Texas-based guitar prodigy Rusty Cooley says that he turned down an opportunity to join MEGADETH because the idea of "playing everybody else's guitar solos… just [didn't] appeal to [him]."
Cooley claims that he was contacted about auditioning for MEGADETH at the end of January — approximately two months after Chris Broderick announced his departure from the group. "It was right after I got home from [the] NAMM [in Anaheim, California]," he told New Zealand's "The Sick Room" podcast (see video below). "I got home… I think it was a Sunday night or a Monday night… And I get a call from my artist rep saying, 'Hey, you need to call this number tomorrow. It's very important. This could be potentially life changing. And I can't tell you who it is.' I'm, like, 'Okay. Great.' I kind of had an idea who it was. So I get up the next morning, I call it, and it's Justis Mustaine [Dave Mustaine's son, who also works for MEGADETH's management]. And Justis… We talked for a few minutes, and he's, like, 'Hey, man, I'm kind of busy. Can I call you back later?' And I said, 'Yeah, dude. No problem.' I was really, really sick when I got home. It was hard for me to get up and call him. So a couple of days go by, and I hear from Justis the next day and I text and I don't hear anything back. And then Thursday night, I get a call from my artist rep, Josh, and he's, like, 'Dude, what the hell? Mustaine's been waiting for your call all week.' And I was, like, 'Dude, you gave me Justis's number, and that's all I got, man.' So he's, like, 'All right, Dave wants you to call him right now.' So I called Dave, and he ended up being at a concert. And he said, 'Let's talk tomorrow.' And I said, 'Okay, cool.' And, actually, I wasn't able to actually get on the phone with him for a few days because I was so sick, I couldn't actually speak. So we had to go a few days with talking through e-mail."
He continued: "Initially, I was, like, 'Oh, shit, I need to do this,' just because it's MEGADETH and it would be great for my career and whatnot, and I was learning songs, and I was gonna do it. [But] the more I started to think about it, I kind of started second-guessing myself, because I started to realize that I didn't really think I was doing it because I wanted to do it; I was doing it because I thought that that's what everybody around me, including the companies that I work with, and friends and family, because they wanna see me succeed at another level. So it was, like, 'I'm not doing this for me.' And on top of that, my daughter had just moved in with me, and she's 15, going on 16. And she just moved in. If I take this gig, I'm gonna be gone, and in a few years, she's gonna be in college, and I don't wanna miss these years of her life; that's more important to me than being out on the road touring in MEGADETH. And not to say that I'm not gonna tour and do things, but the amount of touring involved [with MEGADETH] would require her to go move back with her mother, and I'm just not gonna do that, man. I've already missed enough of her life, being divorced in 2011. So I decided not to do it pretty much because of that, and on top of the fact that… I just felt like I was doing it because everybody else wanted me to do it, and I've never done that; I've always made decisions based on what I wanna do."
Cooley added: "I struggled with it for a little while, because it is a huge offer. And I hate to use this word, because it's not what it is, but I've never played other people's music or played in a cover band, ever. And MEGADETH is not a cover band, obviously — I don't want that to be misconstrued the wrong way — but I would be going into this band playing twenty years' worth of someone else's material, and the only thing I would maybe get to contribute would be to solos on a new record. And as much as I write, I would just have to sit on this stuff and just play MEGADETH songs and maybe get to write some of my own solos on a couple of songs. Which, usually, with a band with a history that big, they don't play the stuff off the new record that much — maybe a couple of songs — 'cause all the fans wanna hear all the old stuff. So I'm just gonna be sitting around playing everybody else's guitar solos. And, in the long run, it just doesn't appeal to me. And no amount of money can make that better, really. Because, for me… I was put on this planet to write my own music and do my own thing, and that's what it really boils down to.
"For the last couple of years, I was, like, 'Man, why am I not getting the call?' And I finally got the call, and after realizing it and putting all those thoughts through my head, I was, like, 'You know what?! I don't really wanna do this.' And Dave, in all honesty, man, Dave was super-freaking cool, super complimentary… I have nothing but good things to say about Dave. He was the nicest gentleman… 'Cause, you know, the media says a lot of bad stuff and whatever, and it doesn't matter. When I met Dave and talked to Dave, he was nothing but a gentleman, and very kind. And I have nothing but thanks for him to consider me for the gig. It was kind of cool to know that I was pretty much the first guy that he called. And now that they've got [Brazilian guitarist] Kiko [Loureiro], that's cool."
Rusty has been a guitar instructor since his third year of playing. He has also released five instructional products, done lessons for magazines and posted many lessons on sites such as Shredaholic. In addition, he has taught for the National Guitar Workshop three times (1996, 1997, 1998) and given many clinics.