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Dave Mustaine at 'Peace' in his career, 25 years later

Megadeth's leader has come a long way from "Peace Sells ...". 25 years later, he enjoys the release of the album's anniversary edition and discusses memories good and bad.

By Patrick Prince

Dave Mustaine, Megadeth's leader and founder, has come a long way from where he was at when "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" came out (1986). Much of it has been recorded in the press, or in his autobiography, "Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir." Now, 25 years later, he celebrates the release of "Peace Sells ..." anniversary edition — remastered and expanded to include two CD and digital audio packages, a deluxe five CD and three LP box set (which includes a previously unreleased 1987 concert from the band’s first world tour) — on July 12 by Capitol/EMI.

The deluxe box set also includes previously unreleased and rare mixes of the album’s tracks, as well as an 20-page book, plus 8”x10” photos and reproductions of vintage Megadeth memorabilia. The cover of the box uses a new, unique process of lenticular 3D which reinterprets the original cover, creating the illusion of Megadeth’s Vic Rattlehead character jumping out of the art.

Not only that but you get liner note praise from none other than Metallica's Lars Ulrich: "Whether you heard this record for the first time in 1986, or you hear this record for the first time today or tomorrow, 'Peace Sells ...' is a great heavy metal album," writes Lars Ulrich in his liner notes for the new edition. "Nothing more, nothing less. It has stood the test of time. And will continue to do so."


Goldmine had a chance to speak to Dave Mustaine just before the release of 25th Anniversary release of Peace Sells ...," as he prepares for a brief July tour in Europe.

Robbie Robertson (The Band) told us that Deluxe Edition sets will become the new model for the music industry.
Dave Mustaine:
I think you need good material in the first place, because if material doesn't stand the test of time ... you know, if it sucked when you put it out, it's gonna suck now (laughs). Not everyone has a closet full of classics to draw from.

I was very blessed that I was one of those guys who was successful. There were literally hundreds of alley ways in Hollywood that were littered with guitar players that would come out here from some place in the midwest to try and make it. That's how I discovered my bass player (David Ellefson). He came out here to go to the world famous (Guitar) Institute of technology and I told him 'If you go there, you will never play a concert in your life, because you're gonna end up some kind of geek that sits around and does Jaco Pastorius scales and stuff like that. And you'll end up playing Billy Sheehan — who is a great player but I think Bill would have given up on some of those pyrotechnics to have been in a band. I think he's one of those guys that really would have liked to been in a band. He seemed to me like a frustrated lead guitar player that played bass. I remember a couple times talking to our bassist David Ellefson and saying, "You know, let's do a part like Billy Sheehan would do right here. And that was in a song called "Take No Prisoners." So he actually did make an impression on us but for me a lot of the music that came out of that period, you could really tell the guys that were artists versus the guys that were bands because bands had that kind of gang mentality. We all hung out together. We were a band.

Do you still collect music, the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) or any music memorabilia?
Mustaine: I had stuff that I collected a long time ago and I had lost a bunch of it. When you're homeless, it's hard to tow around a bunch of crap with you everywhere you go, you know. We were just happy to have a place to sleep at night.

You didn't start collecting all that stuff again?
Mustaine: No, once the initial ... I guess, self-imposed fire sale took place, it just wasn't as important to me anymore. I mean, I had stuff like "The Soundhouse Tapes" from Iron Maiden and every rare B-side you could imagine from a bunch of other bands.

A 1987 concert is included in the "Peace Sells ..." set. You happy with the way it came out?
Mustaine: Well, let's put it this way: It was highly charged. And the dialogue that made up the most part of the concert, a lot of it ended up on the studio floor. It was funny at the time, it was funny if you were there, but, you know, listening to a mid-twenty year old thrasher talking about smoking pot with Ronald Reagan, it seemed kind of a novelty and it really didn't have any place in the body of work ... because the songs themselves have a certain element of panache and savoir faire. And when you start having fun on stage — especially if you had been drinking and had lubricated lips you start saying stuff. It's kind like that part in the movie "Purple Rain" where this dude tells Prince that he's the only one that understands his music. And I don't want to be like that guy. I mean, Henry Rollins can do spoken word during a concert. I can't. (laughs) I see these other guys that get up there and get into these long monologues. It's like 'Sorry, dude, next song. Let's go!' I was up at this concert in Canada. We were looking for some talent to go on the Gigantour festival that I do and we went to check out this band — and I won't say who they are but it was so ridiculous. The guy says from the stage 'I want you to look around and whoever's not jumping up and down, I want you to grab them by the hair and pull them to the ground.' And I went 'Okay. So you won't be coming with us.' Because I guarantee if you try that to a Megadeth fan, you'll get your ass beat.

You still won't play songs like "The Conjuring" (off of "Peace Sells ...") since you've become born again?
Mustaine: Well, it's not that I wouldn't play that song. It's what the subject matter's about. I've been struggling with that. For example, "Anarchy in the U.K." (off of 1988's "So Far, So Good...So What!") is a song I really don't like playing because it starts off and says 'I am an Antichrist.' Well, I'm not an antichrist. Not only am I not it, I don't want to be it. I won't even be one of them. And as far as "The Conjuring" ... it actually has the components of a hex in it and when I wrote the song it was cool and it was vogue to be into black magic and the dark side and stuff like that — so it was really cool to have lines from a hex in it. But looking back now — being a dad, being a responsible person, being a musician who has influenced a lot of lives very positively — I look at it and think 'I don't know if I would play that live.' Same thing with "Bad Omen" (off of "Peace Sells ..."). "Bad Omen" is about a Satanic orgy and that was based on a book that we were supposed to read when I was in junior high school in the Los Angeles school district. The Orange County school district, if you could believe that.

