Dave Mustaine: Megadeth Have Begun Writing New Material, Will End ‘Dystopia’ Touring in 2017 [Interview]
Megadeth mainman Dave Mustaine was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio program. He discussed the upcoming Megadeth Boot Camp and what it will offer for its attendees, how playing with so many musicians over the years has shaped him as a songwriter and guitar player and what the rest of 2017 holds for Megadeth. Check out the chat below.
How are you?
I’m good, how are you?
I’m doing real well. Really happy to see you and so happy for you and Megadeth for winning a Grammy in the Best Metal Performance category at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. First though, let’s talk about something that’s coming up here real soon, the Megadeth Boot Camp. It’s going to be a really intimate experience for people, yourself included. Dave, what do you hope to experience by spending a weekend living with Megadeth fans?
Well, it’s not so much for me as it is for the fans. I think the band and I, we all got together and talked about what we thought would be a cool experience. Our management had told us about something that another band had done and I thought it was just a really great opportunity for the fans to come and learn a little bit more about how we play, learn a little bit about how we write, learn about how we interact with one another, how we travel, so on and so forth.
You know, you only see what we allow you to see or what the label or management allows you to see. When you do a clinic it’s a little bit more intimate, but when you do a boot camp and you’re all hanging out together it’s like doing the Griswolds kind of thing. I think it’s going to be great for people to get an inside look at Megadeth.
Cool. Yeah, I think it’s cool from a fan perspective and also for musicians who don’t understand what goes into it, who also just only see a band onstage and don’t understand the behind the scenes and what goes into it.
All the stuff.
Yeah. Do you feel like it’s sort of a little boot camp for musicians or people wanting to be in touring rock bands?
To a degree. There’s going to be a lot of stuff but there’s also so, so much stuff that no boot camp would ever be able to share all the stuff that goes on. I think, one, for legal reasons, two, for just decency reasons. I think that it’s going to be good for fans that want to learn about the music, that want to learn a lot about how to be in a band. One of the things that I had mentioned was that our bassist has been in a 12-step thing for many years so Saturday morning was going to be a meditational thing for people who want to stare at their naval. On Sunday, because he’s a pastor, he’s doing a non-denominational service Sunday.
For me, I’m in charge of the beer and wine sampling, so I’ll fill the pews and will talk to whoever’s sitting in them.
Altogether the talent and creativity of all the guitarists who have ever played in Megadeth is pretty impressive. How would you be a different guitarist without having had musical interactions with all of them?
Well, going back to the first guitar player in Megadeth besides myself which was officially Chris Poland, it was something that was very different from my playing style. I think that having those different people it just continued to stretch the boundaries of my playing. Not necessarily stuff that I would play, but just stuff that I knew that we could go to, stuff that we could use, another color on the palette or whatever you call it. I think it’s great to be able to use numerous different approaches when you’re songwriting because if it’s the same thing all the time the songs, after awhile it’s the same record over and over again.
Dave, as a lyricist you’ve always been attuned to politics and world events. How much has the contentiousness of our current political climate sparked new ideas for songs?
I’m not really focusing on songwriting right now so I don’t really know how to answer that question. Right now we’re so busy with the new record and the success of the tour and all the awards. Everything that’s come along with this campaign, especially having Kiko [Loureiro, guitar] and Dirk [Verbeuren, drums] in the band now with Chris Adler coming in and being a session drummer for us to help us get the record done.
Getting Dirk into the band now it’s great because we feel like we’re a band again. Not that we didn’t with any of the previous guys before but when we had the setback, we had a couple people that needed to be replaced, that’s a difficult thing to do. When you have to decide, “Hey, this is somebody who I’m going to be spending the rest of my life with,” because … I mean, whether you…
Think about it. Soon as you get into a group with another person it’s forever. Whether it lasts forever or not the connection is forever. I think that’s kind of more about what I was focusing on than any kind of politics or anything right now.
In what ways will the overall experience of making Dystopia and its positive reception be a springboard or serve a starting point for another Megadeth album?
The creation process for Dystopia was really invigorating. Going into the studio this time it wasn’t like there was a preconceived notion of what the song should sound like or how many [songs] should be on the record or who should do what solo, where or anything like that. Before, a lot of the records were pretty thought out from beginning to end prior to us even going into the studio. I think it was really liberating the way that we did this record. I think that that’s going to continue on when we go in the studio next time because knowing now … See, the whole thing was going and … to do Dystopia I pretty much was at the point where I figured I don’t care anymore about trying to write stuff for radio because it just backfires.
