Written by Anthony Toto
“Take no prisoners, take no shit,” Dave Mustaine assuredly screams with a sense of reckless abandon on “Take No Prisoners” from Megadeth’s monumental masterpiece Rust In Peace.
The iconic lyric resembles an unforgiving attitude held by legendary Frontman Dave Mustaine. Sometimes controversial, Megadeth never mistook itself as a choirboy act.
Approaching the band’s 30th anniversary, Mustaine’s ferocity remains rampant across an extensive catalog of heavy metal galore highlighted by a venomous vengeance unique to the band’s identity.
Megadeth carved out a historic legacy in the 1980’s by lashing out a rapid fire of innovative aggression as part of the groundbreaking thrash metal movement.
During the 1990’s, the band achieved multi-platinum success by delivering an onslaught of records aggressive in texture, slower in tempos, and soothing in melodies.
Standing strong in 2013, Megadeth continues to ride a wave of momentum dating back to the band’s 2004 comeback album The System Has Failed.
With the band’s recent fourteenth-studio album (fifteenth if you count Hidden Treasures), Super Collider, Megadeth continues to thrive as a must-see live act. The band remains atop their game in terms of releasing a devastating attack of pulverizing riffs with precise execution on live audiences.
Megadeth will perform with Fear Factory and Nonpoint at The Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey on November 29th. In an exclusive interview with Pop-Break, Megadeth Drummer Shawn Drover spoke extensively about the band’s illustrious history with an in-depth reflection of all things Megadeth.
Pop-Break: Super Collider was released earlier this year. After six months, you had a chance to sink your teeth into these songs and play the material live. For you personally, what was the experience like recording album? You guys worked with Johnny K. once again?
Shawn Drover: The experience was really good for me recording the album. For me personally, a lot of the drum tracks that went into the record were recorded by our engineer Cameron Webb, who I get along with very well, and we really have the same kind of vision as to what we want to do with drum sounds sonically and performance wise. Between Cameron, myself, and Dave in the studio, I had a really great experience. It was real creative and a real blast. I can’t say enough how great Cameron was for the record.
PB: The sound of Super Collider seemed to continue in the direction of Thirteen by moving away from the faster thrashy elements heard once again on Endgame. The new songs are more mid-tempo and move towards a more radio friendly direction. What influenced the sound the album?
SD: If you listen to all of our records, not two of them sound the same. Killing Is My Business doesn’t sound like So Far So Good…So What. Peace Sells doesn’t sound like Rust In Peace, so on and so forth. We go into the studio with a bunch of ideas and whatever comes out comes out. Endgame obviously, looking back, definitely had more of a thrashy vibe to it in certain parts and it’s a full on metal record. I really love that record a lot. Super Collider has more twists and turns to it, which I have no issue with either. For us to do the same thing over and over again, obviously a certain amount of fans always want us to play “Looking Down The Cross,” “Devil’s Island,” and “The Conjuring,” brutal stuff like that. When you really think about it, it’s never really been like that because certain songs have those heavy elements, which I love because my favorite thing to do is the heavy stuff. A lot of our albums are not all brutally heavy. If it’s a real heavy record, that’s great. If it’s not so heavy with twists and turns, that’s okay too.
PB: Your band recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of Countdown to Extinction by playing it in its entirety. Do you think any of the elements from Countdown rubbed off on Super Collider or will it possibly influence the new material? I know Dave is already talking about his ideas for the new music.
SD: I don’t know because we did the celebration for that record a year ago. Obviously, we played that in a lot of areas. The thing with that, we also did the whole Rust In Peace celebration 2010 and that didn’t really rub off on the next record. It’s cool to go back and revisit, it’s a cool thing for the fans to come see, which is great. Honestly, you got to stay in the now. If you go back and try to repeat yourself, you’re just a fake and you’re trying to replicate something you have already done in the past. It’s like Van Halen going back and trying to re-record Van Halen 1. It’s not going to sound entirely like “Atomic Punk;” you just can’t do it because you’re in a different headspace. It could be aggressive or whatever you want it to be but it’s never going to be the same. I just don’t think it’s good to replicate yourself anyway.