It guess the song kind of had its place in time.
Mustaine: Yeah it did and I'm sure, given sufficient reason, and if I was in the right head space, I would do it again. We all do things for a reason and I would have to just make sure to check my motives before I did it.

There was a strong disillusionment over politics and things going on in the world on "Peace Sells ...". Things haven't really gotten any better since it was released. Things don't change sometimes.
Mustaine: They don't. They didn't change from when Kennedy was assassinated. I got a video tape sent to me recently of the guy who was driving Kennedy, turning around in the car and shooting him in the head. Have you seen that video? They actually got another angle. You know the famous one shown from the passenger side [the zapruder film]. Well, there was somebody else right next to him. They had another camera. Oh my God, it will make you hate your government. Because I loved him, growing up as a kid . He was the President who was in office when I was born. So you think about how things were when you were a kid and everyone's pining about how great Kennedy was. So really after he had held office there wasn't really a lot of hope for the States.

It seems like after that, no one seemed to hold the office of the President in such high regard.
Mustaine: Not anymore. I don't think so because of the things that have taken place and the mistrust. Plus when you look at "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying," what the whole concept behind that whole album is pretty much about — us as a people and the youth of America as an individual ... I don't want to say "faction" that's the wrong word, but an entity, on its own. The youth of America being justified, finally, coming of age, and being able to look at things and being able to say 'You know what? I don't want this Manchurian Candidate as our President." Back then, it's the same thing now. I look at the way Obama has been selling our country off and all the ways things are happening and the way that our economy is plummeting. Why won't we tap Alaska? And why did we take so long to act on the Gulf? Why did we take so long to act in Libya? Why?! Where's his birth certificate? You know what, that birth certificate he showed everybody ... I remember buying one of those to go buy booze. Hello Obama. C'mon dude, they used to sell those in the back of Creem magazine for $3.

Including liner notes from Lars Ulrich on this "Peace Sells ..." set was a nice touch.
Mustaine: Yeah, I know. I was really touched. See, it just goes to show you that the relationship that Lars and I really have had over the years was private, and people really did not know what it was about. They only heard what was said in the press and because of the time delay in the press — you say something in the press and then six months later it pops up again. I can remember on several occasions ... I remember when I was in Arizona and I had just taken my fifth year of sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous — I mean, I am no longer a member of the twelve step fellowship because when I got saved my life changed and I was set free from a lot of that insanity — but at that time I was really doing the deal. I was sponsoring guys and going to meetings, doing service work and all that stuff. And I heard something on the radio and it questioned my sobriety and I was really hurt. You know, that's the kind of stuff people don't see. They're not sitting here next to me when I hear it on the radio. I knew that when the chance, the turn came around, if anybody was ever gonna make fun of James (Hetfield) when he was going through his thing, it would not be me. Because of how that felt. I promised myself that I was going to stop that and I did. The problem is that when you have an aircraft carrier and you try to turn that sucker around, you're in the wheelhouse, you know that steering wheel's been cranked all the way to the left or right, you know it. But looking out the window, it takes a loooong time for that sucker to turn around. So a lot of the stuff with Lars and I ... we were really close. Whenever he would come to town, we would get together and go and hang out and stuff. I think probably the most popular skirmish was between Lars and I but probably the most painful one was between me and James. Because I cared so much about him, I missed him so much. So when the time came to bury the hatchet it actually came when Darryl from Pantera was assassinated ... I had done his memorial episode for MTV, they had had a Headbanger's Ball for him, and I had said on my Web site after I did that: 'Look, man. life is too short. I am burying the hatchet. Anybody I owe an amends to please let me know so I can do it. I'm extending the olive branch.' And that was the beginning. We got everything sorted out with Pantera, with Metallica, with Slayer and I'm pretty excited about where I'm at with my career. I've got the dubious honor of being able to manage a band called Baptized in Blood, my manager and I are managing Testament ... which is awesome because they're a great band. We've got some other things that we're doing that is outside of the scope of playing music, so once I hang up my guitar, I'm still gonna be very much involved. And I'm excited about that.

What about doing something outside the metal genre?
Mustaine: As far as outside of playing music?

Well, speaking of Testament, look at what [their guitarist] Alex Skolnick did, playing jazz with the Alex Skolnick Trio.
Mustaine: You know, that would be really good to play jazz, and Alex is a genius ... I would if I could, but I'm just not that good. Jazz is really really challenging. You know, I can do what I do really well, but what I do really isn't that difficult. It's like George Thorogood, remember him? I mean, if you listen to his guitar playing it's pretty not. But when you put it into perspective, you know ... you're really shit-faced playing pool, George Thorogood sounds pretty rad, doesn't he? It depends on where you're at.

I've heard Megadeth's new album is going to be extremely heavy?
Mustaine: I don't know, I try to let the record speak for itself. It's pretty heavy, I can tell you that much. Having [producer] Johnny K's been really fun. You know, I like [producer] Andy Sneap alot and making the change over to Johnny K... it didn't happen because we were having problems with Andy but we did have problems scheduling stuff. That caused the separation, so I don't want anyone to think there was any weirdness between the team. But Johnny's been great. He's been a breath of fresh air.