Dave Mustaine Of Megadeth Talks Music, Mortality, And Leaving A Mark

Dave Mustaine, the outspoken frontman of Megadeth, has always had a lot to say about his craft and the music industry and life in general. But he believes his worldview has been altered somewhat by the passage of time, the result of the aging process and life’s experiences. In a recent interview, Mustaine talked about Megadeth’s new album, Dystopia, focusing on what’s important, and being able to leave something behind for those who come after.

Speaking with Paste magazine in an interview posted March 1, Dave Mustaine, now 54, says that the favorable criticism and accolades his band’s new album, Dystopia, has received is encouraging. He said he hopes the album inspires people to get out of their particular “rut.”

“I think that’s one of the things that’s important for all of our fans to know,” Mustaine told Paste. “I try to share with them about being homeless, about my past, and all that kind of stuff because I want them to get out of the rut that they’re in if that’s their situation. Some people like that rut, but eventually both ends of that rut will close, and it will be your plot, and I don’t want them to enter the grave any sooner than necessary. I think that’s one of the things that happens with people who turn into armchair quarterbacks, but they never really try what they’re criticizing.”

Is there a crack in Mustaine’s legendary cynicism? Hardly. As he points out, though, life’s experiences are to be shared. He says that if he couldn’t play music for a living, he’d have been a teacher, because it’s “so amazing to enlighten people and bring awareness to people.”

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth Concert in Bucharest 2005
(Image via Tudor Iodachescu/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0)

He worries that today’s youths are too caught up in what others think of them.

“I don’t care what people think of me,” Mustaine offers, “but I absolutely care about how I treat them. I care about people knowing that when they hear my songs or they come to see me play, that there’s no doubt that I had every intent of doing the best I could and putting on the best performance I possibly could. I’ve seen those musicians on stage who looked like they’d rather be anywhere else in the world but in front of the audience, and that bugs me.”

Megadeth’s latest album was written during what Dave Mustaine described as a “black cloud” period, where problems with the band were compounded by personally dealing with a family member’s Alzheimer’s onset and their eventual passing. The emotions, Mustaine said, were driving him crazy, and “that’s what wrote this record,” what “made it feisty and angry” and lent itself to his thrash metal style of writing.

What with aging and having kids of his own, not to mention a death in the family, Paste asked if Mustaine’s own mortality was influencing his writing. The metal guitarist says he agrees with the Winston Churchill quote about young people being more liberal and aging makes one more conservative. (Mustaine, who is often referred to as a conservative or Republican, insists that he’s an independent with regard to his political views and has voted for candidates of both political parties.) He says it makes sense.

“Life is like a candle,” he says, “and when you get down to the very end of it, you want the fire to burn slower,” then noted how so many of his fellow music artists have passed away just in the last couple months.

He listed Stone Temple Pilots’ frontman Scott Weiland, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, the Eagles’ Glenn Frey, and lamented that Frey and Weiland barely got a few days of memorial, then the news cycle moved on. He noted that after Natalie Cole’s death, “nobody ever really made mention” of her.

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth at Priest Feast 22 in 2009
(Image via Алый Король/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0)

Dystopia, Megadeth’s fifteenth studio album overall, was released January 22 and debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 3 on the all-genres album chart. Only 1992’s Countdown To Extinction, the band’s fifth effort, scored a higher posted on the chart, peaking at No. 2. In all, Dave Mustaine has seen every Megadeth album except the band’s debut, Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good, place higher on the Billboard charts than either of the Metallica albums he contributed to, Kill ‘Em All and Ride The Lightning.

And even though Dave Mustaine’s departure from Metallica and the subsequent formation of Megadeth are the stuff of heavy metal legend (the two bands, along with Slayer and Anthrax, are referred to as The Big Four of thrash metal), the animosity between Mustaine and Metallica, also legendary, seems to have waned over the years as well. Mustaine told Denver’s Westword newspaper in February that he no longer had a “beef” with Metallica.

So, the polarizing Dave Mustaine doesn’t seem to be the jerk his reputation has made him out to be, it would seem. Or perhaps the Megadeth singer/songwriter/guitarist has simply found his focus. Perhaps it is time to teach.

“You think your life is this grand thing,” he says, “but it’s just that dash between the year we’re born and the year we die. Everything you do, every word we say, and every deed we accomplish is summed up in that dash.”

An intentional double entendre? Regardless, Dave Mustaine is correct. Life is the dash between birth and death dates in an obituary. And life is also a brief dash in time, a short interval in the cosmic scheme of things. But it is that dash where our mark is made. And Dave Mustaine — with his body of work with Metallica and Megadeth, from his first album, Kill ‘Em All, to his latest, Dystopia — is undoubtedly leaving an indelible mark.

[Photo by Eluser/Wikimedia Commons]

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