Megadeth's Dave Mustaine Talks First Gig, First Guitar and Advice for New Players

Guitar World recently caught up with Megadeth's Dave Mustaine and hit him with these seven questions.

What inspired you to pick up a guitar?

My sister sucked at piano, so I just did it to drown her out. It’s the truth. My ex-brother-in-law had a guitar and loaned it to me one day, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

What was your first guitar?

It was a very cheap SG copy that I got for 80 dollars. The next guitar I got through less-than-desirable means. It was a Gibson copy, so I bought a Gibson sticker for five bucks and stuck it on the guitar. And I paid off my less-than-desirable debt with it.

What was the first song you learned?

One of the first songs I learned on electric guitar was David Bowie’s “Panic in Detroit.” Another was “All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople. And of course “Stairway to Heaven.” After that, it was the obligatory Kiss songs, because they were so huge at the time.

What do you recall about your first gig?

Well, there was a talent show where they told us we were too loud and kicked us out, but my first gig was with Panic at Huntington Beach. Although the sex, the girls and the drugs were rampant, it was marred by the death of two friends: the guy who did our sound and our drummer at the time. We were all partying, and I decided to spend the night. I stayed behind and these two guys went home. They were driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, south of the pier, by the Jack in the Box, and crashed.

The driver was able to get out of the car, but he died because he’d broken his neck. The drummer was asleep in the back, and he, unfortunately, died in the fire. Yeah, Panic had a very painful beginning; our other guitar player also died in a car crash. It was kind of a very painful, dark period when I started playing.

Ever had an embarrassing onstage moment or disaster show?

I have a recurring nightmare where I go onstage and pick up my guitar and it’s strung upside-down; I have to play left-handed. Or—and this is the big kahuna of bad dreams—I dream that I’m playing and the end of the world happens right there. As for anything that has actually happened, some people were crushed to death at a show at Castle Donington, and some people died at a show we did in Brazil. Obviously, those are much more disastrous and sacred.

What’s your favorite guitar or piece of gear?

I love my guitar-and-amp configuration and everything, but probably one of the most underrated products is the guitar pick. I use Dunlop .73mm Tortex picks. I used to use hard-plastic jazz picks and Fender picks and all kinds of others, but Tortex really opened my playing to a new dimension. The material, the rigidity, the really unique texture. They’re almost absorbent. They just don’t slip.

Got any advice for younger players?

Pick your influences well. If you like bands like Avenged Sevenfold or Trivium or bands like that, instead of getting influenced by them, go to their influences. They listened to Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax—the Big Four influenced a lot of these bands. If you go farther back, you can beat your influences at their own game. There’s nothing better than when the student beats the master.

Photo: Travis Shinn

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