Chris Broderick: 'I'm Sure Some of My Stuff May Have Sounded Horrible But I Liked It'

artist: megadeth date: 06/09/2014 category: interviews
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Chris Broderick: 'I'm Sure Some of My Stuff May Have Sounded Horrible But I Liked It'
Chris Broderick has played on Megadeth's last three records - "Super Collider," "13" and "Endame" - and appeared on four Jag Panzer albums and a live Nevermore CD/DVD. It is not a huge body of work in relation to the extraordinary influence he's had on an entire generation of younger metal guitarists. Broderick has been laying his fingers on guitar necks since he was 1l years old and his pursuit of the instrument from that early age has been little less than single-minded. His speed, sweeps and articulation on his Jackson Chris Broderick Soloist appears effortless. Whether he's playing the insane solo on Super Collider's "Public Enemy No. 1" or reimagining Marty Friedman's classic riffs from the "Rust in Peace: Live" and "Countdown to Extinction: Live" albums [where the band played those albums in entirety on the road], Broderick has brought a new and profoundly musical element to the thrash band's sound. In this conversation, he runs down his earlier work and examines the trials and joys of joining Megadeth.

UG: You studied violin and piano when you were younger. Were you ever going to become a classical violinist or pianist?

CB: I think so but there are things that attract me to every style of music so I would have definitely been missing something if I didn't have metal in my life, hah hah hah. It's one those things and I definitely appreciate a lot about classical music but I don't think I would feel complete with only that.

At what point did you really become aware of electric guitar?

Quite honestly, it was a new friend of mine that played the guitar and I was always nagging him about playing guitar. That's when I knew I had to get one of my own and it just became passion from right then and there.

From the first moment you picked up a guitar, were you the best guitarist in the neighborhood?

Hah hah hah. No, no, I never felt that way. I don't think that's the way it was. The middle and high school I went to, it was just a like a big group of friends and we all played. There was never any real comparisons. It was just, "Oh, let's play this. Let's play that." Really at that age there was no thought of who's better.

Was the guitar easy for you?

Umm, I don't know. I just liked what I did so much. I'm sure some of it may have sounded horrible but I liked it. I was really happy with it. So I guess in a way it doesn't matter and I honestly couldn't tell you because I don't know what I sounded like back then. Unfortunately I didn't make many recordings when I first started playing.

Who were some of the guitar players you were listening to?

Well in the beginning it was like Eddie Van Halen was one of my first big influences. Then it went pretty quickly to Yngwie Malmsteen and then all of the shredders from there.

Your education began with those types of very skilled players? You didn't go back to the classic guys like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Hendrix?

No, I sort of missed that boat. One of my older brothers used to talk about Hendrix quite a bit and I just didn't understand the concept. Even though later on as I continued to play, I began to really appreciate Hendrix.

Classical guitar was always part of what you did. You probably heard that Paco de Lucia passed away recently. Was he somebody you listened to?

Absolutely. In fact I was so happy I was fortunate enough to be able to see him about eight months ago. He played the Disney Concert Hall here in LA. And I went and saw him there and it was just great. I've seen him three or four times. I've seen him a couple times with the Trio with John McLaughlin and Al DiMeola and then I've seen a couple times and maybe even three times on his own. For me, Paco was the guy for Flamenco music. He was unbelievable and I loved him seeing in his element even more than the Trio I would have to tell you. Even though that's like a total guitar fest. But I liked seeing Paco in his own element.

Did you ever meet Paco de Lucia?

No, I never did meet him.

What did you sound like in some of these early bands like Grey Haven, industrial Eden and Killing Time?

Some of those were just reincarnations of the same band with slightly different members. It was pretty progressive heavy metal is what they typically were. But I loved to really experiment with adding the elements of classical and jazz into the music. So that's what gave it a much more progressive edge.

Were these bands playing originals?

Yeah, that's primarily all I liked to do because I wanted to write and I loved composing. That's one of my biggest forms of joy for music is writing.

Following that thought, do you get much of a chance to write with Megadeth?

