Dave Mustaine: 'Endgame Is Me Being Free To Do Whatever I Want'

An undeniably bright and insightful individual, Mustaine covered a lot of ground in this conversation.

Dave Mustaine: 'Endgame Is Me Being Free To Do Whatever I Want'
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Dave Mustaine gets a bad rap for talking smack about other musicians. Well, maybe they deserve it. People also have this vision of him as a bandleader wielding a whip, snapping it at anyone who disagrees with him or dares to voice an original idea. Not true. In fact, according to James LoMenzo Dave encourages input from his musicians. Why does Mustaine have this reputation? He has criticized bands in the past and he has fallen out with a lot of other bands and even members of his own band [the Dave Ellefson lawsuit one of the more infamous moments]. But here, Mustaine shows a gentler, more restrained side. On the heels of Megadeth's new Endgame album, the former Metallica guitarist admits to finding God and attempts at soothing the savage beast within him. An undeniably bright and insightful individual, Mustaine covered a lot of ground in this conversation. UG: In a recent conversation I had with James LoMenzo, he described you as a perfectionist. He said that all the guys he'd worked with Zakk Wylde, Slash, and David Lee Roth all had that quality. Would you agree with that assessment? Dave Mustaine: A perfectionist? I'm a Virgo so I think people make generalized statements about Virgos. And although I really don't like hearing a generalized statement or even ascribing to them because it usually comes out as superstition when you hear stuff like that. So, you know what? I am a Virgo and I am a perfectionist. But there are other situations that must be taken under consideration when you become the person that's the leader. Whether it's a bandleader or a group leader or a Cub Scout leader. If you're a person who's in a position of authority then you have to take on some other chores. Like understanding the human psyche and dealing with people. Especially if they're temperamental and they've got a gift but they don't know how to get to it. Over the years it's been a challenge being a person who was just a guitar player and having to talk in-between songs. In Metallica, that was James' job and it was frustrating for me in Megadeth not being able to find a frontman because I wasn't a singer. My whole experience as a singer was being a background singer in Metallica and singing in Sunday school. So it was only by default that you became the lead singer in Megadeth? Yeah, I tried it and it felt like someone had driven a nail into my eyeball. It felt like Scanners. Remember that movie? It felt like my head was gonna pop. I thought, This was all I need trying to sing one of these fuckin' songs and have an aneurysm. I realized the reason you're hurting yourself has to do with breathing. I learned as I went along and the more I did it, the better I got at it. But there was really not a lot of room to range out as a singer in metal. There were the greats like Dio and in heavy metal people like Lance [King] and stuff like that. But as far as the metal that we came from, when it came down to singing there weren't really a lot of greats out there. Geoff Tate was really good but people said it was operatic and I wasn't an opera singer. There were a lot of good singing singers but none of them really played guitar either. So I was pretty challenged right out of the gate. What am I gonna do?

"I am a Virgo and I am a perfectionist."

So you were looking for ways to develop your own sound and style and also become an adept guitar player at the same time? I would like to lie to you and tell you Yes but I've got to tell you the truth I didn't have any of the tools to be able to do that. At the very beginning, I didn't know anything about it. I did everything I could to look like I wasn't lacking confidence but the truth was I did lack confidence. Because this was something I'd never done before. Following that logic, you did learn your craft along the way and that has culminated with Endgame. Are there vocals on this album that you couldn't have pulled off on Countdown to Extinction, for example? I would say that a lot of the singing on this record came from exploring singing on the records between Countdown to Extinction and The System Has Failed. There were the records Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings, Risk, and The World Needs a Hero and they all had a lot of vocal experimentation with melodies and stuff and I was really stretching myself out as a writer. The System Has Failed was actually recorded as a Dave Mustaine solo album. Is there a difference between a Dave Mustaine solo album and a Megadeth record? I think probably the best way to answer that is to say I like Risk; I think Risk is a great record. People don't like it because it says Megadeth on it. Now if it said Dave Mustaine on it, that record would have probably done really well. But I think because it came out as a Megadeth record that a lot of the fans wanted something more aggressive. Now that record was supposed to have been done a lot quicker and was supposed to have had a lot heavier stuff on it. But at the time I was trying to keep tranquility in the band with Marty Friedman as much as possible so I really, really turned myself inside out to accommodate this guy. After Risk was over, I went up to Marty and told him I'd heard people had the record and threw it out the window on their way home from the store and stuff. And there were a lot of people who liked it because it was different. So that probably is what a Dave Mustaine solo record would sound like. If it didn't sound like Megadeth, it would probably sound like a cross between Risk and Endgame. So you're saying you really took the bull by the horns on Endgame. Endgame is me being free to do whatever I want under the guise of Megadeth. Just thrashing it out and having fun. If you can imagine lookin' at me in the studio, imagine this picture: I'm sitting on a chair and somebody calls my name and I look back and I'm smiling. OK? Instead of me saying, What the fuck do you want? Like that kid in Gumby where he goes, Get off my planet! You had a good time recording Endgame? Yeah, there was a time where I was very possessive about all the secrets that we've used to play. Like on Killing Is My Business And Business Is Good, I tuned down a quarter of a step instead of half a step so that people would not be able to tune their guitars and play it. When Eddie Van Halen came out, he did something basically the same way and I learned that trick from him play with your back turned. I couldn't do that because I'm too much of a ham. The Endgame album does cover the expected Megadeth territory, but there a few tracks that wander a bit. The Hardest Part of Letting Go has acoustic guitars and keyboard strings and stuff. Do you dig this softer aspect of the music? I didn't really set out for that song to do anything other than serve a purpose with my wife. She had said I'd never written a song about her. So I wrote this song but I also like to read and I was reading a book of Edgar Allan Poe's stories and I'd just gotten a book by H.P. Lovecraft. For whatever reason I chose Poe over Lovecraft to start reading and the story for The Telltale Heart was something that I really, really dug. Near that story was The Cask of Amontillado and that's what the second half of the song is about. So I played the song for my wife and the first half is how we met and the second half is about the relationship and she doesn't like it because she thinks that I'm talking about bricking her up into a wall. I love the music on that and Chris Broderick actually wrote the music with me on that one. That was one of his first efforts as a co-writer with me. Just like Shawn Drover was a co-writer on Headcrusher.

"My whole experience as a singer was being a background singer in Metallica and singing in Sunday school."

As the person who is writing the lyrics and the music, you're intimately involved in every aspect of a song. On Headcrusher, for example, because you're so aware of what is being sung about and because you've essentially written the riffs, are you trying to match up the solo to the emotional content here? Trying to create a solo that bends and turns and twists to accommodate the lyric? Yeah. That's something I'm grateful to Marty Friedman for; he really helped me in the beginning. See, a lot of people who don't want to be Dave supporters have found all kinds of things that I've said and take exception like, I will take the solos in the band. And what happens is we go in the studio and it would be, Your way, our way, and my way. For example, with Chris, when we did this record, there were only two things I said the entire record. There was a dive bomb at the end of 44Minutes and Chris had grabbed the bar and let go of it and then the string vibrated so it was like nnnuuuuu [mimics a whammy bar descending] and then that vibrating thing. But I don't like that because it reminds me of Nightranger. So he tried a different approach. You would provide input about the solos from the other guitar players? With the solos with the other guys and they would get to a part where they were playin' something and if I listened to it and it wasn't really clicking? I would say, Well, why don't you try something like this right here? And if it wasn't clicking at all, I'd say, Listen, I want you to do this. And I would sing a solo and stuff. It's real easy for me to go dudududu dudududu diddledidddle diddle didddle duh [sings a mock guitar solo] like I was scatting like George Benson. I've done that with a lot of the guys. The only person I haven't done that with is Chris. I used to say to Marty, In order for the solos to take on color and really be able to identify with the anxiety of the song, read the lyrics. There was very rarely a song without lyrics when we started the guitar work on it. It would be, Here's your solo section, read the lyrics, and your solo goes here. You not only had a positive experience with the Endgame record but it sounds like you've arrived at a point where you don't have to hide behind the curtain. That you're willing to man up about the music you make and deal with how people are going to react to it. The thing is I've grown up a lot and there's gonna be people out there who are going to talk shit about me no matter what I do. Whether it's good, bad, or indifferent and that's OK; they have that right. I have the same right to say what I want on my records as they have to say what they want. The bummer is sometimes people say stuff and it's not cool. It's nothing about me as a musician; they make a personal statement about me and they don't know me as a person. I've accomplished a lot of stuff. When I first started in the band I was in before Metallica, metal was just starting to hit the United States in the form of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. My work with what I did with Metallica; what I did with my friends in Anthrax; what I did with Slayer and Kerry King; that was a really big connection. Like the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon. Think about that: The four of us, the big four, one thing that is a common thread with all of us is that we love this music. With all of that being said, there does seem to be ongoing feuds with you and the guys from Slayer, Metallica, and even the former members of your own band. I was involved with everyone of these guys and hanging out with these guys and having friendships with them and stuff. And still do it. Although I don't really talk with the guys from my last band, I still respect them. And I said so when they [Metallica was inducted in 2009] went into the Hall of Fame; I thought it was cool for them. My relationship with Anthrax is great. So much so that I even have a relationship with some of their ex-members. Danny Spitz is one of my best friends and although Joey is a little hard to understand, we're still hands.

