Dave Mustaine has seen more than his fair share of difficult obstacles to overcome throughout his musical career due to his past drug and alcohol addictions, which famously got him kicked out of the early line up of Metallica. Even during his ensuing triumphs with his own band, long-time metal favorites Megadeth, he struggled often with his demons.
Now clean and sober, the singer and guitarist is riding high on his current successes, which include a new autobiography, Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir (Harper Collins) which hit the New York Times’ best seller list earlier this month when it was published. Megadeth’s latest studio album, 2009’s Endgame (Roadrunner Records) was received well by both fans and critics, and the band is currently on the road as part of the “American Carnage Tour” with Slayer and Testament.
Mustaine and company hit the Cow Palace tonight; he also did a book signing this morning. The first-time author is happy with the ways things have been going so far during his first foray into the literary world.
“I’m very excited about it, because when I initially set out to write this thing, it wasn’t to be on the Oprah book club — although now that I know a little bit more about books it would certainly be cool to sit on the couch and tell her a little bit about my story,” says Mustaine, speaking by phone before a concert in Albuquerque.
“My story is about helping other people and just giving people an indication that they’re not the only one that’s going through hard shit — and that you’ve just got to turn your collar up and lean into the wind, and persevere.”
In the book, Mustaine details his troubled upbringing; how his mother had to take her children and constantly flee from his alcoholic father, how her struggles led to an involvement with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and how this religious indoctrination would eventually cause a rift between mother and son that resulted in his moving out on his own at the age of 15. There are the stories of sex and drugs along with the music, as is pretty much a requisite of any rock n’ roll memoir, but Mustaine doesn’t attempt to glorify his past mistakes.
“I’ve always wanted to tell the truth to people about what happened to my career, so they don’t think that I’m such a horrible person. I remember when my son was just a little guy and we did VH1’s Behind The Music and I had talked about crack — my son was coming home on the bus and some of the older students started chanting ‘Your dad’s a crack head’ to the point where he was in tears. It was really painful.”
Mustaine’s now-infamous stint in the early days of Metallica are covered as well, giving an insider’s perspective on what really happened — and despite years of trading barbs in the press, the axeman has appeared to have resolved most of the issues that he had with the other members of that band, who unceremoniously gave him the boot during a 1983 trip to New York. Earlier this year Megadeth and Metallica, along with Slayer and Anthrax — collectively known by fans as “The Big Four” — performed a handful of concerts together in Europe.
“I saw them over in Europe, we had dinner and it was fine. I was sitting there at the table with Lars and James, and I thought it was so great that we were together again — we’re in different bands, but the fact that we as three young little guys, what we accomplished, how we changed the world. I mean honestly, you can’t even listen to a television program anymore without hearing music that’s [evolved from] what we created. To be able to sit there with our brethren and knowing that in this room stands the cream of the crop of American heavy metal talent, and it was such a great feeling.”
“My relationship with Lars and James has been publicized a lot, so I went up to James and I said, ‘I don’t want to try to repair our old relationship. That would be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I want to have a new relationship with you,’ and I think that’s what we have now, it’s great, and I’m going to see the guy when I get into town.”
At one of the concerts they played together, the guys got on stage to jam on old favorite, “Am I Evil?,” a cover song that goes back to the formative days of Metallica, when they used to live and play in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
“We would play the Stone and the Old Waldorf, and one of the songs that we would play, guaranteed, every single set, no matter where we played, no matter how big we got, we always played 'Am I Evil?' a song by Diamondhead. If you could have been in the little jam room right before we went on, it was so moving, because when the band stops there’s a little guitar part where there’s some hammer-ons, and Lars looked over to James and he said, ‘Hey, who should we have play this?’ He was pointing to me like he wanted me to do it and I thought, dude that is so cool. Who would ever have thought that we would have gone to that place where we were so hurt, and we just kept lobbing grenades at each other, to the place now where we’re playing together again, and we’re hanging out and hugging and having dinner with our wives.”
As he continues on his concert and book tours, Mustaine enjoys meeting the multiple generations of fans that come out, and the fact that he gets to talk to them about what he’s been through in his life.
“One of the things that I want the reader to know is that this wasn’t something that I wrote to be this self-absorbed book. It’s just a lot of revealing stuff that I share about my life and my walk, and how my life changed in 2002 when I became Christian.”
“I really have a hard time saying that I’m Christian because so many Christians are hypocrites, and have just given Christianity a bad name; I believe in God and I believe in Jesus, that’s my bag, that’s it, no more, I don’t push it on anybody. Being a dude who read the Satanic bible and did witchcraft and put hexes on people, that’s pretty cool.”
Doing both tours at the same time have been draining on the metal icon, but he says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m exhausted right now, my voice is sore, my arm is sore, my wrist is sore, but this is what I signed up to do, this is the job I do. I’ve always wanted to be the best at what I do.”
“We’re just constantly searching for that next riff that’s going to set us over the top and give us that number one record, that next lyric that’s going to break us through mainstream radio and we have a number one hit again, that perfect guitar solo, so that we get back on top again. We’re doing everything that we can, we’re every ounce of strength that we have.”
After this current tour wraps up, more touring around the world lays on the horizon — but first, Mustaine is excited about going back into the studio to record a new album — one that will again feature founding bassist David Ellefson, who had not played with the band since 2002 until re-joining earlier this year.
“The cool thing is having the signature bassist back, it gives a certain root to the bottom end again that people have grown to love, I’m excited about how our lives our progressing. I’m just so blessed I can’t even tell you, I look at my career right now and to think there was a period where no one wanted to touch us anymore — here we are,” Mustaine emphasizes.
“I’ve got the band back, we’ve got a great record that’s getting critical acclaim, I’ve got the book on the best seller list, the tour, everything is so magnificent and I’m so grateful for all of this.”
Slayer, Megadeth, and Testament
Tonight, 7 p.m., $39.50
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