Dave Mustaine: Heavy Load

You approach your first conversation with Dave Mustaine as if approaching a coiled rattlesnake. Three decades have passed since he formed thrash metal.giants Megadeth, it’s more than 20 years since their smash hit Countdown To Extinction, and their 14th album, Super Collider, has just been released. Yet for all his musical achievements, his mouth has often led to him to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps his reputation is unwarranted and it’s time to give the guy a break? Let’s find out as, we put out some big questions.

When did Christianity come into your life?

When I died [laughs]. Some people have subtle hints they need to change their life. It took me nearly dying to figure it out. I was into witchcraft and black magic before, all that stuff. We all believe in something, even atheists. They believe in nothing, and nothing is something. For the longest time, I was running the show myself and got myself in a lot of trouble and watched a lot of friends die. Since I made the decision to follow a different kind of lifestyle, it’s got easier.

How has it affected your outlook?

Here’s the thing. When [Pantera’s Dimebag] Darrell got shot, it changed a lot of things for everybody. That’s when I said I wanted to make peace with everybody out of the Big Four. Obviously there’s competition, but the personal side started to get in the way of the fun. There was a lot of drinking going on, and sometimes when you’re drunk you say things you don’t mean.

What is the biggest misconception about Dave Mustaine?

Probably that I’m not approachable. I’m a shy person, and when I get up on stage I get boisterous and let it out. I think a lot of people think I don’t like to hang out. The problem with me is when I do hang out with bands and they’re drinking and partying, I don’t have a high tolerance for alcohol any more. If I drink a little bit I’m gonna want to do a bit of blow. If I do blow I want to do heroin. And if I do heroin I end up writing an album like Risk again – and nobody wants that.

Is there something about you that might surprise people?

Yeah, that I donate a lot of my income to helping other people out. The fans just helped me purchase a soup kitchen in Haiti. It’s in the only real birthing hospital there and it feeds 750 birthing mothers. By September it’ll be serving 8,000 meals a day. That’s with the fans’ help and support. So I don’t care what anyone else says about me – fuck you, I know I feed 8,000 kids every day. I can live with myself.

What’s the best feeling in the world?

It’s love. There are several different types – the love a brother has for his brother, the love a father has for his son, a husband for his wife, a person has for their country, even their footie team.

** What would be the perfect day for you?**

This probably sounds really corny, but it’d be spent just helping people. I instruct martial arts back in Arizona because there weren’t a lot of schools out there. Teaching young kids how to defend themselves was a rush.

To what extent do you think your public persona has overshadowed your talent as a musician?

I think they’re kind of connected. You can’t be legendary on guitar and then worry about what people think about what you say. At times in my career I’ve been ranked a number-one guitarist. But at the end of the day it’s about why you’re playing. We were a punk/classical/jazz-influenced band that consisted of two junkies and two pot smokers, and we changed speed and thrash metal. I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, I would change a couple of things [laughs].

Your recent autobiography [Mustaine: A Life In Metal] was remarkably honest in places. Has the catharsis of writing it endured?

It was cathartic, but wasn’t like putting leeches on me or blood-letting. It was good to set the record straight. I think people expected me to throw a lot of people under the bus and shit-talk a lot of people. Contrary to my reputation, that’s not my style. Over a 30-year career I haven’t had a lot of problems with a lot of people, just a few people that’s been ongoing and highly publicised. It’s all resolved. But recently I had a problem with a men’s clothing store, Tweeted about it and a shit-storm happened – my Tweet ended up being on prime-time news! Now I know why Elvis was so paranoid about people fishing his turds out of the toilet when he left.

Has Christianity changed your view on the afterlife?

A little bit. But I’m a musician, man, not a pastor. I don’t try to push this stuff on people. But I can tell ya from all the stuff I did with black magic and witchcraft, there is a hell. As far as where I’m going, I just hope I’m going up.

When the time finally comes, what would you like to be written on your tombstone?

‘Dave Mustaine – lived to be 300’.

This was published in Classic Rock issue 185.

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.