Q&A with Megadeth

Metal giants headed to Columbus for Rock on the Range festival this weekend

Megadeth's Chris Broderick (Photo: Amy Harris)
Megadeth's Chris Broderick (Photo: Amy Harris)

Megadeth can be considered one of today's legendary bands, not just in Metal, but in all of music. They are synonymous with a time period, moments in the lives of so many of their fans. They may have a different look than when the band was formed in 1983 but they are one of the founding fathers and would definitely find themselves on the Mount Rushmore of American Metal and can still fill festival stadiums all over the world. Megadeth have been doing their thing for almost 30 years and show no signs of stopping. They had released their fittingly named 13th studio album TH1RT3EN last year before they came to Cincinnati. They will return to Ohio as one of the main acts at next week’s Rock on The Range.

Over the past year, CityBeat spoke with band drummer Shawn Drover twice and lead guitarist Chris Broderick at Mayhem Festival about life on tour and what the future holds for the band. Megadeth's timeless sound continues on. Hear for yourself when the group performs on the Main Stage in Columbus Sunday night with Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie for the Rock on the Range festival.

CityBeat: I know you joined the band in 2008, right?

Chris Broderick: Yeah, the very beginning.

CB: What was it like the first time you played and jammed with Dave (Mustaine)?

Chris: It was a little intimidating at first I think. But one of the things that really happened was we had to get to work so quickly. We had to get so much done so fast. 

CB: Because of the album and the tour right?

Chris: Well yeah because of the tour at the time. I didn’t really have time to think about what was going on. I was just working. I was trying to knock out as many songs as I could before we went on tour less than a month away. That was my focus really.

CB: You are a classically trained guitarist, right? Can you tell me, how do you think that prepared you for Megadeth and to play metal music?

Chris: Well I don’t know if anything prepares you for Metal music or Megadeth. But I do think it does give me a different skill set, one where I can look at more melodies and harmonies and construction of those types of the aspects of the music and apply what I’ve learned in classical guitar theory or classical theory to the Metal genre.

CB: That’s kind of what stood out to them, right, when they called you to join the band, because you did a lot of classically trained type work?

Chris: It’s hard for me to say. I know it was an influence on their decision, but I know that it was a recommendation of Glen Drover and Shawn Drover that encouraged them to call me.

CB: Good recommendations. They probably didn’t even have to ask.

Chris: And then some of the YouTube clips that I had posted also.

CB: I have been hearing so many bands that are picking people off YouTube. It’s really amazing, Cinderella type stories of people being picked up off YouTube videos.

Chris: Well, it’s one of those things that is awesome in a way because it gives the individual the power of PR, somebody that can market you and get you to the right people to get you a gig or get you the right contact. So it is kind of cool that way.

CB: What was your highlight from the Big 4 concerts?

Chris: It was probably the last Big 4 show actually in the UK. That was pretty huge. We got to play on stage with some of the original members of Diamond Head. Honestly, they weren’t my biggest influence. They were a little bit before my time. But because I am playing with so many people that they heavily influenced, it was instant respect on my behalf and their behalf. It was quite awe-inspiring to see Hetfield  (James) kind of bowing down before him when he went to do the solo. It was awesome.

CB: What is it like on the road these days? Is it really clean living?

Chris: Yeah. It almost has to be because we have so much going on. I couldn’t do all this press and all the meet and greets and stuff like that. It works out pretty well for me too because luckily I never acquired a taste for that kind of that thing. I guess I am too Type A. I always want to be in control.

—-CB: (Shawn,) I read that you were the one that reached out to Dave Ellefson to re-join the band. You’re kind of the one in the band that brings everybody together. Is that true and how did that all come about?

Shawn Drover: Well, the situation came about that we needed to get a bass player and, in my mind, it had to be David. The trick was to get David (Ellefson) to want to do it and for David (Mustaine) to say yeah, work out whatever crap they had in the past. In my greedy little mind, I just wanted him back in the band. I think that’s what the fans ultimately wanted. Within two days, David was in the studio and we were going over tunes for the Rest in Peace tour that we were getting ready to do at the time. It’s all a timing thing. Everything happens for a reason and it just kind of worked out that way.

