Today, Megadeth is reissuing their 1986 thrash metal classic, Peace Sells . . . But Who’s Buying?, in several different configurations. Then, in November, the band will release an all-new studio album, TH1RT3EN – the title is a nod to its being the band’s 13th studio release overall, and singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine’s birthday on September 13th.
The group is also touring this summer as part of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival and playing a show at Yankee Stadium with the Big 4 (Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax) on September 14th.
Rolling Stone spoke with Mustaine about the new album and the reissue – and revisited the band’s difficult past.
How did you find the time to record TH1RT3EN, since Megadeth has been on the road constantly?
We only had a little bit of time to do this, and realistically, expecting a band of our nature, stature, our songwriting process, [and] the availability of all the band members – to try to squeeze a record in two month’s timeframe, who were we kidding? But we did it. Man, we worked our butts off on that. I had some seriously long days. There were some days that I woke up at my computer, with an imprint on my face from sleeping on the keyboard.
Does the album title have a deeper meaning besides being the group’s 13th release?
I was born on September 13th; this is my thirteenth record. It just seemed like it was the right thing to do to call it TH1RT3EN.
What are some of the song titles?
There’s a title track, a couple of songs, there’s “Sudden Death” which was on the Guitar Hero game – that was extremely successful and garnered us another Grammy nomination. Then there was “Never Dead,” which came out for the Konami video game Never Dead. The record itself will probably be coming out around November 1st.
How was it recording with bassist Dave Ellefson again?
It’s not like it was anything new – Dave and I were close friends for almost 30 years. And although we didn’t play together for a span of time, that wasn’t my doing. If I had been able to prevent my arm from getting hurt [in 2002], everything probably wouldn’t have happened the way that it did. But I really believe that all of us have ended up better people than it was.
What do you remember about the era of Peace Sells . . . But Who’s Buying?
Chris [Poland, guitarist] and I were nearing the end of our relationship, and it was really difficult for me to be around him, because every time you’d turn around, there would be some “trespass” of some sort. You try and play with somebody you want to trust and want to be able to love, but they just make it impossible for you to do that. I know that David and I started to really withdraw from those two guys [Poland and drummer Gar Samuelson]. The only time we really enjoyed being around them was playing.
Looking back at it, I wish we all would have gotten along a little bit better. I wish we would have been closer as people, because we really did do something together fantastic. And with Gar being deceased, I miss him the most. He was a very lovable a guy. Like that [children’s show], Davey and Goliath, he used to always do that dog’s voice, “Hey Davey.” You couldn’t help but smile when he did that.
I’ve always wondered what that Megadeth line-up would have gone on to do if it had stayed together.
Yeah, me too. But I’ll tell you – the drugs were such a terrible problem. There’s a difference between using drugs and abusing them. It’s even worse when you go from abuse to addiction. One night we had gone out and had two limousines at the record release party. One was for us and one was for our girlfriends and wives. We came out of the party and we were all obviously going to score [drugs]. I was grumbling and said something about Chris’ girlfriend, and he jumped across the limo to try and do something with me, and I kicked him in the face. I look back and I think about that, and I’m like, “Why were we like that?”
Speaking of band dysfunction, I recently watched Some Kind of Monster, and there’s the scene where you open up to Lars Ulrich about how it gets your goat when Metallica fans taunt you. But there’s the other side of the coin – there are fans who believe you were an integral part of Metallica’s definitive line-up.
I can only think that fans that come and flip me off or call out “Metallica,” it’s like, “Maybe you’re saying ‘Metallica is great thanks to you. You were a part of it, we love you.'” But a lot of times, they come there to taunt me. And all that is, right now, is people who are holding on to the past, and it’s just a reminder to me of how good I’ve got it. I wouldn’t be at this level, playing the places I am, successful, or happy to the degree I am if I hadn’t have met James [Hetfield] and Lars, and started on this path together.