An Interview with Mr. Controversy, Dave Mustaine

Courtesy Michael Johanson

Say the name Megadeth and a whole bevy of songs come to mind. Whether it be the raging riffs and vocals from Rust in Peace with songs like “Tornado of Souls” or songs from the album Countdown To Extinction with classics like “Symphony of Destruction,” or more modern tracks like “Public Enemy No.1″ from 2011′s TH1RT3EN, Megadeth continues to be one of the biggest bands in the world. The man behind it all is the one and only Dave Mustaine. After 30 years Dave is still able to rock and devote intense focus to putting on a memorable show for all of his fans. We figured it was time we had a chat with Dave about his tour, his guitars and his thoughts on the music industry.

How has the TH1RT3EN World Tour been going? 

Courtesy Jeremy Clay

“It’s been good. We have been making a lot of progress, making a lot of improvements to our show and making a lot of friends. We’ve been going into some territories that we haven’t been before – we just went into the Philippines and a couple places up in Europe, which has been really great. It’s always nice going into new territories because you kind of think you’ve seen everything and all of a sudden you’re some place you’ve never been before. It’s cool too because some of these kids don’t get to see bands like us. Sure they get to see metal bands but not one of the founders.”

Have their been any particular shows or moments that have stood out to you?

“Not really, I look at them all the same. I try and treat every single audience with the same kind of respect and dignity. There are some places that are totally over the top and it’s really hard for other cities or countries to compare with them. Like our South American fan base is absolutely insane. Over the years you learn how to go into a concert situation and give them your best without bias or prejudice.”

You have a lot of very nice Dean VMNTs, but do you have one particular guitar that you consider your main one?

“Not really, they are all so consistent. One is the same as the next, really serious work tools for me and it is kind of like when a doctor goes to surgery he doesn’t keep the same scalpel but he wants to make sure that he has a certain caliber of stuff that he uses. For me, I’ve played several different guitars over the years and there are some that I was really excited about. There was some that were kinda wanting, if you know what I mean. Dean Guitars, there is no comparison to them. I was a super staunch Jackson guy and a very loyal supporter but then they got bought by Fender.”

 

You were a long-time user of the JB/Jazz before working with us to create the Dave Mustaine Livewire. What is it that you like about it and what does it add to your tone?

“There is no denying that Jeff Beck is one of the greatest guitar players to ever pick up a guitar. Though I am not a big fan of his playing I am certainly a great fan of his tone. So when I tried the JB it was just truly amazing, but again as an artist I kind made my own evaluation of it and found there was just a little bit of holes in it tone wise. I had known of Seymour and respected him tremendously and when the opportunity came along to talk to him about using the JB, he agreed and I felt like I had won the lottery. There are certain things that you get, they may be small but they are very important.”

“The sound comes through the pickup – that’s the first electronic component in between my fingers and the strings and your ears. So it’s vital that it is a strong and worthy component. I didn’t make any changes because it was not a great pickup: there were just certain things I was doing with my tone and I thought, wow that would be really cool to be able to address this before I even get into the signal processing. We changed a little bit of the wiring, made them active – that was Evan Skopp’s idea. Very knowledgeable guy, he knew what I was looking for and obviously being a consummate professional, he was able to convince me to go from passive to active.”

“I was not an active guy at all. I had heard all these guys using EMGs and I just thought, you know what, you all sound the same. You all got this Mesa Boogie sound that’s just totally identical. Everybody has got the same detuned sloppy, slappy, processed mid-range kind of sound. And to me it couldn’t have been farther from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal when it came down to that classic English crunch sound. So when the idea of having active pickups came around I was like ‘no.’ And then Evan reminded me that it was Seymour Duncan and I figured you know I am going to be put my apprehension aside and trust these guys. They are the best at making pickups in the business.”

Dave Mustaine Livewire Pickups

“When I heard them (LW-MUST) I was like, oh my god – this is amazing. I had to make a little bit of adjustment in my head and sound-wise with our EQ but if anything it simplified the process of getting great sound. When I was a kid and I first started playing I was using DiMarzio’s stuff and it was always cool pickups but they are kinda buzzy sounding and they had an unnecessary distortion to it. If you wanted to get a clean tone, it really wasn’t there. Nothing against DiMarzio because they were great when I was a kid, but you know you always aspire for greatness and when I was able to make the move up to Seymour Duncan and when these active came in, I thought this is serious business.”

As someone who’s always seemed very news-savvy, how do you feel about how the music industry has changed with the wide adaption of the internet?

“I’m a purist and I don’t want to seem like I don’t care about young people and creativity and doing cool things. I gotta tell you there are certain things that the digital world has made so that very inferior players can get away with sounding like they are good. The problem with that is not that the record doesn’t sound good and is enjoyable, it’s when you go to watch them live. They sound really fabulous on record because they are using Pro Tools, this whole digital world that cradles them, and the listener is thinking ‘wow these guys are really wonderful.’ The economy right now makes it hard to make ends meet and you go spend $40 or $50 for a ticket – if you’re taking a date then a hundred – and parking, gas, food, beverages, programs if they have them and any kind of merch or t-shirts. You’re looking at maybe $100 to $200, maybe even $300 if you’re taking somebody.”

“We are fortunate because we can back it up live and we have super-loyal fans. We have been blessed with being able to write catchy songs and be able to innovate a guitar style – that helps a little bit too. We have always tried to keep the price down with the tickets. It’s the same approach with our merch, tickets, guitars any products that I stand behind we try and take that into consideration. I may have had a great life and I may have been overpaid and underworked but I am not punishing the fans and being a really hard-ass about stuff. So I try and pass that gratitude onto them by not gouging them with prices.”

“The good thing that I like about the internet is it makes it real easy to deliver your product to your fans at an affordable price. There is piracy and people who steal. They don’t realize it is intellectual material and it is the same thing as food. Giving something to get, that’s the deal – if you get something and the person doesn’t get anything in return that is either a gift or you are stealing it. Myself, I think the dude who created Napster probably ruined hundreds of thousands of people’s lives because of that peer-to-peer file transferring, but if he hadn’t done it, there are plenty of smart people out there who would have. It’s human nature.”

For more information on Megadeth and tour dates, click here.

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