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Q&A: Dave Mustaine

Is he the unsung architect of American metal, or just “a dick”? The Megadeth man makes the case for the defence.

The days when Dave Mustaine would happily start a fight in an empty room may now be behind him, but the notion that one might safely turn one’s back on one of the few stars thrash metal ever produced is surely unwise.

Today, in London to promote his band’s new album, Dystopia, the 54-year-old Megadeth frontman is pleasant, in an oddly unsettling way. When he is being sincere, it’s difficult not to assume he’s being sarcastic; when he disagrees with a question, it’s difficult not to assume that his slow speech is for the benefit of a questioner he believes to be an idiot. Whatever the case, an hour in his company screams by.

When you joined Metallica, James Hetfield didn’t play guitar. When you formed Megadeth, you brought in Kerry King as guitarist for six months, after which Slayer’s sound became heavier. Are you the chief architect of American metal?

Well, I appreciate you saying that… I remember when we did the thirtieth-anniversary gig with Metallica in San Francisco and I went and played with them, there were a lot of people who got their faces slapped. They were realising that this is Metallica. I mean no disrespect to Kirk [Hammett], because Kirk is a great player and he’s a nice guy. But the catalyst that started it all was there on stage that night, and it was very dangerous. The playing was so venomous. And that’s probably why it was a good idea for us to part ways. There was too much anger there, and too much dysfunction.

Given how much hurt you were caused by being booted out of Metallica, do you find it ironic that you’ve fired so many musicians from Megadeth?

When you look at the thirty-year span of the band, and of all the different records that we’ve put out, it’s not the constant turnover of people that it might seem to be. And when you look at other people, such as David Bowie – he’s had tons of people play with him. Alice Cooper has had tons of people play with him…

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