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Megadeth's Mustaine ponders Rock Hall odds, MP3s vs. vinyl

Many musicians from the Los Angeles rock scene of the '80s and '90s dealt with taddiction and soullessness. Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine was no different.

By Patrick Prince

Many a musician from the Los Angeles rock scene of the 1980s and 1990s has dealt with the struggles of addiction and soullessness. Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine did not wear it on his sleeve like the members of Guns N’ Roses or Motley Crüe, for example, but he was no different. Mustaine was lost in heroin and alcohol for many years, with no clear escape plan in sight from his nihilistic existence. By the mid– 2000s, Mustaine’s life changed dramatically. He received a calling from God and became a born-again Christian. Since that turn in his life, he has been clean and sober — and less bitter, less impulsive and less self-destructive.

Megadeth 1990 photo by Gene Kirkland

Megadeth in 1990. Publicity photo courtesy Capitol Records/Gene Kirkland.

While Mustaine’s outlook and lifestyle is much different, the core of Megadeth’s music remains the same. Biblical warnings and political meanderings take the place of topics like witchcraft and drunkenness in Mustaine’s lyrics, but the songs remain as heavy and full-throttle as ever, as apparent on the band’s latest disc, “TH1RT3EN” on Roadrunner Records — easily one of the best heavy metal albums released in 2011.

In fact, Megadeth has put out so many quality albums and so many successful tours at this point that the band deserves the same accolades as other legendary metal bands in history. However, unlike their peers, Metallica, Megadeth is still absent from the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The Susan Lucci of the music world, Megadeth also holds the record for the most Grammy nominations without a win. And this was the first thing that came to mind when Goldmine had its chat with Dave Mustaine this year.

GM: A hard rock/heavy metal band like Guns N’ Roses got the nod for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Megadeth’s had more albums — more quality albums — do you think Megadeth will get in the Hall of Fame one day?
Dave Mustaine: You know, I hope so. It’s not gonna be the end of the world for me if I don’t. I mean, let’s face it: There are a lot of guys who deserve to be in there and they’re not. So, sometimes it comes down to how many people you can vote in a year. Sometimes it also comes down to who’s voting. This has been our 10th year that we have been nominated for a Grammy (Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance for the song “Public Enemy No. 1.”). And Kenny G — his son is a huge Megadeth fan, and that’s how I got to know Kenny, through his son — he told Shawn Drover, our drummer, that he’s been nominated 21 times and he only won once. And that kind of made us feel a little bit better, but not much. I don’t even know if I have enough gas in the tank to do another 11 Grammy nominations but, boy, it’d be nice. But I’ve got a very good feeling about this year. And even if we don’t win, we’ve done a lot of great things this year. It’s not like the fans vote for us, because if that were the case we’d probably have a helluva lot more Grammys. In a way, it kind of shows you how truly far-reaching the bands are, because some of these people don’t know anything about and they’ll throw it on a band or a category they know nothing on, based on whether they’ve heard the name or not.

Megadeth 2011 Travis Shinn

Megadeth's Dave Mustaine (second from right) is just like us: He loves vinyl records. He just wishes more of today's fans could hear what music really sounds like on vinyl records. Publicity photo/Travis Shinn

GM: Well, they once voted Jethro Tull best metal album, didn’t they? (Jethro Tull won that award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 1988, for the album “Crest of a Knave,” beating out favorite Metallica.)
DM: (Laughs.) Ha, I know. I’ve used that quote a couple times myself.

GM: Being 50 years old now, can you imagine doing this until you’re nearing 70, like Pete Townshend, the man who infamously phrased the lyric “I hope I die before I get old?”
DM: Well, fortunately for me, I don’t think I’ve written anything that self-deprecating. I hope I live forever, you know. And I hope I can continue to make music and have fans for the rest of my days. You know, I’ve been created to make music. I don’t know how it happened, but I picked up a guitar, and I learned how to play it. I’m self-taught. When we were in the studio (for “TH1RT3EN”) I was talking to Johnny K, our producer, and I told him ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing. I know what to do, but I don’t know what it is that I’m doing. So, you’re gonna have to bear with me while I do this record. And by the time the record was done — you know, I hadn’t learned anything still — we had learned how to talk to each other and became great friends. And we’ve got a lot of opportunity, I think, ahead of us for the next record, because we made this record in two months, and if we can make another record and have maybe four months … wow, that would be great.

GM: There’s a video of you on YouTube, in Spin Magazine’s Dave Mustaine’s 10 Most Prized Possessions, like an “MTV Cribs” episode of you in your home, and you were showing an AC/DC “Let There Be Rock” vinyl record as one of your prized possessions. You claimed it changed your life. And you still have the record. That’s pretty cool. I mean, you would never be able to cherish a memory like that with MP3s of an album.
DM: You know, I look at the music that’s out and the way we listen to it nowadays, and I wish that our fans can hear what the music sounds like on vinyl. I remember when I got that record and I put it on the turntable; it changed my life. I knew at that moment, that’s what I wanted to be — a rock and roll guitar player. And, you know, I loved Led Zeppelin ever since I heard them, but I never dreamed of being in Led Zeppelin, so I guess over time I kind of ended up being my own kind of bastardized version of Page and Plant in one person.

GM: You were also recruited to vote for Rolling Stone magazine’s Greatest Guitarists issue. Did you choose AC/DC’s Angus Young as your No. 1 pick?
DM: I don’t think he was my No. 1 pick. I think I was.