Megadeth: Play For Blood
“The crux of all of it is this is a good country full of a lot of good people. Every once in a while there’s one guy that gets in there and spoils it for everybody. There were a lot of people who thought [George W. Bush] was great but then things started to fall apart, same as the last one. Bill Clinton was amazing for our economy, and I’m sure there’s a whole contingency of fat chicks in America that feel special,” says Mustaine. “Look at what the Bush administration is doing. Do you really think we need to be getting most of our oil from the Middle East when there’s enough oil up in Alaska for the U.S. to survive on? Why won’t we drill? I remember them saying they didn’t want to drill because of the caribou. Well, you know what I say? Shake ‘n’ bake. Caribou tastes like pork [laughs].”
Washington Is Next!
A quick look at his bio, a simple list of favorites, on the band’s website instantly shows the depth and subtle layers to this complex musician and human being:
Band/Album: AC/DC – Let There Be Rock, Led Zeppelin – Presence
Movie: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Casino Royale
Book: The Art of War – Sun Tzu, The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity – Catherine Ponder
Politician: Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and David Palmer
Historical Figure: Jesus Christ, King David and King Arthur
Holiday: Christmas, Independence Day – July 4th and Thanksgiving
Favorite Mega solo: “Kick The Chair,” “Holy Wars” and “Burnt Ice”
Favorite Venue: Nationally – Cox Arena, San Diego, California; Internationally – Buenos Aires
TV shows: 24, CNN Headline News/Glen Beck, FOX News/O’Reilly Factor, ESPN/Sports Center
Hobbies: Teaching Megadeth songs to new guitarists, golf, martial arts, yoga
Favorite cliché: Easier to turn a no into a yes, than a yes into a no
Most memorable concert: That One Night in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Most important life lesson: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as you would yourself
What do you like to do to relax while touring: Study, focus on my health, lurk on the forums
Occupation if not a musician: President of the United States of America
“It was an important record for us because a lot of people were wondering where we’d go after The System Has Failed (2004). [Abominations] just picked up this anti-U.N. sentiment. It was written during the period of the recent Lebanese/Israeli flare-up and the second installment of the Iraq War brought to you by the Bush family, Haliburton and whatnot,” says Mustaine. “You’ve got all the nations of the world able to apply spin to the grievances they commit and that has nothing to do with the charter of the United Nations. Most people just go about their business and don’t worry about it as long as it doesn’t take anything out of their pocket. The reason I got upset with the U.N. was there was a Russian diplomat that came to the States and allegedly ran a stop sign and killed an American. Nothing happened to him, nothing, [because of] diplomatic immunity. The guy didn’t even have to get any kind of counseling for his alcoholism. He just went back to Russia. If we went over to Russia and ran a stop sign while drunk and killed somebody we’d still be peeling potatoes.”
The intensity and aggression of United Abominations speaks to a through line that begins with their 1985 debut, Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good, which contained ominous titles like “Skull Beneath The Skin” and “Looking Down The Cross” but also a cheeky reinvention of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots,” a sign of their good humor amidst the sturm und drang. Mustaine has sustained a sense of smart anger for over 25 years, mostly taking shots at targets that richly deserve it, while always maintaining an intrinsic love of playing music. There’s actually a lot of joy and light to this candidate for “Rock’s Angriest Man.”
“I appreciate that, and I know there’s tongue-in-cheek to that observation. I’m not vilifying everyone that’s been in office but a lot of people called public servants don’t have the slightest idea what a public servant is. They may have started out well but somewhere along the line the pandering took over and compromised their integrity. They take that one last spoonful of caviar that breaks the camel’s back and they become corrupt, bigoted politicos,” observes Mustaine. “In America, there are better people to run for President of the United States than George Bush or John Kerry but as soon as anyone runs for the presidency they dig up dirt on them. If I ever ran you would immediately know about everyone I ever rolled a joint with or took my clothes off with. It’s enough to scare anyone who wants to run. Do you think George Washington would have done it if he’d known they’d be rooting through his underwear for the next 200 years? He would have probably said, ‘I’m going back to England. Cheerio, pip pip and fuck off [laughs].'”
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“Gigantour is based on the idea of having really talented guys. Children of Bodom‘s Alexi [Laiho] is a guitar wunderkind. I’d heard about In Flames when I was at a festival in Europe and saw them in Japan in 2006. Job For A Cowboy and High On Fire were recommended by our agents and I listened and liked them,” says Mustaine. “There’s not the usual guitar ‘shredsmanship’ with High On Fire but they’ve got a lot of energy. So, where it’s kind of counter to the Gigantour philosophy of 15-fingered guitar players, I think when you listen to bands like that it continues the beauty and premise of Gigantour, which is to introduce people to different kinds of bands and have a festival like in Europe. Most festivals in the States have the same band ten times with a different name and a different backdrop. They sing the same and sound the same. That’s a snore fest.”