CB: And when your brother left, you also recommended Chris, right?

SD: Yeah, Glen and I. When Glen decided to leave, I said, “OK, we have to suggest some replacements and there was a really short list.” This is a really tough gig for any musician, but certainly for the lead guitar player. So the list was very short. Between Glen and I and Dave’s tech Willie G, we just kind of came up with Chris on the top of the list. And within a day, he was all but in the band. He talked to management and I think he went to see Dave the next day. Yeah, I guess I am the guy.

CB: Obviously Dave was an easy choice because he had been there before. But how do you know who is going to fit in. How do you have the feeling about somebody whether it is going to work out?

SD: Well David was a no-brainer. He was in the band for 20 years before they split up. I hoped that would work out again and it has, it’s been great. With Chris, it was basically, we just did a checklist. He doesn’t drink or do drugs. He doesn’t have a huge ego. His guitar regiment is amazing, all he does is practice. He practices all the time. He is a very healthy guy. He has a very strict regiment to be as great as possible. I had seen him play live. I saw him with Nevermore and Jag Panzer. I knew he was a great guitar player. You don’t want to bring anybody into the band that could potentially be a pain in the ass or whatever.

CB: It’s a lot of together time.

SD: Right. Because you have to spend all your time together on a bus. There was definitely a mental checklist of what I wanted before I would recommend somebody. Lucky for me, it has worked out. Chris is great.

CB: What is your greatest Rock & Roll moment?

SD: There’s a lot of great moments. Certainly the Big 4 has been great. The first Big 4 show that we did in Warsaw, Poland, we finally got together and played after so many years. That was certainly a defining moment in my career. One of the best moments for me was joining Megadeth. If I had to pick a moment, I would pick the first Big 4 show. Just all that stuff coming together. There were probably 100,000 people at that show. It was just unreal. The whole atmosphere was just electric that day. It was definitely one of the best moments of my career as a musician.

CB: When your brother left and Chris took over, was it hard for you?

SD: Yeah. I didn’t want him to leave. Looking back now, I understand it. I understand. He had a hard time even joining the band, he had a young son at the time. The original plan when we joined Megadeth was to tour for a month then take a month off. We’d have a lot of home time. As things progressed and we got more and more popular and there was more demand around the world, you have to go with it. You just can’t say no, you have to go where you are wanted on tour. Originally that was supposed to be the Farewell Tour. A lot of people don’t remember that. We were going to retire. Here we are seven years later. We had a change of heart. Things were going so well that we wanted to run with it. That being said, the tours got longer and longer and the breaks got shorter and shorter. Over the course of three or three and a half years that just started to eat at him. He had only one son and wanted to watch him grow up. I understand that. I respect that. And touring is not for everyone either. Some people don’t deal with it as well as others. Glen handled it well. It was just eating at him to not be at home more. And you couldn’t do this and be at home more. Something had to give. It sucked, I hated it. But I understand it. Everything happens for a reason. He’s happier now.

CB: Does he still play at all?

SD: Yeah. He just released a solo record about two months ago. He just doesn’t want to tour much anymore.

CB: He still loves music.

SD: Absolutely. He has a full-on studio in his house. He fills in for a band called Testament when their guitar player Alex has other obligations or can’t tour for certain amounts of time. Glen steps in and does it. So he gets to do that and that makes him happy. By the end of the tour, he’s ready to go home again. He’s good part time doing that stuff. He’s certainly happier now doing what he does.

CB: What was the highlight of the GiganTour this year?

SD: Oh God, to name one? Just the overall of touring with Motörhead for me was the big thing. Megadeth had toured with Motörhead years and years ago back in ’86 I think it was, played several shows together but for me, since I joined the band, I hadn’t toured with Motörhead so that was a real big thrill. I just thought the package was great and we had a lot of amazing shows. Just the overall vibe and all the shows had a good vibe to it and the overall experience was really positive.

