Dave Mustaine has steered Megadeth through more than its fair share of lineup changes over the course of its three-decades-plus lifespan. And yet, these last six months have been particularly topsy-turvy in the singer-guitarist’s world, even by his band’s high standards. In November 2014, drummer Shawn Drover, who had been with Megadeth for a decade and played on its last four studio albums, issued a statement that he was quitting the band. This was followed, just a few hours later, by a similar announcement from lead guitarist Chris Broderick. And like that, Megadeth was back to a duo of Mustaine and stalwart bassist David Ellefson, just as it had been when the two first began playing together in L.A. in 1983. Soon enough, rumors began to fly about who would replace the departed members, with a vocal contingent of fans clamoring — and not for the first time in Megadeth’s history — for a reunion of the storied Nineties-era Rust in Peace lineup, which included guitarist Marty Friedman and drummer Nick Menza.
Mustaine, for his part, kept uncharacteristically silent on the whole ordeal, neither commenting on the members that had left or the possibility of who might succeed them. Finally, the singer-guitarist revealed at the start of this year that Megadeth would be heading into the studio to begin recording an album — their 15th — in March. This was followed by the news that Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler would be assisting the band on the sessions. A new permanent guitarist, Kiko Loureiro of Brazilian metal act Angra, was revealed next. But the news wasn’t all positive — a few days after Loureiro was publicly welcomed into the fold, former drummer Menza took to the web to disclose that he and Friedman had, in fact, been approached to rejoin the band, but that the talks had fallen apart. He also blasted Mustaine for offering what he believed to be an “unfair” contract. The Megadeth leader, however, gave no response to the allegations.
Now, in his first extensive interview since the lineup changes, Mustaine is ready to talk. And, being Dave Mustaine, he has plenty to say. The 53-year-old thrash legend recently called from his home in Nashville to update Rolling Stone on all things Megadeth. In a wide-ranging conversation, he discussed the status and sound of the band’s new album, what it’s been like working with Adler and Loureiro, and how he’s doing in his new Music City digs. “We have a lot of property, and right across the street there’s a Black Angus cattle farmer,” he says, sounding cheerful and relaxed. “There are horses everywhere, railroad tracks, crap like that. Not quite Green Acres, but pretty much.”
Mustaine also addressed the Rust in Peace-era lineup reunion efforts, offered his thoughts on a few of Megadeth’s other past members and, more generally, commented on his position as one of rock’s loudest and, at times, most strident voices. “When I have a guitar in my hand it changes me a little bit,” he admits. “Kinda like when you think about Popeye and spinach. It’s just one of those things that empowers me. It’s a great feeling, but it can also be a double-edged sword.”