Dave Mustaine Discusses Touring, Early Thrash, and Lita Ford’s Advice

Credit: Travis Shinn

Musical trends may come and go, but you can always count on Megadeth to deliver good ol’ fashioned thrash metal. And since the band’s inception, its leader has always been singer/guitarist/songwriter Dave Mustaine – who played a major hand in the creation of thrash (in addition to his work with Megadeth, he was an early member of Metallica, and co-wrote quite a few of their early classics).

2022 saw the release of Megadeth’s sixteenth studio album overall, The Sick, the Dying…and the Dead, and as evidenced by such standout tracks as “We’ll Be Back,” “Solder On!,” and the album-opening title track, Mustaine and co. sound as ferocious and hard-hitting as ever.

Speaking to AllMusic in the midst of Megadeth’s latest tour, Mustaine spoke about The Sick, the Dying…and the Dead, when he realized that thrash metal was a global movement, and some valuable advice he once heeded from Lita Ford.

AllMusic: How is the current tour going?

Mustaine: “It’s really good. It’s exciting. We’ve got some things going on in the camp [guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari is filling in for Kiko Loureiro for unrevealed reasons] – it’s not any secret – but we’re making the best of it. I think the tour has been wonderful since the start. And tonight’s going to be another great show – we keep adding more songs, which is something that I was hoping that we could do for a very long time.”

AllMusic: How was it having to work in a new guitarist?

Mustaine: “Well, I’ve worked with new guitar players a lot. I think it’s all a state of mind. And when you meet somebody, if you have an understanding of what is going to happen going into it, y’know, everybody saw what happened with Avenged Sevenfold and Mike Portnoy, and that kind of stuff is unfortunate. So, going into something when you have a situation, and you have somebody come help you out, the last thing you want to do is mislead anyone. Certainly not your fans and the musicians that are all involved.”

AllMusic: The Sick, the Dying…and the Dead has been out for a year. What are your thoughts on the album now?

Mustaine: “I still love it. I think it’s great. It’s got a lot of really cool songs in it. And I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface – we’re doing ‘We’ll Be Back’ as far as a live track off of The Sick, the Dying…and the Dead, and we also have learned and have played ‘Soldier On!’. We’ll be playing that tonight – we haven’t played it in a while, before we had to get Teemu to come out. But we’ve been able to add that back in the set, which is really exciting.”

AllMusic: 2023 marks 40 years since Megadeth’s formation. What do you remember most about the band’s early days?

Mustaine: “There’s a lot of stuff that I remember from back then. Some of it was difficult. But growing pains are really important – that you learn from them. Because honestly, pain is the admission price into a new life, anyway. And if you’re not going to welcome the pain, it’s going to be just that – it’s going to be pain. And you’re not going to learn anything from it. But we’ve always been able to learn from the stuff that happens to us – whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent.”

AllMusic: At what point did you realize there was going to be a thrash metal movement?

Mustaine: “Well, I don’t think that I ever really realized anything like that. I have seen stuff that looks like there’s a movement going on in some countries more so than others. For example, when we first went down to Argentina, they had just pretty much opened up the door to having entertainers come from the States down to South America – and especially Argentina. So, when we went there, the first night we played, we played a venue and fortunately for us, the venue was available for some of the subsequent days. We were able to sell out that first night and they said, ‘Do you want to play a second night in Argentina?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ And that sold out, and then there was a third night, a fourth night, a fifth night added. Finally, we said, ‘We have to leave Argentina! We have to go to another location’.”

“But that was really remarkable – making that connection with an audience, and starting to build on it. Because that’s really what all this is about – you have a product, you have a customer, and you try and give the best product that you can and the best customer service. And people can really believe in what it is that you are purveying – what it is that you are selling. And I think with Megadeth it’s always been very integral – the music has always been true to itself. There’s not a bunch of gimmicks. And I think that’s one of the best parts of this – what you see is what you get.”

AllMusic: Do you ever go back and listen to some of Megadeth’s early albums? Or do you really just listen to them when you’re going to put together a tour’s setlist and learn parts again?

Mustaine: “The latter. And I’m impressed that you would know that that is another choice there. Because we are professional musicians, we have a different prism that we look through, and we see that there are a couple of other things that may not make sense to the concertgoer or to the amateur or semi-pro musician. There may be some things where [assumes a Nigel Tufnel voice], ‘The bread’s too big for the meat.’ Stuff like that, y’know? And it makes sense at some point – it almost always does.”

AllMusic: What do you think of the current state of heavy metal?

Mustaine: “It’s good. I think metal has always been an underground thing. And I don’t think what’s going on right now is bad at all. I think that every once in a while, metal needs to take a step back and catch its breath. But metal’s been here for a very, very long time. I know that people talk about its different origins. I do know that metal today is way different than it was in the beginning. Because in the beginning, you had heavy metal. And when I came out, you had heavy metal – which was Maiden and AC/DC. Then you had speed metal, thrash metal, power metal, grunge metal, alternative metal. Metal, metal, metal!”

“So, if you can name it white metal, black metal, death metal, life metal, to me it’s all…Lita Ford – God bless you Lita – she came to one of our shows a long time ago. She came backstage with her boyfriend at the time, and we were going through some stuff with our significant others in the band. Lita walks in, and goes, ‘Eh, fuck it man. It’s all rock n’ roll – let them do what they want!’ And I went, ‘That’s my girl, Lita.’ Because our girlfriends were all going, ‘Man, you guys got to get on the ‘sober train’ with Aerosmith.’ And we’re like, ‘No, we don’t.’ Fortunately, everyone got their lives in order and a lot of people cleaned up and changed. But yeah, Lita Ford – what a powerhouse.”

For more Megadeth (and tour dates), visit the official Megadeth site.

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