CB: Did you guys play together at all?

SD: On stage together? Both bands? No, we never did that. We kind of did our own thing and that was it. We never really talked about getting on stage and jamming or anything like that. That of course would have been cool but I think due to the time constraints of the venue, you only have x amount of minutes to play and there is a curfew and that whole thing. My guess was we just kept to our set and just went with that. That was probably one of the reasons why we didn’t get up and jam.

CB: We met last year. One of the things you said was that TH1RT3EN was made up of true Megadeth songs. How do you describe or what characteristics make up true Megadeth songs?

SD: The thing about us is that we have so many different kinds of Metal tunes, we have got the ultra fast and furious Metal stuff and the more dynamic stuff, and then there is the stuff that is almost, I don’t want to use a dirty word in Heavy Metal, mainstream, more acceptable songs for the average Hard Rock and Metal listener you know? I think it is really hard, with TH1RT3EN we kind of explored everything we could within the parameters of Metal. We obviously won’t put a Disco song or a Country tune on there or anything like that. We tried to push it as far as we could yet still be true to who we are. We are one of those lucky bands that are able to do different kinds of Metal and get away with it. It’s a really great place to be and I think TH1RT3EN really represents a lot of the different kinds of Metal that Megadeth plays and has played over the years.

CB: What is your favorite TH1RT3EN song to play live?

SD: “Never Dead,” and we just started playing it about a week ago. I think it is the fourth song we are playing live now from the new record and we just started debuting it this past week  on the tour we are currently doing with Rob Zombie. It has been going over really well and I am happy that we are playing it.

CB: What do you do with your down time on the road?

SD: Lately I have been playing a lot of golf. On the road or off the road?
CB: Either.

SD: On the road, on days off, I have been trying to play more golf, just something to get out of the hotel and do something normal and kind of enjoy the day. Being cooped up on a hotel on a day off, sometimes there is nothing to do around a hotel and that can be really confining and claustrophobic almost a little bit so I try to get out, even if I am going to see a movie or something, just try to do something normal on the road. Off the road, it is all just spending time with the family and doing the normal, everyday stuff at home. I enjoy both.

CB: Growing up, I know it is hard if you have kids that play drums and you started really young. Was your family supportive of you playing drums and doing music growing up?

SD: Absolutely, my whole family played. My father and both my brothers are guitar players and I am a guitar player as well but I obviously gravitated more towards drums. Yeah, my parents were always supportive. We started at a young age so nothing but support from my parents for sure. And the same is true with my kids. My son is now 20 and he has been playing drums since he was about 10 or 11 years old I think. He has been playing for a good ten years now. He is a great drummer. It is kind of cool to see your son, and I never pushed him or gave him lessons, he just kind of jumped on a kit and started going at it and over time learned things and over time he has developed into a really good drummer. It is really cool that it has been passed down to another generation of my family now as far as a musician.

CB: What can fans look forward to for Rock on the Range for you guys?

SD: Business as usual. It doesn’t matter where we play, it doesn’t matter who we play with or what type of venue it is. We go out and try to give the best show we can and entertain the people who are there the best we can. We don’t deviate from that plan ever so we just go up there with the intention to assault the people musically just give them the best Megadeth show that they have ever seen. That is always our intention.

CB: I know Dave spoke before about this being your last record with Roadrunner and the label Roadrunner has gone through a lot of changes recently. Is that still the case or are you guys still with them?

SD: The contract is up with Roadrunner; our current contract is up. That is not to say we are not going to re-sign or not re-sign. The answer is honestly I don’t know. We haven’t even discussed with going forward what our plans are. I don’t even know, we are so focused on this tour right now that we haven’t begun to think about this stuff. At some point we are going to have to, but that is all business stuff and that will all be sorted out in a timely fashion when that time comes. For right now, we are in the middle of supporting this record and touring. We don’t know what the plans are.

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