Dave Mustaine: Countdown to Extinction
GW Do you ever talk to any of the former members? In particular, do you have a relationship with Dave Ellefson, with whom you had a pretty public falling out after almost 20 years of playing together?
MUSTAINE You know, Dave sued me for 18-and-a-half million dollars. [In 2004, Ellefson filed suit against Mustaine claiming, among other things, breach of fiduciary obligation, libel and emotional distress.] And he lost. That had to have hurt. And the fans—a lot of them turned on him. That had to have hurt. He lost one of his oldest friends. That had to have hurt. There probably were a lot of changes, financial and otherwise, he had to make in his life after Megadeth. That had to have hurt, too. And I’m not the kind of guy to sit back and watch that happen to somebody who, at one point, I loved. So I met with Dave a while ago and we had dinner, and he said, “You know, [suing you] was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I wish I never did it.” So I forgave him. Bottom line for me is there’s this one little thing I’ll always be curious about: I just keep thinking, if he had won the lawsuit, what would he have done? Would he have taken 18-and-a-half million dollars from me? Or would he have just said, You know what? I was just trying to prove a point. Let’s get back together and you behave yourself.
GW Do you think he wants to be back in Megadeth?
MUSTAINE I don’t know. I think a person would be nuts not to want to be with me. I have a successful enterprise here. The band is better now than we’ve ever been. And I think our success right now is probably more obvious than it’s ever been.
GW That must feel good, given that you’re a quarter-century into your career with Megadeth. Did you think you’d be going this long?
MUSTAINE Well, one thing that I realize is that when I started playing, things were so different in terms of what we considered “excess.” Marijuana was a juvenile drug, cocaine was kind of like a sophisticated drug, and heroin was for the serious guys. And it got so out of control in the late Eighties and Nineties. My god, how many people OD’d during that time? I was one of them. Nikki [Sixx] was one of them. Several people died. It’s just crazy what we were doing. But it was all in the name of rock and roll. A lot of it, I don’t even remember what happened. Someone would come up to me and say, ‘Yeah, you died yesterday.” And I’d go, “Really?”
GW Does it surprise you that you’re still standing?
MUSTAINE Yes, but here’s the thing that I love—the way the story is coming to a climax. Retirement is looming, and I’m actually okay with it. It’s a lot different when you surrender the baton as opposed to having someone take it out of your hand. And I’m ready to pass the baton because there are so many guitar players that are better than me right now, and there have been all along. I think there’s a new generation out there that needs to have its shot.
GW When you say “retirement is looming”—just how close is it?
MUSTAINE I’ve got one more record on my contract. Then I’m done.
GW What will you do after that?
MUSTAINE I’ll probably move off into the private sector. I have a studio going [Vic’s Garage, in San Marcos, California] that I’m handling with my son, and we’re trying to do a little “metal academy” type thing there. Just something cool to give back to the community, because man, I’m so overpaid and underworked, I have to give something back.
GW So you’ll become more of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy?
MUSTAINE As I get older I have to. I have to go get surgery on my back in a couple days. I’m losing my mobility because of headbanging for all these years. So just by process of elimination I’m having some things taken away from me. And if I can’t do it onstage anymore, I don’t wanna do it at all. I’m too much of a proud person.
GW When that day comes, will you leave feeling you accomplished everything you set out to do?
MUSTAINE I feel that way right now. So I very much could walk away. And I’m actually leaning more toward leaving then staying because of my own pride and concern for wanting to go out on top. It’s important for me to do the right thing, and I think it would be great, if I was going to stop, to do it on the right level. Especially in this business, because people are always clamoring for more and more. But like I said, it’s time for me to start getting into some philanthropy.
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