Megadeth, Dave Mustaine: “I'm always honest with the fans”

Megadeth, Dave Mustaine: “I’m always honest with the fans”

At three in the afternoon, the line that starts from the entrance of the Alcatraz has already passed the intersection with Giuseppe Piazzi. In the queue there are girls and boys, women and men, each of different ages and origins. What they have in common is the strictly black clothing, or at least dark tones, and the t-shirts that all bear the name of the same band: Megadeth. On the evening of June 17, on the stage of the historic Milanese venue on Via Valtellina, Dave Mustaine and his friends are expected, for the only Italian date – sold out for some time – of their “Crush the world” tour. The frontman and founder of the group, one of the artists who has marked the history of thrash metal since his time in Metallica, is himself incredulous and happy with the variety of audience waiting for the concert outside the Alcatraz. “Really? Cool!”, says Mustaine when, met backstage for an interview a few hours before the concert, it is pointed out to him.
Dave Mustaine has one of those personalities that could be defined as “complex”: it takes a few questions to understand his mood and it takes time to get on with him. He prefers not to answer when asked about the possible involvement of Teemu Mäntysaari in future projects of Megadeth, whose last album “The sick, the dying… and the dead!” dates back to 2022, and he doesn’t like it when the word “drugs” is used. As soon as the music is mentioned, however, you can finally look the blond frontman in the eyes, who shortly before, in his large black sweatshirt, often hid his gaze under his thick mane of hair.

Rockol: After America, your “Crush the world” tour has arrived in Europe. How is the tour going and how are the European dates going?
Dave Mustaine: The concerts we’ve done so far have been a lot of fun. The fans have been really passionate: they loved our shows and were singing really loudly. It’s amazing. So I’d say yes: the tour is going great.

Rockol: In the concerts of “Crush the world” you combine songs from your new album “The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!” of 2022 with your hits from the past and other songs from your repertoire. What is the sound, the musical soul that you try to give to your songs today on stage?
Mustaine: I don’t know if I know how to do what you say. I don’t know how to give something to the soul of a song. When I write a song, for me it’s like a part of me, a little emotional part that I share. It’s a bit like when you leave a footprint in the sand, you just leave a footprint: it’s not that you try to leave a footprint, you just do it. Can this make sense? It’s just something I just do.

Rockol: After you write a song, you have to bring your songs live. How would you describe a Megadeth show?
Mustaine: I would say pretty energetic and loud. A concert includes a lot of our most well-known songs, with great rhythms that people can really connect with. It’s not like a lot of metal bands that have songs that are good but they’re played really fast – and you end up not being able to hear the song because it’s played so fast. I think for our songs we spent a lot of time paying attention to what’s loud enough and what’s fast enough, so as not to overdo it.

Rockol: What is the magic that is created on stage between you band members? Do you feel something special on stage?
Mustaine: Yeah, I feel something special. When I look at the people in the audience, and I see them smiling, it makes me smile. And I feel good inside, so much so that when I’m on stage sometimes I forget how old I am. And I feel that way right now with the fans. Music helps us connect and it also helps me escape from the things that I go through in my life, because my life is difficult.
Being an American, seeing what happens in our country because of the leaders of the economy, the church and the state – anyone who can be considered a leader, makes things difficult for people like me, who are a common man. So music still has a power: it has survived today and these crazy times.

Rockol: The concert at Alcatraz is your first Italian show with Teemu Mäntysaari in the lineup. He has been part of the band for a few months now: how is it going? What kind of connection do you have with him on stage?
Mustaine: I feel a strong connection with him.

I think he’s a great musician and a great person. As a guitar partner he’s great. And he was already friends with James LoMenzo and Dirk Verbeuren. Since they became friends they spent a lot of time together working on new songs and songs from our repertoire to make the shows better.
We spend a lot of time together, and we get to know each other better. But we also spend a lot of time together on stage, and we want it to be magical. That’s why it’s great to be on tour: we’re not tired and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
We want to let people know that we are where we want to be when we are on stage, and not anywhere else.

Rockol: Compared to Kiko Loureiro, do you find there are many differences in Teemu Mäntysaari’s way of playing and working? Is his entry into the band leading you to create something new and different from the past?
Mustaine: They are different people, it is inevitable to feel different sensations and notice differences. We are preparing for something new but it is still early to talk about it: I am sorry therefore that I cannot answer this last question.

Rockol: Let’s talk about your relationship with Italy: I know you also bought a house here
Mustaine: Yes exactly! We bought a house here.

We will continue to live in America, going back and forth between there and here, where we have bought a villa and a vineyard in Le Marche. The one here in Italy, however, is not our primary residence, but I am thrilled. I think it is a beautiful area. The people are wonderful. And I am thrilled to be able to have such a wonderful place where I can go at the end of a tour to relax, enjoy the Italian coast and eat delicious Italian food. I have worked hard for the last 40 years and, while I am not one of those people who likes to say that I deserve anything, I really appreciate what I have.

Rockol: In a recent interview for Rock Hard Greece, you emphasized that thrash metal is better than both drugs and alcohol. Is that correct?
Mustaine: I don’t remember, I don’t usually talk about drugs. For a lot of people I think it is, for me it definitely was for a while. But now I don’t look at music as a drug anymore, because I have respect for music and I can see how much good music has done me. And that’s just one of the things that, if you work hard enough, you can get to where I am. And even if you make mistakes – because I’ve made some – people will forgive you if you’re honest and humble. You know, when you do something wrong, you shouldn’t act cool, you should acknowledge and admit your mistakes so you can fix them.

Rockol: And what is your point of view about today’s music? Thinking about thrash metal, does it still have goals and can it still convey a message to people?
Mustaine: Nowadays there are many more different subgenres of metal: there is a metal that we can consider “real” and a metal that is instead created through programs.

And I’m not necessarily talking about artificial intelligence, but about programs or software that allow you to write and compose songs and music like a person. At the moment I’m excited to get on a stage, like the one at Alcatraz, play and let the fans listen to songs that maybe we haven’t played in a while. And then I see what might be liked. In this way we try to get an idea of ​​what kind of riffs we want to write for the next record: fast, heavy or low? That kind of thing, you know.
And it’s a very funny aspect, which I really like to talk about in interviews. Often in interviews there is the risk of hurting the other person’s feelings, because some people are only interested in putting the artist in a bad light. Here in Italy, however, you are very passionate and have respect for Megadeth. The fans, moreover, love us. And I feel the same for our Italian friends.
So I don’t worry too much about what people like or dislike: a lot of things have happened throughout our career and some albums have also marked difficult moments, with the various lineup changes and other things. But I’ve always been totally honest with the fans, and they’ve been there for me. I think if you’re not honest with the fans, they sense it and act accordingly.