Dave Mustaine Didn’t Want to Poach New Megadeth Bassist From Another Band
Megadeth's Dave Mustaine was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The thrash legends are set to release their long-awaited new album, The Sick, The Dying... And The Dead! on Sept. 2 and a lot of obstacles were hurdled along the way, one of them being the need to find a replacement for bassist David Ellefson, which Mustaine confirms was difficult as he did not want to poach anyone actively in another band.
On the studio recording, Testament bassist Steve DiGiorgio was tabbed to record new bass parts after Ellefson's had been discarded, but, ultimately, Megadeth welcomed James LoMenzo back into the band on a live basis last year and made him an official member earlier in 2022. His previous tenure with the group lasted from 2006 to 2010.
At the time the interview was conducted, Megadeth had only released one new single, "We'll Be Back" and Mustaine expressed his appreciation over the positive response to the scorching track. He also touched on the guest appearances from Ice-T and Sammy Hagar and more.
Read the full interview below.
The response to the first new single, "We'll Be Back," has been extremely positive. Acceptance isn't foremost to creativity, but what's gratifying when people appreciate and enjoy your music?
There's all kinds of things that make you feel good. At the end of the day when you're playing songs, one of the things that is gratifying is that people will even stop to take notice. When you think about the whole process of making music, you're taking a person who is picking up an object making sounds come out of it — you're making a sound that is compelling enough for somebody to stop and listen. If you're lucky, it's appealing enough to them that they want to listen to it and not just hear it. It's a big deal when people start actually listening to what you say and how you play.
I can remember back to the very first time I wrote a riff that I knew was going to be a big riff — it was the riff to "Jump In the Fire" [which would later appear on Metallica's debut album] when I was in a little teeny band before I joined Panic. That shows you how old that song was and I just knew that that riff was going to be something.
Now, I get that feeling right away if I play a riff and I think, "Oh, that's a really cool sounding part." I don't immediately think it's a riff that's going to be a chorus or a verse or anything like that, but I can hear a part and say, "Yeah, that sounds like Megadeth. That sounds like early Megadeth. That sounds like old Megadeth. That sounds like new Megadeth..." There's just a coolness to different eras anyway in the way the music has come out.
Megadeth, "We'll Be Back" Music Video
What fuels your musical aggression now compared to what fired you up as a younger man?
A lot of the same things fuel me up nowadays. Being a a young man when I started this, the things that mattered to me then still matter to me and I haven't really changed my outlook toward that.
I certainly have changed with the rising sun, so that the way that I fit into the scenario of things has changed. Obviously, rebellion is young man's game is the famous quote. I tend to like to rebel a little bit, but I think what that's saying means is that when you get a little bit older and you get a little bit more successful, you tend to smell like a fraud when you've got a Mercedes in your driveway and you're painting anarchy symbols. It's just a bit of a hypocrisy, I guess.
The music video for "We'll Be Back" is the first chapter in a short trilogy film that highlights the origin story of Megadeth mascot Vic Rattlehead. Why did you decide to finally give the character an origin?
When we started talking about the movie in the beginning of [making] the record, it was just a seed, an idea amongst some people with some background knowledge of the music and our mascot — two very, very talented people from South America whom I've worked with in the past. I've grown to be really, really proud of the work that that we've done.
One of the things that we did in the past was with "Conquer or Die," the prequel to Dystopia, was done by the producer and director team that did "We'll Be Back" — Leonardo Liberti and Rafael Pensado. They worked with me a little bit in the past and I was fortunate to work a little bit more currently on this new version. As the story goes, it it's just the beginning of a few installments so that fans can get to know Vic and everything associated with him.
Steve DiGiorgio stepped in to record bass on the album, followed by James Lomenzo rejoining the band on a permanent basis. What do you appreciate most about the two of them musically and as people?
Both of them are really fun people to be around. Although I didn't know Steve DiGiorgio, as much as I know James, LoMenzo, I found him to be just as enjoyable to be around as James is. That period that the band and everybody associated with us went through was a little touchy. We wanted to do the right thing. Trying to find the replacement for anybody wasn't the right thing to do at the time because nobody really knew all the facts and we certainly didn't want to poach anybody. Testament are my friends.
As great as Steve is, I remember what it felt like when we [Metallica] went up and poached Cliff [Burton] from Trauma. Granted the band Trauma wasn't that good, there were still guys in the band and their lives were changed when that happened. You've got to ask yourself, "Did he jump or was he pushed?" I wanted make sure if I was going to hire somebody that I wasn't stealing him from anybody.
Sammy Hagar and Ice-T might seem unlikely bedfellows for Megadeth. How do their respective talents enhance this new record?
We did a cover song of one of Sammy's songs. A lot of people didn't know Sammy before he did his time in Van Halen. I know him from back when he played in Montrose and, after that, in his solo career.I never really was convinced with the Van Halen tracks because I'd heard Sammy sing on Montrose and that man can sing — oh my God. He was one of my favorite singers forever and ever.
"I Got the Fire" is one of my favorite Montrose songs. It's such a heavy song — even Iron Maiden covered it. I thought, "Wouldn't it be great to do 'This Planet's on Fire' by Sammy?" I contacted him and asked him, "Would you mind singing on it and maybe putting down some guitars?" So he came back and said, "Sure, I'll sing on it. I ain't playing guitar because I heard you two shredders and you just leave the stuff like it is."
I was really flattered because I think Sammy's a great guitar player.
The thing with Ice-T is based on our friendship. We've worked on each other's stuff back and forth and the last thing we did together was [the Body Count song] "Civil War." I don't know if it was my turn to get a favor or his, but we've been getting closer as friends over the years and this is a great opportunity to use what I think he's great at. Besides the fact that he had experience in the military, the way that he just commands attention was perfect for the part.
Unfortunately that guy [heard in the sample at the end of the song] from Full Metal Jacket is not with us anymore. Those kind of personalities are a bit predictive too. It's kind of like the guy from the Twisted Sister video, but I thought the thing with Ice-T was just absolutely fitting for the part.
Megadeth, "Night Stalkers" (ft. Ice-T) Music Video
Can't wait to hear more of the record and can't wait to see you out there this summer on tour with Five Finger Death Punch!
You will. I can't wait to see you too. I'm so stoked with the response for the first single and everybody checking it out on YouTube. It's just been mind blowing. We went over a million views in the shortest period we've ever had a video rack up those kind of numbers. Thank you for everything you've done. This is going be a great, great tour and we're going to have so much fun.
Thanks to Dave Mustaine for the interview. Get your copy of Megadeth's new album 'The Sick, The Dying... And The Dead!' (out Sept. 2) here and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.