When Megadeth founder/singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine was growing up, the troubled teen -- like a lot of his own fans would later -- found an escape from a shitty life and comforting solace in hard rock and heavy-metal music.
"It was the one thing I could always count on to make me happy," he reflects today. "Songs made me feel better. Led Zeppelin was pretty much my life support as a teen."
So did other fast and furious acts like AC/DC, Diamond Head, Motörhead, Judas Priest, and Thin Lizzy. In fact, Megadeth cover Lizzy's "Cold Sweat" on their most recent effort, Super Collider. It's the band's 14th studio release and the first on Mustaine's own label, Tradecraft.
Megadeth will collide with Houston audiences Thursday at Bayou Music Center, with opening acts Fear Factory and Nonpoint.
In a story well-known among his fans, much of that music exposure came via a female record-store clerk who also happened to be one of the then drug-dealing Mustaine's customers. When she couldn't pay in cash, she'd settle her debt in vinyl.
"That's how I got [Lizzy's] Jailbreak record, and I just loved the chords and the riffing," he recalls. "It's something I wasn't used to in American music, which had a lot of folk-rock strumming. I love that band. It was a huge difference. You can also hear it in pop bands from overseas like Pilot and Sweet and even the Bay City Rollers."
Among the 11 tracks on Super Collider, listeners also find familiar (and reliably sharp) Mustaine commentary on a variety of social, political and love themes, including opener "Kingmaker."
"That's about the period from when people drink or get high and go from 'I don't feel anything' to 'AAAH' to 'Oh...hell!' It's a balancing act for a lot of people," says the lyricist whose own struggles with drugs and alcohol were legendary.
"We're living in tough times right now, spiritually, physically, and financially. And some people's only escape after work is to go have a drink or light up to feel anything," he offers. "A 'Kingmaker' is one of those magic pills... whatever makes you feel like a king."
But lest fans believe that the now sober and Christ-accepting Mustaine has gotten preachy, fear not. The songs contain similar (if less thrashy and spittingly angry) steely-eyed observations that permeated classic Megadeth records like Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?, So Far, So Good...So What?, Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction.
Another track, "Dance in the Rain," takes on a litany of topical ills, including menial jobs, the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, and the creeping surveillance of citizens by the government -- the latter usually reserved for works of fiction, but quickly moving to the nonfiction section in this Cyber Age. Guest vocalist David Dramain of Disturbed, playing a sort of bullhorn-shouting government official, adds to the track's cinematic eeriness.
"I am a fan of the book 1984 and George Orwell's writing," Mustaine says. "It's very riveting, and I've already written a couple of songs about it. And for [Dramain's] part, I wanted it to sound like what could eventually happen, us being turned into a FEMA holding camp. Some of it is fantasy, but it's kind of predicting the trajectory of things to come. Anybody with half a brain right now knows that things can't go on like this for much longer."
In recent years, Mustaine has amped up his increasingly conservative and right-wing-leaning political commentary. Some is worthy of serious debate and consideration, while other proclamations are just head-scratching: during a show last year, he suggested that the Obama administration was actually behind the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado and at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin to push a gun-control agenda.
Interview continues on the next page.
And though he's since stepped down from that particular thought, he believes the potential for government conspiracy is still there.
Nevertheless, as there are plenty of Republicans who are diehard Springsteen fans, so musical delivery usually trumps any other disagreements between the views of performer and audience.
Super Collider also offers the welcome return of founding bassist David Ellefson, who returns to the fold after mending fences with Mustaine on personal and legal levels.
"With him coming back and his playing style, it helps kind of resolves what our sound is," Mustaine says. "A bass player and drummer are really critical for songs to sound good. And I was really excited to see what those guys cold come up with."
"And I was really impressed with the songwriting that came out of [guitarist] Chris [Broderick] and [drummer] Shawn [Drover]. They are really starting to dig in."
Coming up in Part II: Mustaine muses more on his relationship with Ellefson, the anniversary tour for Countdown to Extinction, getting kicked off the Aerosmith tour after a gig in Houston, and what "driving" passion he shares with late Led Zeppelin pounder John Bonham.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism