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Kerby’s Exclusive Interview With Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Thursday, April 24, 2008 @ 7:56 PM

“The world is full of critics. I mean, I don’t write music for you-I never have, and I never will. I write music for myself.”

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Talk about polarization.

When one discusses Dave Mustaine in the metal community, the opinions are hardly ever middle of the road—most headbangers either love him or hate him and there are probably several dozen reasons why. Most of these seem to stem from his days in Metallica, as it seems that from that point on, Mustaine has run the gamut (sometimes recklessly) between intelligent, engaging conversationalist and self-absorbed megalomaniac hell bent on self-promotion. In addition, his tendency towards profuse blogging and criticizing other individuals has caused many to wonder whether or not Dave truly believes the entire solar system revolves around him. Some might argue that this type of persona is exactly what’s required in order for someone to become big in the world of hard rock or metal, but for others, Mustaine will always be the loudmouth failure who couldn’t keep his spot in what may be the biggest rock band of this generation.

This perception wasn’t quelled at all by Dave’s appearance in Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster wherein Mustaine was featured with drummer Lars Ulrich in a reunion scene that would make Richard Simmons frolicking in a field of clover with a half dozen hobbits seem almost hetero in comparison. Besides referring to Lars as his “little Danish friend”, Mustaine appears to be both upset and disillusioned by the fact that Metallica sold more records than Megadeth—an interpretation of his comments that he has maintained is false and was really just the product of some slick editing designed to make Lars look good while at the same time making him look bad. In any case, the final product made it appear as though Mustaine was ungrateful for the success he has had while also giving the appearance of an unhappy individual who is still basically upset and obsessed with a personnel change in a band that happened over twenty years ago. This seems in direct contrast to the Mustaine that many may remember from Decline of Western Civilization, The Metal Years—in that movie, Dave appeared irreverent, self confident, even humorous.

While discussions about Mustaine’s personality and demeanor rage on, what really isn’t up for debate is Dave’s production over the last several years. During this time, Megadeth has released albums, DVD’s and even created and headlined Gigantour numerous times. The fact is that whether you love him or hate him, it would be difficult for anyone not to acknowledge the scarcity of individuals in rock who possess Mustaine’s presence and tenacity--he seemingly creates a reaction wherever he goes in whatever he does. Face it, despite the rough edges; the rock world would be a lot less eventful without him in it…

KNAC.COM: How depressing is it for you to know you are going to be spending your day doing interviews? (laughs)

MUSTAINE: It doesn’t bother me, man. It’s what I live for-I actually enjoy meeting people and talking. As long as I don’t get into talking about something negative, I pretty much enjoy myself.

KNAC.COM: Really?

MUSTAINE: Yeah, there was a whole time period where talking shit about people was necessary because there was really no safe place for a heavy metal band. You would basically have to bleed and fight and survive and scratch and claw in order to even have a place to sleep at night. Then, the music industry became more lucrative, but back in the 80’s when KNAC was an actual brick and mortar location, it was a struggle. I remember one time when some asshole trucker tried to rear end me when I was trying to get on the freeway in my car, so I flipped him off, and then this idiot followed me all the way into the KNAC parking lot in an underground garage. We got onto that circle, spiral staircase thing in there and I thought this trucker must be one of those guys that takes those toothpicks covered in speed called horsepicks. I remember calling the guys at KNAC and screaming, “let me in!”.

KNAC.COM: In The Metal Years, you were asked a question about advice that you’d give to an aspiring metal musician, and you said “don’t” or something similar to that. Is that the advice you’d still give twenty years later? How much of that was tongue in cheek and how much of it did you really mean?

MUSTAINE: Well, that wasn’t really tongue in cheek although it may have come off as a little humorous. Anyone who knows me knows that there is some cynicism and sarcasm in my humor. Even though it is kind of funny, there is a certain degree of truth to that. I know how hard it was, and I did it in a period where it was actually easier than it is today to make it in a band. On Myspace alone, there are seven million plus bands--they just did a survey. Keep in mind that six million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand of those bands are shit, but think about how hard it is to even come up with an original name. It’s crazy.

KNAC.COM: How do you turn the whole Internet phenomenon into a positive for yourself? I mean, you blog, you sell merchandise, you utilize the medium better than most-how do you keep the focus on that rather than getting bogged down in the negatives that exist there?

MUSTAINE: I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion, and if their opinion didn’t matter, then neither would mine. Also, as far as the negative stuff is concerned, anyone who listens to music is going to critique it. The world is full of critics. I mean, I don’t write music for you-I never have, and I never will. I write music for myself. Now, there came a period during the Risk years where I was trying to be a little more explorative with my work, but it wasn’t like I was doing something for you or someone else. Another thing I said during Decline of Western Civilization was that if you play music for money, you are never going to make enough money. We aren’t playing for the dollar…we are playing for convictions.