"I was really stretching myself out as a writer."

You've actually been touring with Slayer on the Canadian Carnage dates. Yeah, we've just renewed our working relationship and hopefully it will continue to lay down some foundation for us to re-establish our friendship. And I think something great happened out there. By the way, I wanted to send my best wishes to Tom on his surgery. The readers should send their best wishes and prayers if they don't think they're gonna burst into flames praying for Tom. We had 19 years ago an incident that happened and it caused some hurt feelings between the bands and we were not close after that for a long time. But that's behind us. And not only is it behind us but it's gotten to the point right now where Dave and Kerry were in my dressing room and we were hanging out and it was great. I took Kerry outside and said, Can I just ask you what is it that pissed you off so bad? because I didn't even remember. He was ready to tell me and some guy walks up and goes, Dude, Endgame is so great. And I didn't want to seem disrespectful and say, Yeah, I know so I said, Yeah, thanks, I appreciate that. And another guy came up and I said, Kerry, let's just go back inside so we went back in and that was the end of the conversation. Did Kerry ever tell you what went down? No, we went back inside and were just holding court with everybody. But I look at it like this: When I went over to talk with them before at the beginning of the tour, I think those guys were a little reluctant because of my past. But I had a profound psychic change in my life. I recently saw the statement that Slayer had made and just the fact that they said something kind about us was like, Wow, it's workin'; we're becoming friends again. And I heard from my manager that Kerry wanted to call me and I thought, This is so awesome. Granted I'm a Christian and they may not be but I am trying to live my life differently. And I'm the one who said the thing that caused the harm and I've apologized. So maybe some day these guys will trust me again and I feel like right now we're being able to become friends again. I think about, Do I want to spend another 19 years like this? Interview by Steven Rosen Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2009

98 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Link12
    onevoiceinc wrote: Very cool interview. And I love that he is not afraid (in spite of the potential browbeating in the entertainment industry for such things) to take a stand for his faith. It's further proof that you can believe a certain way and still rock out. (See also: Chevelle, Underoath, and Norma Jean, Anberlin, among so many other Christian artists in the industry.)
    Not to mention As I Lay Dying as well, they are an awesome Christian metal band.
    devilex121
    Alijonroth wrote: am i the only one who thought the album was disappointing?? and i AM a megadeth fan by the way *raises flame shield*
    yes you are the only one... (you better keep that flame shield nice and high XD)
    not_dead_enough
    Slapfunkah wrote: I was thoroughly dissapointed in Endgame but this is coming from a huge Marty Friedman fan. I hate to hop on the old "the old stuff was better" bandwagon but I have to. Megadeth is one of those bands that already wrote their best songs, which are fantastic, and unmatchable, even by themselves but the new stuff jut wont cut it. keep in mind that this is just an opinion
    So you like Cryptic Writings and Risk the most as Megadeth's records? Remember Marty's influence was largely what took Megadeth in the direction it went in the late 90's. Also remember, most of RIP was written before Marty even joined Megadeth... For the record, I love Cryptic Writings and Risk; they are awesome, underrated albums. I just think Marty gets WAAY too much credit for Megadeth's best work.
