Dave Mustaine’s autobiography Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir was released on August 3rd in the US and debuted on the New York Times Bestseller’s List the following week. The very day that accomplishment was announced, Mustaine was holding a book signing at Borders Books on Wall Street, and I was on hand to talk to him not only about the amazing feat, but what went into the book and why now was the time to release it in the first place. In a process Mustaine has likened to “when they melt down silver and all the bad sh*t comes to the surface,” Dave takes a look at his life thus far. Having “bottomed out a few times” the book’s inner sleeve subtitles his journey as “the fall and rise of a heavy metal icon” and promises “a story that will inspire, stun, and terrify.” Read on to see what Dave had to say about it.
With so much sordid history and life experiences, how did you manage to narrow down what you covered for your autobiography?
Well the legal process kind of vetted the book out. Going through some of the stories and knowing that a lot of the people I told the story about would be in jail, probably next to me, we left some of the stories out. Like, if you have drugs in your pocket and you drive, you’re a felon. If you have somebody underage and you cross the state line, you’re a kidnapper. All kinds of crazy stuff happened over the course of our career. As much as people think that I’m the bad guy, I was like the big brother that would say “What are you thinking?” all the time. When we were in England and we had to cancel the Monsters of Rock Festival because of David Ellefson -- everybody knew I had a drug problem, but they didn’t know he had one, so it was really surprising to them. I think it kind of left room for some more storytelling, and I think the success of this, being a best seller now, there’s more to the story. This is like up until now, and in fact it’s not even until now it’s until a year ago, and so much great stuff has happened in the last year that it’s mind-boggling. Getting back together with “The Big Four” and all that stuff, having my old bass player come back, it’s been really, really great.
Will you write the next chapter?
I hope so.
Tell me a little bit more about what went on behind the scenes to make this book happen. You mentioned the legal process, so did you have to get approval from those involved, or is it just your perspective?
No, we included a lot of people. Part of the reason I think this book reads the way it does is that I wanted it to be honest. A lot of people don’t like me because I’m honest about what happens. If I don’t like something I’ll say so. I’d rather have someone tell me they don’t like me than lie to my face. That’s just how I am, and I’ve always been like that. I remember when I first went over to England and I basically shot from the hip how I am, they freaked out. They had never heard anybody talk like that before. It’s like, no come on this is how I am, I share what I feel. If I see somebody, for example that guy Riki Rachtman from MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, I didn’t even really know that guy, but the fan’s liked watching me pick on him. He liked it when I picked on him. And I was like “Why?” you know? Its’ just one of those weird things. Some people love the attention and in a weird way that thing had it’s own kind of dynamic. Now that’s not in there, because it wasn’t really that important.
But you have been crucified for being vocal about your thoughts and feelings in the past, so have you experienced any blowback from what you’ve written?
No. I don’t have a lot of stuff that intimidates me in this world because I’ve died once, I’ve been through all kinds of stuff with line-up changes, changing management and labels, ups and downs with marriage, with my kids, all that kind of stuff, and I’ve been really open about it so that the public’s aware of it and there’s nothing really in the book I think that’s going to get me into any trouble. There’s one or two people in there I would have liked to have barbequed because of the way I feel about them, and it would have been real easy to have told a couple stories that would have destroyed them because of what kind of people they really are and the way that they’ve got the public fooled, but I’m not a caped crusader going around telling people who the phonies are in the music industry. Water has a way of finding its own level, and these guys will be exposed. The bummer was the legal process because we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars going over this book -- over and over and over -- with all the legal stuff that was involved in it. It’s crazy when you think about making a book; you’re not going to make a mountain of money off of it, you think you’re doing it as a labor of love and then you watch all of your proceeds go away because of the litigiousness of our country. It’s a bummer. Even the UK book is more vetted because of the legal process. I guess in England if you have a book and you put it out, there are attorney’s that survive just on book releases. They go through the books and they look for somebody saying something about somebody and they contact them and say “let’s sue.” So that kind of sucked the fun out of the process of the book being released in the UK, but like I said I’m pretty straight about stuff like that. If I did something that was wrong I copped to it, and if somebody else did something, I pretty much left it alone because I’m not going to save my skin at someone else’s expense. That’s not very cool.
You’ve mentioned some of the hardships in your life, but was there anything that was particularly difficult to revisit while writing this?
Not really. I think the marital stuff was hard, the stuff with my dad was hard because I didn’t really know him and the only memories I have of him were just really bad ones from my Mom and my sisters. I’ve only got a couple personal memories myself, and one of them which isn’t cool. So even though I had a lot of different things to talk about the ones that came up were – I believe they came up for a reason. It’s kind of like when they melt down silver and all the bad sh*t comes to the surface. So we went through that and we had to determine what was going to be good for the book, what’s going to be good for Dave, what’s going to be good for the metal community, and then again, as I was saying, there are people that I’ve had in my life that are just unctuous people that are sue-happy and I just figured, well you’re not going to be in here.
Why was now the time to put your autobiography out?
It wasn’t that this was the time, I just think that, honestly, if there was a time it would be now based on everything that’s happened up until now. So in completing the book a year ago or however long ago it was when I completed writing it, I think that it came out too soon, you know what I mean? But, you can aspire to be a New York Times Best-Seller and now that that happened I look forward to going up the charts, not going off of it. I really want to claim this for myself, I want to stay on the charts.
Are you looking to draw the line between Dave Mustaine the person and Dave Mustaine the musician by putting this out?
I think that’s what the purpose of the book was, to kind of explain a little more about me as opposed to the guy you see up on stage, because if I take my guitar off I’m a totally different person. When I have the guitar on it’s kind of like Popeye and spinach if you know what I mean, I become a different person. I think a lot of that has to do with the volume of the guitar, the sound that comes out of it, it’s kind of like single-handedly holding onto a dragon, if you can imagine that, because of all that power that’s up there. You have a PA turned on on top of that and it’s pretty roaring. And that’s a fun feeling if you know how to play guitar, if not it’s pretty excruciating.
What is the main personal message you’re hoping to get across to people who read your book?
Don’t give up, don’t ever give up. I haven’t and I have a great life. I haven’t given up. I know that people deserve second chances. Like when I took David Ellefson back and forgave him. I could have made it really hard on myself, but why, you know? Me not forgiving him was only hurting me. So I figured I’d forgive him and let him back into the band and we’ve been friends forever so it wasn’t like I didn’t care about him, I did, I loved him. He’s a best friend of mine. And some of the things I would like people to walk away with when they read this book is that whatever is going on in their life, if they persevere, they’ll have the same kind of victories that I do. Maybe not in the music business but in their own lives because this isn’t so much about being successful in the music business, it’s about being successful in your life. So it’s kind of a goofy, success, hopeful story I guess. I don’t know how to word that but (chuckles)…
With Ozzy putting his book out this year, and there being so many other metal autobiographies out there, what do you hope sets you apart?
It’s funny, I had just looked at another person’s bio that was out recently and I flipped it open and every few pages it was “f*cking hot p*ssy” and “blew my load…” I was looking at it, and I was just really flabbergasted that that’s what people think people want to read about. I don’t know a woman who would want to read anything about a guy blowing his load. It’s just not romantic, and second off what guy is going to want to read about another guy blowing his load? It just shows you the maturity level; just because you’re a celebrity doesn’t mean that you’re a writer and it doesn’t mean you have the knowledge of what’s appropriate to put in a book either. I’ve always been really honest.