Chris Broderick's six-year tenure with Megadeth from 2008 through 2014, resulted in three albums showcasing the guitarist's remarkable skills: "Endgame," "Thirteen" and "Super Collider." A couple years back, Dave Mustaine said Broderick was the best guitarist he'd ever played with but that notwithstanding, just two years later the monster shredder would be gone.
"Obviously it was a huge honor to be a part of Megadeth and to be able to play in front of all those fans and to be a part of the Big 4 shows and everything that came along with that," Broderick says. "But at the same time, you also want to have an outlet creatively, musically, artistically and the way you present yourself. I think it was a long time in coming but it was the right time to move on."
The guitarist left and joined with former Megadeth drummer Shawn Drover who'd also recently departed the band to form Act of Defiance, a thrash metal quartet also featuring ex-Scar the Martyr singer Henry Derek and bassist Matt Bachand, Shadow Falls rhythm guitar player. Recording in separate parts of the country, the foursome put together their first CD titled "Birth and the Burial" [a nod at things gone by and things to come].
In this conversation, Broderick talks about what happened in Megadeth, what's happening with Act of Defiance and what makes him such a special guitar player.
UG: Did you have artistic and creative differences with Dave Mustaine?
CB: I wouldn't say it's necessarily artistic and musical differences as much as it is the ability to express my musical and artistic choices. Everybody knows that Megadeth is really Dave and that's fine.
You must have known when you joined Megadeth that Dave Mustaine was captain of the ship.
I knew that going in. But there comes a time where you're like, "I've done this and it's great but I'm a musician and artist at heart and I need to express myself that way. So I need to have that outlet for myself and not just do it in support of another person."
You said the three records you did with Megadeth - "Endgame," "Thirteen" and "Super Collider" - were the elements that gave birth to Act of Defiance. What does that mean?
I wouldn't say those CDs in particular but it's just learning what the outcome of my musical input - what's the word I'm looking for? - and the things I want to write and get out might be. After three records, it became pretty clear to me I'd seen how the ship was run.
"It wasn't a democratic or an equal band in terms of the decisions-making process. And I was totally fine with that at the time."
How was the Megadeth ship run?
It wasn't a democratic or an equal band in terms of the decisions-making process. And again, I was totally fine with that at the time. It was awesome for my career and it was great playing for all those fans but at some point, when do you decide you're gonna be a musician and really create your own music or are you just going to record what somebody else wants?
If you had been given more input and creative freedom, would you have stayed in Megadeth?
Oh, yeah. Definitely.
Were there riffs and songs you presented to Dave that didn't get used and ended up on the "Birth and the Burial" album?
There were a few riffs. There were two I can recall off the top of my head. One was the very beginning of "Refrain and Re-fracture." I had that classical piece for some time. Also, the chorus riff in "Dead Stare."
It's odd that Dave didn't like that nylon string guitar intro piece you wrote that ended up on "Refrain and Re-fracture." There are a lot of those textures on the "Dystopia" album with Kiko Loureiro playing those kinds of riffs. You wonder why Dave didn't like that idea?
That's the question for me. I couldn't answer why or why not.
Originally, weren't you going to work with Jake Dreyer [White Wizard, Kobra and the Lotus] as the second guitarist in Act of Defiance?
Yeah. The main thing is the logistics and really trying to pick a permanent direction for the band. I still haven't absolutely made that choice yet. I love playing with second guitarists and I think it really opens up creativity when you have somebody else you can work really well with. I think Jake is a great guy and a killer guitarist and I work really well with him. I get together and jam with him pretty often.
But Jake Dreyer isn't yet an official member of the band?
I just think with the logistics of the band as it's running right now, we're keeping it a single guitar for the moment.
Being the only guitar player in the band and doing all the guitar parts on the "Birth and the Burial" album must have been a shift for you in terms of what you did working alongside Dave Mustaine in Megadeth.
The process was fairly similar and fairly familiar to me. It's pretty much been the process of recording that I've done in all of the bands I've been. So that process was not unfamiliar to me. What was unfamiliar to me was when I had to take that method of writing and recording and take it to the stage with one guitar [laughs]. That's where the process got more complicated.
