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Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine Discusses New Album, Surgery and Upcoming Tours

Dave Mustaine
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Radio host Full Metal Jackie chatted with Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine over the weekend. The legendary metal man discussed his band’s new album ‘TH1RT3EN,’ upcoming tour plans and his recent neck surgery. He also gave a wrap up of his experience at the Big 4 show last month at Yankee Stadium. If you missed Full Metal Jackie’s show, read the full interview with Dave Mustaine here:

How are you?

I’m good; how are you?

I’m doing well, thank you. There’s been some stuff happening with your health recently and I just want to check in with you. Give us an update on how you’re doing.

Pretty good, I went to a walk in spine clinic in Marina del Ray and had neck surgery done and I’m good. It’s only been two weeks since the surgery but everything’s healed really well and I’ll be heading down to South America on Nov. 7 to finish our South American leg and close out 2011 and get ready for next year with Gigantour.

Huge lineup: Motorhead, Volbeat, Lacuna Coil and obviously Megadeth — so exciting that Gigantour is being relaunched. What is it about those bands that best fits your vision for Gigantour?

This time around, it’s a little different than when it initially started. In the beginning, Gigantour was all about guitar playing and as it’s grown over the years. Because of the huge corporate sponsored tours, I just wanted to make it have a cool factor. Motorhead’s a very cool band, Volbeat’s got a new record out with a good buzz on it and Lacuna Coil’s been a band that Megadeth has worked with in the past when we had Cristina sing on ‘A Tout Le Monde.’ We’ve had a lot of really good success with those bands in the past and really looking forward to Gigantour.

‘TH1Rt3EN’ is Dave Ellefson’s first Megadeth record album in 10 years. Which song on ‘TH1Rt3EN’ really showcases why his style still such a huge part of Megadeth?

The whole record pretty much describes David Ellefson’s worth to the band although Megadeth has always been my vision. When I left New York I didn’t stop in Minnesota on the way home. I’m very very happy to have him back in the band. The time that we spent apart which was about eight years after we had our little falling out, with everything, I knew what caliber of a musician he was, being a producer, being a writer being a band leader. When we got back together again I listened to his performance and he gotten way better, it’s really cool.

You kind of look at bands as they mature, you get diminishing returns as the musicians lose their hair and then they lose their ability to play and then they start looking like an old prune. Dave still got his chops, he’s still fun to be around, don’t get me wrong I’m sure he’s capable of pissing me off if he wanted to but I’m sure that goes two ways. I’m just glad that he’s gotten along with Chris and Shawn because face it, David Ellefson is the new guy in the band.

Dave, tell us about the song ‘Who’s Life Is It Anyways’

Wow, good song choice. ‘Who’s Life’ was a song that when we were in the studio with [producer] Johnny [K], we only had two months to do this record so we were forced to really really pull off a miracle and I think we did a pretty good job doing it. When we got to that particular song, we’d gotten a lot of the types of typical Megadeth songs written and on the record, so when ‘Who’s Life’ came around it was almost like, “Wow, this is really something different.”

It reminded me of back in 1992 when a lot of the punk bands and alternative bands were all vying for the same piece of property with the metal band and there was just a split second of divinity where all the music could have been anybody. I listened to the hook line and the chorus on it and it reminds me a lot of back when I was a kid, too, there was a song where this guy was saying, “You can’t even run your own life, I’ll be damned if you run mine” and I thought “Wow that’s probably pretty fitting still.”

You’ve got people telling us how to live our lives and at the end of the day , who’s life is it anyways, it’s mine. I’m the one who has to do the time when stuff goes wrong, if I make a bad decision, it’s my flesh that pays the bill and a lot of times in our business, you know this, we have people who work with us and for us and as soon as we run out of blood they’re onto the next person. And that’s sad.

What about ‘TH1RT3EN’ do you think will stand the test of time and make you proud when you look back and listen 10 years from now or 20 years from now?

Well a lot of things have transpired with this particular record because there was a lot of good stuff that took place. When we started this record I was absolutely, 100 percent committed to never ever work with Roadrunner ever again but they have really turned things around and I’m really excited. I’m very optimistic about them, doesn’t mean they’re going to treat other bands like they treat us but it’s definitely turned around and its really put a smile on my face and given us a lot of hope that we’re going to have a really successful tour and that there’s going to be a future with us with them. Now, I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not because 2012 we’re all suppose to be gone, who knows what’s going to happen with our economy and our government anymore.

