Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine Defends ‘Peace Sells’ Not Being on Greatest Hits
Megadeth's Dave Mustaine was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. He's got an incredibly busy year with a new Megadeth record on the way alongside a career-spanning greatest hits collection, Warheads on Foreheads as well as tour dates with Megadeth opening for Ozzy Osbourne and taking part in the Experience Hendrix trek. He discussed all that and more in the chat below.
We're here to celebrate the release of Warheads on Foreheads, the Megadeth anthology. There's 35 tracks on this record that are sequenced chronologically. What's revealed about your refinement as a songwriter when someone listens to your work in that linear progression?
Oh wow. Great question. I think one of the things that started, in the beginning, was the aggression of the music. And as I started to learn a little bit more about melody, I tried to incorporate that into our songs because there's just a lot of people who can pick really fast with their right hand. The left hand is, no offense, but it's ignorant. And you find that real shredders, sometimes both hands are really great, but the heart doesn't make the connection to the hands.
So, there's a lot of things that I've learned from some great producers working with all the guys I've done over my career. Max Norman did the Ozzy records, the first two. And I learned so much from him, and from Andy Sneap and John K., and yeah, everybody.
Every studio album is represented by at least one track on this. But some prominent songs were omitted, most notably, "Peace Sells." What was your criteria for a song to be part of this compilation?
We have almost, if not over, 200 songs. I forgot the number, but it's a lot. So, to pick 35 from them — do the math. It's like six to a seventh of the whole body of work, and some songs are gonna be left behind, most noticeably "Peace Sells."
Everyone's noticed that that's not there and part of me says, "Okay yeah, we didn't put it on there, agreed." But the other part is, "Haven't you heard that song enough?" Don't you want to hear like 'Wanderlust' or some of the other songs that are really really important to me? You've heard 'Holy Wars,' you've heard 'Symphony of Destruction,' you've heard
'Peace Sells.'" And out of all the songs that have been played, I think "Peace Sells" has been played the longest the most.
Dave, there's a new studio album in the works and you've described the material as "heavier and more extreme than before." What set the tone for you to go in that direction?
I don't know who said I said that. If I said it myself, it may have been what I wanted to do, because the music is constantly developing and where sometimes a song will be really fast and heavy, I've really noticed a tone with these songs where it's really more storytelling like it was on Peace Sells with songs like "Bad Omen" where there are twists and turns and abrupt tempo shifts and so on. Again, using melody and then being able — because I've learned how to use melody — I get to go back to what I'm comfortable with and just put my head down and just hammer it out.
Megadeth are going to be touring with Ozzy this summer. What aspects of his music that appealed to you as a kid still affects you now?
I've always told the truth about things with Black Sabbath as a kid for me — I didn't really discover them until later. A friend of mine would listen to them all the time who I used to go and get my pot from. But that was the only place I'd ever hear Sabbath was at Alfie's. So, when I would go to my brother-in-law's to go play guitar and hang out and stuff like that, they always played Zeppelin and KISS and Ted Nugent. So, that's kind of what I grew up on. Then once I started to get into Sabbath, I was like wow Tony [Iommi] is really — he has a sound and a heaviness all his own.
Then you add the I don't know if I would say prolific is the right word or maybe poignant, but Ozzy's lyrics, I think a lot of people think they're really simple, but they're really meaningful. Especially to a songwriter, like Ronnie James Dio, his songwriting, a lot of it relied on rhyme but the premise was on all medieval stuff. So that was really cool. That was his wheelhouse and he was really great at it. Ozzy's singing about all kinds of different stuff which I think is really cool. It kind of gave me the guts to do it.
This year is gonna be busy for Megadeth. Touring with Ozzy, the Mega Cruise, releasing the Warheads on Foreheads compilation and working on a new album. What is it about the work that sustains you?
It quiets the voices in my head. The hammering and the sawing and everything that goes on during the day, it kinda drowns out the noise. I think for me, most musicians they're really interesting because I hate to use the term snowflake cause it's such a metaphor that is so terrible nowadays, but every musician is so completely unique and different. You'll never find two that are alike.
So, when I look at my work schedule, I look at how I approach work, you know I was having a very terse conversation yesterday with my co-producer because I'd say, "Well this arrangement is done." And he goes, "Well I beg to differ because you know we need to put the lyrics on there still." And I said, "Well I ain't writing the lyrics until I'm ready."
You know if you change a little teeny piece in the song, the color of the song can completely change from something that's heavy and dark to something that's heavy and political or to something that's heavy and war-themed. So, just the slightest musical riff change would make the previous lyrics obsolete, and that's my thing.
