Dave Mustaine is one of the most iconic and universally recognized personalities in the realm of heavy metal. His music career has spanned 30 years and he is recognized as one of the most significant lead guitarists and metal vocalists of all time. His career began with a brief, but extremely influential early stint Metallica from 1981 to 1983. After that, Mustaine founded Megadeth, which still stands as one of the musical juggernauts in the genre, and one of the "Big Four" of thrash (along with Slayer, Metallica and Anthrax). While Mustaine has been considered a controversial figure, at times, his talent and appeal are undeniable. Megadeth have recently enjoyed a career renaissance. They have recently released a new album, Thirteen, to positive critical reception. Mustaine also helms the infamous Gigantour, the next incarnation of which features Motörhead, Volbeat and Lacuna Coil and will be making its way across North America in early 2012.
What are you up to?
I just finished breakfast, and soon I'll be on my way to the airport. I'll have to fight through the fans downstairs, which is always great, but I've recently had neck surgery and so haven't been able to stop and sign stuff as I'd like to. I've had to do a lot more waving from the window than I'd like to.
What are your current fixations?
My current fixation is that I'm sadly mesmerized by watching the news and how the government is destroying this country. It's pretty obvious to me that they're trying to get rid of the middle class. It also seems like we're moving more towards a single world currency, and I find that very frightening.
Why do you live where you do?
My move was prompted by the feud with [former and now current bassist] Dave Ellefson. There was that falling out, and the lawsuit. I left at that time; it was better to leave Arizona, which is a small area. It felt too close. I figured I was too emotional about the situation to continue to live there, so I went back to California. I live in Fallbrook because it is quite removed; it's in the hills and you have to do a lot of trekking to get to where I live. There is no way you can wind up on my property accidentally. You essentially have to trespass to end up on the property.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
I've always loved Dali's stuff. I've always thought his work is most like witnessing artwork take acid. I really like the one he did with the melting clocks. I don't know exactly what they're called. There's another one of Jesus on a cross; I got that one in my house, and the melting clocks painting is really good.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
The most memorable would have been the performance for Jimmy Kimmel. We all donned actual makeup from Universal Studios, all done up like the classic Universal movie monsters. I was just coming off surgery and was not very mobile, so I decided to be Frankenstein so no one would care if I was stiff. Jimmy dressed as the Donkey Kong gorilla, too. We played four songs, and it was really great; we had a lot of fun.
We've played a lot of shows that were bigger, of course. The biggest was the Rock in Rio show; we played to 40,000 people. All of the Big Four shows were really amazing. Those shows were certainly the most cathartic, the most healing. It was really great to be able to bury the hatchet and just play together. That was very important to me.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
I don't really keep track. Probably people taking pot-shots at my music or ability. I'm generally pretty numb to any of it. I was picked on every day in school, called a freckle-faced kid and stuff, so that kind of thing doesn't affect me. When they start attacking the music, that's something that stings. That's something I've worked on, so some of those comments suck.
What should everyone shut up about?
Everyone needs to shut up about this whole Occupy Wall Street thing. I think the protesters have very good intentions, but it's an example of good being mislead. The President is setting these guys up to be dead in the road. Everyone should protest at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue if they want some change. I also really hate some of these bleeding hearts, like Michael Moore, the fat dude who does these exposés. We don't need more of that; we need lower taxes and governments that listen.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I love helping underprivileged kids. I really like going out of my way to help people who are down on their luck. I have met so many handicapped fans, or those that have diseases. Recently, I met a Kentucky fan with throat cancer, and that really shook me up, that he would still come and see me play like that. A couple years later on Mayhem fest, a soldier came up to me. He had pictures of him walking down a road, and then a cloud of smoke. He showed them to me and said: "This is the sequence of events that led to me getting my legs blown off." And I look down, I see he is wearing prosthetics, and I just started crying. I said, "I'm so sorry, thanks for fighting for my freedom." That really moved me, what people have to go through.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
For me — and this not me pushing anything, this is just what I like — the perfect Sunday means having a nice breakfast, going to church and watching football for the rest of the day.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Not to do heroin. Heroin was destructive in my life; it hurt people, it hurt me, it really affected my career.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Yeah, I've had to. The main thing is, if you don't have a common vision anymore. When you're in a band with someone, honestly that's the closest you'll ever be to anyone aside from sex or being romantically involved. Having experienced several line-up changes, it happens because our vision was not congruent — what we felt no longer matched. It's like having a car with three tires facing forward and one turned to the side. It will slow you down and cause problems.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I love Canada! Our drummer is Canadian, and at some points 50 percent of the band were Canadian, so it has always felt like another home. I also love hockey. Whenever I find out that an NHL player is a fan, I make a point to try and meet them and become friends. I've always really liked Canadian hockey players for their toughness.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
David Bowie Changes. Before I bought that, though, I had the Kiss record, Hotter Than Hell. One day, I was ice skating, trying to get good enough to play hockey. I ended up playing only one game. I got checked really hard, told the coach to get stuffed and left. I was wearing this huge down jacket, and was in a bad mood. I went into the record store, and saw this record with a topless girl on the cover, and thought it was the coolest thing. So I stuck it up the back of my huge jacket, hid it there and walked out. That was the first record I had.
What was your most memorable day job?
I was on my own by the time I was 15. I worked as a foreign car mechanic as a kid, along with selling pot and working at a gas station. I liked working at the gas station the best; it was awesome. Pretty women would come in. It was a full service gas station, so I could fill up their cars, clean their windshields and check them out.
How do you spoil yourself?
I like red liquorice, and peanut M&Ms. There is a place here called Thrifty's, and they make a flavour of ice cream I really like. Otherwise, getting a massage is pretty nice, but hit and miss. It can be a bit embarrassing being a guy, if you're getting a massage you get a little stimulated.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
A teacher. I taught martial arts in Arizona and really loved it. The best students were the kids. They weren't set in their ways the way some of the adults were. Adults don't like being corrected, but kids will try anything.
What do you fear most?
I fear broken glass; I fear intersections; I fear snakes. That's probably it. I didn't have a lot of phobias when I was younger, but I got scared as I grew up. I stepped on broken glass in a lake once, cut up my feet really badly, and so many of my friends have gotten T-boned at intersections. Once, when I lived in Arizona, I went to take the garbage out and there was a rattlesnake behind the garbage can. It scared me so badly that I came back a killed it with a rock and a hockey stick. Later, I felt terrible; it wasn't the snake's fault. Scorpions are scary, too. I once had a pet scorpion that I named Andre after an old tour manager of ours.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Oliver Stone. I met him at the Democratic National Convention when I was covering it for MTV. I asked him a question and it seemed like he was in a million other places. The most disappointing celebrity I ever met was John Kerry; he was really rude.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Lincoln. I have lots of respect for him, freeing the slaves and working for equality, although it seems even all these years later it hasn't sunk in. Hundreds of years later, and there's still a racial divide in this country. I also would like to meet Bruce Lee. I've done martial arts since I was 12, and it would be great just to meet him. I heard he was just a little guy.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Nothing. My mom is gone now, and for years she didn't understand or approve of what I did, and that kept us apart. But she got to see me be successful and had embraced me again, became proud of me again near the end of her life. She loved to pay for everything with a cheque, so that people at the checkout would see the name Mustaine and she could tell them I was her son.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
[Johnny Winter's] "Still Alive and Well."