"I was real disillusioned with the watering down of the spiritual side," says Megadeth's Dave Mustaine.
It should surprise no one that the pontificating comes early and often from Megadeth's iconoclastic figurehead. The speed-metal stalwart never really fit in with the hardcore meatheads or vapid hair-divas of the stereotypical heavy-metal scene.
A drug addict reaching back to his teen years who dealt dope on the streets of La Mesa, Mustaine has been clean and sober for more than a decade now. And the Fallbrook family man's clear-thinking, articulate style of philosophy has been well-documented over that time-not just in print, but, more importantly, in his innovative, politically charged and, yes, smart songwriting.
"I found a church and I made a commitment with my life. Now, after all these years, I don't find I have the need, or the urge, really... the obsession [to use drugs] has certainly been lifted."
"But I will admit, I am completely strung out on sushi right now."
Mustaine hasn't lost his sense of self-deprecating humor, either. But he turns affably serious once again when asked why he felt the need to headline his own festival, this summer's Gigantour.
"I think, now, what's going on is, you get a lot of festivals that are diluted, that are very safe," he explains. "They're just not offering anything different. You know, everyone comes out, and they say as many fuck words as they can, and they show how tough they are. You know, "I'm a bigger bad ass than you.' And I'm like, "I don't really care if you can kick my ass. Just play your guitar,' you know?
"And what I wanted to do, as someone who's very into the pure music side of it, and as a music fan myself, was offer the people who enjoy the playing and listening side of it something to enjoy."
How does Mustaine view the evolution of metal from its roots in '70s glam through its nu-metal reemergence after the dark days of the so-called grunge revolution?
"[Metal] used to have such an exciting air, and the sex appeal of it was so undeniable," he says. "You definitely had a lot of people who came in and jumped on the bandwagon who were anything but metal, right?"
"I always did-um, "resent' probably is the right word-feel that was lame. You know, Megadeth got labeled "the thinking man's speed metal.' And that's fine, I guess... at least we're thinking, right?"
Mustaine says he "can't stand" being labeled. Not surprising-most musicians feel that way. But he's not cut off to all outsider input on his music-Megadeth just released a greatest-hits package of remastered (almost "re-structured," Spielberg-like, down to the re-recording by Mustaine of some vocal tracks that were lost) songs picked by an online forum of "tens of thousands of Megadeth fans."
"Well, that made it easier," Mustaine chuckles. "If it flops, I just can blame the fans, right?"Megadeth plays "Gigantour" with Dream Theater, Fear Factory, Dillinger Escape Plan, Nevermore, Life of Agony, Symphony X, Dry Kill Logic and Bobaflex at SDSU's Open Air Theatre, 7 p.m. on July 28. $35. 619-594-6947.