Megadeth: Rust Never Sleeps
GW How did you come to write the album’s other big song, “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due”?
MUSTAINE That’s an interesting story: We were on tour in ’88 for So Far, So Good…So What!, and we played a gig in Antrim, Ireland. And before the show, I’m relaxing backstage, having a beer, and I find out that there’s a guy selling bootleg Megadeth T-shirts inside the venue. So I tell my people to go get him. They bring him in, and he says he’s selling the shirt for “the Cause.” Now, I don’t know what the Cause is. And the guy goes, “Well, the Cause is about trying to have equality between the Protestants and the Catholics.” And I think, Ah, that sounds pretty fair, you know? One religion’s no better than another; God has authority over all, and all that.
By the time I go up onstage, I’m pretty inebriated. And near the end of the set I go, [in slurred voice] “This one’s for the Cause! Give Ireland back to the Irish!” The audience split into two halves, with the Catholics on one side and the Protestants on the other, and it gets ugly. We had to be escorted out of town in a bulletproof bus. The next morning I see Dave Ellefson at breakfast, and he won’t even look at me. And I go, “What’s the matter with you?” And he says, “We had to be followed out of town by a tank with a machine gun turret on top of it!” But I didn’t even realize. And the next day I started writing “Holy Wars.”
GW A handful of songs on Rust in Peace—“Holy Wars,” “Take No Prisoners,” the title track—were overtly political in nature.
MUSTAINE It was a time in the world when the Cold War was still a real issue. We were pointing toward the East with our nukes out. Reagan was our president when the album was being penned, and by the time it came out George Bush senior was sitting in office. So everything about the record was very politically charged.
GW Musically, a few of the songs had their origins in a much earlier period.
MUSTAINE That’s right. The song “Rust in Peace” was written back during my Panic days [Mustaine’s pre-Metallica band]. It used to be called “Child Saint.” Another one from back then was “Hangar 18.” Those two, along with songs like “Jump in the Fire” and “Mechanix,” were all written before I even joined Metallica.
GW You recorded Rust in Peace with Mike Clink, who at the time was coming off huge success with Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction.
MUSTAINE Nah, you know what? Mike Clink is listed as the producer on Rust in Peace, but we really didn’t make the record with him. Mike was there intermittently because he was working with Guns N’ Roses at the same time [on what would become Use Your Illusion I and II]. Also, Mike had a puppy, and one day I went into the studio and the dog had knocked over my guitar and eaten a hole through the soundproofing. So that was the end of Mike Clink. He was a nice guy, but the record was really done by [engineer] Micajah Ryan, [mixer] Max Norman and myself. And because of the great job Max did with the mixing, he went on to produce the next few Megadeth records.
GW What gear did you use in the studio?
MUSTAINE I was playing my Jackson King V. And my amps were mostly Marshall JCM800s. When I did my leads, I had every single knob dimed. When I opened the volume knob, the amp would just be groaning with harmonics, which you can hear at the beginning of my solo in “Holy Wars.”
GW Rust in Peace is generally considered to be the album where the notoriously hard-partying Megadeth got sober. Is that accurate?
MUSTAINE The truth is that it was written while we were still pretty out of control. In fact, I remember coming up with the lyrics to “Lucretia” while driving around the Griffith Park Observatory, in the hills by the big Hollywood sign, trying to score drugs.
But by the time we went in and recorded the album, Dave Ellefson had gotten cleaned up. I was trying to, though I was still struggling with the idea of never being able to have a beer again for the rest of my life. But around that time I went into a program. And I liked it a little bit, but then I started to notice that whatever I would say in those meeting places would get out. There was no anonymity with me. So I figured, Screw it, I’m outta here. What really helped me was when I became a Christian in 2002, after my arm was injured and I thought I’d never play again and I broke up the band. That experience gave me the necessary power to find peace within myself.
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