Rock Cellar Magazine: You’ve said that AC/DC was a big inspiration for you early on, what does the band mean to you?
Dave Mustaine: The thing I liked about AC/DC was the tone. When I was younger, I would pick up some records in exchange for other items from a friend at the store she worked at – she gave me some AC/DC, Iron Maiden’s Killers record, Budgie’s Impeccable record, a lot of stuff that really sculpted my musical style.
I remember when I talked to Lars Ulrich (of Metallica) when I joined the band, I said that I listened to Budgie and he goes “You listen to fuckinn’ Budgie, man? Oh my god!” and I said “Yeah, Lars…I do, I do.”
Rock Cellar Magazine: Sounds like it was a good connection for you and Lars, at the time.
Dave Mustaine: Yes. So back to AC/DC, I really liked the way it was simple, rock music with a solid rhythm structure. Incredibly, my favorite part about AC/DC isn’t Angus Young’s solos as much as it is Malcom’s rhythm playing.
I used to say this for a long time…and granted, there are so many more great new rhythm guitar players, but at the time I used to say the three best rhythm guitar players in the world were myself, James Hetfield and Malcolm Young. Because you really have to hold the fort down, being an anchor for the rest of the band.
Some bands rely on the bass and drums, and others let the lead guitar carry the weight of the songs and stuff, and then there was the liberation I felt when I listened to AC/DC’s first record, Let There Be Rock. Everybody has those ‘come to Jesus’ moments with the song or band that they’re listening to, and that was just a period in my life that when the needle hit the record, and the album started with Overdose…I was like “Wow…these guys are amazing.”
I had never heard anything like it.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Megadeth finished the full-album tour of Countdown to Extinction recently. What’s the experience like, of playing a beloved album start-to-finish each night? The fans must go nuts.
Dave Mustaine: I think the fans were really excited about it. One of the things I found most enjoyable was playing some of the songs we’ve never played before.
Not everybody is polite in our world, in our business. A lot of the journalists will get a boner out of embarrassing or insulting the talent. If I was a writer, I would not be one of those kind of guys. I’d be one of the guys more interested in investigative journalism, instead of an opinionated gossip columnist.
If you can become friends with a guy in a band, man, they’ll tell you stuff that will sell more magazines for you than any kind of sexual escapade or drug story. You know what? Everybody gets laid, and everybody wants to feel good. Some people use drugs and alcohol, some people don’t.
There’s something really terrible that happens when someone does a story with you and they cross you. It hurts your fan base, it hurts the artist, it makes you skeptical about talking to people.
And when we get out there and play songs, and we hear people saying “Megadeth can’t play this song, they can’t do that one anymore”, it’s like “Dude, you’ve obviously mistaken me for somebody else, because I can play that stuff – AND I can play it better than you can, AND I can sing, AND I can keep track of how badly I’m gonna kick your ass after the show” (laughs).
Rock Cellar Magazine: Lay it all out there on stage and then say “okay, now what?”
Dave Mustaine: And that’s fun. I don’t know which sport you particularly like, but you know when you sink one of those three-pointers in basketball, or you beat somebody on the ice and make ‘em look really bad, or you’re surfing and somebody’s been shoulder-hopping you all day and you get that big one and just make them cry watching you shred it…we all get the opportunity when the sun shines down on us and we have our moment.
It’s like when you have the choice of free will – who you’re going to hang out with, I think that’s when we sell ourselves short. We hang out with people that don’t lift us up, that don’t make us better people.
I particularly like that – I like when we meet our fans, I tell them I love ‘em and I thank them, I go out of my way to do things that most bands wouldn’t. I’ve signed autographs outside in the snow with wet hair.
The other day we were in New Zealand and a fan said “you know, you’ve never played A Tout le Monde – you’ve been playing here for 23 years but have never played that song”. We’d already had our set made up, and I went “…Okay!” so we put A Tout le Monde in and the set ran overboard.
In the middle of the show we had to go and ask Rob Zombie if we could play an extra song, he said it was cool, but we ended up not doing the song for other reasons.
That’s the kind of stuff that I think makes for really good print, you know? Instead of “Oh, Dave was in the hallway with a couple of empty beer bottles by his head”…who cares?