PB: That’s interesting, going off the Van Halen comparison. Van Halen went back and dug up older ideas for the new record. Eddie Van Halen has a ton of pre-recorded material from the past. I know that Dave has hundreds of riffs from the past that he recorded. You guys have gone back and took a look at Dave’s arsenal.
SD: We’ve done that. A lot of the riffs on some of these new records are from those files. Dave has pretty much saved everything he ever recorded. We go through a lot of it and listen to it. When we’re writing a song and we’re kind of like, ‘Hey, we need something for the words of this part.’ We’ll go back and listen to what he’s accumulated over the years. To me, it doesn’t matter if you wrote a riff yesterday or 20 years ago. If it’s good, it’s good. Good music is timeless. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter if the new record has all new material or mostly new material mixed with some stuff from the past. What difference does it make? As long as it’s good, it’s good.
PB: For the hardcore Megadeth fan, how many unused riffs and how much material has Dave recorded over the years?
SD: It’s hard to say. Like I said, he has so many riffs from years of doing stuff. Some stuff we can pinpoint because he’ll know what era it was recorded. I heard some stuff that was probably demoed in a rehearsal hall before Countdown to Extinction or Youthanasia. I didn’t hear any riffs he had from the Rust In Peace era. It was mostly stuff after that going into Countdown, Youthansia, Cryptic Writings, and so forth. We’re never going to run out of any ideas, that’s for sure. It depends on what song we’re writing at the time and what the vibe is of the song. If we need or hear something he’s done from the past and we’re like, ‘Oh wow, that’s a really cool riff. Why don’t we write a song around it?’ It’s never the same as when you go into the studio in terms of how a song comes out. It could come out from a lyrical or music idea. We just go in there and put our heads down and try to make the best songs we can.
PB: Megadeth continues to thrive worldwide, especially in a live setting. The band opened for Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden this year. With a veteran headlining status of your own, how was the experience opening up for some of your biggest influences?
SD: For me personally, to tour with Black Sabbath. They are the originators of heavy metal and that’s indisputable. You can’t dispute that fact. The first album came out in 1969 and it was the heaviest thing on the planet at that time. So many bands have migrated from Black Sabbath. I mean, if it weren’t for Tony Iommi and those riffs, we probably wouldn’t be talking on the phone right now (laughs). To go on tour with them with Ozzy being back in Black Sabbath, it was a great thrill. It was all in soccer stadium shows in South America and it was just beyond huge. Really, the same applies to Maiden. We played shows with Maiden over the years. The thing we did with them in the states this year, for me personally was amazing. They are such a great band and still kill it live. They are an amazing live band and great bunch of guys as well. I played golf with Nicko [McBrain] in Las Vegas and you couldn’t meet a nicer or funnier person. I was playing and laughing the entire time. The guy is non-stop with the jokes and he’s just a great human being.
PB: Youthanasia will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year. I recently read a quote from Dave mentioning the possibility of the band playing the album in its entirety. Where does Youthansia rank for you personally amongst Megadeth’s catalog?
SD: I honestly don’t know if we’re doing that next year or not. Yes, I’ve heard talk about it but every year is an anniversary of one of our records. Although I love that record, I got to tell you that I love all the records for different reasons. I love Killing Is My Business because it’s just so aggressive and filled with musical hatred. It’s just one of my favorite records. Youthansia to me is such a concise record. All the songs are so polished and put together so well. No, it’s not the most brutal record they’ve ever done. In terms of songwriting, the songs are amazing on that record and the production is flawless. It’s a Max Norman production. I just think that record is extremely solid from start to finish. To play that live which we never done, if it does happen, I think it would be great. You always hear or read things on the internet and you don’t know if it’s true or not. I don’t want to confirm something that I don’t know if it’s true or not. We’ll leave it at that. If it does happen next year and we do play the record anywhere, I think it will be great and we’ll just have to wait and see.
PB: Going off the last question, the unique aspect of Youthansia was the lyrical content. Songs such as “Addicted to Chaos,” “Train of Consequences,” and “A Tout Le Monde” touch on some personal subject manners.
