In his 25 years heading Megadeth, Mustaine has been one of the more colorful, polarizing and successful frontmen in metal. Ages ago, he was kicked out of Metallica for being too wild; now, he’s a family man who takes pride in his role as a mentor to the younger bands on his tour (this year’s lineup includes In Flames, Children of Bodom, Job for a Cowboy and High on Fire).
We spoke with Mustaine about what Gigantour has in common with a medieval band of wandering minstrels—and some of the unexpected questions submitted to his new interactive fan site.
Did you ever get to see any of the questions that fans submitted to AskDaveMustaine.com?
[Laughs] Yeah, I saw some of them. It was meant to be fun and good-spirited, but like anything in our world, there are going to be people who try to find holes in the system. We didn’t think to make any answers about how long my penis is—and that seems to be one of the most popular questions. What’s my sexual orientation? How well am I hung? What am I like in bed? When we go forward and do the next round of questions to keep it fresh, I am going to do a couple things just to address stuff like that in a good-spirited way.
What’s the touring lifestyle like for you these days?
You know, when you take good care of yourself when you’re touring, it’s a lot easier to decompress when you come off a tour. There was a period before where you really looked forward to getting out on tour because of the debauchery. [But] as the music business started to really eat itself, it started to police itself, and a lot of the decadent, Caligula-like behavior went away. So it’s a lot easier to recuperate after a tour. The hardest part is just traveling and getting all the spores—especially now that that Airborne crap is fake.
As both the headliner and the organizer, do you worry about everyone in all the bands, or are you able to step away from the dirty, day-to-day administrative stuff?
I do get involved in it a lot. One of the things we do the night before we commence with the festival is we have a meet-and-greet with all the bands and crews, so everyone can get to know everybody—so we really become this traveling community. Back in the days of medieval times, troubadours used to travel with their troupe of merry men, so to speak…although nothing comes to mind where you’d have 150 people as part of the troubadour’s troupe. It was probably more like two dudes and a lute. [Laughs]
Since I’ve been grossly overpaid and severely underworked, I would rather take my success and share it with these young bands so they’ll remember the gift that they have playing and be able to purvey that to the audience with as little showbiz bullshit as possible.
How did you put the lineup together? Do you just go after the best bands, or is it important to get bands that aren’t playing the same sort of metal?
The prerequisite really is simple: have new material, have the talent and chops, and have the right attitude. We don’t want people out there acting like they’re owed something; in a concert environment, it’s the fans who [are] owed something. This year, the five bands are pretty different. In Flames has their own brand of music and it’s pretty heavy. The guitar playing in Children of Bodom is out of this world. Job for a Cowboy is very much like a band we took out on a previous Gigantour, Dillinger Escape Plan. And then High on Fire reminds me of old-school dirge-type metal, like if [Motorhead’s] Lemmy was 20 years old again, or like Trouble from Chicago.
A lot of iconic metal acts are renowned for having audiences that are very hard on opening acts. Are Megadeth’s fans more open-minded?
I think our fans are very open-minded. Take into consideration all the bands that have supported us. I took out Stone Temple Pilots when they were relatively unknown. They went on to greatness. Same goes for Alice in Chains—they went out with us on Clash of the Titans. Pantera went out with us, White Zombie went out with us, Korn went out with us [when] they had their first record. The list is endless of the bands that I’ve taken out that have gone on to great success.
There’s been a lot of well-documented turbulence for you and Megadeth over the years, but it sounds like you’re in a really positive place now.
Megadeth has always been like a fighter jet that’s going in and out of the tumultuous goings-on in the music industry, trying to explain the evils of society and politics and war and personal politics. As far as turbulence is concerned—the faster you fly, the more it’s going to seem rocky. I like it when it’s a little bumpy; that means you don’t know what’s going to happen. As far as me being positive, I’ve always been positive. Sometimes I’ve been positively difficult, but I’ve always been positive.