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Guitarist Chris Broderick Navigates Megadeth Minefield

Megadeth's Chris Broderick
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

From the moment guitarist Chris Broderick became part of the Megadeth machine in late 2007, he quickly learned the importance of flexibility. Having played for 10 years in independent bands including Jag Panzer and Nevermore, Broderick had plenty of time to cultivate his chops behind the front lines. Suddenly, he was enlisted into Megadeth and it seemed like IEDs were exploding all around him. Megadeth were under the gun to record ‘Endgame’ and Broderick was granted no quarter. Everyone stared hopefully as he took his place by frontman Dave Mustaine’s side, and he didn’t falter, instead dazzling everyone with his musical knowledge and playing ability.

Since then, Broderick has hurtled with Megadeth from one huge tour to another, opening for Judas Priest, revamping the European Clash of the Titans lineup with Slayer and Testament and reintroducing thrash to the huddled arena masses on the European Sonisphere Big 4 shows in 2010.  Then, he and his bandmates hit the studio to help write and record the recently released ‘TH1RT3EN.’ On top of that, he’s experienced a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows.

While he’s currently a fully integrated member of the ban, and Megadeth are enjoying more success than they’ve had in years, he’s well aware that Mustaine’s health issues and disenchantment with the music industry could cause a sudden end to the influential metal band. Fortunately, he’s optimistic enough to try to just lean back and enjoy the wild ride.

Loudwire recently caught up with Broderick to talk about the making of ‘TH1RT3EN,’ the importance of having bassist Dave Ellefson back in the band, the chaos of the Big 4 show at Yankee Stadium and the future of Megadeth.

Did you have more confidence going into ‘TH1RT3EN’ than you had in 2009 when you worked on ‘Endgame,’ your first album with Megadeth?

Yeah, I put more pressure on myself on the first record. The environment was so new I didn’t know what to expect or what kind of time I would have to play solos or rhythms. With ‘TH1RT3EN,’ I had a lot better idea of how things were gonna run and everything fell into place. I was so amazed we were actually able to get it done in the two-month window we had.

Dave Mustaine has said he started working on many of the songs years ago and then shelved them for one reason or another. And the album credits past members including guitarist Marty Friedman. Did you contribute much to the songwriting or was it mostly Dave reworking previously written material?

We had written a ton of riffs and ideas together and Dave, alone, had somewhere in the realms of 286 riffs that he had cataloged on a hard drive that we looked through to see what should be further developed. So there was tons of new material. But I think he really wanted to get ‘Millennium’ and ‘New World Order’ done the way he wanted them recorded. That’s why he chose those two songs that had been demoed and people knew about.

Did you write any full songs or did he give you the skeletons of songs and you added your input?

It was pretty much the latter. We’d all written songs to submit, but at the end of the day, you want to make the right call and make sure it fits within the sound of the CD and the sound of Megadeth. So he did all the sketches for the rhythms and the songs and then I came in and did counter-melodies or harmonies over the top and adding some textural stuff. And then I did my solos as well.

What was the greatest challenge with ‘TH1RT3EN’?

Recording in two months was definitely the biggest challenge because we wanted to make sure everything was as good as it could be. We didn’t have a steadfast deadline, but we really wanted to get it done when we did.

This is the first record you’ve played on with original bassist Dave Ellefson. Could you tell there was a difference in the chemistry of the band?

Yeah, I noticed the camaraderie between him and Dave. You could tell it was somebody that had a very long history with Dave and they had an intuition about what each other wanted, that was really cool to watch. He came in and just nailed his bass parts.

What was it like to work with producer Johnny K?

It was awesome. He had great compositional skills in terms of constructing a nice vocal line and arranging songs and how sonically they would sound. All of the tones on this CD are the best we’ve ever gotten.

Where do you think ‘TH1RT3EN’ fits in the Megadeth catalog?

If seems like it’s got a song or two in the style of each CD in the back catalog. ‘Sudden Death’ or ‘Never Dead’ could have been on ‘Endgame.’ There’s songs like “Millennium” and ‘New World Order,’ which sound like ‘Rust in Peace.’ And then there’s stuff that even hints at ‘Killing Is My Business.’

