MEGADETH Drummer On His Playing: 'I'm Always Thinking With The Band In Mind'

Australia's MP3.com.au recently conducted an interview with MEGADETH bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Shawn Drover. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:

MP3.com.au: You guys had a security problem at Perth [on the recent Australian tour]. Can you tell me what happened?

James: Yeah, but at no time did Dave [Mustaine] strangle anyone. That's my story and I'm sticking with it... Well, once upon a time there was a maniac named Dimebag Darrell. A friend of all of ours. So some knucklehead decided that it was time to be a knucklehead, and take our dear friend away from us. So since then we've all tried to bring security up to a new level, so that we can do our job without necessarily horrifying the audience. So we try to do that as much as possible. So all of a sudden, and it's happened to me before on the Ozzfest, all of a sudden you turn around and there's some guy mistakenly trying to give you a hug, but he's actually strangling you because he doesn't realize how happy he is to be on stage. Because we get the same adrenaline rush when we're on stage too. So you can imagine if some guy actually breaks free from the crowd and gets up there he loses his mind, y'know. So what happened the other night — security was really lax. And in fact there was one portion of the show where I was in shock. Dave dropped a pick, it fell on one of the monitors, the security guys turned 180 – and they were just like little girls trying to reach for the thing instead of watching the crowd, and I think that's when that guy jumped up there.

Shawn: There were two guys that night. There was one that you saw on YouTube [see below — Ed.], and there was a second guy. The first guy was at the beginning of "Holy Wars" and the second was at the ending of "Holy Wars". So within a seven-minute time span, two guys get up on stage and, y'know, like James said, you never know what their motives are, so security is a really big issue with us and with everybody. So you tend to react appropriately when somebody is coming up to you. It's like "Careful, buddy."

James: MEGADETH music is precision music and we can't afford to be thrown off a beat. (smiles)

MP3.com.au: James, you joined MEGADETH in 2006 is that right?

James: I'm still auditioning.

MP3.com.au: And Shawn, you joined in 2004. How did you both approach joining a band that has been around for more than 20 years?

Shawn: For me, I try to maintain the integrity of the band and play the songs the way they're supposed to be played — on record. That's as close as possible and not going to drummer-land and playing whatever I want to play just to showcase myself, I'm always thinking with the band in mind, and I think it shows. We execute what we do.

MP3.com.au: So how do you go about learning the huge back catalogue of MEGADETH songs?

James: It's a mental flogging, it really is. There a lot of music going on! Personally what I do — I had to learn the stuff pretty quick, not as quick as Shawn… but he's been a fan forever, and it's not that I wasn't a fan but I really didn't know the whole catalogue , I was busy doing other things at the time. So I came into the band knowing really 2.5 songs. I had to learn the 28 songs and the repertoire as quickly as possible.

MP3.com.au: I understand you had like five days to learn the songs before the gig?

James: No, Shawn had five days, I had a whole two and a half weeks.

Shawn: Which is a lot of time.

James: So the way I approached it was I basically drive my daughter to school, and play a block of two or three songs, depending on if it's a six-minute song or a four-minute song, they're usually about six minutes. And just kind of become a fan of the music freshly, and get used to it and let it sink in, and I'd spend the rest of the day maybe just plugging out one, charting out the riffs in-between and going from beginning to end. Take a little section, stretch it out, go to the next section, put those two together. The process just takes time. There's no way around that. Now had I been a fan of the music I would have had the ideas and the melodies and all that sitting in my head already. Probably would have cut that time in half.

MP3.com.au: How have you found the fan response of tracks from "United Abominations"?

James: Big sing-alongs! So that tells me everything I need to know. People are really on board with the new stuff. We'd been kind of demoing "Washington's Next!" before we actually had the album out, by playing it live. So that got out onto YouTube and before you know it people were singing along with that. MEGADETH fans are great at that — they really come to the show to try to be part of it. They riff along with us, you can see it, they sing along. So the new songs, even in Japan (where we just came from), I gotta tell you it's like having a giant chorus of people singing along. It's very inspirational and very positive.

Shawn: Even "Sleepwalker" — people were singing along to that in the bridge and the chorus, it's really cool. "Gears of War" goes over really well, much to my surprise, actually I wasn't 100% sure how that would translate and be received live, but I mean they're singing the words.

Read the entire interview at MP3.com.au.

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