    Slapfunkah
    I was thoroughly dissapointed in Endgame but this is coming from a huge Marty Friedman fan. I hate to hop on the old "the old stuff was better" bandwagon but I have to. Megadeth is one of those bands that already wrote their best songs, which are fantastic, and unmatchable, even by themselves but the new stuff jut wont cut it. keep in mind that this is just an opinion
    addman22
    good for dave, he is such an amzing person hes unique in this would of angry thrash metal....
    jamesdn
    You know I wonder if he'll do another album with Roadrunner. The album is ironically titled Endgame so obviously it could be the last record. He still owes them one more album and maybe will try to get out of it like he did with the previous label Sanctuary. Blame the back injury, dissolve the band, issue a live album and a compilation.
    CliffIsAngry
    not_dead_enough wrote: Slapfunkah wrote: I was thoroughly dissapointed in Endgame but this is coming from a huge Marty Friedman fan. I hate to hop on the old "the old stuff was better" bandwagon but I have to. Megadeth is one of those bands that already wrote their best songs, which are fantastic, and unmatchable, even by themselves but the new stuff jut wont cut it. keep in mind that this is just an opinion So you like Cryptic Writings and Risk the most as Megadeth's records? Remember Marty's influence was largely what took Megadeth in the direction it went in the late 90's. Also remember, most of RIP was written before Marty even joined Megadeth... For the record, I love Cryptic Writings and Risk; they are awesome, underrated albums. I just think Marty gets WAAY too much credit for Megadeth's best work.
    I don't know if it's megadeth's best work, tbh I'm stuck between the poland era and marty though marty has more cd's on his side. But imho Marty had a VERY strong influence on Megadeth, dave respected him more than one could imagine and marty's solos are so unique and full of passion, the guy can write stories with his solos. That's why I like him so much more than the other leads.
    Alijonroth
    devilex121 wrote: Alijonroth wrote: am i the only one who thought the album was disappointing?? and i AM a megadeth fan by the way *raises flame shield* yes you are the only one... (you better keep that flame shield nice and high XD)
    i'll take my chances a little further and say Why i thought it was disappointing the riffs were highly technical i give him that,but speed and complexity are not all,the only song i felt a good sense of melody in was 44 minutes and 30 second sections here and there in every other song,the rest were just fast technical,tasteless riffs (the hardest part of letting go is not playing on my music player so i cant give an opinion on that one yet,its one song tho!) as for the solo's...um,broderick is technically a monster,but whenever a solo section comes by he steps in and pours a truckload of notes over the track and it ends before you realise what the fock he just did,the solo's are alright,shit-fast and totally in tandeem with the music,but they dont linger in your memory,they'r not something memorable like marty or poland,any of these guys could play one run in a whole song and youd remember it forever even if it wasnt that technical,so no...the leads were quite tasteless (she-wolf solo anyone?? ) and the drums....with menza you sensed there was a drummer putting his heart in every beat but uh...shawn was like a bear thumping on double bass from start to finish, a drum machine couldve sounded just the same! so...i dunno maybe i need more listens but imo this album is a step backwards,dave was trying so hard to beat the metallica album this time (which also wasnt so good),speed and technicality arent everything dave just an opinion of course,chill dudes :
    deluded_reality
    I'm so stoked that Megadeth and Slayer are burying their differences. They're two of my favorite bands. Interviews with Dave are always fun to read. BTW, here's hoping Tom gets well soon.
    MaidenandEddy
    I think Risk is a great record. People dont like it because it says Megadeth on it. Now if it said Dave Mustaine on it, that record would have probably done really well.
    Exactly the same problem with Chinese Democracy: If it had said Axl Rose, it would've done really well. As it says Guns N Roses, it's considered below average. Anyway, good interview: its nice to see Dave in a good light after all that's beeen said about him being a total dick. And as for...
    AXE187 wrote: I wish I could like megadeth..... Daves singing is the worst in metal history imo.
    ...I, on the other hand, like it. I know he's not the greatest singer, but his voice is the voice of Megadeth and I couldn't see anyone else in that role.
