We chat with Megadeth
Megadeth’s 2009 album Endgame was a brilliant, dark, heavy, incredibly aggressive thrashfest from one of the true greats of the genre. It’s a hell of an album to try to top – where could they possibly go from there?
Well, with Th1rt3en, Megadeth has stripped away much of the pure festering hatred of Endgame and replaced it with the kind of songcraft that made 1992′s Countdown To Extinction such a classic. Reinvigorated by the return of original bass player David Ellefson, Megadeth are in fine form on Th1rt3en.
Dave Mustaine is his metal-riffin’, bile-spitting best, and Chris Broderick settles comfortably into the co-guitar chair, fulfilling the promise he made with his most stunning Endgame moments. And now on his third album with the band, drummer Shawn Drover manages to take a little from all of the Megadeth drummers who came before him but mixes it with a lot of his own style.
A week prior to Th1rt3en’s release, Tone Deaf caught up with Drover for a little chat.
Compared to Endgame, this album has a raw kind of vibe, and it’s kind of punky in places.
We go into the studio with the same mindset every time, pretty much, and that’s basically just to write the best heavy metal songs we can, whether some of them turn out to be more punky, like you suggest – certainly “Who’s Life (Is It Anyway)?” has a kind of punky vibe to it, and I’m an advocate for that. I love punk stuff so that song in particular was a lot of fun to play. But it’s not something that is preconceived.
We just go in there and try to write the best songs we can. And whether we go in there and play four fast ones on the last record and five fast ones on this record, it’s not premedidated. Whatever comes out comes out. For me with this record, there’s just a lot of variety, different styles within the parameters of metal. Fast stuff, mid-paced stuff, punky stuff, slower stuff. At the end of the day they’re all metal songs. That’s what the fans what and that’s what we want to give them.
And at the end of the day they’re all Megadeth songs – it still feels really Megadeth.
Right. We’re one of those bands that can get away with playing a lot of different kinds of styles and still get away with calling it Megadeth. We’re really lucky. We’re in a unique spot. A lot of bands can’t experiment or can’t go outside of the box they’ve painted for themselves. Whatever it is, for the most part we can kinda get away with it, so we’re in a fortunate position, certainly.
To me it almost sounds like an album that Megadeth could have made after Countdown To Extinction in the early 90s if they went in a different direction to where they went on Youthanasia.
I’ve gotten a lot of different comments about what people perceive this album to sound like. Some think it’s a real modern-sounding record, some people think it’s a real old-sounding record. But we just go in there and crank out the best songs we can, and ultimately the fans create that perception of where they see everything fitting in, ultimately. For me they just sound like the new songs.
What I really feel about this one is that it’s Megadeth’s first driving album – I listened to the record company stream on my iPhone and it really worked in that way.
You know, it is a good car-driving record, and that’s a really good point. A lot of people just listen to it on their iPod or their crappy laptop or whatever, and to me, to get the full experience of the record and how it sounds sonically, if you’re in a car and you’re driving with a kickass stereo, it’s so much fun to listen to something like that.
If you’ve got a killer stereo at home it’s always fun to listen to that as well, but if you’re driving around in a car, man, and you’re cranking it and it sounds great, it’s a really cool thing for me. And I have a similar feeling to what you just said. I think it’s a great driving record. It sounds fun and it’s fun to drive to! You might find yourself driving a little faster than you need to…
There are several songs on Th1rt3en – “Black Swan,” “Millennium Of The Blind,” “New World Order” – that have previously existed as demos or bonus tracks. How did you approach those?
Dave came up with the idea of possibly rerecording “Millennium Of The Blind” and “New World Order” because they were only recorded as demos, and then they were included on the Youthanasia re-release, I believe it was. And I love both of those songs, especially “New World Order.” There’s something about that song that I just absolutely love. So when Dave initially brought the idea up, I was the guy who really went to bat for those two songs because I thought they would fit on this record.
Even though they were recorded twenty years ago, I thought they would sit really well with what we were creating at the time. I thought that to rerecord those songs with great production was something we hadn’t done before. I think it turned out very well and I think the fans are going to dig it. We certainly dig it and we hope the fans do as well. And for me it was a lot of fun re-recording something that was recorded twenty years ago. It was cool!
To be honest, when I saw the tracklisting and recognised those songs, my first thought was “Oh man… really?” And in the back of my mind I was a bit cynical about whether they’d fit, but they totally do.
It does fit, dude, it really does. And the same for “Black Swan.” We originally released that to the fan club for um…
United Abominations, yeah. And to me that song was never really finished. Although it was recorded it wasn’t fine-tuned as good as it is now. Now I think it’s a much better song, and it ties in with the album. For me that song was unfinished business. I liked the song but I knew we could make it better, and once we broke it out again we did make it better. So ultimately I think we did a really good thing with that.
I know you brought in the song “Headcrusher” for the last album – did you bring in any riffs this time?
We all do, but Dave has so many riffs that he’s compiled. It’s just crazy. Ultimately it went by so fast and there were so many good ideas to choose from, it was just like, “Let’s keep going with this.” Dave had so many great ideas to choose from. That stuff doesn’t bug me. It’s whatever fits the record. With “Headcrusher” on the last record that’s something that fit what we were doing, but on this one it was Dave’s stuff. Whatever serves the record, that’s what we go with.
There are certainly worse jobs in the world than getting up and playing Dave Mustaine’s songs.
Yeah! Anyone who complains about something like that ought to have their head examined. I have a great job and I don’t get pissy about things that are not important to us. Ultimately I’m here to help make Megadeth the best it can be, and maintain the integrity of this band 27 years into its history. We don’t squabble about things like that. A lot of bands do that, and a lot of bands break up.
- Peter Hodgson
Th1rt3en is out today (October 28, 2011) on Roadrunner.