"I love playing with second guitarists and I think it really opens up creativity when you have somebody else you can work really well with."
Trying to interpret all the guitar parts on the album and pulling that off live has been challenging?
I'm trying to pull out all the stops I can to make it sound like two guitars.
How do you do that?
With my Fractal for example for the beginning of "Refrain and Re-fracture," it begins with a classical guitar and then one lead over the top and then it has another harmonizing guitar over that and then it has the rhythm all coming in after each beat. Luckily it happened to work out that way because I'm like, "OK, how can we do the beginning of this?" I decided to pull out the Looper in my Fractal and it works perfectly.
What was that process like?
I play the clean guitar part - I don't have a classical of course and I have to do it on the electric - and go through that and then when it loops I come in with the first lead over the top and then it records that and then it loops and I play the second lead over the top until everybody else comes in.
That is a very different approach than if you had a second guitar, right?
It requires more planning in the way I'm gonna execute these songs. It's like, "When am I gonna be able to use the harmonizer in the Fractal? When can I use the Looper? Switching in the Fractal as far switching between lead and system? How do I go in-between rhythms and leads and make it sound as seamless as possible so there's no obvious break in the music?" A lot of planning.
Did you use any other amp heads or cabinets in the studio?
No. The Fractal was used solely. I went S/PDIF digital in from the Fractal. I spent a lot of time creating cabinet IRs that got the tone and frequency response I wanted but it was all in the Fractal.
"The only thing that both Shawn and I wanted was to go heavier. Besides that, the door was open for any style of music and anything we wanted to do because that's ultimately why we left."
Technology really allows you do things you couldn't have done back in the analog day when you think about trios like Cream or Hendrix.Absolutely. But it was definitely a simpler form of music back then and it didn't require when you go into the studio that you're recording the rhythms four times over. You're not trying to compete with that kind of sonic quality that you are today.
Did you know the type of band you wanted to put together when you left Megadeth?
No, not really. The only thing that both Shawn and I wanted was to go heavier. Besides that, the door was open for any style of music and anything we wanted to do because that's ultimately why we left. Right? So that we could express ourselves the way we wanted to.
When Shawn Drover left Megadeth, did you know at that point you were going to put a band together with him?
Not at that time, no. I just knew it was the right choice because of the timing. Dave was starting to wanna work on the next CD and you just don't wanna go into that if your heart's not into it. It's one of those things where it has been a decision that was a long time in coming and as soon as Shawn made it, I was kind of flabbergasted. But at the same time I was like, "You know what? He's right." So I decided to leave as well and I was talking with Shawn and were like, "Well, what made you leave? What was the decision behind that?" It was all very similar and it was all very common. So we quickly then started to talk about, "Oh, wouldn't it be cool if we could put out all the stuff we had written?" From there it quickly went to, "Why don't we just put together a band?"
When you started looking for a singer did you immediately think of Henry Derek [ex-Scar the Martyr]?
My main consideration was the voice had personality and I thought Henry's voice had a lot of personality and a lot of individuality. Because we've all seen in metal you don't have to be the best singer on the planet but to really say something that means to people. You definitely want to have an individuality and something that makes you stand apart from everybody else. That's the one thing I really loved about Henry's voice and that in addition to his lyrics. I think the way he thinks about the melody is right in line with how I hear it.
You talked earlier about logistics: everybody lives in a different place and all the music on the album was recorded separately. You ended up doing all the guitars and vocals at your studio?
Up until the point we toured last November, we had never all been in the same room at the same time.
"We've all seen in metal you don't have to be the best singer on the planet but to really say something that means to people. You definitely want to have an individuality and something that makes you stand apart from everybody else."
Yeah, so Shawn and I wrote the music each on our own. Shawn would send me his ideas and I would re-record the guitars on them and stuff. Then I started working with Henry on the vocals at my studio and as we got everything together, we booked a studio that was out by Shawn and had him go in and record the drums. Then those went to Chris "Zeuss" Harris [Rob Zombie, Queensryche] and it was the same thing with Matt [Bachand, Shadows Fall]. Matt was a late comer but he made it in time to record the bass parts and he recorded those at his studio and flew those into Zeuss' studio. Then as I got the guitars and vocals done and all of the other stuff we added in there, we just flew them into the project and Chris mixed and mastered it.