Whenever you try and do something for somebody it usually doesn’t work, it ends up being something that’s hit or miss. At this stage in my life I don’t want to be taking any chances. I want to have fun, I want to write music that I love listening to, and I think that’s what we did with Dystopia. I’m really looking forward to the next time in the studio.
Dave, creatively and in terms of attitude, how has maturity changed the way you think about songwriting and your path as a musician?
Well, the things that mattered to me when I was first starting out some of them don’t matter anymore. The hardships and the struggles that you go through, once you have a place to live, you have something to eat or something to, transportation, how to get you around.
In the beginning when we were homeless and living in cars and squatting in people’s houses and stuff like that, that really affected the music. We were scratching and clawing to just survive let alone make ends meet. I think now with going in to write the records you have a much bigger opportunity to choose from topics for songs and so on and so forth.
Plus, I like to read a lot and I think that the stuff that interested me when I was younger reading, there was a lot of stuff that I liked that was fictional. I’ve kind of gravitated more towards looking at real life stuff like biographies of people or autobiographies and a lot of history stuff. History really fascinates me, especially world history with the different countries and everything that they’ve done to one another.
I mean, just going back to early days of being a musician and not having place to live, and there was sort of a different kind of hunger and a different kind of like nothing to lose attitude. I think Megadeth’s been pretty consistent sound-wise. Even later on in your records you know it’s a Megadeth record. Do you ever feel like you need to go back to that place where you started to sort of keep that similar sound?
Yeah, I think so. I think every time I pick my guitar up I think about what were those first riffs that I liked to play, the stuff that energizes me. I think any guitar player worth his salt is going to have his favorite licks that he likes to play. I like that real chunky metal sound. I think the big difference between the new wave of British heavy metal and a lot of the other bands that have followed that whole American metal scene was the new wave of British heavy metal had a lot of riffs versus American music had a lot of chords, strumming, arpeggiating, so on and so forth. Whereas the riff would do a lot of down picking and a lot of cycling of the same thing over and over again.
That makes it a little bit harder I think because if you’re relying on a riff the riff’s got to be really good versus where you have a bunch of chords you can get away with that. We were just doing something earlier, we were talking to somebody about some songs and listening to a song and it sounded just like the Eagles’ “Desperado.” There’s all those things that are on the net, the four famous chords. You’ve got these songs that have the same four chords, E, C, G, A or whatever they are, they all make up the same song. It’s mind blowing when you look at how many of the songs are made up of the same chords.
I know there’s going to be a bunch of touring. That’s going to happen this year. Any timeline on when that’s going to be announced or when you guys will start thinking about the next record?
We’ve got some dates that are up at our website right now. We have some American dates that we’re looking at in summertime and some at the end of the year too. We can’t really say what they are yet but we’re pretty excited about what this year has for us. This campaign started Jan. 22 of last year and it just continues to chug along picking up momentum. Like I was mentioning earlier with the Clio Award, those are things that we just didn’t expect. It was really exciting for us to be able to get that award.
These are things that keep driving us to want to do more. Like, with the Megadeth beer, with the boot camp, with the things that Kiko, and David, and Dirk do with their clinics outside of the boot camp. I know that Kiko does stuff down in South America, a lot of times he’ll do speaking engagements. David Ellefson does a lot of stuff like that too. Dirk’s just kind of coming around to that right now. It’s really exciting to watch those guys grow and develop in these areas too.
Do you know how long that the Dystopia campaign will last?
It’s going to end this year.
At this end of this year?
It’ll end this year, yeah.
I think the end of … What we’re looking at, we’re trying to start the songwriting process this year while we’re out on the road, which will be good for us to start putting pen to paper and writing stuff. Kiko and I have actually been talking a lot about it the last couple weeks, sending files back and forth and so on and so forth, which is exciting for me because that’s what makes me tick is writing music. When I see new files coming back and forth through my email it’s like, “Yes.” It’s like Christmas.
Dave, as always a pleasure. Congrats on all the success of this cycle and for all that’s to come.
Thanks to Dave Mustaine for the interview. Grab your copy of Megadeth’s ‘Dystopia’ at Amazon or digitally through iTunes and stay up to date with everything the band is doing on their Facebook page. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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