ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 26, 1998
By Steve Newton
When the conference-call operator connects me with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, I’m expecting to be hooked up with the guy in America’s centre of loud music, Los Angeles. But it turns out the snarling metal man has settled down with his family—which includes a three-week-old daughter named Elektra—in Scottsdale, Arizona, of all places. Of the quartet, only drummer Nick Menza still resides in the City of Angels, or Sodom and Gomorrah, as Mustaine calls it.
“Three of us got out alive,” says Mustaine, whose band plays the Rage on Thursday (March 5) with guests Coal Chamber. “You know, we’d been livin’ that rock-star lifestyle for so long in L.A. that we just had to say ‘Enough’ and go to where we wanted to. And there’s no real important reason for us to live there, anyway.”
Arizona isn’t totally without its hard-rock aura, of course, as for many years it’s been the home of the King of Nasty Rock himself, Alice Cooper. The Coop happens to be Mustaine’s godfather, and the two are golfing buddies—Mustaine won the longest-drive contest in Cooper’s golf tournament last year. The Cooper-Mustaine connection also bore fruit back in ’89, when Megadeth recorded Cooper’s ’73 classic “No More Mr. Nice Guy” for the Shocker soundtrack.
Back then, the group had famed hard-rock producer Max Norman at the controls, but for its current CD, the Nashville-recorded Cryptic Writings, Megadeth went with session guitarist Dan Huff. “We wanted someone who was gonna bring something different,” says Mustaine, “and Dan had a way of bringin’ stuff out of us that we never thought was possible. He got us to dig deeper and to try things that were a little bit more melodic than anything we’ve tried before.”
Although Megadeth is best-known for its Norman-produced 1992 hit “Symphony of Destruction”, Mustaine feels his band made significant strides toward matching that tune’s popularity with “Trust”, the feverish ode to betrayal that kicks off Cryptic Writing. “ ‘Trust’ was one of the biggest songs in America for weeks on end,” he boasts, “and we were absolutely ecstatic about that. We didn’t compromise our integrity in any way, shape, or form, because we were doing what we thought was right, and the radio play has just been unbelievable.”
There aren’t many metal bands from the ’80s still making noticeable waves in the late ’90s; Mustaine’s current band and his old one, Metallica, are among the precious few. So what is the 36-year-old headbanger’s opinion of the state of raunchy rock today?
“There’s a lotta stuff that’s going on right now that’s really cool,” he figures, “but I also think there’s a lot of people out there that have compromised their integrity to play stuff that’s really trendy, for example dance-oriented music. And I for one don’t really blame any of these people for following the carrot on the stick—but what usually follows carrots on sticks? Jackasses and horses.
“So… I’ve probably disappointed a lot of people right now because we’re not using synthesizers and samplers and drum machines and all that stuff, but I know that I would be disappointing myself more than anybody else if I did do that.”