SD: Absolutely, “Addicted to Chaos” is one of my favorite songs on the record. It’s such a great tune.
PB: You played a vital role in Megadeth’s current standing and you brought a sense of stability after you joined. You helped resurrect this band with your brother. Even after your brother left, you helped recruit Chris Broderick. When James LoMenzo left, you played a vital role in getting David Ellefson back in the band. If you want to talk about your experience in Megadeth, this has been a strong lineup for Megadeth. How have you embraced your role being the drummer of Megadeth?
SD: Well I mean, yeah, I am kind of responsible for getting both Chris and David back into the band. When Glenn left the band, there was a long extended break we had. When he decided to leave, I said, ‘We need to come up with some potential candidates to replace you.’ Chris was on top of our list and oddly enough, he was without a band at that time. He had played with Jag Panzer and a band called Nevermore for a while. During that period, he wasn’t playing with anybody. He just moved from Denver to Los Angeles and it just turned into a really convenient and great choice to get Chris to replace Glenn. Obviously, Chris is a great guy and I think he’s been in the band for close to six-years now. That was a great choice, which we recommended to Dave and management. With David Ellefson, it was a situation where we were going to replace our bass player James LoMenzo. This was right before the Rust In Peace anniversary was going to start. I just kind of thought to myself, ‘You know the fans love James so much and to replace him with him with a Joe Schmo would be unacceptable,’ especially playing such a pinnacle record in our career. I kind of took it upon myself to reach out to David Ellefson and let him know, ‘Hey if you ever wanted to come back to this band, now is the time.’ Once he expressed interest, I informed Dave, ‘I think we should really get David Ellefson back.’ We took it from there and everything fell into place within a matter of a day or two. Both situations happened extremely quickly. From a fan’s perspective, I’ve been a fan of this band since 1985. I know what the fans would want in term’s of personnel and what they would want in a player and someone representing this band. It wasn’t really hard to come up with the David Ellefson idea but everything works out for a reason and here we are today.
PB: Megadeth’s sound, along with other bands of the Big 4 and Early Thrash movement, is evident across modern metal. Over the past eight-years, newer American and International bands ran with the blueprint established by the Big 4. Are there any new bands where you totally hear their Megadeth influence? What is your take on the modern metal scene?
SD: There is a ton of great bands out there. It’s funny, there is a whole new generation of young thrash bands and it’s kind of endearing. Someone will bring up a band and tell me, ‘Oh, check this band out.’ It’s very reminiscent of what we all did 30 years ago. It’s almost like watching your children grow up and do we what we did musically. That’s kind of a cool thing. I like a ton of bands but I really like a band called Toxic Holocaust. I think they have an old school dirty thrash vibe to them and a punky kind of thing mixed in there. I just really dig their material and I like them a lot. There is a young band from Canada called Striker. They’re thrashy but they’re a little more traditional with the singing. It’s real old school and almost like a New Wave of British Heavy Metal kind of vibe to them. They’re great and I keep in touch with those guys. If anybody is looking for a young band to listen to with that kind of vibe to them, it’s a band called Striker from Edmonton, Canada. They are a great young band. I could go and on forever. I listen to a lot bands that have been around for a few years. Children of Bodom have been around for several years. The metal scene is definitely healthy and there are a bunch of great new and relatively new bands.
PB: Bouncing off that, do you think these younger bands get the juices flowing for your band? In a full circle kind of way, are the younger bands inspiring Megadeth?
SD: I don’t know, I don’t think so. If anybody tried to emulate Megadeth, I got to tell you that I really don’t hear a lot of bands that sound like us. It’s probably because we have so many different styles. It’s not like all our records sound the same because they certainly don’t. I mean, maybe certain bands will try to emulate certain eras of the band, probably the Rust In Peace or Peace Sells era. You could hear when young bands blatantly rip someone off, which is fine. I just don’t hear a lot of young bands that sound like Megadeth. I guess that’s kind of cool (laughs). If a band wants to sound like another band, whatever your path is in music, go for it. Whatever makes you happy and just strive and always strive to be a good band. If you go through the history of time, certain bands will sound like older bands because they are an influence. It’s not a big deal if you’re trying to emulate your heroes. I think at the end of the day, you should try to be as original as possible but I think it gets harder to do that now in Metal because so much has been done. One band that’s completely original and they are on their own planet is Meshuggah. Those guys completely have their own trip going on and they are amazing. I cannot say enough about that band. They are such a great band and it’s refreshing to hear a band like that. Of course, they been around for a while but they are a really great band.
