MEGADETH mainman Dave Mustaine was interviewed on the February 24-26 edition of Full Metal Jackie's nationally syndicated radio show. You can now listen to the chat using the Podbean widget below. A few excerpts follow.
Full Metal Jackie: 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?
Dave: "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. So I think that having those different people 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, 'cause if it's the same thing all the time, the songs, after awhile, it's the same record over and over again."
Full Metal Jackie: 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?
Dave: "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 and we had a couple people that needed to be replaced, you know, that's a difficult thing to do, when you have to decide, 'Hey, this is somebody who I'm gonna be spending the rest of my life with,' because… I mean, whether you think about it, as soon as you get into a group with another person, it's forever. Whether it lasts forever or not, the connection is forever. So I think that's kind of more about what I was focusing on than any kind of politics or anything right now."
Full Metal Jackie: 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?
Dave: "The creation process for 'Dystopia' was really invigorating, because 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. And before, a lot of the records were pre-thought out from beginning to end prior to us even going into the studio, so I think it was really liberating, the way that we did this record. And I believe that that's gonna continue on when we go in the studio next time because knowing now… See, the whole thing was going in 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 wanna be taking any chances. I wanna have fun, I wanna write music that I love listening to, and I think that's what we did with 'Dystopia'. So I'm really looking forward to the next time in the studio."
Full Metal Jackie: Dave, creatively and in terms of attitude, how has maturity changed the way you think about songwriting and your path as a musician?
Dave: "Well, the things that mattered to me when I was first starting out, some of them don't matter anymore. Because, you know, 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, because we were scratching and clawing to just survive, let alone make ends meet. So 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. And 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 when you look at world history with the different countries and everything that they've done to one another."
Full Metal Jackie: Going back to early days of being a musician and not having place to live, there was sort of a different kind of hunger and 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?
Dave: "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. And I think any guitar player worth his salt is gonna have his favorite licks that he likes to play. And 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 that 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. So 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 and 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 — you know, E, C, G, A, or whatever they are — [and] they all make up the same song. It's mindblowing when you look at how many of the songs are made up of the same chords."
Full Metal Jackie: 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?
Dave: "We've got some dates that are up at our web site right now. And 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. Because this campaign started January 22nd 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 [Ellefson, bass] 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; and Dirk's just kind of coming around to that right now. So it's really exciting to watch those guys grow and develop in these areas too."
Full Metal Jackie: Do you know how long that the "Dystopia" campaign will last?
Dave: "It's going to end this year."
Full Metal Jackie: At this end of this year?
Dave: "It'll end this year, yeah."
Full Metal Jackie: Cool.
Dave: "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 — writing music. So when I see new files coming back and forth through my e-mail, it's, like, 'Yeah.' It's like Christmas."
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Full Metal Jackie also hosts "Whiplash", which airs every Sunday night from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on the Los Angeles radio station 95.5 KLOS. The show can be heard on the KLOS web site at 955klos.com or you can listen in on the KLOS channel on iHeartRadio.