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Who is the real Dave Mustaine?

Will the real Dave Mustaine please stand up? As Dystopia marks a thunderous return to thrashy form, we dig away at Big Dave to try and find the man behind the monster

After a difficult show in Australia last year, Dave Mustaine took to live video-streaming app Periscope to rant about an unnamed guitar tech, calling him “a total waste of skin and life”. He snarled that he’d fired the man, and would make it up to his fans in Brisbane sometime – “maybe in Hawaii when we luau that fat pig’s ass”. The consequences of airing so brutal a character assassination on the internet seemed lost on the frontman, though the internet exploded with disbelief. He later “forgave the guy”, but today remains unrepentant about the public bully-boy mud-slinging.

“Growing up poor, I know what it’s like to have to work hard for your money,” he explains. “When you look at the price of a ticket these days, the economy isn’t great, especially for young people. They come out of university and end up waiting tables. So when people come to a concert they buy a ticket, a shirt, get dinner, some beer, pay for parking and gas – you’re looking at between $100 to $200. I wanna give my absolute best to the audience. It comes down to being passionate about this stuff. So when the shit hits the fan, I’m gonna start venting. Fuck it, this means a lot to me...”

In truth, the tirade would only have come as a surprise to anyone who mistakenly thought Dave might have mellowed with age. After all, this iconic rabble-rouser has been one of the most divisive personalities in metal for years – at least since his cruelly delivered expulsion from Metallica in 1983 – and his shoot-from-the-hip style and impulsive temperament have always been among his strongest identifying features. He still remembers the fallout from his onstage dedication to ‘the cause’ in the bitterly divided religious and political hotbed of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, in 1988, which he blames on his own naivety (and Guinness).

“Obviously Americans who go to Ireland and have a bit of red hair, they try to act like they’re Irish!” Dave laughs, recalling the incident. “But I didn’t realise at all what I was saying.”

He didn’t have the excuse of drunken youth when he declared onstage in 2012 that Barack Obama was “trying to pass a gun ban so he’s staging all these murders", ineloquently fanning the flames of paranoid conspiracy. Or when he declared that African women who can’t feed their children should “put a plug in it”.

And yet, his willingness to say what he wants – however incautiously worded, or unpalatable to the moral guardians of social media – is refreshing in an age when musicians daren’t deviate from platitudes for fear of causing a Twitter-storm. In addition, his often dark, dry sense of humour loses some irony in translation.

I don't give a flying fuck about my critics

“People sometimes take stuff a little bit out of perspective,” he reckons. “When something is in written form it doesn’t necessarily look the same.” Most importantly, his refusal to tone down his attitude or mince his words reveals the strength and single-mindedness that have kept Megadeth at the top for 30 years.

“I don’t care if you like me or not, it’s not gonna change my appetite,” he affirms. “But to judge me when you don’t know me is prejudice, and contempt prior to investigation is ignorance.”

The investigation is ongoing. Misunderstood genius or arrogant loudmouth: would the real Dave Mustaine please stand up?


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