Artist Q&A: Catching Up with Dave Mustaine | Celebrating Metal with Megadeth’s Founder

Artist Q&A: Catching Up with Dave Mustaine | Celebrating Metal with Megadeth’s Founder

By William Glanz

When Slayer announced January 22 that it plans to hang it up after this year’s tour, we began to get a bit nostalgic and wonder about the future of metal’s Big Four – Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica.

With Slayer packing it in, will the others retire, too? We reached out to the musicians who helped make the metal genre what it is today and asked what they thought of Slayer’s announcement and what their own plans include.

Megadeth founder Dave Mustaine was the first to get on the phone with us. Speaking from his home outside of Nashville, Tenn., Mustaine talked about Slayer’s announcement, Megadeth’s 35-year anniversary, the band’s current lineup and whether another Big Four concert will happen.

Mustaine – whose band has sold more than 38 million albums, earned 12 GRAMMY® nominations and won a GRAMMY® – also mentioned that Thrashville, the management company he runs with his son, has signed metal bands Diamond Head and Dead Label. And he’s still promoting A Tout le Monde, a Belgian-style saison beer made by Canadian brewer Unibroue that bears the name of a Megadeth single.

Photo credit: Dave McRobb

SoundExchange: Slayer plans to retire from touring, so we’re wondering if the rest of the Big Four will retire. Does Megadeth have plans to do anything other than to continue recording and touring?

Mustaine: You mean like open a theme park?

SoundExchange: Do you plan to keep on going?

Mustaine: For now, I’m completely healthy, and the band just came off a successful campaign. We’re all getting along really well, musically and personally. I don’t see any reason to think about [retirement] right now, unless someone gets burnt out or gets hurt. I don’t really want to go through another lineup change at this point in my life. It’s going to be super hard to replace any of these three guys. Not just as musicians.

I’m not going to be doing this when I’m as old as the Stones, but if you don’t look like you should be on life support, then flaunt it.

SoundExchange: So, you’re loving the current lineup?

Mustaine: Let’s hope that it’s the last lineup. And loving them in a very platonic, agape kind of way, sure. We are really, really close.

I’ve had up and downs with [David] Ellefson over the years… but we’re getting along great right now. Dave has his own stuff that he does. We all are really excited. Kiko [Loureiro] and I are getting together in the next couple of weeks to start writing. When the time is right, we’ll bring Dirk [Verbeuren] in. Once we have all the songs ready to go… we’ll bring David Ellefson out and see what he’s got up his sleeve.

SoundExchange: Talk about the band’s incredible milestone. Megadeth will celebrate its 35th anniversary this year. Did you have any idea that you would still be at it 35 years later?

Mustaine: I didn’t think I’d make it to 35 years old, so this is a surprise for me. A pleasant surprise. If you do life right, you’re going to mellow in your old age and find that there’s a lot more good in the world than bad.

There’s a stupid saying that life is like a roll of toilet paper – it speeds up at the end. It’s getting faster right now for some weird reason. A week seems like a couple of days. I am worried about that because I have so much left that I want to do, but I’ve had a great life.

SoundExchange: Can the Big Four pull off another concert before Slayer retires from touring, and would you support another Big Four concert?

Mustaine: That’s not up to me. Everybody on the planet knows that’s up to Lars Ulrich because Lars runs Metallica and they are the ones that are in control of this, which doesn’t seem fair since the moniker [the Big Four] suggests that we’re equal.

If they say ‘no,’ then there’s no Big Four show. I think the guys in Slayer and Anthrax and my guys are dedicated enough to the metal community that if there was a Big Four show… we would do it, even if there was a prior commitment, because I think everybody would understand these are momentous concerts.

Any one Big Four show, to a metal fan, [is like] Woodstock to rock fans of the ‘70s. It’s where they celebrate life, meet people and fall in love and do all that great stuff that happens when people get together.

SoundExchange: And reconnect, because it’s been a few years since the last Big Four concert.

Mustaine: Right. It’s been a long time, and if they don’t do it I would love to do something with Slayer just out of deference, out of respect for them as people, what they stand for and what they’ve done for our community. There will never be another Slayer.

SoundExchange: Do you think there are any rising metal bands that will fill the void left behind by Slayer’s retirement?

Mustaine: No. Never. There will be bands that will be influenced by Slayer. That will sound like Slayer. But there will never be another Slayer because Tom [Araya] is one of a kind. So is Kerry [King]. There are dark bands… lots of bands that talk about murderers and war and the occult and the dark side. But no one is really as prolific as Tom.

SoundExchange: Is there anyone in the industry – no matter what genre they’re in – that you would like to collaborate with?

Mustaine: The person who immediately comes to mind is Jimmy Page, because he is one of my heroes. I would have loved to work with [AC/DC guitarist] Malcolm [Young, who passed away in November 2017].

SoundExchange: Do you have a vision of what your next album will look like?

Mustaine: Sure… my vision… I see there’s a bar and I see that I’m running towards it, and I have to jump pretty high to get over it, but that’s my intention. I think we can do as good as Dystopia again, and I’m hoping we can better it. When you make a new record you always think it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever done, and then you get a few records down the road and you’re like ‘that was such a dumb idea.’

You go through ups and downs. It’s cyclical. The music business is finicky. I remember when Countdown to Extinction came out [in 1992], and we could do no wrong. Then I said one thing on MTV. I mixed up two songs I was introducing. One was supposed to be aired on TV, and the next one was off-camera. It wasn’t going to be aired. I accidently flipped them. Done. Done.

I saw this white-haired congressman talking a couple of days ago who said it’s not about winning all the time. It’s about finishing with integrity. I thought ‘there’s a guy who has his priorities in order.’