Mustaine's Megadeth hosts Gigantour at CMAC
05:00 AM, Jul 04, 2013
If you go
What: Gigantour, with Megadeth, Black Label Society, Device, Hellyeah, Newsted and Death Division.
When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center, on the campus of Finger Lakes Community College near Canandaigua.
Tickets: $35 and $45, with the lawn $25 advance and $30 the day of the show, available at ticketmaster.com, (800) 745-3000 and the Blue Cross Arena box office.
Dave Mustaine’s in the midst of renovating his new house, and as a consequence now has a head full of dust and paint fumes. “I know how to do all this from back when I was a teenager and needed beer money,” he insists.
Dust and paint fumes are hardly the biggest challenges to the well-being of Mustaine’s head. Years of drugs and alcohol (by some counts, Mustaine has been in rehab 17 times), potentially career-ending surgeries and exploding relationships (almost two-dozen musicians have passed through Megadeth over the years) define him as much as his widely acknowledged skills as a heavy-metal guitarist. He’s lucky, and he admits as much.
“I know there are guys out there that can play guitar and smoke me into a coma,” Mustaine says. “Getting rated as the No. 1 or No. 12 player in the world, it’s awesome for your self-esteem and ego, but the truth is there are hundreds of guitar players better than I am. Chris Broderick is way better than I am, but because I’m a songwriter that kind of gets seen as a whole package.”
Broderick plays guitar alongside Mustaine in Megadeth, for two decades a premier thrash-metal act, and host band of Gigantour, the tour that hits Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center on Saturday. Megadeth is joined by Black Label Society, Device, Hellyeah, Newsted and Death Division. As Mustaine points out, these are bands largely built around key players in metal over the years. Black Label Society’s Zakk Wylde was Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist. Device’s David Draiman’s other band is the Grammy-nominated Disturbed.
And before Megadeth, and its own serious career, was the group that Mustaine helped create with guitarist-singer James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. It’s a bit of a Rochester music legend that this then-unknown band recorded its first album here. Down the alley-like Swan Street off East Avenue, at Music America Studios, now Blackdog Recording Studios. Kill ‘Em All, released in 1983, launched the career of Metallica, still the biggest name in metal. But while Mustaine wrote four of the songs, he never made it to Rochester.
“We had already kind of reached the end of the road,” he says. “It’s like watching that spider-web crack across the windshield after that first rock hit it, before the whole windshield blew out.
“It’s kind of funny now, but James or Lars had been fired numerous times by each other before that.”
Among the final blows, “James kicked my dog and I punched him in the face,” Mustaine says. “You don’t kick a guy’s dog. It was probably my fault for taking my dogs to the studio, but I’d moved out of my mom’s house when I was 17 and was living on my own in an apartment and all kinds of things were happening at once. It was a choice of being a male prostitute versus a drug addict, and the choice was clear for me.”
Hence, financing the erratic start to his rock career by pushing drugs. But yeah, with million-selling albums like Killing is My Business … and Business is Good!, Megadeth got there. “My time in Metallica was short, just like The Beatles,” Mustaine says. “What I accomplished as a guitar player since then was pretty influential,” Mustaine says.
Megadeth’s latest album, Super Collider, sometimes strays from the Apocalyptic formula, with softer moments of banjo and Mustaine playing slide guitar. Some songs are positive themes of resolution, reflected as well in the fact that Mustaine has repaired some of his broken relationships, including with Metallica and his old bass player, Dave Ellefson, who’s back with Megadeth.
“I was searching and searching for something, and I didn’t want to turn to God,” Mustaine says. “I didn’t go the way of Ravi Shankar and shave my head and put on an orange sheet or whatever it is, but I’ve done everything else.”
That includes, finally, turning to God as a Born Again Christian. You can argue with the degree of that commitment. Earlier this year, Mustaine engaged a fan in a shouting match laced with profanity and a homophobic slur during a show in England. So let’s call it an erratic spirituality from a smart guy who’s sought it through literature as well.
A couple of years ago, after Mustaine bought a motorcycle, a guitar tech introduced him to the philosophical open-road treatise Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. “For me, as a musician, as you plod through life and you have this closed vision, you live in a bubble,” he says.
“In rock you have the diva guys who you can’t look in the face. I still get out of the car and pump my own gas. I like how that book talks about how, on a motorcycle, you have this 360-degree view of the world. And it talks about the difference between the guys who actually work on their own bikes, versus the guys who take them to someone to get fixed.”
A second’s pause. “Truth be told, I’m the guy who takes it to the shop,” he admits.
Then, “That’s what Super Collider is like!” he says excitedly, as though he’s just now making the connection of a 360-degree view for himself. “You have guys on Harleys waving at rice burners.” Rice burner, that’s an American biker’s derisive phrase for Japanese motorcycles. “That same thing is prevalent with the heavy metal community. See two people with metal shirts on, no matter what the bands are, and they immediately hit it off.”