In a perfect world, wouldn't it have been much better if you were all in the same room recording at the same time? The way you used to make records back in the day?
Well, I would like to be in the same room when we're writing. I don't think the recording process needs to change but I would like to write with Matt and Henry of course and be in the same room. It's a lot funner and quicker when you're bouncing ideas off of each other than when you record an idea and you're listening to it and it's more like, "Well, should I do this or should I do that?" Instead of somebody going, "Dude, that's cool. Let's go with that." That's the way I would like to write.
All those classic albums from back in the day were all recorded with everyone in the same room. The way records get recorded now in the digital age is a drastic change where everybody does their parts separately.
The recording process I thought worked out really well.
So the idea of standing in front of a drummer when he's playing a groove isn't necessary?
Necessary? No, but preferred yes.
The first song on the album is "Throwback" with that insane tapping intro you play. Was that meant to imply, "Here's Act of Defiance. Check this out!"?
I don't know if it really went down that way. The funny thing is that the intro to "Throwback" was the very last thing I recorded. Initially when I wrote "Throwback," I came up with the thrash parts that really get fast in those second and third parts and then I came up with that intro 'cause I kinda wanted to build into it. But I didn't put the two-handed tapping. I just had the rhythm chords playing the background and I'm thinking to myself, "It's not necessary. Either this intro has got to go or it's gotta become necessary."
That's when you kind of went for it?
I started thinking about what I would want over the top of that and I thought of this really intervallic, whacky harmony kind of thing going over the top. That's ultimately what I recorded and it was the very last thing we recorded on the CD and it ends up being the very first thing that's played when you put in the CD.
The solo on "Throwback" was ridiculous. You've talked about how you tend to work out solos before you record them?
Mm hmm. What I like to do is I like to imagine what I wanna hear. Usually what I'll do is I'll spend time with the rhythm making sure I actually thin the rhythm out so that it doesn't become too confining and dictating what the solo has to be. If you have a rhythm that's doing sixteenths at 220 or 210, that's pretty much what your solo's gonna be too. Or if the harmony is such where you playing all these scale notes in the background in your rhythm, you're pretty much locking in your tonality over the top of it.
That's the type of control over arrangement that you probably didn't have in Megadeth, right?
Now I can actually have that freedom to say, "Hey, coming into the rhythm this is what I was thinking but let's thin it out and make it more open harmonically and rhythmically so I can put some interesting tonalities over the top."
How did you approach that solo on "Throwback"?
It's laborious for sure, hahaha. I'll listen to the rhythm and I'll be like, "Maybe I want this ascending kind of uplifting arpeggio that's got syncopated accents in it." I'll start working that out and then I'll demo that real quick and then I'll move onto the next four measures maybe and go, "Alright, what do I want over this after that line?" I'll listen to the line and just kind of keep building from there.
After you get all the different sections of the solo worked out, you'll go back and play them in a single performance?
No, unfortunately these days the cart is very much in front of the horse. I read all these books about musicians traveling in the '30s where there would be a group and they'd go out and start playing. They'd tour their areas as much as they could and then they would be invited into record. They would be fleshing out their material long before they'd hit the studio. Today, it's very much the opposite. Music is what promotes the touring now.
In a way, you have to learn your own solo to play it live.
Once you get the solo recorded, it's playing it all together and allowing it to settle in your playing and seeing it as one long, cohesive line.
"Dead Stare" has that kind of snakey feel to it in the verse. How did you achieve that?
That one came about through stumbling onto the initial mode of duhduhduh duhduhdum [sings melody]. Then from there it's your imagination and where do you want it to go from there? Then it's working out, "Where do I want the slides? How do I want my fingers to accent certain notes?" On every downbeat, I try and pull on the note a little bit just to accent that note. It's definitely a developmental process. You come up with a fragment of an idea and then where do I want it to go? How do I want this to develop over time?
Is that how you approach songwriting?
