Inquiring Minds

Act of Defiance Out to Prove Their Staying Power

Walking away from the one of the most historically influential metal bands of all time to start your own gig is no easy task. And, doing it with another former member of the same band looks like mutiny afoot. But don’t be fooled. When Shawn Drover and Chris Broderick left Megadeth, it wasn’t a break up, more like an extension of a good thing already in the making. Take two incredibly diverse songwriters, peel away distracting assignments, give them creative freedom and you’ve got metal’s newest superband, Act of Defiance. Their album, Birth and the Burial, speaks to the range of styles Broderick and Drover can execute with masterful precision.

Speaking with Drover, former drummer of Megadeth, about his new band was much like talking to the father of a brand-new baby. Excitement poured forth, grand hopes and future planning was the staple of the conversation. That, and a message for anyone who doubted that Act of Defiance and Megadeth aren’t on good terms.

Houston Press: What has the response been with fans hearing the music? I’m sure you’re seeing a lot of old Megadeth fans. Are you getting constant Megadeth comparisons?
Shawn Drover: It’s a good mix. There’s been a lot of young kids there, then there’s plenty of old fans too. People who are in their forties, closer to my age. You know, people who’ve been listening to heavy metal for years. The response is good. We always hang around after the show and talk to fans and get their take on things. So far, it’s been extremely positive, so we’ve been really happy about that.

I’ve noticed younger fans really have an appreciation for the roots of metal and really get into the older stuff.
I think that’s just a testament to good music, you know? Good music will always live on and it has stood the test of time. I mean, if heavy metal was not good, it would’ve died as a genre years ago. But, here we are, 40 years later and the scene is getting a bit of a rebirth with the younger generation, which ultimately has to happen in order for it to survive. For us, it’s great to have a lot of young people at our shows; we need their support. We’re are a new band, we haven’t been around for thirty years. Less than a year, we need them to spread the word.

Right. So, let’s talk about your music. And, I’ve read all your interviews since you’re so new and they all say the same thing. So, I refuse to ask the same things here —
And, you know, I would just give you the same answers [laughs]. It’s like flogging a dead horse. We’ve already given the explanation for why we left [Megadeth] and all those things. I haven’t had one bad word to say about [Megadeth] and I won’t. Unlike yourself, which I’m grateful for, some journalists are just prodding, they just want the next shitty headline. They want something like, what can Drover say that can be construed as negative against his former band? And, I refuse to go down that road. I have nothing but good things to say. If it wasn’t for [Megadeth] I wouldn’t even have a career and I wouldn’t be speaking to you right now. How dare I say anything negative about a band that essentially gave me career? That doesn’t make any sense to me…It reminds me of TMZ. You know, people looking for someone falling out of their car drunk at the bar and then someone else films it. They try to apply that to music. It’s all garbage.

The focus should be on your music and your creative path. What’s so appealing about your story is the very fact that you’ve followed your dreams, left a lucrative position to hammer it out on your own all for the love of music.
Yeah, you know having complete artistic freedom to do what want, but also bearing in mind, I didn’t want to get too artistic and weird [laughs] I wanted to make a heavy metal record and not alienate fans. That was the goal for Chris and myself. We had no boundaries on it except it has to [be] metal, you know? Yet, metal is such a broad term now. When I was a kid, it was, rock, hard rock and heavy metal. Now, heavy metal has gone into about a hundred different subgenres, none of which I really care about.

Again, considering that broadness, I think that’s why our album is so diverse, here’s one song that’s speed thrash, and another that’s old school metal sensibility to it, or Chris would add a classical guitar intro to it. We want the heavy-metal community to embrace it. So, we didn’t want to be too wacky and do stuff that’s too self-indulgent where people will listen to it and go, ‘I don’t even know what the hell this is.’ [Laughs]

The record sounds to me like a celebration of styles. It’s like a well-executed record spanning the various styles of metal.
[Laughs] Well, thank you, but that wasn’t our intent at all. I think there’s so many styles because it’s a reflection of all the different kinds of music we love. Like, Chris loves classical, thrash. We love old-school, progressive, we both love thrash. We love Judas Priest, Maiden, King Diamond, Mercyful [Fate]. You’re not off the mark when you say it’s a celebration of different styles, I suppose it is. But, we never intended that. It was more like, I’m gonna write five songs, you [Chris] write five songs, just have at it, you know? Let’s hear it? You like it? Okay.

