For more than a decade now, Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine has been critical about politicians and distressed by the establishment. But even as the metal veteran lashed out at corruption, greed, and megalomania on songs like “The Threat Is Real,” “Post-American World,” and the title track of Megadeth’s 2016 album Dystopia, he has remained a firm believer in democracy — at least in theory. And while he was not a big supporter of either Trump or Clinton, he maintains hope that in the not-too-distant future, someone with previously untapped vision and potential will make a play for the top office in the land.
“There are so many minds out there that would be really great leaders for us tomorrow,” he tells Yahoo Music. “I’m just flabbergasted that with a nation that contains so many brilliant thinkers, Trump and Clinton were the two best people we could come up with.”
Not only is Mustaine dismayed by the two choices that were on the ballot, he’s concerned that those watching from afar, and even some from within, have reevaluated their views of America.
“I have a lot of international friends, a lot of heavyweight in governments here and around the world,” Mustaine says. “And it’s sad because there are a lot of people laughing at us. Not everybody, but we’re supposed to be the lightning rod, the adult in the room with a lot of the other countries in the world. I feel right now that we’ve kind of lost what America is all about. And the whole thing has been really disillusioning for the young people in the country who are only just becoming involved in the political process. It’s just disillusioning and it makes them not want to be involved.”
As difficult as 2016 has been for many that dutifully follow politics, it was a pretty a great year for Megadeth. In January, they unleashed their 15th full-length studio album, and as the year draws to a close, Dystopia — with its creative depiction of a fractured America — has been widely praised as one of the best metal records of the year and the band’s edgiest, angriest, and most well-crafted album since 1992’s double-platinum Countdown to Extinction. Mustaine credits the success of Dystopia to the lineup on the album, which features new guitarist Kiko Loureiro (ex-Angra) and studio drummer and Lamb of God member Chris Adler.
“Before we did this album, we had a group of four people but one person, or maybe two, were doing all the work. And when that happens, the product you’re going to put out isn’t going to be as good as when you have four people who are equally talented,” Mustaine explains. “With this lineup, when we went in the studio we had four people who were at the top of their game.”
As Megadeth prepare to head into the holidays, Mustaine toasts the year that was by reminiscing over some of the its highlights, tells some old drinking stories and talks about a partnership he recently struck with Jerry Vietz of Unibroue, who has worked with the band to craft the signature Megadeth beer A Tout Le Monde.
YAHOO MUSIC: Did cementing the right band lineup and writing Dystopia allow you to regain some of the footing you might have lost over the past few years?
DAVE MUSTAINE: There was a period that, by all intents and purposes, looked like we were lagging. And then we did Dystopia with this incredible lineup. But of course, Chris [Adler] said he couldn’t leave Lamb of God to join Megadeth — which we would have liked a lot — and I didn’t know what we were going to do for a minute because I wasn’t aware of any other drummers that were as good as Chris. Then Chris recommended Dirk Verbeuren come into the project to take over for him. And now with Dirk being in the band, with us, having a solid lineup right now, we’ve had some of the best concerts of my life. When we parted ways a few days ago with the guys in the band, I told them in all honestly, “This was the best year of my life in my career.” I’ve never had a better year, even in the heyday of the band when Countdown to Extinction was double-platinum. I’ve never been happier or had better shows or felt more camaraderie with my bandmates than I did with these guys during the Dystopia tour.
What were some of the highlights?
Watching the reviews come in for Ozzfest, and reading that we stole the show was mind-blowing because I’m a huge Black Sabbath fan. Having the opportunity to play Download [Festival] in England and just nailing it; going down to South America and playing festivals that were standing-room-only. Being able to win back the respectability that we lost with the lineup changes was such a big thing for me.
You worked with a number of different players since the departure of guitarist Marty Friedman and drummer Nick Menza, who both played with Megadeth in the ‘90s. Even co-founder and bassist David Ellefson was out of Megadeth between 2002 and 2010.
