of Chris Broderick to the band has been intimidating, Mustaine said.

“Chis is one of those guys whose playing is almost other-wordly,” Mustaine said. While Mustaine does the majority of the songwriting and has written solos for his sidemen in the past, Broderick proved his worth as a songwriter by co-writing “The Hardest Part of Letting Go … Sealed With A Kiss” on “Endgame.”

“”The world is full of gunslingers, but can they write songs?” Mustaine said. “I never had a guy join the band” and contribute songwriting ideas on their first record, he said. While working with other guitar players has been a challenge, playing with Broderick on “Endgame” was a pleasure, Mustaine said.

“I can swear to you on both of our lives that there was never a (Megadeth) record with me not having to talk to the other guys about their playing,” Mustaine said. By contrast, Mustaine only had to make two small corrections to Broderick’s performance during the recording of “Endgame.”

“Chris was a breath of fresh air,” Mustaine said. “He’s not caught up with the hoopla. He comes by it naturally.”

“Endgame” is an album “that needed to be written,” Mustaine said. Mustaine is especially enthusiastic about the title track, which details the abuses that could occur because of “antiterrorism” laws rushed through Congress, such as the “USA Patriot Act.”

“‘Endgame'” was necessary for me to say the (former) president signed something that was snuck by both houses of Congress,” Mustaine said, referring to the title track.

While Mustaine uses music to address what he sees as flaws in society – such a breakdown “in common decency,” he said – the ultimate goal is to please himself and the listeners.

“For me, I write music because it makes me feel good and makes other people feel good,” he said. ” … I think the funnest song to make while we were recording was, ‘This Day We Fight.’ Every single solo was a challenge, because I’d listen to Chris’ (solo) and mine and think, ‘you’re not going to (upstage) me.’

“He’s capable of doing that and he’s a better player than I am,” Mustaine said of Broderick. “My gift is as a songwriter” and front man, which is all about having “attitude,” he said.

The band has one more album on its contract with Roadrunner Records. But that’s in the future: For now, Mustaine is focusing on the band’s upcoming tours of New Zealand, Australia and Japan. In early November, Megadeth will co-headline the “Canadian Carnage” tour with Slayer, before coming south again for a tour of smaller U.S. cities, including St. Louis and Covington/Greater Cincinnati. A tour of major U.S. cities is being planned for 2010.

“Gigantour,” which Mustaine created as a way to give listeners “a festival where you don’t feel” ripped off, will also return next year, Mustaine said. But for now, Mustaine said he is extremely pleased with “Endgame.”

“Megadeth is one of those bands that is not going to stop until it’s time to stop,” Mustaine said. “There’s one more record on the Roadrunner contract … Do I think we’re going to top “Endgame”? I honestly don’t know.”

You can hear “Endgame” in its entirety on Megadeth’s Myspace page. Also, here’s the video for “Headcrusher.”

1 Comment

  1. Long Live MEGADETH! Keep kick’n ass Jim!

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