PB: I would say this; Megadeth is a difficult band to emulate. Megadeth is a heavily guitar driven band and the musicality plays a huge role in the band’s identity. I really think Dave’s vocals sometimes get overlooked. Nobody sounds like Dave Mustaine. Nobody has been able to copy or duplicate the anger and rebellious tone within his voice. It’s really one of a kind.
SD: Absolutely, he’s beyond original. He has so many different characters to his voice. If you listen to the records, he does a lot of different things from full on melodic singing to real snotty snarly stuff on a lot of the older records. It’s really interesting to see him go through the creative process of doing new material and the outcome of a lot of stuff. He’s so original in every facet of his musicality. His guitar playing is second-to-none in metal. He is a very creative person and it’s really cool to play music with him. There is never a dull moment and I’m telling you that it’s really cool. I really appreciate his guitar playing. He’s a great lyricist and just an all around great musician.
PB: I mentioned earlier in the conversation seeing Dave discuss the writing process for a new album. For 2014 and beyond, what do you expect with the new material? When do you possibly think it will be released?
SD: We won’t do any new recording probably until late next year. We’re in the middle of the touring process for Super Collider. We only started touring for this record six-months ago. I would say we have at least another half-year in 2014 to promote this record than we’ll probably take a little break before we starting putting ideas together for the next record. There really is no rush anymore. We don’t have to do what we did back in the day, record-tour-record-tour in a span of 14 months. With internet piracy, everybody is pretty much stealing the music anyway and it’s certainly not as vital. We could tour off our back catalog for the rest of our lives but we’re not like that. We don’t want to be a nostalgia act and we always want to have new material. We just don’t have to crank it out within 11 or 12 months anymore like we used to, you know what I mean. We just tour and do different things like celebrations of past records combined with promoting new records. I would think that we wouldn’t record another record for probably close to another year.
PB: Megadeth is a west coast based band and you will be playing in New Jersey on Friday. Will you guys be doing anything cool to celebrate Thanksgiving? Are you guys having your families fly out?
SD: We’re going to get together, the band and crew, and have a dinner somewhere. I’m not sure where yet but I guess we’ll have to know soon since it’s tomorrow (laughs). We’re going to get together as a family, our family away from our family, and celebrate the day. At the same time, we’re going to watch a lot of football.
PB: Seeing your band live in the past, I witnessed Dave speak highly of New Jersey multiple times. He often mentions circling the date on his calendar when you guys play in the area. New Jersey and New York, are the crowds always-top notch?
SD: Of course they are. Our crowds are top-notch wherever we go. Our fanbase is so rabid and so great and I can’t say it enough. Obviously, they have to be because we’re still doing this 30 years later. If your fans aren’t there, there is nowhere to play. That’s a testament to them being so great that it gives us the opportunity to tour as much as we do. There’s a demand for it. You can’t go on tour and nobody shows up, it’s a massive failure. We’re fortunate enough to have such great success still as a touring unit. It’s a great thing and not every band could say that. It’s rough out there and with this economy the several few years, it’s difficult to tour financially. It all goes back; again it’s not a conversation I want to get into, the whole internet piracy and people stealing music affected every facet of the music industry. If you’re not selling enough records for the record company, they don’t want to give you tour support. For us, we’re not really affected by it because our fans are going to be there whether we put out a record or not. We’re real happy about that but we still want to keep cranking our new records and have new music because we want to be creative. The fans want to hear new music and it’s a good place to be.
PB: Going back once again to the day’s of Youthanasia, the band promoted the album by encouraging fan’s to visit their website in 1994. Despite the music industry adapting slowly to the internet, Megadeth has always been on top of its web presence.