After the band had fallen apart with Nick and Marty it was always scrambling to try to find the right chemistry again. You’d get one really great guy and you’d have three good people. It was like being in a car with a flat tire and you have to put one of those crappy little donut spare tires which you can’t go over 45 miles an hour on — especially when you’ve got a really nice car. You look at one side and it’s great and then you go on the other side and you’ve got that spare tire and you’re like, “Whoa, that looks like s—.” Granted, you can get from point A to point B, but it’s not what you want. We were getting from point A to point B with many of the different lineups that we had prior to what we’re doing right now, and it just wasn’t the same. Right now I feel like we’re going full speed ahead and we’re styling. I’ve never been happier.
Seems like a good time to celebrate with a signature beer. How did you end up in alcohol marketing?
I got into the alcohol business when we did a wine [called Symphony Interrupted]. We did a concert with the San Diego Symphony in April 2014 and we did that to promote the show. But I’m not a huge wine drinker. I prefer beer. There’s nothing better than having a nice cold beer during the summer. You don’t imagine you’re going to be sitting at the beach putting on the suntan lotion and having a glass of wine. But the wine venture was successful, so we looked at a couple of companies and one of them was Unibroue. When I found that they wanted to meet with me, I was ecstatic. I did a little bit of research and I saw how many awards they won. I saw how particular they were, the expertise with their craftsmanship in making their beverages, everything about them was great.
Over the years you’ve been vocal about your battles with drugs and alcohol. Have you overcome your issues — can you drink casually, or is it a slippery slope?
During the ‘80s and ‘90s, drugs were really prevalent in the music industry, and that’s what I gravitated towards, being a pot smoker as a kid and going through the whole drug scene. Alcohol was not really my go-to thing. And in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous it lists three different types of drinkers. There’s the light drinker, the moderate drinker, and the heavy drinker. The light drinker is someone who can take it or leave it. The moderate one is someone who, given sufficient reason, they can quit — like if they’re going to lost a job, get divorced, or face jail time. And then the heavy drinker is the guy that can’t stop no matter what. And then if he does stop, he can’t stay stopped no matter what. I’m the guy that’s in the middle.
But you went to AA meetings.
Because Alcoholics Anonymous are so much more ubiquitous than an NA meeting, a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, or a CA meeting, Cocaine Anonymous, I would go to AA. But I found out that after I had gotten saved and I became a Christian, I would go into meetings and talk about God and people would get really offended. Old-timers would come up to me and say, “We don’t talk about God here. God stands for ‘Group of Drunks.’” And I figured, “You know what? If I can’t talk about God in AA meetings, I don’t want to be here.” God sent me to AA. AA sent me back to God. And now I go to church and I drink like a normal person. There are certain people that are like men who have lost their legs. They’re never grow new ones. They’ll never be able to drink again. But I also think if you want to look at this from a humorous point of view, which is how I like to look at it, who better to make a beer than someone who likes to drink?
You’ve come a long way since the infamous keg parties in San Francisco in the mid ‘80s.
[laughs]. When I met [Metallica vocalist and guitarist] James [Hetfield], we would hang out at the beach and we would go to parties and they would have kegs there. It didn’t matter what was in the kegs. They’d run out of the keg and people would turn their baseball caps inside-out and they’d pass the hat around and you’d put money in there and then go get another keg of whatever you could afford. It wasn’t about the taste, it was about the effect. And I remember when I started actually drinking beer, I didn’t know anything about it. I just knew that I wanted to feel something — anything. Sometimes I would drink when my team won, sometimes I would drink when my team lost, sometimes I would drink while they were playing. Sometimes I would drink during the off season. It was a matter of wanting to feel something — anything. Growing up the way that I did, being poor, being picked on, I just didn’t want to feel the way I felt. But as I went through life and started to experience more things, there were a lot of really great opportunities when I did get to experience really fine wines and fine beer. And I gotta say, of all the beer that I’ve had over the years, Unibroue makes the best-tasting beer I’ve ever had.