Did you both track rhythms or did Dave play them all?

We both did, and that’s why we spent a lot of time together going over how the rhythms are going to be played before we actually record anything  Everybody’s individual and the way they hear and feel things is always different, so we wanted to make sure we were on the same page.

Do you have to alter your personal playing style in any way to work with his songwriting?

Definitely. He tends to play in front of the drums a little bit and then he’ll pull back. And the way he mutes and his choice of the direction of picking will be different than mine sometimes. So, we always try to put that stuff in line so it sounds as much as each other as possible.

Did it take multiple takes to duplicate each other’s playing or did you use ProTools to help smooth out the edges?

For this CD, we really wanted to have more of an organic feel, so we did it all naturally. We practiced a lot and when we recorded the songs, we got through them pretty quick. There weren’t a ton of takes and not a lot of ProTools editing at all.

Do you write out your leads or improvise them in the studio?

I write most of my leads but what always ends up happening is you run out of time or something you were trying to do doesn’t work with a song. While I was writing solos Dave was writing lyrics for the same songs. So, I hadn’t heard the vocals yet, and when the vocals go down and then you hear the solo against it sometimes it’s a different mood so you might have to change it.

Did you play most of the solos on the record?

I’d say it’s about 50/50 between me and Dave.

How do your styles of lead guitar differ?

Dave shoots from the hip much more than I do. He likes to hit the record button and go. Me, I tend to orchestrate things more and think about where I want to take the solo and how I’m going to build it and bring it back down. They both work. Both ways are great and there is a time and a place where either/or is appropriate.

Were there any strange moments working on ‘TH1RT3EN’?

For an album tied to a superstitious number, it went very well and very smooth. Tracks didn’t suddenly disappear and there were no accidents or anything. Everyone was just firing at full steam.

The band’s performance at Yankee Stadium was almost canceled because Dave had to have neck and back surgery. In the end, the band played and sounded great, but was there some sort of communication snafu?

Oh, I was very shocked. I didn’t get the call until the night before I was getting on the plane. I was actually packing when management called me and said the show’s been canceled. I knew that the tickets were non-refundable and the hotel was non-refundable, so I decided to go out there anyways in case it could still go on. I didn’t know until I got into New York that they had changed their mind and it was gonna happen.

When did Dave undergo surgery?

Right after the Big 4 show at Yankee Stadium. The reason the show got canceled for a minute was because there was a little bit of a risk for him to do the show. The injury was inhibiting his playing to some degree. But also, he could have potentially made it worse. But he got through the show okay and then had the surgery and it went well. His recovery is going great. I’ve talked to him a few times and it looks like all is well in that front.

At the Yankee Stadium show, everyone jammed with Metallica on a cover of Motorhead’s ‘Overkill.’ It was a messy, but magical moment. When did everyone decide to play that instead of Diamond Head’s ‘Am I Evil?’

It was determined that day and I kind of knew the song and how it was played, but when we got done with our set that’s when I started listening to it and playing along with it. We definitely had a good time with it, but by the time we were on the last repetition of the solo section it was just chaos and trying to figure out who was where and playing what was impossible. I was laughing with Ellefson while we were playing it. We were all cracking up.

Megadeth has announced Gigantour 2012 and ‘TH1RT3EN’ has been well received. But Dave Mustaine has been vocal about how he’s fed up with the music industry. Are there any indications that this could be Megadeth’s final album?

My feeling is always that it’s too hard to say. You never know with Dave. At times he probably does feel like this is the swansong, but at other moments he’s like, “C’mon, let’s go out and do it. I’m ready to go!” So, I’m leaving that up to him to decide what he wants to do with Megadeth. But personally, when I know how driven Dave is, I don’t see that he could ever just quit.

 

Megadeth currently are competing in multiple categories in the 2011 Loudwire Music Awards, including Metal Album of the Year and Artist of the Year. Place your votes here.

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