Dave Mustaine loves the thrash camaraderie of ‘American Carnage’ tour

Megadeth 2010. Photo by Stephanie Cabral

By Pat Prince

On Barnes & Noble’s Web Site, Dave Mustaine’s memoir, “Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir,” is described as a “Dickensian life” in brash marketing terms:

Impoverished, transient childhood? Check.
Abusive, alcoholic parent? Check.
Mind-f**king religious weirdness (in his case the extremes of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Satanism)? Check.
Alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness? Check, check, check. …

And so on.

We get it. Many already know that Dave Mustaine has had a troubled and complicated life without reading his memoir. But Mustaine’s life is much clearer now. Clean and sober and spiritually balanced, Mustaine is cherishing the camaraderie of a current tour with Slayer and Testament (the band Anthrax is to join later) called the “American Carnage” tour. The name is a bit overdramatic but heavy metal has never been known for its subtlety. Nonetheless, the combined musical experience can be best described as brutally brilliant.

With bassist David Ellefson returning to the fold this year — Mustaine has forgiven him for an unsuccessful lawsuit regarding royalties and rights — everything seems rightly aligned in the Megadeth universe.

Goldmine briefly caught up with Dave Mustaine on the “American Carnage” tour after a sound check in Detroit, Michigan.

The “Big Four” (Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer) are categorized thrash metal bands, and the “American Carnage” tour is advertised as a thrash tour, but I don’t think of Megadeth as a thrash band.
Dave Mustaine: Yeah, I know. I don’t either, but people think that way, so … I don’t know, I really don’t care. It’s just fun to be playing with these guys. They’re just great bands.

Any chance there will ever be a side project with some of these guys you are now touring with — getting together, jamming together …?
Mustaine: It depends, you know. A lot of that depends on who you are talking about. Last night we were at the bar and we were talking — Shawn Drover and myself with Kerry King — and we talked about playing a song together and, you know, it just shows you the power of thrash metal and the brotherhood that we have, and the power of forgiveness with everything that took place, with me getting David (Ellefson) back, me changing my life around, and here we are not only touring with Slayer but talking about playing onstage again with Kerry. That’s just great stuff. I’m really excited about all this.

But I can picture you doing a solo/side project someday, maybe doing covers of New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands.
Mustaine:
That’s interesting.

Just because you were a huge fan of that period. Do you still listen to that stuff?
Mustaine:
Actually, a couple of the bands. Not a lot of them. There were a lot of different bands. If you think about it, there was a ton of different bands and it depended on what year it was. And in the process of a few years in the heavy metal scene, from the ’80s to the ’90s, every year it almost doubled itself with the popularity of the bands and the technology. Because when we first started we were using tape and we would record on tape, making records and cassettes. And now that’s all changed and records don’t even matter anymore, they’re like business cards, and that’s a shame because you pour your life into something like that and then someone listens to it and just throws it into their glove box.

A lot of the bands I liked were Motörhead, Mercyful Fate, Diamond Head, but also bands like UFO and Led Zep and Judas Priest, too. I like old school rock. I like Jazz stuff. I love punk rock, old school punk rock. There’s a lot of stuff that I grew up listening to that alot of other people probably think is corny like some of the New Wave stuff that I listened to when I was a surf punk, like Devo and Split Enz, but that’s all just stuff that helps define me of who I was growing up as a little surfer.

I do like how Dave Ellefson is wearing an Angel Witch shirt in a recent promo shot (above).
Mustaine:
Yeah, that was my shirt. (laughs)

How did it feel getting Dave Ellefson back in the band?
Mustaine:
Yeah, it felt pretty good. He’s a good guy. We had our falling out, obviously, when my arm got hurt I had to break the band up and he didn’t really like that too much. Then the lawsuit happened. It was dismissed and he lost. And we met and he apologized and I figured how can I not forgive him. He’s my little brother and he made a dumb decision and I love him, and he’s my friend, so … You know, I don’t know if he won what would have happened, but he lost, and I’m Christian and I’ve been forgiven so I have to forgive him. There’s just no way that I can think that I deserve to be forgiven if I’m not going to do the same. And that set up the whole feeling of what’s going on here, right now. There’s just such a great feeling of camaraderie. Now I’m not saying it’s the Christian forgiveness that I experienced with Dave Ellefson that has permeated the whole tour but I will say this: everybody is getting along really well and we are getting along better than we did when we did “Clash of the Titans” (90-91). And if you can remember, we did Clash with Slayer and Testament overseas in Europe. So this is like the European version of “Clash of the Titans” if we had Suicidal Tendencies on here.

Sharing the tour with Slayer … Do any of the Satanic themes of Slayer bother you?
Mustaine:
No. I’m not really really familiar with Slayer’s stuff, so it doesn’t really bother me. I like the guys in the band and their music is really aggressive. Their live show is really happening and it’s just one of those shows you gotta see. Tom (Araya) had an injury that kind of set him back a little but the band still has enough adrenaline going for them that even with his adjustment after his surgery they’re still a force to be reckoned with. And I’m proud to be touring with them. And then Testament has two really great guitar players, with Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick.

And soon there will be the addition of Anthrax.
Mustaine:
Yeah. That’s another one of the Big Four. And a lot of people have said that Testament should have been one of the Big Four. And, of course, I can add, that would have made it the Big Five. Plus I think it would have been awesome if Anthrax could have been on the tour when Testament’s on here. I’m not sure if Testament is still going to be on here when Anthrax comes on. I hope they do, it’ll be really great, but I’m not sure that they’re going to.

Anyway, back in the ’80s, people probably took the Satanic stuff seriously. No one really cares as much now. Back then, it was a huge thing.
Mustaine:
See, that’s the scary thing, too.

That no one cares?
Mustaine:
Yeah, that no one cares. Well, I do. One of the greatest tricks that the devil has ever done is convincing people he doesn’t exist.

As a Christian, do you fee like there is, in the world right now, an increasing lack of faith?
Mustaine:
I think as times are changing and people, they all have different things that they hold dear, and as we progress as a race, the things that matter to us don’t matter to us anymore. Sitting down and having a meal with somebody used to matter. It doesn’t matter anymore. You just stuff your face and you’re off to the next appointment.

In your new book, do you talk a lot about religion?
Mustaine:
No, not a lot. It’s balanced. My whole life is a life of balance and I think the book is really well-balanced.

What’s next for Megadeth? Are you writing songs right now?
Mustaine:
I do when I feel like it. If something moves me and therefore I want to pick up the guitar and play about it, and certainly it’s going to be written about. But the thing is, there’s a lot of stuff that happens through the course of the day … it’s moving, but it doesn’t make me want to write anything.


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