KNAC.COM: If you don’t play it from the heart, what are the odds of you making it twenty years?

MUSTAINE: Yeah, I’ve been going almost thirty if you count the Metallica years.

KNAC.COM: There is one statement I’d like clarification on, and that concerns a comment you made in the film Some Kind of Monster where you said that sometimes you viewed your accomplishments as not being as great as another person might.

MUSTAINE: It’s because it was edited, and you didn’t get the entire context.

KNAC.COM: That is important to know because the way the final cut of the movie plays, it makes it seem like you aren’t happy with your career simply because you don’t think it compares with that of Metallica.

MUSTAINE: Of course, and if you know me or know my career well enough by now as an entertainer--I have full grasp of the Kings English. The way the sentences were put together…even when I was drunk, I still made sense…(laughs).

KNAC.COM: That is important for you clarify though. I mean, because the movie made it sound completely like you viewed your career as inferior based on their massive popularity and record sales.

MUSTAINE: You’ve got to think about it-who’s movie was it? Theirs. Lars and I were friends at one time, but…we aren’t friends anymore. I think it’s safe to say that we are acquaintances, but the movie was a very negative, ugly look into the private side of some people who were heroes to a lot of people. That’s always why they say, don’t meet your heroes, you might be disappointed. When that part was filmed, it was September 13th--two days after our country had just been attacked. September 13th of that year, I turned 40. Do you think that for my 40th birthday…a day when I was supposed to fly from Canada to my house to have dinner with my family, make love to my wife get a new Mercedes for my birthday…that I wanted to spend it with Lars? What kind of a cruel joke is that? When we were doing the filming for it, Lars had said, “If you don’t like it, then you don’t have to approve it.” I said, “That’s great.” When I got the reel though, I said, “I don’t approve it.” He went ahead and printed it. I said, “I told you I didn’t want to approve it.” Lars decided he was going to use Blabbermouth as a forum to call me out, and it didn’t work. Sure, at Blabbermouth there are a number of people who don’t like me, but there are also an equal number who don’t like him. Given a choice when they have to choose between two people they don’t like, people that are fans of the metal community and people who are fans of Blabbermouth may be mean, but they’re not stupid. I think the majority of the people who looked at that situation decided that I looked pretty good even though some of the diatribes may have looked a little nutty. It just shows you the way things were happening. Not that many people would have been able to have hung in there through the psychological abuse that was taking place. Sure…you know…I like James. I like James more than I do Lars, but I think the whole world does. You know, but to wrap up the question about what I did and what they did--no matter what I do, I could be having the time of my life, and really enjoying myself, and questions will just pop up. Just weird shit happens sometimes. It’s like if you happen to see an old girlfriend when you’re out having fun, and it’s like that feeling when the chain comes off the bicycle. You can sometimes just feel like you’re spinning your wheels a little bit. The actual comment was towards Lars and how difficult it was for me they were talking shit about me when they had never given me a chance to go and get some help about my drinking. If it was such a problem…we were all alcoholics…that was the context. Out of context though, it looks like I’m ungrateful and nothing I ever do is good enough. You know, I am successful. I have two children that I love, and I’ve traveled the world, and I don’t have any complaints.

KNAC.COM: Megadeth is no stranger to songs with political themes, what is one of the issues in particular that you find important?

MUSTAINE: We just found out that the record has been recouped and is nearly platinum. That’s great in the age and era that we’re in right now with downloading stuff. There’s people who will download stuff for free. Then, there are people who will download stuff and buy it. Then there are people who will just download stuff and steal it. We have really tried to be open-minded and give media and material to our fans to keep them interested and stuff like that, but not an entire record though. That stuff’s just not cool. It’s like, for me, I’d never go up to Capitol Hill and take everyone’s addresses and make examples out of them, because that’s like closing the gate after the horses have run away. I also do know that I come from an era where we traded cassette tapes. To me, I’ve got to remember that I was one of the tape traders. Then, I ask myself, “Did I give away entire records on cassette to somebody?” No. Never.

KNAC.COM: Never?

MUSTAINE: Never. Nope. Never.

KNAC.COM: So…mixed cassettes only?

MUSTAINE: Whenever we would do that, we would make of cassette and include like the best songs of some person and stuff like that, but to have made a copy of someone else’s entire record and not pay for it…I never did that. I am very loyal to the things that I love.

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