That's very much how I write. A lot of times when I'm practicing like a space cadet and I'll start spacing off and I'll come up with something and just start noodling around. It's like, "Wow, that's a cool idea." The first thing I do is I don't usually break from my practice routine. I just record it. I video record and I archive it because the process will be the same from that point on whether I'm doing it right then or whether I pick it up a month or two later.
You're now playing that custom shop Jackson Soloist but you had gone through Ibanez and Schecter. What do you look for in a guitar?
To me, it was more about the company and their ability to really produce what I saw as the perfect guitar. Ibanez makes fine guitars and Schecter makes fine guitars but they really were missing some key points I thought made a guitar great. Jackson was willing to follow through with these ideas.
What was your vision for the perfect metal guitar?
One of the main ones was the asymmetrical body and the off-center pin ends so that the guitar sits nice and the neck angle sits nice and high when you're playing. One thing I can't stand when you're playing is every time you try and let go of the neck, the neck is dropping towards the ground.
Jackson Chris Broderick Signature Soloist
What else were you looking for?
Another thing I wanted was stainless steel frets for my two-handed tapping so I didn't go through frets constantly doing that kind of work. Again, another thing and I think it's more a preference thing at this point is the 12" radius fretboard across the whole neck. To me it was really cool because I played everything from completely flat instruments like standard classical guitars to extremely curved instruments like violins. I tend to like curved more than flat so a 12" radius wasn't over the top curved but it's definitely on the more curved side of things.
Were you looking for different kinds of guitar sounds with Act of Defiance than you brought to Megadeth?
I think it was just the ability to bring my sound to the table. I worked really hard on getting that tone on Act of Defiance and making it just the way it is. I tour with that exact sound and I'm really happy with it.
There's some piano on the intro of "Poison Dream"?
You're playing the piano?
There's a cello on there?
Yes, it is a cell.
Is that you?
No, the cello is not me. I went to a friend of mine in the LA Guitar Quartet and asked them if they knew of any cellists at USC or other schools they teach at to see if anybody wanted to do the part. They gave me this cat's name Daniel Grab and he came in and nailed it. I had already handed him the melodic line and had written that out for him. He came in and nailed it and we recorded it a few different ways with some different dynamics and some different interpretation. He did a great job and it sounds really kind of bleeding heart and that's what I wanted.
That intro to "Birth and the Burial" had that simple lyrical line, which really set up the whole song.
That was Shawn Drover doing his thing. He wrote that line and that's another song where I was able to utilize the Looper on the Fractal to be able to play it live. The first time it plays through that little Phrygian line and then it comes back through and underneath it comes the rhythm guitar the second time through. It's a great line and luckily it works out really well live.
Playing these new songs live where you have to kick in the Looper at a specific bar sounds like it's incredibly challenging. If you miss a cue, it could be disaster.
Oh, yeah, and it's repeating every time. I've had that happen.
Would you like to see Act of Defiance move forward and make more albums and tour and become the band you'll play with for years to come?
Yeah, until we're being rolled onstage in our wheelchairs.
Coming from a band like Megadeth brings instant focus and attention to Act of Defiance. But on the other side, Megadeth fans expect you to live up to what you'd created so it's sort of a two-edged sword. Right?
Right. I was really amazed when we left, how polarizing the idea of us leaving was. It was pretty amazing to me that people feel the need to take a side or anything like that. Because at the end of the day, I could give all the various reasons in the world but it's just about music. I just hope when people listen to our CD, they say, "You know what? I like what he did. This is a good CD and I'm gonna go pick it up. Or not."
You don't like getting involved in the politics of the business?
It's all about being able to present myself musically.
What are your plans now?
We're getting ready to head back out on tour. I think our first date is the 20th of May and we start in Sacramento and head up into Canada and weave our way around until we meet up with Hatebreed and then we're opening for them and DevilDriver for a couple weeks. Then we work our way back across the US towards California. Then after that we might have a couple of shows I can't talk about yet. I think from there we're gonna start looking at the next CD.
Play all the good notes.
I'll do my best. Thanks, Steve. Bye.
Interview by Steven RosenUltimate-Guitar.com (C) 2016