I've only written one song at one sitting and that was "In My Darkest Hour" when Cliff Burton died. I don't know how I did it. It was just one, picked up the guitar, wrote the song, wrote the lyrics. The song's super complex; I don't know how I pulled it off. But that's the only time I've ever done a song where I sat down and just wrote it all out right there.
Dave, you're part of this years Experience Hendrix tour. A very diverse group of musicians celebrating Jimi Hendrix. What makes the opportunity to do this tour so appealing to you?
The people that are there. You mentioned about a diverse group of musicians too, I was excited to see that Joe Satriani's gonna be there because I've never seen him play before. I've met Eric Johnson, absolutely love his guitar playing. But to see some of the other people, you probably wouldn't believe this but the guitar player from the Isley Brothers that's there is the guy that I'm most interested to meet because I heard that's where Jimi got his start was with the Isley Brothers.
He's got the bass player from some reincarnation of the lineup. Billy Cox, I think his name is. And then Dweezil [Zappa] is there who's a great guitar player. I would never had known he was as great as he is, but he's really great. Imagine being Frank's offspring — you got guitar in your DNA. So, that's great, too. Looking forward to sitting down and hopefully, it'd be really cool, I mean you know you hear everybody saying like, "Oh we'll do the Prince's Trust jam or something lame like that.
And I don't jam. I never have jammed. So, I'm looking forward to getting together with these guys and meeting them and getting a guitar lesson or watching and cause I can learn a lot by watching too. There's not a lot of guitar players I would sit in an audience or on the side of the stage and watch them to learn. You know, to like the song is one thing but man, who in their right mind wouldn't want to watch Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani every night?
That sounds awesome.
Plus, the Hendrix songs are so cool. I'm doing "Manic Depression" for no apparent reason and "Fire" and "Stone Free." I looked at a couple other songs, played them, thought they were cool, but you know some of the songs had more than one guitar part going at once and I'm playing by myself, meaning me, a bass player and a drummer and not another guitar player. But you never know — that might change. If it does, there are other songs I'd be willing to play that have two guitar parts in it.
You are definitely going to have a very busy year.
It's really weird when you play in a three piece band — even though some bands, they may be four pieces but if it's just bass, drums and guitar as far as the musicians are concerned, when the guitar player has to make a noticeable transition from playing the rhythm and supporting the song to doing a solo, the bottom drops out. One of the things that Jimi did really cool that I studied and learned, he had these enormous hands. He would wrap his thumb over the neck, I do that too - I don’t know a lot of people that do, but I played with my thumb over the neck in "Reckoning Day." And he does that to keep a bass like kind of going while he does the chords with his other four finger on his right hand. Of course he's left handed, so he uses his right thumb as a bass note, then the other four fingers to fret the guitar.
Thanks to Dave Mustaine for the interview. Get your copy of 'Warheads of Foreheads' here and follow Megadeth on Facebook. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show here. See Megadeth's tour dates supporting Ozzy Osbourne below.
Ozzy Osbourne + Megadeth 2019 North American Tour Dates:
May 31 - Sunrise, Fla. @ BB&T Center
June 2 - Tampa, Fla. @ Midflorida Credit Union Arena
June 4 - Charlotte, N.C. @ PNC Music Pavilion
June 6 - Cincinnati, Ohio @ Riverbend Music Center
June 8 - Hershey, Pa. @ Hershey Concerts
June 11 - New York, N.Y. @ Madison Square Garden
June 13 - Burgettstown, Pa. @ KeyBan Pavilion
June 15 - Bangor, Maine @ Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion
June 20 - Hamilton, Ontario @ FirstOntario Centre
June 22 - Uncasville, Conn. @ Mohegan Sun
June 26 - Maryland Heights, Mo. @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
June 28 - Kansas City, Mo. @ Spirit Center
June 30 - Des Moines, Iowa @ Wells Fargo Arena
July 4 - Milwaukee, Wis. @ Summerfest / American Family Insurance Amphitheatre
July 6 - Saint Paul, Minn. @ Xcel Energy Center
July 9 - Edmonton, Alberta @ Rogers Place
July 11 - Vancouver, British Columbia @ Rogers Arena
July 13 - Tacoma, Wash. @ Tacoma Dome
July 16 - Portland, Ore. @ Moda Center
July 18 - Sacramento, Calif. @ Golden 1 Center
July 20 - Las Vegas, Nev. @ MGM Grand Garden Arena
July 23 - Chula Vista, Calif. @ Mattress Firm Amphitheatre
July 25 - Phoenix, Ariz. @ Ak-Chin Pavilion
July 27 - Mountain View, Calif. @ Shoreline Amphitheatre
July 29 - Los Angeles, Calif. @ Hollywood Bowl
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