SD: We’re the first metal band to have a website. In the mid 90’s, it was called www.megadeth.az, it stood for Megadeth Arizona because that was where they were stationed at the time. Dave is really savvy with that stuff and he’s on top of what’s current and what’s happening in terms of communicating with the fans. Obviously, we didn’t have the internet in 1985 so you had to rely on magazines and the radio to get the word out. Now, you could do an interview like we’re doing and you’re going to put it online where anybody on the planet could hear it or read it. We do every interview that we can to keep the word out there and keep the fans knowing what we’re doing. Not everybody goes to our website or our Twitter page to check on what we’re doing everyday. Whatever outlet you decide to put this out through, if it’s your website, it keeps perpetuating information about what we’re doing. That’s a good thing. Dave is real keen about that and always giving information on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, website, and fan page. Even if it’s just a picture where we say, ‘Hey, we’re here in New Jersey hanging out for Thanksgiving!’ I’m sure we’ll take a picture tomorrow wherever we’re at and post it online. Fans dig that stuff and a lot of fans want to see what we’re doing behind the scenes and what we’re doing when we’re not on stage. It gives them the opportunity to see stuff like that.
PB: It breaks the fourth wall between the fans and the band. It brings you guys closer to the fans and that’s critical.
SD: I wish more bands would partake in that, especially because it’s such a grind out there for a lot of the younger bands. I mean all it takes is five minutes of your time. How hard is it to put a picture, some information, or a link to a video you did walking around New York City, and put it out there for the world to see? It promotes your band and it’s free. It doesn’t cost a penny. We definitely take advantage of that and it’s a great way to communicate with your fans.
PB: During the recording of 2007’s United Abominations, Dave rented a John Bonham drum kit for the recording? You played on John Bonham’s drum set.
SD: Dave surprised me and rented the only John Bonham kit. I guess there’s a place in England that has vintage gear that was used by popular acts back in the day. There are amplifiers Roger Waters from Pink Floyd used on certain tours and there is some crazy stuff. I think the only person that actually played on the John Bonham drum kit besides myself was Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac. I saw a picture of him playing on it as well. I just used the bass drum and snare drum on overdubs for certain songs on that record. I didn’t use the full-blown kit to play drums on and it was for stuff on overdubs. Sonically, it’s a different sound than what Megadeth uses. Led Zeppelin had such a big, huge, and ambient drum sound. It didn’t really fit to record a full Megadeth album plus it was only a four-piece kid. My kit’s a little bit bigger but to be able to use that kit in any situation was a real plus. It’s a cool story I get to tell my grandson when he gets a little bit older. I appreciated the sentiment for sure.
PB: You guys have covered Led Zeppelin songs in the past.
SD: We covered “Out on the Tiles,” actually during that record. That was a last minute thing. All of a sudden, Dave came to Glenn and me at dinner and said, ‘Hey, let’s do “Out on the Tiles” by Led Zeppelin.’ We were like ‘oh, okay,’ (laughs) and we went into the room and Glenn and I learned the song real quick. I cut drum tracks for it the next day. We learned it that quick. Within 12 hours of the idea to me actually recording it was overnight. I woke up the next day and cut the track.
PB: We touched on this earlier when discussing Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. If you look at other bands like Judas Priest going strong into their late 50’s and 60’s, I still feel like there is a lot of life left in Megadeth.
SD: Yeah, I agree. I think as long as you stay in good shape and good health, I see no reason why you can’t keep doing it. If you look at Aerosmith or Judas Priest, we toured with Judas Priest in 2009 in Europe and they absolutely killed it. They were great and I believe Glenn Tipton is around 64 or 65 years old now and he looks fantastic. He goes out there and delivers and it’s certainly inspiring to us. Bands like Aerosmith, they are all in their sixties now and look how great they look. I mean, as long as we still go out there and deliver both musically and from a visual standpoint, look at the Stones. They are the ultimate reference and they’re still doing it. I don’t know how old Mick or Keith are, I would say probably they are in their late sixties. The fact they can go on stage and deliver with the energy they do, I can’t see why we can’t keep doing this for quite a while.
Megadeth performs tonight, November 29th, at The Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey with Fear Factory and Nonpoint. Click here for tickets.