Yeah, I mean definitely. It's one of those things where we all write - Shawn [Drover], [Dave] Ellefson and myself. We all write and we all submit a lot of material but at the end of the day you want it to sound like Megadeth. So it's always picking and choosing what's gonna make it on the CD. We're always writing and composing and even within what's selected to be on the CD, then we all kind of add our own little touches to it and our interpretations. Whether it's melody or Ellefson's bass lines or Shawn with the type of beat that goes behind it. So yeah, we get to add our own little musical influences.

In 1997, you replaced Joey Taffola in Jag Panzer and recorded "The Age of Mastery" album.

It was awesome. I look back to it now and my main thought is how generous Mark [Brody, rhythm guitar/keyboards] and the other guys in Panzer were to just allow me to come in on a first CD like that and having that much writing and freedom. I thought that was so great of them because looking back on it now, that was their band and that was their baby. I came in there and I'm like, "Oh, OK, I'm part of it now and I'm gonna write and do my thing." I didn't think one minute about it and they were always cool with it.

Was that difficult for you at all replacing their previous guitarist Joey Taffola?

Again just like stepping into Megadeth, I didn't even think about who's shoes I was filling or anything like that. I just saw the task at hand and what I needed to do. Difficulty I think is in the act of doing but it wasn't influenced by the fact of who I was replacing.

The second Jag Panzer was a concept album based on Shakespeare's "Macbeth" called "Thane to the Throne." Lots of strings and orchestrated parts.

At the time, I'd written a fugue for that CD that we had the Moscow String Quartet play. Also Mark had a friend that taught at the University of Texas or somewhere around there so he would hire him to come in play backing violin lines and stuff like that. But also Mark really wouldn't shy away from using orchestral stuff either if that fit the part well enough. So you may have heard both.

You'd make two more records with Jag Panzer - "Mechanized Warfare" and "Casting the Stones" - and then it ended in 2004 for you.

Yeah, well I wouldn't say it ended. I was with Jag Panzer until 2008 when I joined Megadeth.

Before you joined Megadeth you played with Jeff Loomis in Nevermore.

Oh, it was fantastic. Jeff's an awesome player and I love watching and hearing him play. He's got a great sense of musicality and great technique. For me that was awesome and playing with Van as well who's a sick drummer and great guy to boot. That was killer.

You never entertained the thought of remaining in Nevermore.

No, not really. I had talked to them about it but I think they had bad blood with second guitarists so it was never really brought up that much.

You did record the live CD/DVD Year of the Voyager in 2008.

Actually that show for me was a little nerve wracking. It really was. It was the first live CD I'd ever really filmed so I was a little edge on that show. But I loved the venue [the Zeche] in Bochum, Germany and the crowd was awesome for us and they always are there. So I have both good and bad memories just because of how nervous I was.

Then you get called to join Megadeth.

The initial thing I heard was from Dave's management. I was almost like, "Is somebody playing a prank on me?" but of course I was super interested and I said, "I can't wait to get going." My initial feeling was, "Yeah, let's do this for sure." I was so excited about it.

What were those first weeks like in Megadeth and hanging around Dave Mustaine.

It was very nerve wracking mainly because of the amount of work that had to be done before we went on tour, which was pretty much less than a month away. Before Dave actually said, "Alright, you've got the gig" because we had met a couple times and discussed things, when I finally got it it was like, "Alright, we've got to get to work." I had to get down 22 songs in less than a month. That was my focus right from the onset. It was, "OK, what songs are we gonna play in the set?" For me, I always try and tackle the most difficult songs first because they tend to take the longest to become innate in your playing.

What were some of the most difficult Megadeth songs?

For me it was "Holy Wars" and "Tornado of Souls." There were plenty of them but those were two of the main ones. I would get started with those and I'll tell you I knew he always played "Holy Wars" live so that was the very first song I started with. I was like, "Oh man, 22 songs like this and I've got a lot of work cut out for me." Luckily not all of them were as difficult as "Holy Wars."

Why was "Holy Wars" so difficult to learn?

