One of the things that always set Megadeth apart was the band’s high level of musicianship. Could you speak a little about the importance of musicianship.
Going back to all the digital stuff and all the plug-ins, it’s made it real easy for people who aren’t musicians to be perceived as musicians. And It’s no fault with Pro Tools or Cakewalk or whatever any of those other Garage Band kind of programs are. I think it’s really great to get people involved in music. But I think the onus falls on the people in the record companies where they find a band that’s got one really great song and they sign them and then there becomes a bottleneck of untalented pubes out there jamming up the runway for people like us for whom this is our calling. We were made to make music. And I think that you see how the live audiences have been dwindling because people spend their good hard earned money to watch a show but they’re not going to go there to watch one song. And I think that’s one of the things that happened in the ’90s and the first decade of the new millennium here with people going to see live shows. They don’t want to tolerate this crap anymore they want to see a show.
Growing up in the ‘80s and listening to the thrash metal and hardcore bands, when one of those bands got any sort of acknowledgment from the greater, more commercial, music world, it was such a big deal because those bands mattered so much to the fans. I don’t see that as much today. Do new bands still matter like the way they did back then?
I think the whole thing is there isn’t that culture of community. It’s not just the metal community. It’s people in general. People in general have a sense of entitlement right now like people owe them something. We’ve been on tour and had several incidents where there’s been bands that were nobodies and acted like they should be headlining over us, and it’s like, bless your heart, that’s a great attitude to take but you know, don’t shit the bed. It’s kind of weird sometimes how people, because of the digital audio work stations and how easy you can make a song on a computer, lose sight of that fact that that doesn’t make you a musician. It means you know how to cut and paste. And if you can write a song and you’re a great musician, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got a great band. You can have 3 or 4 guys that play music and a musician and you can go and do stuff like these celebrities that have acting careers but are playing in a band with some schmoes. When you get into a band where there’s a bunch of musicians and a star, that’s when things start to happen. And if the surrounding members become stars themselves it forces the leader to become more than that which is where you get into the elevation to superstar or legendary status. And the problems is everybody is so living in the moment with Instagram and Tweeting and Facebook and everybody knows everything about everybody else. We’re profiling so much and it’s about our outsides. Because we compare our outsides to other people’s insides. And our insides to other people’s outsides. We’ll see somebody and think they’ve got it all going on but we don’t know what’s going on with them. You see some of these bands that think they’re entitled to this stuff, they want to be just like us. Well, you got to work for it. It’s called paying your dues. If you pay your dues and you deserve it people treat you with respect.
As a musician what are you most proud of, your guitar playing, your songwriting or your singing?
Definitely not my singing (laughter). That’s not my strong part. I love the guitar playing part because every once in awhile you can do something and really blow people’s minds. But I think the thing I’m probably the most proud of is just pushing the boundaries of songwriting in heavy metal. You know, people all have their opinions and people will listen to a song and say I suck and it’s like, I don’t suck. There’s no way I suck. And trying to say something like that, like it’s going to make me de-focus off of what my primary purpose in life is, like “Oh God, I’m going to quit now because you said I sucked”? Ain’t going to happen. I love playing guitar but being able to put some riffs together and make them work and then when you’re playing, especially when you’re in a foreign country, and you see people whose mother tongue is not English, to watch them singing your lyrics, you’ve made a big difference in the world. And one of the greatest things out of all this is when someone comes up to you and says “Your song helped me get through a very dark period of my life.” When we’re alone and we’re struggling and we’re going through that pain, that we all go through, whatever the cause is, to know that, sharing that victory over whatever you go through is going to help somebody else, man, that’s a righteous feeling.