    AXE187
    I wish I could like megadeth..... Daves singing is the worst in metal history imo. i wonder what metallicas music would have been like if he stayed. Alex Jones for the win.
    onevoiceinc
    I was wondering about the Adam Jones reference. Being a fan of Tool. But either way, I never saw the movie, lol.
    Phantasmasaurus
    Dumpster510 wrote: It's not about religion....the album clearly is about politics, and the title track is based off of the Adam Jones movie Endgame:Blueprint for Global Enslavement. Go look it up on google video Washington is Next was a precursor to this. Also I don't hear any religious connotations in Never Walk Alone.
    you mean Alex Jones. Adam Jones is the guitarist from Tool, so that could be misleading...
    BlessureK
    AXE187 wrote: I wish I could like megadeth..... Daves singing is the worst in metal history imo. i wonder what metallicas music would have been like if he stayed. Alex Jones for the win.
    I for one am glad he was kicked out of Metallica. He could make his own band and made 4 awesome albums and then went Pop (seriously). Metallica made 5 awesome albums then went Hard Rock. Was pretty cool either way cause they made different types of music and people liked them
    GasPipe
    onevoiceinc wrote: foo_diddles wrote: Endgame!!! I 'm just glad his religious views don't come up in Megadeth, can anyone else imagine an epic thrasterpiece about loving Jesus? lol. A common misconception (created by over zealous religious people and also close-minded or mis-informed people who have never experienced 'the faith') that Christians live in some bubble world. Though many do. A Christian can get pissed off just like anyone else, and that's a great place to start when writing a song, in my opinion. (Works for me.)
    Lol my thoughts exactly. People hav sum really blinkered ideas about us christians. Good interview, great to see daves turned himself around, he seems a real gr8 guy. And an excellent guitarist too.
    shreddykrueger
    Finally! A GOOD recent interview with the Dave man not telling people to buy his stuff and go with Christ. Fucking excellent.
    chopshop777
    Dave and Megadeth rule, way better than any member in Metallica could hope to ever be. cheers www.myspace.com/guitarmessiah7
    Jondy
    He tuned a quarter step down so people couldn't learn his songs? Wow. Just wow. That's too impressive for me to even begin to criticize.
    reignofrock
    Megadeth's been my favorite band for like 8 years, but I gotta say, the title to this article... Hasn't he been pretty much running the show the whole time anyways? Free to do what he wants? That's how it's been since day one, hence why he's the only founding member lol.
    GodofGuitar1991
    foo_diddles wrote: Endgame!!! I 'm just glad his religious views don't come up in Megadeth, can anyone else imagine an epic thrasterpiece about loving Jesus?
    Never walk alone - United abominations.
    AstheticsOfHate
    For some reason i just don't like Endgame, i don't know why, maybe it's his voice. He is such a cool guy though, it's hard to believe all the bad stuff you hear about him when he comes across as one of the coolest guys in metal.
    Megadethmike
    End game is a good record but not as good as death magnetic dave tries to hard to be perfect so it blinds him to the truth that he isn't really that perfect
    Pree666
    People who say Endgame sucks are musically immature(Coming from a guitarists point of view).
    Sz_Shredder...
    shut up mustaine you suck.. seriously biggest wanker in metal, he should have some kind of award.
    Maximus199223
    Megadethmike wrote: End game is a good record but not as good as death magnetic dave tries to hard to be perfect so it blinds him to the truth that he isn't really that perfect
    Seriously? I thought that Endgame was so much better than Death Magnetic there are only a few songs I can actually remember what they sound like and that is the day that never comes and all nightmare long. The day that never comes is pretty good and all nightmare long got kinda old. I actually remember most of the megadeth songs on the new album, theres not a bad song on it. I do agree with other comments that Dave ellefson would have done a better job but this album is still freaking awesome!!! GO MEGADETH!!!
    tricksy16
    To Dave Mustaine, here's a suggestion, why don't you let other musicians from Megadeth write some songs, and then we'll see how you like Endgame. Hey, maybe the name for the album is auto-biographical?
    Attrition0
    bahahahaha I love how he tries to downplay the perfectionist comment and the first captioned picture says "I am a Virgo and I am a perfectionist."
    scawti
    I'll tell you what pissed me off about Endgame. The basslines. Shawn LaMenzo. Jesus. He had no counterpoint, no interesting input save for one or 2 cool riffs (opening to The Right to go insane).
    Seriously That ruined alot of it for me, there were perfectly good sections for him to do fills in and instead he stuck to freaking ROOT NOTES! Dave ellefson would not stand for that.
    Blame that on Dave not James. James's bassline does suit what the drummer is doing. Junior did do nothing but follow root notes in the early albums, it wasn't till Nick had a less bass-drum driven style that he used more "counterpoint". I will say that I liked the basslines - and the non-Dave guitar solos way better on UA, but think Endgame is a lot better album than Risk and System has Failed.
    Wrathofkala
    I am so happy that Dave has found Christ! Dave is one of my all time favs musicians and now his messages are positive -- such a good way to leave life. Good news is you can have a positive message and still be brutal!
    DroogieSteve
    Too bad endgame sucked. Megadeth are one of my favourite bands but I hope they retire soon if the rest of the albums are gonna sound like that.
    snakesson
    foo_diddles wrote: Endgame!!! I 'm just glad his religious views don't come up in Megadeth, can anyone else imagine an epic thrasterpiece about loving Jesus?
    No.
    blommen
    jamesdn wrote: You know I wonder if he'll do another album with Roadrunner. The album is ironically titled Endgame so obviously it could be the last record. He still owes them one more album and maybe will try to get out of it like he did with the previous label Sanctuary. Blame the back injury, dissolve the band, issue a live album and a compilation.
    he has already said that he has one more album in him, so its not really a question.
    InfamyB4Fame
    Dave Mustaine...what a charactor lol. I wish more artists would speak their mind like he does. Dave will always remain cool in my book.
    Highwaytohell
    I'll tell you what pissed me off about Endgame. The basslines. Shawn LaMenzo. Jesus. He had no counterpoint, no interesting input save for one or 2 cool riffs (opening to The Right to go insane). Seriously That ruined alot of it for me, there were perfectly good sections for him to do fills in and instead he stuck to freaking ROOT NOTES! Dave ellefson would not stand for that. All the people who call Dave a pussy are probably Zakk Wylde and Ted Nugent fans. I'm sure you guys would much prefer a stick up his ass butmunch who raves about how good they are and how badass they are. Dave grew up people. He found religion and it works for him. He's not pushing it on anyone and he still respects those who are different. He has a family, and he chooses to end petty arguments which have no place in the world. He speaks his mind and is respectful about it. He will get criticism from all sides no matter what... I think the lyrics are great, Dave is and always has been a great wordsmith, the guitars are the best they've been since The System has Failed (still can't argue with poland), and the album is well mixed. But the Bass Ruined the Album. PLEASE DAVE GET ELLEFSON BACK SO WE CAN HEAR REAL BASSLINES PLEASE!
    FearOfTheDuck
    Alijonroth wrote: am i the only one who thought the album was disappointing?? and i AM a megadeth fan by the way *raises flame shield*
    Endgame is a grower, at first i was like "yeah this alright". I didn't listen to it for about a month, then i got this urge to listen to it! And I love it to bits now!
    Dynamight
    I'll have to join the "disappointed by this album" group. In fact, I don't think they've done anything noteworthy since Youthanasia. Nowadays it's just "I have some riffs, let's see where we can shove them and then we can add solos everywhere". Where's the jazz? Where's the progressive structure? Megadeth used to be something different; a thrashy, yet jazzy metal band that could do whatever they felt like... now it's just chugging madness. Worse, it almost sounds like this album could have been released in the early 80's, when the band's sound hadn't matured yet. It's like Dave wanted to get back to the band's roots, but went in so deep he forgot the progress they'd made.
    DaMetalMaverick
    jpk6044 wrote: I always thought Dave Mustaine was an *****. And I still do.
    Clearly, you're one one of those people who enjoy hating Dave, no matter what, right?
    DaMetalMaverick
    justinb904 wrote: Music_Eater wrote: nevertheless dave is a coul guy, if only he wouldn't be a pussy so often and wouldn't tell it every existing press. I think you are mixing up being a pussy with being an adult... but that is neither here nor there Endgame is definitely an awesome album
    +1