I can tell you this much, I look at this record and I can go into the studio and listen to it now and hear parts of it and go, “Man I’m so glad we did that” instead of where you go into the studio and you’re kind of like, “Well, okay that part’s there and I kind of wish that part wasn’t there.” Johnny K was really and eye opener and David Ellefson had recommended Johnny K because I was used to using Andy Sneap and Andy wasn’t available, he was working on something else at the time. So when he said Johnny K, I was like “Johnny who?” [Laughs] And then when Johnny came out it was like, “I love this guy.”

In the past have there records that you’ve listened to after they’re done and you second guess yourself?

I think with any good musician, there’s going to be a little bit of second guessing yourself because you want what’s best for your band. Depending on who the musician is, where they’re at in their life, sometimes they’ve got more commitment that just being a young gun out there by themselves. For me, I got a family to take care of, I’ve got three other band members with families, so there’s four band members and their families that are better affected by my decisions so I’ve got to really think about stuff.

Then I look at our fans and I think, you know what, how can I do anything to hurt our fans? How can I ever charge the kind of prices that most bands charge anymore for their T-shirts or for their records or for their tickets and stuff like that. It bugs me because I’m an old school guy and I got a ticket mailed to me back from ‘Clash of the Titans 1991’ and the ticket was $12.50 and nowadays you have to add a zero to the end of that or something for it to actually be a normal ticket price.

Speaking of tickets, the Big 4 date happened in New York. Anybody that I talk to was affected by it for days even a week after. What was that experience like for you at Yankee Stadium?

I was hospitalized right before that and I had actually called management and canceled that show because I had to have emergency surgery … So, they wrapped me up in an ambulance and tucked me in a bottom of a plane, not really, but I got in the plane and went to New York. It’s kind of uncool sitting backstage with a neck brace on and being full of two or three gallons of steroids but I did the show.

The bummer was after the show there was suppose to have been a party that everybody was going to go to and I just couldn’t go to it. I just could not physically bring myself to be around anybody because of the pain and I needed to get back to get the surgery and missed out on it. I looked at the new ‘Guitar World’ magazine and James [Hetfield] was saying that those guys had something planned for me that night and I better watch my back and I know he was just kidding, I imagine it was probably something really fun and I’m disappointed I missed out on that. The concert itself was really good; there was a lot of people there, too.

I can’t imagine what that must have felt like. I saw the pictures, what that must be like for you to stand on stage and look out at that crowd in New York.

Well I didn’t look very far, I mean I couldn’t lift my head up very much and like I said I had to have surgery done on my neck and I should’ve done it before I went. I did my best, I think I did pretty good. The videos that we’ve seen on YouTube and comments from everybody, no one knew that I was in that much pain, nobody even knew I was in the hospital. I guess that’s a testimony to going out and doing your job and letting the music do the talking. I got to tell you if I had to do it over again, I probably just would’ve said forget it.

I really hope that you start feeling better soon and I really appreciate you getting on the phone with me in this state.

I do want to say this: I love my Big Four brothers — we all have such a great friendship, again, right now and now that this is behind me I don’t see there being any problems in the foreseeable future with my health. I feel great, like I said, I drove all the way by your neck of the woods to get the surgery done because down here in San Diego the guy was using a fishing knife and I’m like “forget it dude!” [Laughs] But, yeah everything’s great, just ready to go.

Can you give me some sort of idea on Gigantour, any idea when it’s going to start or when we’re going to hear about the dates etcetera?

That’s really hard to say because we’re looking at routing opportunities right now and when you do all the stupid routing stuff it goes from one day you’re looking at a building that totally makes you go up the West Coast and then one cancels and then all of a sudden you’re going back East or you’re heading down South for whatever reason. There’s so many variables when you put together a tour. I’m not a good agent, I’m barely a good band leader so when we get the dates I’ll tell you as soon as I can, I promise.

Awesome, well feel good and again congrats on everything that’s been going on and this new record. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the record and it’s great and I think people are going to be very happy with what’s on ‘TH1RT3EN.’ I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon , thanks so much Dave.

You’re welcome Jackie. You rule.

 

This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie talks to Dez Fafara from DevilDriver in his first interview since announcing Coal Chamber’s upcoming reunion. Jackie also chats with Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn about his band’s new album ‘Unto the Locust’ and more. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.

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