Dave Mustaine has made a successful career out of his crushing metal guitar riffs, songwriting prowess and inimitable vocal style. But the Megadeth frontman is also an empathetic guy who believes in the camaraderie of music, not only with regard to his own band but Gigantour, the metal festival Mustaine founded in 2005 that features veteran acts and up-and-coming bands.
He's also prolific. Megadeth are set to release their new studio album, Super Collider, on June 4. The album follows such acclaimed efforts as United Abominations (2007), Endgame (2009) and Th1rt3en (2011). "Head Crusher," a track from Endgame, earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Metal Performance in 2009, beginning a string of four consecutive years of GRAMMY nominations. Starting in July, Megadeth are set to headline the 2013 installment of Gigantour, with the bill also featuring Black Label Society, Death Division, Device, Hellyeah, and former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted's Newsted project.
Checking in from Madrid during the band's current European/UK tour, Mustaine discussed the creative process and studio collaborators for Super Collider, the spirit embodying Gigantour and Megadeth's 11 career GRAMMY nominations.
Are you playing any new songs from Super Collider live yet?
We've been playing two songs — "Super Collider," which is the first single, and "Kingmaker," which is the song we did a promotion through Twitter and had a fan debut the song. It got a lot of response and plus "Kingmaker" is a good song, so [the fans] like it live. It's a high-energy song.
What was the first song written for this album?
The first one [was] probably "Super Collider." [It] was a really old song that hadn't been completed [so] that would qualify as being the first one, but it wasn't actually the first one that was worked on when we started the session. I discovered that when we were in the middle of the songwriting process. I'm pretty sure that "Kingmaker" was the first one.
Who produced the album?
I did. We started off with Johnny K, and Johnny was working with us on the record for a couple of weeks and then he had to go home for a month because he had another project he was working on. I continued producing it and used a guy named Cameron Webb, who has worked on the last [several] Motörhead records. And then Johnny was able to come back for a short period of time, [and] we finished the record and he went home and mixed it.
Were these all people you had worked with in the past?
Not Cameron, he was a great surprise. In fact, the majority of the drum tracks were done with Cameron and Shawn [Drover] will tell you the best time he [has] had in the studio so far was with Cameron, and that says a lot about a guy that comes in as an assistant engineer and ends up sitting in the engineer seat for the record with me. Johnny K worked well — he's a good guy [and] a great producer. But credit has to be given where credit is due and Cameron is definitely a very talented young producer and I can only see great things for him going forward.
I spoke with Jason Newsted recently and I know he is excited for the Gigantour tour and being able to reconnect.
There's really a cool new relationship between the two of us and I saw that he said something about us playing a song together and I thought, "Wow, that's pretty interesting. It's doable and I think it would be fun." I'm not ruling anything in or out because I still gotta talk with David Ellefson about it; I want to make sure that Dave and Jason talk and figure out how they're gonna do it if we play together. One thing that's important is to not copy other people. So it would be cool to do something really different with Jason, instead of doing the same thing people expect, [like playing] old songs. I think there's a lot of potential with all of the bands. The talent is there. Of course Jason and I go back the farthest so I'm really looking forward to reconnecting with him.
Newsted has so much energy and enthusiasm right now. How does being out on the road with people like that reinvigorate you?
That's kind of the spirit of Gigantour, to give [an] opportunity to other bands that need a break. Jason certainly doesn't need a break … but the other thing is there's a camaraderie about Gigantour. It's not a huge corporate thing. I'm not really concerned about the size of the buildings or anything like that as much as I am about what the music makes as a statement, and this is by far the most aggressive lineup on Gigantour that we've ever had.
Megadeth have 11 career GRAMMY nominations. What does the award mean to you?
At this point right now it seems to be elusive and it's nice to have the peer recognition. If it's meant to be it will happen. But just being recognized is a really great accomplishment.
(Steve Baltin has written about music for Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, MOJO, Chicago Tribune, AOL, LA Weekly, Philadelphia Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and dozens more publications.)