Reverb Interview: Dave Mustaine of Megadeth

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty Images

Dave Mustaine is one of the most powerful forces in thrash metal. After parting ways with Metallica in 1983, Mustaine formed his own successful metal group, Megadeth.

With Mustaine at the helm, Megadeth quickly established themselves as guys who weren’t afraid to show off killer instrumental chops and an especially heavy, harsh attack. Using that approach, Megadeth sold out arenas throughout the U.S. in the ‘80s and released album after album of pioneering thrash that cemented the band in metal history.

Megadeth currently features Mustaine with David Ellefson on bass and Kiko Loureiro on guitar. The band released their latest studio album, Dystopia, earlier this year. They’ve been touring Europe in support of the release, and while the shows differ greatly, Mustaine’s gear and setup remain constant. We spoke with the legend about his must-have equipment and the current state of metal music.

Congratulations on your new album, Dystopia. How would you describe the themes on this album?

If you’re talking about the different songs and their subject matter, they are all individuals. Each one has its own story, although some of them do dovetail together. A lot of our songs are similar because of my outlook towards the world and my belief that if we like certain things the way they are, we need to fight to keep the things we like.

How does this album fit in Megadeth’s discography?

I think this record is right where it’s supposed to be. I think timing-wise, this record probably could have come out around the Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction era, no problem.

Where do I think the record fits? Let me switch the way of answering that to talk about this lineup. I haven’t been this happy playing with people in I don’t know how long. Dave Ellefson and I were talking last night about how we had an estranged relationship for years, and we were all marveling about how great it is playing together again. I’m so happy with these guys. They truly are tremendously talented. We’re born again, not in a spiritual sense, but in a physical sense. We just feel new.


What do you think of the current state of metal music?

I think there are a lot of exciting new bands out there, but I also think that inasmuch as there are great bands out there that need to be heard, they may not be ready to go on the road. I think that’s one of the things that’s hurting these young, talented musicians: they get ready to go on the road, they make a bunch of empty promises, and [they] go on the road and crash and burn.

You have no idea how many new Randy Rhoads there are out there or other fantastic talents that we’re not going to hear because they weren’t ready. I think the new musicians, a lot of them are good players, especially with the advent of technology for people to record and stuff like that, but there are also a lot of people who aren’t mature enough to get in a bus and leave their home for six weeks and ride around, slogging it out.


When it comes to guitars, you’re a Dean guy, right?

Yes. I play Dean, and VMNT is my main model that I use. There’s a second model I developed with Dean called the Zero. The VMNT was my version of their old Flying V, but I wanted to make it easier to play. Flying Vs were all 21 frets prior to me playing them. When I got my first custom guitar made by Jackson, I said, “I want a 24-fret Flying V,” and started that revolution, and that model followed me wherever I went.

How has your gear influenced your technique?

I think it’s making it a lot easier for us to travel and go to some of these places that most people don’t visit on tour. That’s the good thing about having advanced gear and equipment: you don’t have to take a giant bunch of antiquated gear and everything that goes with it. We’re excited, because we get to take the album into all these different cities, and each of the songs sounds just like it would have sounded with our full gear. For whatever era of music we’re playing, it sounds like we’re playing at that time. We’ve got all the amps set to identically match the sounds of amps and effects we were using at that point.

What gear do you have with you on this tour?

The consistency of my guitars depends on the Deans with Seymour Duncan Livewires and active pickups, and I use Cleartone strings. Going to the amps, I use a Marshall EL34 100/100 Dual Monobloc amp. I’ve been switching over all my gear to the new Fractal Axe-FX II, which has liberated me and given me access to every kind of pedal sound I could want. All these different adjustments make the possibilities endless. I think that’s why our sound is so brutal -- because we’re able to make it sound like the album.

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