There was a time when Dave Mustaine, founder and leader of the pioneering thrash metal band Megadeth, was notorious for his inflammatory views, particularly concerning politics, religion, and his relationship with his former band Metallica.
In one concert in Northern Ireland, he unwittingly incited a riot when he dedicated the band’s last song, a cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The U.K.”, to “the cause” which fans interpreted as meaning the IRA.
At one point, he also figured in a million-dollar lawsuit with Megadeth founding bassist David Ellefson over profits, merchandise, and publishing royalties.
Since becoming a born-again Christian in recent years, it seems like Mustaine has become a kinder, gentler though still outspoken rocker. He no longer disses his former bandmates at Metallica with whom he has since made his peace. He has reconciled with Ellefson who now plays bass for Megadeth again.
And the way he and his bandmates (Ellefson, drummer Shawn Drover and fellow guitarist Chris Broderick) politely and gamely answered questions from the media during the press conference that preceded Megadeth’s Manila concert Sunday night at the World Trade Center, you have to wonder why very few rock stars are like them.
But then again, not too many rock stars have sold over 30 million albums worldwide, 13 studio albums, nearly 30 hit singles, 32 music videos and 10 Grammy Award nominations under their belt. Any band that has lasted as long as Megadeth has and can still play at a high level is likely to also overcome some bad habits, bad decisions, and equally bad attitudes along the way.
Mustaine, now 50 and still an exceptional guitarist who has also learned to adjust his vocal pitch with age, particularly recalls the time when they had to give in to the whims of their former record label back in the 1990s.
“Everybody can say that they want to be with a major label. But let’s face it, the labels tell you what to do and the way they treat you if you don’t do what they say is, they just ignore you and then you go away,” he pointed out.
During that time, Dave said that their record company wanted them to be more alternative and asked them to wear flannel shirts and goaties (“which we hated”) and even went as far as trimming their famous logo “so it won’t look quite as metal.”
“After a while, we decided we weren’t gonna stand for that anymore. It took a lot of work to get us, our music, our fan base, back to where we wanted our relationship with them to be. Because we have families and because we have things we needed to do, we did whatever we could which resulted in more live play.”
Yes, family is very important to Megadeath as is the influence of their music to their younger fans. When asked about the band’s thoughts with being associated with sports and videogames, Mustaine stressed the importance of being a positive role model for their fans.
“Any band who would like to be successful would like their music to be associated with anything they can. We don’t really mind a lot of the things we’ve done sports-wise,” he replied matter-of-factly.
“Videogames, however, is a kind of a touchy area to get into, especially with the tragedy that just happened in Colorado. We have to think of the influence our music has on our fans. It’s important to be associated not just with the game itself but what the game actually stands for.”
Dave added that if the game is about “just racing a car around or collecting points and stuff like that, then that’s cool.” Having been involved with “shooter games” in the past, Mustaine said Megadeth is now more sensitive when it comes to accepting videogame tie-ins.
“Some games have approached us to do some things, but we said no to them mainly because of the language and nudity and content. We want our fans to learn about the opposite sex on their own, not from us or our music.”
Which also explains why he and the rest of the band write songs about more relevant subjects, such as well, today’s headlines.
“Just watching the news, watching the great country I come from being torn apart by our leader gives me enough stuff to write and sing about,” he admitted. “We’ve always been kind of an outspoken protest band although we never really said we’re a protest band. ‘Peace Sells’ was written 26 years ago and remains relevant to this day.”
As for any animosity that still exists not only between Megadeth and Metallica but also two other bands that comprise the so-called Big Four of thrash metal, namely Slayer and Anthrax, Mustaine said his band has no problem with any of their rivals.
“The history between me and Metallica is very tired. We’re closer to Slayer and Anthrax since we often tour with them,” he revealed.
Demeanor and outlook-wise, Mustaine and the rest of Megadeth have become responsible headbangers, but fans better not misconstrue that with mellowing down on their performances as well.
Last Sunday, they almost blew the roof off the World Trade Center in their “Megadeth: Live In Manila” concert organized by PULP Live World and co-presented by Colt45.
Even on that particularly dark stormy night, Megadeth still ruled with a killer set list that included popular metal anthems such as “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due,” “Hangar 18,” “Symphony of Destruction,” “Trust” and of course, “Peace Sells.”
“We don’t have any rituals. We just warm up a little bit, make sure all four of us are there,” Ellefson said, smiling. “Our game plan doesn’t change. We just try to give a great show and have a good time,” Mustaine added.