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Dave Mustaine Reflects on the Megadeth Reunion That Never Was

Oct. 4, 2016
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Photo by Chapman Baehler

It’s been a season of change for Megadeth, not that this should be much of a surprise by now. Over its nearly 35-year history, singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine had led the metal band through several lineups featuring different guitarists, drummers and even a couple of different bassists.

But this time, the lineup change many were anticipating didn’t happen. With the new album, Dystopia, Mustaine is introducing a revamped edition of Megadeth that features two new players: drummer Chris Adler (who remains a full-time member of Lamb Of God and toured with Megadeth earlier this year before stepping aside in favor of new drummer Dirk Verbeuren) and guitarist Kiko Loureiro.

But for a while, it looked as if 2015/16 would see a reunion of the band’s early ’90s lineup, with Mustaine and long-time bassist David Ellefson joined by guitarist Marty Friedman and drummer Nick Menza.

That reunion got far enough that it prompted the departures of guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover—two musicians that as recently as 2014 had Mustaine telling this writer that life in the band had been as good, and maybe better, than at any other point in Megadeth’s history.

Mustaine spelled out the lineup saga and what happened with the reunion in a recent phone interview. 

“It’s true, Shawn and Chris quit. They found out about somebody in our organization wanting to make the Rust in Peace reunion happen,” Mustaine said, referring to the 1990 album that featured the debut of Friedman and Menza. “They got offended. They quit. Things proceeded with Marty and Nick only because I was forced with it because I did not want to do that. When it didn’t work out, everybody blamed me, and David Ellefson came to my rescue and said look, it was my idea. It wasn’t Dave. Stop making him the bad guy.”

But with the reunion with Friedman and Menza having failed, it meant Megadeth needed a new lead guitarist and drummer. Mustaine took things in stride and forged ahead.

There were rumors that former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo or former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy might be options to replace Drover. But Mustaine said he thought of Adler early on. Finding a guitarist was much harder.

In fact, Mustaine said he considered quite a few candidates before Loureiro came on his radar and felt like the right fit for Megadeth.

The newly minted lineup then made Dystopia, an album that has generally gotten positive reviews, with some critics calling it Megadeth’s best album in years. 

Early on in the album-making process, Mustaine talked of returning to the group’s thrashier early sound. He thinks Dystopia fulfilled that goal to a point.

“Well, the beats per minute aren’t quite as high as they used to be in some of the songs. I think the guitar playing has gotten a little bit more explorative,” he said. “Do I think it is Killing is My Business? No. But it definitely is the record that fits in the timeline before Youthenasia somewhere.”

Killing Is My Business…and Business Is Good! was Megadeth’s 1985 debut, and helped establish Megadeth alongside Metallica and Slayer as leaders of a new heavier and thrashier brand of metal.

Youthanasia arrived in 1994, and by then, the band’s sound had grown more melodic and radio-friendly. Fans of the band’s harsher early albums were not particularly pleased, and after the 1999 album, Risk, Friedman left the band. On the 2001 CD, The World Needs A Hero, Mustaine took Megadeth back in a thrashier direction. For the most part, the band has continued in that vein ever since, even as members have come and gone.

Now the new Megadeth is touring North America this fall, having done a first run of show this past spring. At that point, the band had five of the Dystopia songs ready for live performance: “Fatal Illusion,” “The Threat is Real,” “Dystopia,” “Post American World” and “Poisonous Shadows.” Those songs could well be in play for the fall tour, but Mustaine said the band is also likely to draw extensively on songs from the back catalogue as well and perhaps mix up some song choices over the course of the tour.

“Those five songs are probably the strongest of the songs off of the record for the public,” he said. “I tend to gravitate a lot toward a couple of the more obscure songs, too, because there’s always a little weird something somewhere that every song has. It’s like every horse has some great trick that they can do. There are a lot of things that people are really good at, like this whole one-trick pony thing. I want to be able to go and play live and add songs freely.”

Megadeth headline the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m. with openers Amon Amarth, Suicidal Tendencies and Metal Church.

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