Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mustaine

The day of the American Carnage show, I bought Dave Mustaine's autobiography (co-written by Joe Layden) and attended a book signing. Mustaine, for those that don't know, is the front man for Megadeth; he's its primary songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. When I met him, I had been waiting for more than an hour, and from the looks of the line, he had at least another hour to go. He appeared bored, but he was pleasant, and he put on a good show that night. I thought it was funny this signing took place at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Legacy Village, a rather trendy and expensive shopping district. Most people there for Mustaine looked like they'd never been in this kind of bookstore before. The line snaked all through the store up to the second floor, and the few regular customers who showed up were probably disconcerted to see the mass black t-shirts with insignias for Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax.

Anyway, on to the book itself. It's a compelling read, moves along a brisk pace, and Mustaine is brutally honest about his personal demons and drug addictions. He discusses everything from growing up in split household and constantly moving, living with Jehovah's Witnesses, getting into music, joining and subsequently getting fired from Metallica, forming Megadeth, spiraling into fame and addiction, getting married, finding success and failure, rehab, relapse and becoming a born-again Christian to growing tired of Megadeth, damaging his fret hand, and then reforming Megadeth. No stone is left unturned.

I went in expecting an unending tirade against James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich of Metallica, and while Mustaine is honest about why he feels the way he does, he doesn't dwell on it. He offers his reasons for feeling bitter and resentful -being forced to leave just as the band was hitting it big, no second chance, having to ride a bus from New York to California after getting the news, seeing his contributions marginalized, feeling Megadeth didn't achieve the same level of success - but he admits his own faults. He drank too much, lost his temper a lot, caused trouble, and missed indications there was trouble in paradise.

Mustaine covers a lot of history, and it feels like he only has time to skim over some important stuff. The book feels less like a narrative and more like an extended chronological self-interview in which Mustaine states his beliefs and summarizes his experiences. People kind of fade in and out of the timeline, so the reader rarely gets a defined view of someone beyond what Mustaine tells us they were like. I guess it goes back to that rule of show, don't tell.

However, Mustaine has an ironic, sarcastic sense of humor. At one point, he notes he found out more about doing and acquiring drugs in rehab and AA than anywhere else. He doesn't sugarcoat. He's blunt, and he does have interesting stories to share. For example, I had no idea he tried to woo Kerry King into Megadeth during the initial stages of Slayer's formation.

Overall, the book is fast, interesting read. Megadeth fans have probably already read it, but non-metalheads might find some interest. Mustaine explains the appeal of heavy metal and thrash, offers some of the musical theories behind them, and he's an fascinating individual. Yes, it's limited in scope, but that's the nature of autobiographies. The book gets into the mind of Mustaine.

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