There's a lot of complexity to it: a lot of different parts, tempo changes and different tones. Whether it's from that nylon string fill in the center to the tempo change that comes after that. The fast picking in the rhythms and then the killer songs Marty did. Just a lot of complexity.

Did you go so far as to try and emulate Marty Friedman's guitar tones?

To an extent but not right off the bat at the beginning. In the beginning it was all about the performance and the execution and then as that started to get settled in, we started to look at really making it sound as close to the CD as possible when we played live. So we started looking at tones and the effects that were used on the CD. How long the delays are? All kinds of stuff.

What were some of the first Megadeth shows like?

The first show I played, I thought my head was gonna explode. I was like, "OK, the show's getting ready to start. Just run out there." It was pretty exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.

Was it simply relying on muscle memory at that point?

When I'm playing live, I tend to try and draw on a lot of different types of memories. Muscle memory is always the one you're gonna rely on the most. It's just the one that happens. It's like walking and you allow that to happen and that's the way it should be. I always kind of bring in some of these conscious mental tags. For example maybe a couple notes I'm playing, I'll think about where they are on the fretboard. To clue me in and get my mind in the frame of what the current riff is.

That is such a cool approach.

It's more or less drawing from things like your muscle memory to a visual or mental image you have of yourself playing it. You can also see the staff paper and looking at the notes really helps with rhythmic execution because it's very exacting in that sense. So there's a lot of forms of memory I'll use to make subtle cues but muscle memory is the one you rely on the most. But you've got to be careful - if you rely on muscle memory too much and you're nervous or you haven't gone over the material that much recently, it's always the first to go out the window.

You're standing there with your hands off the neck and thinking, "What the hell do I play?"

Right, right. And I've had that happen where I remember doing this classic guitar jury where I would just get to this one part and my mind just went blank. I didn't know where to go and for some reason my muscles just froze. It was like play up to that point and then you just stop. Try it again. Back up eight or ten pages and try it again and it's "Oh, no. I don't remember where I'm going." That's where muscle memory can really fail you. I always try and have these other mental cues reminding me of what part is coming up next.

Was Dave Mustaine supportive of you in those early days and helping to coach you?

Yeah, definitely. But I also think he saw the big picture too. While I was worried about the performance and always wanting to focus on that, he was worried about integrating me into the band whether it was having to do photo shoots and press and coordinating everything with a change of guitarists. He was thinking about that and at the time I was just freaking out on the performance aspect of it.

"Endgame" was the first Megadeth album you appeared on. What was that like?

I was still getting used to my position in the band. The other weird thing is we kind of built the studio as we recorded the record. Dave had just leased the space for Vic's Garage so he needed to build it out and build walls and get the console in the console room and get all that stuff done. So we were kind of working on the CD at the same time we were building the studio. It was definitely an interesting process.

You co-wrote "The Hardest Part of Letting Go … Sealed With a Kiss" with Dave, which was a different kind of song for Megadeth.

Right. It was so happenstance. Dave had written the first part or two of that and I think his initial intention was to use that as a transition into another song. Andy Sneap [producer] and I were there late one night after everybody had taken off and I was like, "I hear this part after that kinda like a clock ticking." So he's like, "Well, let's go record it." We recorded it and there was another couple of parts I thought would work really well and we just recorded those. The next day when Dave heard it, I think he decided he wanted to make it a full-fledged song so he took it over from there. He wrote the distorted guitar part and of course the lyrics and melody.

Your solo on it was ridiculous.

Typically what I'll do for a lot of solos is the first thing I'll do is listen to the rhythm I'm soloing over and the song in general. I'll get a feel for what I want to hear and the type of tonality whether it's more somber or uplifting. Then whether a solo starts off really rhythmic with sixteenth notes or whether it's a melody. I just try and hear it in my head and then I kind of classify it theoretically so I can translate it to the fretboard more easily. From there I'll experiment with that too. I'll also loop the rhythm as well and just kind of play over it and see what strikes me that way as well and then combine the two.