“I went to Europe for a festival one time and it changed my perspective. It was in Scandinavia and it was Faith No More, R.E.M., Oasis, Sheryl Crow, Bo Diddley and Megadeth. It’s so unbelievably diversified that it attracts so many different people with different backgrounds. Granted, overseas people handle it better. In the States there’d be hecklers and shit talkers and people who are going to try and ruin it for someone else. I’m not talking about Gigantour having such a diverse lineup. It’s all metal but there’s a lot of different types, which is refreshing.”
You’d be hard pressed to find two more different metal bands than Megadeth and Sweden’s Opeth, who shared the stage on Gigantour 2006, which also included Lamb of God, Arch Enemy and Overkill. The 2007 edition included Static X, Devildriver and Italy’s goth monsters Lacuna Coil, whose lead singer, Cristina Scabbia duets with Mustaine on Abominations‘ “A Tout Le Monde (Set Me Free),” where the pair sings in French. No “Freedom Fries” bullshit here. There’s an underlying continuity to Gigantour, and it’s a credit to Mustaine’s ears and instincts that he keeps putting together a synchronistic assortment of bands each year that showcase metal’s continuing evolution as well as celebrating its past.
“Megadeth has been around for a really long time, and it’s not because I won’t go away. In fact, there’s been times where the thought of me going away has been all I could think of. But the public has made it clear to me that they still appreciate the work I do. Establishing Gigantour has made it even more fun for me to be a musician. I can now enjoy a lot of the flavor and fruit that’s been produced. I’m booking a festival where I’m giving young bands an opportunity to come play with me. Gigantour is not like ‘Dave Fest’ like Ozzfest. It’s something that can continue on whether Megadeth is on it or not,” comments Mustaine, whose band has toured in recent years with Heaven And Hell (aka Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio singing) and other heavyweights besides the Gigantour. “There’s still a couple things I’d like to do. I’ve talked about doing something for our troops overseas, perhaps a broadcast performance from a secret location on a military base here in the States for the men and women who are protecting our rights and freedoms. I wouldn’t mind doing one of those corporate gigs where you do a concert for one kid for his birthday, where he gets a Big Wheel and there’s snot gurgling out of his nose and I’m playing ‘Holy Wars’ [laughs].”
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I Don’t Play To Win, I Play For Blood
In just the opening minutes of any Megadeth show, one picks up on the feeling that there’s nowhere Mustaine is happier than onstage causing a roiling crowd of fist-pumpers to lose their minds.
Even a casual look at Megadeth’s artwork on their albums, t-shirts, website, etc. reveals an intricate, well thought out landscape. This type of big conceptual scale is a major but often unspoken factor in metal’s tribe building. There’s an iconography and imagery that creates distinctive worlds that help build a community around these bands.
“It’s a facet that’s overlooked by most bands because they don’t work closely with their merchandise line. I don’t think they realize what they can create internally for fans. It’s another layer to the music, and with the industry imploding – and I try not to gloat about many of these record companies getting what they have coming to them – ultimately, we don’t have a lot of places to generate revenue anymore outside of the live arena,” Mustaine says. “With people just ripping and ripping and ripping stuff, we live in a generation that looks at getting songs over the Internet for free. There are people who respect bands and pay but there’s a whole generation that doesn’t pay. Once you embrace that and you’re okay with the idea of records being calling cards then you make a great record, you go out and tour and you give people what they want. We have a great new guitar player right now [Chris Broderick] and we’re doing fantastic. It was almost like falling upward when [guitarist] Glen Drover quit. It’s almost like more than new blood, we were on a dialysis machine and just had a bunch of veins replaced, too [laughs].”
The intimacy Megadeth has with their listeners may surprise some people. Like many metal acts, there’s a closeness with fans that those outside the genre are almost entirely unaware of.
“It’s almost an inside joke. No, that’s not right. Maybe it’s more like a secret handshake. My dad was a Mason, and it’s a very secret club and a lot of these fans are incredulous when you say, ‘If you leave a message for Dave on his Live Line number he’ll hear it.’ And that’s true of the whole band. In April when we launch the new Live Line we’ll also start responding to these messages. The thing with this band, in particular, is we’ve always been very interactive with our fans. We were one of the first bands to have a website,” says Mustaine. “At the end of the day, if I didn’t take care of myself there’s not a lot of people that would do it for me. You have a working relationship with people you trust like the Eagle’s Nest, my management company, but there’s other people who will say they’re working for you but really they’re just highly skilled liars. They could give a shit about you. In the end, if you have a great band and you make great records and play great live, that’s all you need to do. The fans will respond. If you honor God, take care of your family, get out on the road and don’t be a dick then people will know about you and want to come and see you.”
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