Dave Mustaine says, “The NHRA [National Hot Rod Association] heard the song, and they loved it. They wanted to use it.”
Megadeth’s Endgame was released September 15 and features a song about drag racing. “1,320” kicks off with what sounds like a top-fuel dragster.
“No,” says Mustaine. “That’s a nitro funny car. It’s one class up from top fuel.”
Born in La Mesa and on his own since the age of 15 (“my mom bailed on me”), Mustaine says he has been a diehard fan of the drags since he was a kid. “ESPN heard the song, and they want to use it, too. They asked if we’d be willing to play at a race or be part of a celebrity race, and I’m, like, ‘Yes!’ ”
Dave Mustaine has a reputation as a bad boy of thrash metal, and his commentary has not been limited to his former bandmates in Metallica. He says that’s all in the past. The musician once called the Red Devil by his Japanese fans is now clean, sober, and born-again. Megadeth may be darker and angrier than ever on record, but Mustaine has written a book (scheduled for release next year) that reflects the new Dave.
“What got me off before — being mean-spirited and stuff like that — it doesn’t really make me feel good anymore. So I’m a little more conscientious about stuff that I say, if it’s gonna really do damage to somebody or if it’s gonna be…” He stops.
“Laughing with somebody is totally different than laughing at somebody, which is totally different from humiliating somebody. I can laugh at people, I can laugh with them, but I don’t like humiliating people anymore. It’s just not fun.”
After helping launch Metallica in 1981 with his oft-copied guitar style, Mustaine was asked to leave the band under less-than-amicable terms in 1983. Almost immediately after, he formed Megadeth. What followed was an impressive discography that included 1990’s Rust in Peace, considered by many to be one of the best metal albums of all time. Mustaine lives with his family in Fallbrook.
Tell us your guitar history.
“When I got my first guitar, I had jumped through somebody’s window and stolen a copy of a Les Paul. I lived in Dana Point. I was a teenager at the time. I went to a luthier, and I bought a Gibson sticker for five bucks. I stuck it on there, lacquered it on there, and buffed the hell out of it, and I played it for a long time. I ended up using it for a cocaine debt because I was being a crazy kid at the time.” He says he tried B.C. Rich and ESP and Jackson guitars before ending up at Dean, the company that manufactures his current VMNT signature model.
What are you listening to now?
“You’d be really surprised what I listen to. I listen to K-WAVE [Christian music and talk] in my car. I listen to 95.7, the country channel; I listen to the jazz station here. That’s basically what I listen to: jazz, the country channel, the faith channel. I like listening to NPR radio, too, because my life is based around the current events that are happening in our world. I’m a political singer — probably considered an activist, which I don’t think I am — and I don’t think I’m a political singer, but that’s what I’ve been called.”
Top three albums of all time?
"Led Zeppelin IV, the Beatles’ white album, and AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock. That was one of the pivotal records in my life.”
Favorite local hangout?
“I like the Hill Street Café [in Oceanside] for breakfast. That place has the best breakfasts in Southern California because it’s organic, the service is great, and you can get some of my coffee served to you there.” He chuckles. “My wife has a coffee company, and she has a product line for a couple of different celebrities, and I’m one of them.”
“It was at the Led Zeppelin reunion at O2 [London, 2007]. I flew over, went and saw the concert, got food poisoning, and spent the entire night during the concert running up and down the steps. I was down…maybe 15 rows back from the stage so it was where all the friends and family were sitting. And I had to keep walking up and down the stairs and blehh! I got my Stairmaster workout in.”
Something about you that no one would ever guess?
“That I’m nice.”
As the number-one-rated guitarist in Joel McIver’s 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists, do you have any advice for beginners?
“Well, I’m number one for now, and although I’m honored, I gotta remember that gift came from God, and it’s not my doing. I thought it was my doing, and when I had that nerve damage happen to my arm [in 2002], I was dead in the water. Couldn’t play anymore. I didn’t realize how much I identified my life with the guitar.
“Now, because I’ve had a chance to put things in perspective, I feel that I’ve had a pretty good wrestling bout with humility, and that’s why, when it comes down to charts, I can honestly say ‘for now.’ There’s so many people out there that are better than me. My advice would be simple: get a Dean, buy the amps that I use, play the strings and the picks that I use. And if you want me to help you, we’re opening up an academy at my studio here for young kids, and we’re going to give an opportunity in every class for an underprivileged kid to come in here. All I wanna see when we give some of these gift tuitions through the academy here is some good grades. I just want to see some kids who are gonna make San Diego a better place to live.”