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xmag.com : September 2001: Risk Management

Saying Megadeth has endured some bad hands at the card table is like saying during the '70s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry liked the way cocaine smelled. Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson's own tales of excess are legendary, making one wonder how they were able to write and perform the meticulous arrangements from albums like Rust In Peace (1990), Countdown To Extinction (1992), or Youthanasia (1994). Mustaine and Ellefson are back, rolling through a fall US tour--and hitting the Roseland Theatre on September 9th--with guitarist Al Pirelli and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso to support the recently released The World Needs a Hero (Sanctuary). Hero is their ninth full-length album since their 1985 debut, Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good,
and the first studio effort since 1999's critically panned Risk.

"I knew that Risk was taking a risk and we were going to encounter some rough water and I'm cool with that," Mustaine confesses. "I'm not a masochist. I didn't do that to bring on any repercussions. It was a daunting task. It was exciting for us to think we could probably get played on alternative radio like Metallica, Soundgarden, Tool and stuff like that because these bands have elements of metal and punk in them. The problem
is: With the name Megadeth, you can't
do that."

Regardless of the repercussions, the group has gone back to its thrash-metal roots with Hero, and Mustaine spoke with Exotic about it from his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, before hitting the road.

Exotic: How conscious were you of getting back

to basics after what happened with Risk?

Mustaine: Well, it's kind of like in the movies--you know, when Forrest Gump broke free of the braces and started running full-bore. People were trying to assist us and do the right thing, and I have no regrets for what we did with Risk or Cryptic Writings. I really think we could have done a hell of a lot worse. The thing is that Bud Prager was a legendary manager, and he wanted to try to get us to break through to the alternative marketplace and to some of the other different rock formats. My previous band did it, Soundgarden did it, Tool did it. These are all bands that are both popular at metal and alternative radio.

And using that as the yardstick, we thought we could play that kind of music just as well as they can. Can they play our kind of music? They're in our marketplace, we can easily play music to get into their marketplace...but the name really, really, really hindered our progress. Alternative markets and alternative PDs and stations, they liked some of the songs on the record but they just didn't hang with the name Megadeth.

I think it's a great record. It just should not have had the name Megadeth on it, because if anybody else's name was on Risk it would have sold, I think, really well. Not only did we hurt the record by putting our name on it, the record hurt our name. People were used to Megadeth being really heavy. And you know, there are certain things that you look back in hindsight and say, "God I would have done this or that different." Yeah, I would have done a lot of stuff different with Risk. I probably would have made it a little bit faster. I probably wouldn't have worried so much about what Marty Friedman was saying, if I'd known he was planning on leaving. But it's one of those things where, when you're stuck in the middle of it, you don't really see what's going on.

Exotic: How bad was the Risk backlash from hardcore fans and writers in the metal arena? I've read some stuff that's pretty brutal.

Mustaine: But that's okay. They're entitled to their opinions. If their opinion doesn't matter, then neither does mine. I support them in trying to get mileage with their following by bashing us, because God knows that...what do critics do? They critique. Controversy has surrounded me since the very beginning.

[With Risk] I think a lot of [the critics] needed to save their credibility with their following. And by saying that they recognize the record as being a great piece of music but then it had the wrong band name on it, would have probably been a little bit perplexing for some of the people who read their magazines or go to their web sites. Some of these people, yeah, they were bitter. It's like coming home, and the person you've been living with for
so many years tells you that they're leaving. And you're kind of like, "What?" And the problem was, we didn't give them any warning. In their eyes, a lot of people felt we had abandoned them.

And a lot of people who spent all that time venting and being hostile and going around slagging us, a lot of those people are the ones who are evangelizing this new record. So it's kind of like, what goes around, comes around. And I know a lot of the people who were shit-talking us. I'm not keeping score...So when they come up and say, "Oh, I love the new record," I'm not going to go, "Yeah, you prick." It's like Wendy O. Williams said, "A pig is a pig and that's that." There are some people who just will always be pigs.

Exotic: That is so true. Even though I understand that slagging sells more magazines than actual thought, some bands are shit, but some so-called journalists are deservedly in the same pile.

"It's like Wendy O. Williams said,
'A pig is a pig and that's that.'"

 

Mustaine: And if you consider that a little over four centuries ago, there was no thesaurus or encyclopedia or dictionary, and most people had to just kind of go along with the folklore of the wordsmith. Half of the people who write really don't know the proper use of some of these words that they're using. It's kind of like, "Hello, if you're going to use multi-syllabic words, make sure you know what they mean." That's one of the things that I've always enjoyed the most with our fans, is being able to give them words that were a little bit challenging for them, that they would look into it a little bit. Or have lyrics that were a little bit deeper than "Talk Dirty to Me" kind of stuff.

Exotic: Have you had a lot of resistance from different labels for making things too complicated musically or lyrically?

Mustaine: If you try to make the music too thinky--I know that's a make-believe word--but when you get up too much into your own head, it's kind of like Purple Rain. When the club owner told Prince, "The only one who understands your music is yourself." I don't want to get into this Procol Harum kind of stuff, or like Ummagumma with Pink Floyd or these things where you need to take LSD to be able to understand it, you know?

I think if someone comes to one of our concerts, it should be one of those things where you have your eyes open, the concert rocks. And if you close your eyes, the concert still rocks. It's not based around light, bombs and sparks and all that kind of shit, but it's also something where it's appealing to your eyes and your ears. And what you're hearing is going to stimulate you. It's not going to make you go out and do stupid shit with your life, it's going to encourage you to rise up to better things.

Exotic: After seeing the VH1 thing, I knew things were tough for you, but man. If you don't mind me asking, how long have you been clean?

Mustaine: I took my last drink November 14th, 1995.

Exotic: Good for you, man...Al's quote on VH1 about strictness on the road was funny, that you told him, "You'll be neatly groomed and dressed well."

Mustaine: Oh, that was taken a little bit out of proportion. I mean, when you get in the plane you're clean-shaven. By the time Al and Jimmy land from an international flight, they go from Al and Jimmy to Ahkmed and...you know, because they've got such deep beards. I said, "You know, you should be prepared. You're a superstar now. You're in a world-famous, multi-platinum band." And let's face it, we're one of the biggest heavy metal bands that ever came out of America. I never said, "If you don't have floss in your handbag, you're fucked." I'm not that neurotic.

You know, after being with a bunch of previous bandmembers who I've watched them--for whatever reason--self-destruct, at this point right now, having had the opportunity to pick the best players that I could possibly get...It wasn't based on they're good-looking or anything like that. It was about the entire package. It's a lot easier to polish up somebody who is a great player than it is to take someone who has star quality as far as appearance, and teach them how to play this stuff.

 

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