Dave Mustaine said that with the other guitarists he's worked with, he'd inevitably have sing the solos to them. But he never had to do that with you. He also said you're the best guitarist with whom he's worked.

Yeah, that's extremely nice of him to say for sure. But I would add he always has opinions about soloing and where they should go and what they should do. So he definitely has input at times over the solos I play.

When Megadeth did the "Rust in Peace Live" CD in 2010, was that just another situation of you going back to that record and learning all the songs you didn't already know?

Yep, that's exactly what it was. At least by the time that happened, I had gotten under my belt a decent amount of experience and knowledge about Marty's playing and how he would execute certain runs and stuff like that. That made figuring those songs out a lot more relaxed and enjoyable in a way. I wasn't under quite the time constraint. We knew we were gonna do this anniversary well ahead of time so there was plenty of time to digest the material. That was awesome.

As you were learning all of Marty Friedman's guitar parts, did you gain even more understanding and appreciation of what he did as a guitarist?

Yeah. Even a year or two from now as I learn more of his material, I'll understand even better. It's one of those things where you always hopefully grow as a musician.

It must be pretty difficult to hear some of Marty's guitar parts on CD, right?

Yeah, yeah. I think at times depending on the mix and how close the rhythm guitar is in the range of the solo, it can make things much harder to discern. That's where sometimes experience comes in. It's like, "Oh, if he's descending on this kind of a run, I know he would probably do this. And that makes sense with all of the notes I can hear."

In 2010, you also did the Big Four show in Sofia, Bulgaria, which must have been pretty insane.

It's one of those things where you definitely feel like you're getting onstage with royalty. The cool thing was though everybody was so mellow and so relaxed. In one sense you would have those moments like "Wow, all of these guys and they've been struggling for so long since the early '80s putting their music out and making it happen." Then you'll have those other instances where it was like, "Oh, I'm just gonna get up and jam with my good pals." Sometimes it's just so relaxed and so comfortable and that's the way they make it. But then you have those thoughts were, "Wow, this is thrash royalty."

In general, do you think there's a community of metal guitar players standing by another?

I think just like in any social circle, you're gonna run into all of the above. There are some people that are totally cool and they're just like, "Hey, what's that you were doing?" or "Check this out." Then there are other people would rather not give.

You work on the 13 album in 2011 after doing that "Rust In Peace: Live" tour. Did any of that rub off on the record?

I don't think it was conscious but everything you do has an influence of what you do in the future. So I have no doubt it definitely influenced the way I went in there to do my solos or recorded my rhythm parts. It's like I've got more information now as to the history of Megadeth and so I definitely wanted to utilize that information. So it influenced me for sure.

For that reason, do you think 13 is a more fully-realized record for you?

No, I would never put it like that. You go into a record and when you start working on the material, you try and develop it the way the material would want to progress. I don't know if you consciously think of any amount of influence you had. You're just listening to the ideas and musical concepts you're working with and you try to develop them the way you think they should be developed.

You're going to be doing Motorhead's Motorboat Cruise with Anthrax and Zakk Wylde?

I don't know a lot about some of these cruises but it sounds to me like a thrash cruise. I think it leaves Miami but it's with a lot of bands we've toured with in the past like Motorhead, Anthrax and Zakk of course we toured with on the last Gigantour. It's gonna be like a big family reunion if you ask me.

Megadeth is also going out on a world tour?

Yeah. The first stop on the way is gonna be South America and then Europe. Again, it's one of those things you want to make sure you get to all the different areas so that you don't saturate one area too much and get to areas where fans - hopefully - want to see you.

You've been strapping on an electric guitar for many years. Does your heart still flutter when you plug into an amp?

Absolutely. It's funny because I've always said, "When I retire I'm just gonna sit on a porch and play Flamenco guitar." That's something I've always wanted to do when I do actually step out of the professional arena. But at the same time, I know it's not like I'm gonna quit playing the electric guitar. It'll probably be right there and it'll just annoy the neighbors while I'm blasting the amp on the porch.

Play all the good notes.

Alright. Bye, Steve.

Interview by Steven Rosen
Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2014
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