Megadeth‘s Dave Mustaine was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show, discussing the thrash legends’ new album, The sick, the dying… And the dead!’ which is out now. It’s “one of many to come,” according to the frontman, who seems rejuvenated after a long delay in releasing the follow-up to 2016’s Dystopia.
The band overcame several obstacles when writing the 16th Megadeth studio album, from Mustaine’s cancer diagnosis to the pandemic to another lineup change, this time on bass. Just getting everyone in the same room “in itself is a miracle,” according to the guitarist/vocalist.
He credits his rock-solid relationship with his band and family for fueling his recovery after undergoing treatment for throat cancer, without which he feels it would have been a longer road back to full health.
Read the full interview below.
If you were reactionary when you were younger, now you seem more aware of yourself and others. How has that awareness actually made you more dangerous?
I think it’s the opposite – it’s actually made me a bit more aware of the consequences and the negative effects of the things we say. When I was down in Singapore, we were going around the stage – stupid, fat, drunk bone jokes – and I said something that really affected me negatively for a while. We live in a time right now where people are just very, very sensitive and argumentative – very litigious – and we just want to play Megadeth music and be happy. We have our own things to take care of with our work, with our family and with ourselves. My health was a big thing and it’s hard enough as it is to write a good record like this.
The four of us coming together in this grand old world is in itself a miracle. I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve been trying to get the ultimate lineup back, and I really think we’re there.
Music can come full circle, if you’re lucky, bringing you back to the unencumbered joy of first learning to play. What aspects of making the new album revived that innocence and that sense of abundance?
Playing with people like Kiko [Loureiro]Steve [DiGiorgio]and Dirk [Verbeuren] was very challenging for me because of the caliber and musicianship that everyone has and to keep things fresh.
We try not to talk about much the transition had to be made, you know, we try not to talk about it much. There is no real perspective that we can take that will take everyone into account. We basically don’t talk about it too much and just talk about the things that happened on the record and not the things that didn’t.
Someone asked me this morning why I took off all the old bass parts and I thought it was obvious – most of it was me demoing the bass and some of it was David [Ellefson’s] thing when Steve [DiGiorgio] started playing it was so obvious that we had to go ahead with it and had I thought about James [Lomenzo]before the tour starts, James would probably also have come into the studio and recorded.
I liked the way it turned out because it raised the bar for bass playing for us and it’s not another record with bass playing kind of holding down the fort. It’s really coming out.
Megadeth, “Well Be Back” music video
The conditions and circumstances of recording some Megadeth albums are quite notorious. What tumultuous aspects of your personality are still intrinsic to your creativity?
It depends on what happens on the day. We went through a lot on this record – the pandemic, getting sick with cancer and overcoming it and the tremendous support I got from the band and from my family.
I really think my recovery would have been a little longer and probably a lot harder if I didn’t have the relationship I have with my band and with my family. I believe the system works if you listen and do what you are told. The best thing to do is preventative medicine, not waiting until you get sick and then trying to clean it up. A big thing for us to know when we were making the record was staying healthy because it was brutal being on a farm in the middle of nowhere just working nonstop. We put in hours that I haven’t put in in years.
“Best” is subjective and therefore a flawed categorization. Instead of describing the new album as your best, how would you like it to be recognized?
I would say it’s one of many to come — this is the starter and we’re going to have a few more records that are more stomping Megadeth music. When the record was finished and delivered in the final mix… the mixing process is kind of like when you have a baby and you start to see the baby’s head come in and you say, ‘Come on, come on,’ and the record comes out and you use the next one, however long the period is (for us it was six years of touring and supporting the last record). We had never done that before and it was great for the record. I believe we will have a really good tour for this record.
After doing so much work on Dystopia and in creating the basis for this, we have gone from being a band that played in clubs and theaters when I first came together with my management (5B). In the seven years or so since we’ve been with them, we’ve gone from being a club and theater act to being an arena/amphitheater act and being a legit.
It’s been really great – all the groundwork we’ve laid and how much we’re learning about each other as musicians, commanding the stage, using the right set lists for each show, knowing the crowd, so if you’re in certain places where certain songs are more popular than other songs, you know, and you deliver those songs live when you play there. You don’t give the same setlist as you would for a more metal-type crowd, a city like San Francisco or Los Angeles or something. Knowing your audience is super important.
In an industry as unpredictable as the music business, there is no guarantee of a band’s durability. What made you sure that Megadeth could and would have longevity?
Nothing! I had no idea this would happen. Persistence is something that I believe is important. If you want to make it in the music business, it’s so much more than just having good songs. It’s an important thing, but you need to have an understanding and grasp of common things – language, arithmetic, percentages… and common decency goes a long way too.
There are so many self-righteous spoiled brats who have infiltrated the music industry, have used applications that you can put a dozen chimps in a room full of a dozen laptops with Pro Tools on them, and eventually one of them will come up with “Stairway to Heaven”… I shouldn’t say any specific song, but it’s pretty obvious that people are going to make things up eventually.
Thanks to Dave Mustaine for the interview. Get your copy of Megadeth’s new album ‘The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!’ here and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Catch Megadeth on tour on these dates and go to this location for tickets. Find out where to hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show here.