When Megadeth picked up their first-ever Grammy for best metal performance this past Sunday (Feb. 12), it was a long time coming, but not for lack of trying — they’d been nominated nine times before in their 34-year career. What was frontman Dave Mustaine thinking being there for the tenth time?
“A little bit of everything, Mustaine tells Billboard. “Obviously the gratitude of being recognized, but also the disappointment lingering from the years where they’ve given the award to somebody that didn’t belong in that category.”
The frontman says he means offense to any of the bands he lost out to in the past, mentioning Nine Inch Nails, Jethro Tull, “a live version of a 27-year-old song” (Judas Priest) and “someone doing a cover song” (Metallica, but more on them later).
This year, as Mustaine notes, Megadeth was in good company. Another heritage band, Korn was nominated, as were three first-time nominees: Gojira, Baroness and Periphery. When their name was called, Mustaine was particularly happy about Korn hugging them on the way up to the podium.
“When they were just coming out with their first record, we took them out on one of their first national tours, and we’ve been friends ever since,” Mustaine says. “I just think it was really terrific for us, when we received it, to be there with people that have been part of the struggle, for lack of a better word. People that have been there and in some way or capacity have contributed to us getting that Grammy.”
What many watching the pre-ceremony at home will remember about the win, however, was the house band launching into Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” as the band took the stage. Mustaine was famously kicked out of that band in 1983 before they’d recorded their debut album, Kill ‘Em All, starting Megadeth later that year. For his part, Mustaine states that it wasn’t worth getting upset over.
“They could have played any song by anybody, and it wouldn’t have mattered because that was our moment,” he says. “I could see the correlation with [the band] who would think, ‘Oh, Megadeth, Metallica, we don’t know any Megadeth, but we do know this one Metallica song, so let’s play this. You think he’ll get mad? I don’t think so, let’s hope not. Hit it, Lefty!’ And then we get up there and go, ‘Boy, that was the worst f–king version of “Master of Puppets” I’ve ever heard.’ But that kind of stuff, you’ve just won a Grammy and you’re going to worry about some house band doing a cover song in the background?”
Mustaine says that the rest of his year is going to be a busy one. Megadeth is touring the world, but will also be doing two North American tours. “They’re both going to be very different, but exciting,” he says. “One we’re headlining, and it’s very much bands of our ilk, and for the other one, we’re in a support position for the first time in years. It’s a band that I’m a huge fan of. We’re really excited to see what these different dates are going to be like and have fans see us in different capacities. The headlining dates will be these diehard fans, and the others where we’re going to be out with this band we’re supporting, and their fans are going to hear us and won’t know us from the man on the moon.”
In 2010 Megadeth linked up with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax as the “Big Four” of thrash, and with all four bands releasing albums in the past 18 months, their profiles, especially in the wake of Megadeth’s Grammy win and Metallica’s performance at the ceremony, are perhaps higher than they’ve been in years. Might there be more dates between all four bands in the future? Mustaine says Megadeth would be up for it, but he’s not holding his breath.
“Honestly, let’s put our cards on the table — there would be a ‘Big Three’ tomorrow,” he says, laughing.
And while they’re basking in the glow of their Grammy win, Mustaine says we can expect a follow-up to Dystopia sometime next year. “I’m pretty afraid of picking up my guitar during the off season, so I try to keep my distance from it,” he says. “It starts to call my name when it gets close to new record time, and the past couple weeks, I’ve actually been playing a little bit, so it’s kind of like ‘ok, here we go.’”