It wasn’t like I had some spreadsheet and said to myself, ‘I’ll make a thrash song here and a progressive one here.’ I’ve been writing songs the same way for 30 years, I go in my music room, shut the door, play guitar, and when I come up with a riff I like, I record it. I collect these riffs and over time, start piecing them together. That’s how I’ve always done it…with each of us writing five songs each, I think that made it really diverse. I don’t think we sound like anybody, and that’s a beautiful thing. I love that.

A lot of bands that I hear, especially younger bands, all sound similar. Which is fine, but to me, I’ve always had such an eclectic taste in music I can listen to Van Halen one minute and Kreator the next. I can listen to Gojira, then Pink Floyd. I think as a songwriter having all those influences, and styles that I love allow me to not put boundaries on myself. I’m extremely proud of this record. And I hope that others like it, too. At the end of the day, that’s really all you can do.

What does the future hold for Act of Defiance?
Well, we’re going to do three shows with Killswitch Engage in the Northeast right after Christmas. We’re excited about that, then we’re doing a heavy-metal boat cruise called Axes and Anchors. Zakk Wylde is doing it, too and a bunch of others — guitar-dominated influence-type deal. It’s another one of the beautiful things about our record is we can play with other bands who aren’t quite as heavy, because we’ve got stuff in our set that wouldn’t rip their heads off, you know? Like, we’ve got these six songs here, that won’t kill everybody because we’re too brutal. [Laughs]

On the flip side, we could tour with Exodus or Testament and do like an opening slot where we only have 30 minutes. Okay, well, we have these other six tunes that we could really hold our own. Which is great for us because we haven’t limited ourselves. [No one] can say, ‘Oh, well, you can only tour with these certain kinds of bands.’ We could tour with Slayer or Queensryche. We can carry ourselves in either situation.

That's rad. So what’s after the cruise?
All of that is being worked out as we speak. I’d really like to get over to Europe to do the festivals, you know? Obviously, there’s lots of festivals over there, so that’s a hope we have. We’re waiting on the information, so whether it’s America, Europe or South America, whatever it is, we will tackle it when we know more. We want to do this the old school way, we want to get out there and play as much as possible and bring heavy metal music to people who want to hear it.

You know, you can watch a show on YouTube, and that’s fine. But unless you’re at the show getting your head ripped off, seeing the lights, hearing the music, being a part of the experience, hanging out with your buddies and meeting new people, it’s all in the experience. It’s not as hardcore as it used to be. When I was growing up, going to a concert was everything. If Ozzy Osbourne came to town, everybody went. That’s just what you did. You supported the bands you loved. You bought the shirt, bought the record, went to concerts. It’s not what it used to be. We want to bring as many people to our shows as possible and you just can’t reach people unless you play live. You can’t just put a record out and not tour. Then, you’re just a project.

Do you think YouTube killed the live-show experience?
There’s good and bad. You know, the great thing is, finding these old shows and watching them again. I found Judas Priest playing in Japan in 1978. That’s really cool because as a fan, I’m always looking for stuff like that. When I was a kid we were always looking for bootleg shows, like King Diamond in 1986 or whatever. But, that never replaced a live show for me. I still went to see the bands. The flip side is everyone who now goes to a show, films it on their iPhones or whatever and uploads it immediately. Why the hell should I spend 20 bucks to see a show when 20 people are filming live at the venue and I can watch it at home? While I certainly don’t mind people watching stuff on YouTube, I just wish more people would actually attend shows and support the scene like we used to. Technology has been good for music, and it’s also been very bad for music, too.

Especially when it comes to how bands are now paid.
Oh, no…don’t get me started on that shit. [laughs] 

Act of Defiance performs Wednesday at Scout Bar with special guests Allegaeon, Aegis, K.T.C.M. and Houston's own Green As Emerald.
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Kristy Loye is a writer living in Houston and has been writing for the Houston Press since July 2015. A recent Rice University graduate, when not teaching writing craft or reciting poetry, she's upsetting alt-rights on Reddit.