Dave Mustaine: Countdown to Extinction
Dave Mustaine says he has one Megadeth album left in him. With Endgame, he brings the band back to its classic sound—and one step closer to its conclusion.
You know,” says Dave Mustaine, “the other day I was trying to explain to a friend the story of King Midas, and how terribly lonely that must have been for him to have everything he touched turn to gold. After a while that’s gotta suck, don’t you think? Especially if you touched your loved one…” The Megadeth singer and guitarist lets out a big laugh. “Although given some of the people I’ve had in my life, I’d probably be better off.”
While it’s safe to say that Mustaine’s career hasn’t been exactly 100 percent golden—he’s experienced his fair share of lineup changes, lawsuits, personality clashes, drug addictions, less-than-stellar records, career-ending injuries, breakups and reunions, for starters—he has been blessed with something of a Midas touch. In the more than 25 years that he’s fronted Megadeth, Mustaine has crafted a body of work practically unparalleled in the world of heavy music. Several of his group’s early albums—1986’s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, 1990’s Rust in Peace and 1992’s blockbuster Countdown to Extinction—continue to have a great influence on metal bands.
Which is not to say that Mustaine’s best moments are behind him. By his own estimation, they’re staring him square in the face. The Megadeth leader recently put the finishing touches on Endgame, his band’s 12th studio album and, in his opinion, one of the strongest of his career. “I don’t know that I could make a better record than this one,” Mustaine says proudly. “I know I have another record in me, and probably a few more good songs. But this one’ll be hard to top.”
He’s also energized about the current Megadeth lineup: Endgame was recorded with drummer Shawn Drover and bassist James LoMenzo, both of whom played on 2007’s United Abominations, and new guitarist Chris Broderick, who stepped in for departed lead player Glen Drover during the 2007-2008 Tour of Duty road jaunt. Endgame marks Broderick’s first recorded appearance with Megadeth, and the former Jag Panzer and Nevermore guitarist not only holds his own alongside Mustaine but also against the impressive players who preceded him in the band. “Chris is an absolutely incredibly talented musician,” says Mustaine. “And I honestly gotta tell ya, if I compared the guys I have now to any of the ones from the past, it’d be really hard not to say that this lineup isn’t the best I’ve had.”
Which is saying something, given the fact that earlier in the decade it looked as if Megadeth itself had become solidly of the past. After suffering radial nerve damage in his left arm in 2002, Mustaine called it a day, abruptly disbanding the outfit he had led for most of his adult life. He was, however, unprepared for what would come next. “There was a good 17 months there where I would talk to people and be like, ‘Hi, I play guitar…’ And then I’d stop myself and go, ‘Well, I used to play guitar.’ And that hurt,” Mustaine recalls. “Or I’d hear myself say, ‘I used to be in a band called Megadeth,’ and it was like, Oh my God, used to? Really? It felt like shit.” Following a year and a half of intense rehabilitation, Mustaine rebooted Megadeth in 2004 with a fresh lineup and album, The System Has Failed. United Abominations followed three years later, and now comes Endgame.
As for what the future holds, if Mustaine gets his way—and he usually does—there’s little doubt more golden moments lie ahead. But if there’s anything to be gleaned from the past, it could be said that the only constant in Megadeth is change. “I have fear about the born-on date on the bottom of my feet, and what that date is,” Mustaine admits. “Like, when does Megadeth’s music actually lose its cool? Did we already go through that period and survive? I mean, I’m nearing the point where I’ll be viable to be a contender for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What’s gonna happen then? All I know is, every day there’s a new twist in my life that makes me excited to wake up and find out what’s gonna come next.”