Penthouse Retrospective

by Jon Wiederhorn Originally Published: May, 2000

Megadeth Reborn | 20 Years Ago This Month

This past October, Dave Mustaine celebrated four years of sobriety. He maintains a regular regimen of exercise, nutrition, and spirituality. And since meditation has replaced medication in his life, he says he feels better than ever. “I’m so in tune with my body that I can feel a cold coming on days before it hits. I can be sitting down outside, and I can tell when the tiniest bug has landed on my skin. I can sense when people are watching me. I can also sense when someone’s uncomfortable around me, and that’s almost always.”

Mustaine says the most important thing in his life right now is his “relationship with God and sobriety.” Yet he stops short of touting religion. “It’s not religion I’m driven by,” he insists. “For me, religion and spirituality are two totally different things. Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell, and spirituality is for people like me who’ve been there.”

After the Phoenix show, the musicians and their families slip into a stretch limo and zoom off to the airport. Here, a chartered plane is waiting to take them to San Diego, where they’re scheduled to take the stage a mere three hours later. En route, Mustaine, who’s well versed in a variety of topics, lectures about the local real estate, geography, and political climate before commenting on how the whiskey in the car-bar looks like “hepatitic urine.” Then he cracks a few off-color jokes, including one about a biker wearing a T-shirt that reads on the back, IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THE BITCH FELL OFF. As Mustaine says the word “bitch,” he covers his young son’s ears.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Mustaine can stilr get pretty raunchy. Earlier, while he — is waiting backstage — at Veterans Memorial Stadium, he spits loogies at the walls like a pitcher on the mound and bitches about a pounding headache and queasy stomach. When DeGrasso — who was incapacitated in London the previous week with a stomach flu that left him vomiting into buckets by his drum kit — expresses concern, Mustaine replies, “I guess that’s what I get for letting you suck my dick.” To this, DeGrasso responds with his favorite new line, which he’ll repeat several times during the next 24 hours: “Awww, you suck one dick and suddenly you’re a fag.” And 15 minutes later, when he spots a bevy of hot blonde girls wearing smiley-face Megadeth T-shirts, DeGrasso says, “Man, I’d like to take turns with those chicks.”

Since all the members of Megadeth are married except DeGrasso (who is in a long-term relationship), these days the band must stop short at innuendo-for-saking sex and drugs on tour to dedicate itself wholly to the pursuit of rock ‘n’ roll. There was a time, however, when a Megadeth tour was a veritable orgy on wheels. “We took what we could wherever we could get it, and we got it a lot,” says Ellefson. “One time I had sex with some girl on a sidewalk outside of a gig in Austin, Texas, and she had to pull out her tampon before we could do it. But there’s a big price to be paid for doing that kind of stuff. Every time you do that, you leave a little bit of your soul behind. And, also, the potential for disaster is pretty great.”

Mustaine clearly rues his past debauchery. “I think if you take into consideration where I was spiritually at that time, it was not so much a release as it was paying the devil his dues. I was not happy, and I thought that’s where happiness came from.” He pauses to make sure his point has sunk home, then continues. “The act of procreation is good and therefore not to be used lightly. I enjoy getting a nut just like the next guy, but there was a time where, at the end, before I got married, I couldn’t fuck just one girl. I had to have two fucking each other for me to even get excited. And that’s when I started to think, ‘Man, I’m losing my perspective on things, because pretty soon it’s gonna take a whole Girl Scout troop in there for me to get an erection.’”

When Megadeth’s 20-seat, twin-prop jet arrives at a small airport outside San Diego, a dozen fans stand near the run-way, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite band. While they wait for their luggage to unload, Mustaine and Ellefson saunter up to the kids, sign autographs, and exchange pleasantries. Then the band’s vans arrive, and it’s off to the Coors Amphitheatre, where Megadeth is due onstage in a scant 90 minutes. As the van pushes through evening traffic, Mustaine turns to Ellefson and says, “It’s too bad I quit doing drugs because a speedball would feel really great right about now.” He’s only half-joking, but he’s come too far to allow himself to slip back into old habits, which is why he still regularly attends drug and alcohol programs. “I feel like I’ve got a commitment to myself and my fans,” he later says backstage. “When you’re in the public’s eye, people look up to you. A guy like Charles Barkley says, ‘Man, I ain’t a role model.’ I beg to differ with him. He needs to understand that he is a role model. He’s a shitty one, but people see what he does and they respond.”

Living up to his newfound good-guy image, Mustaine has worked with various charities, including Boys and Girls Clubs of America, has conducted food drives on tour, and has made himself available via phone to fans in crisis. “What I have is the ability to communicate the idea that if I can overcome adversity, so can you,” he says. “As bad off as I was, I was able to get help, which is really hard for a man to ask for-almost as hard as it is to ask for directions. A lot of people think that they need to go through life taking from other people instead of giving, and I found that when I give, I get paid back with heavy interest.”

Sitting on a couch, sipping bottled water next to his son, Justis, minutes before going onstage, Mustaine appears truly at peace for the first time all weekend. Since conquering addiction and befriending the ghosts of his past, to now confront irate fans and hostile radio programmers hardly seems a problem. “Being in this game as long as I have, I’ve learned that you can’t complain and agonize over things,” he says, tossing his empty water bottle against the wall and into the trash can below. “Basically, I just figure, fuck it. I’m happy. I’m not broke, and if it all ended today, it’s been a great ride.”

Become famous travelling a certain path, and if you change direction, you'd best hope either fans follow, or you can accomplish a new Megadeth goal.

Leave a Reply