John Parks of Legendary Rock Interviews recently conducted an interview with MEGADETH drummer Shawn Drover. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Legendary Rock Interviews: Your performances with the band seem to have really added a new fire to MEGADETH and I love the story of how you joined the band. Do you still recall those feelings of being thrown into the fire and joining the band? You had a gig five days after joining. (laughs)
Shawn Drover: Oh, hell yeah, I remember. It was 2004 and my brother Glen was in the band as their guitar player. They were in rehearsals for their tour and I was in contact with him every day and checking on him and stuff and seeing how things were going. The situation just came up where they didn’t want Nick [Menza, former MEGADETH drummer] in the band anymore so I came home and my brother got ahold of me and said, “You’d better sit down,” and I was like “Why? What’s going on?” and Glen was like, “Well, they want you on the next plane to come out here.” (laughs) This was six days before the first day of the tour, so, to be honest with you, that was quite a shock, you know, and I was just like, “Jesus, man,” because I was well aware of when the tour was starting. So I called my wife and filled her in real quick and I was on a plane bound for Arizona a few hours later to rehearse with the band. We rehearsed for four days, travelled the fifth day and the sixth day was the first show of the tour. It was quite a daunting task, but looking back now I probably wouldn’t want to do it any other way. It was pretty cool and I really didn’t have time to freak out or be nervous or anything like that. I was so focused on learning the songs that I didn’t know yet, they had just put out “The System Has Failed” and I hadn’t heard a note of it at all because it was just released. I tried to learn and cram as much material as I could in those four days of rehearsal. The first show was in front of thousands of kids and was off the hook; it was a great show. It’s funny, because for some reason, the barricades weren’t up at that venue and the kids were jumping all over the stage and going crazy. I guess nobody remembered to or whatever so it turned into an old-school MEGADETH thrash show with kids stagediving and the whole bit, so I thought that was how it was going to be all the time, which was fine by me, you know, because I am definitely from that era. (laughs) Come to find out someone messed up and everyone was like, “What happened to the barricade?” and I was like “Oh, OK….” (laughs). It was pretty funny and I have a lot of fond memories of that time. It was nerve-wracking, of course, but it was so exciting and I was just so focused on learning that it kind of all worked out.
Legendary Rock Interviews: These last few albums going back to “The System Has Failed” have kind of reaffirmed my faith in the band and you’ve been a part of it since the new deal with Roadrunner. One of the misconceptions about the new album, “TH1RT3EN”, seems to come from this idea that the band is simply mining a lot of old ideas and there’s some song credits that go a ways back. Is there any truth to the fact that it consists of a lot of stockpiled riffs from over the years and there’s a lot of old ideas on “TH1RT3EN”?
Shawn Drover: No, not really. You can’t go and write “So Far So Good 2” or write “Peace Sells in 3D” or any of that, in my opinion, because it just comes off forced and disingenuous to me. When they wrote those classics, that was where they were at and to go back and try to recreate that consciously in the studio this time around would be fooling ourselves. We just went in with a bunch of new tunes and new riffs and tried to make the best record we could which is what we’ve always done since I have been in this band. I’m sure that was the case before I joined as well. I think if you like a lot of the old stuff, you will definitely find some stuff here on the album that you can relate to or enjoy, some people call it old school and that’s fine if that’s what you take from it. Between David [Ellefson, bass] coming back and the fact that Dave Mustaine does have tons of tracks and riffs saved on files on his laptop, I can’t say 100 percent that some of the ideas didn’t come from some of his old riffs but I can tell you the majority of “TH1RT3EN” is new stuff we’d either written on the road or in rehearsals. It’s been called a modern-sounding record, but to me that’s a dangerous word because it implies different things to different people. To me, “TH1RT3EN” is just a great-sounding record, whether you wanna call it modern or you wanna call it old-school is just a matter of opinion and word choice. The production is, to me, what gives it that edge; I think it is the best-sounding record sonically that we have ever done, which is saying something because they’re all pretty good. (laughs)
Legendary Rock Interviews: I am so happy that you guys got back with Ellefson. As an old-school fan, I am always in favor of retaining as much of that chemistry as possible. Mustaine has said that “TH1RT3EN” probably has the best overall collection of developed songs that he’s ever put on a record. Do you think that reuniting with David and bringing some of that vibe back in helped as far as the overall quality of the songwriting?
Shawn Drover: I don’t know. That’s a really good question, actually. We would just really go with whatever caught our ear. Again, I can’t overemphasize we had so many friggin’ ideas going into this record. Hundreds and hundreds of guitar riffs and ideas, new stuff, old stuff was all fair game and we would listen to the stuff and try to build from there. If something happened during rehearsals with us and it kind of caught our attention, we would be like “Hey, that’s cool, let’s work on that or put that with this.” A lot of the stuff we heard was half-completed songs, other things were just 10-second riffs so it really depended. One time we heard a practically completed song so there were just a lot of different examples and ways that went into the songwriting for “TH1RT3EN”. We would often get into a room, three or four of us and be like “Okay, today let’s just listen to some riffs,” and we would spend all day listening to stuff because we would have SO much stuff. That’s just how we went about things with this album because we had no shortage of great ideas. To us, it really didn’t matter if I wrote the whole song or David did or Chris [Broderick, guitar] or Dave did, the only thing that mattered was that it was a good song because we had so much to work with this time around.
Legendary Rock Interviews: I am continuously amazed at not just the heaviness of the new material but also the melodic elements and the catchiness of some of the hooks. I know that might not be popular to say in a MEGADETH interview but it’s the truth. If you go back and watch some of the acoustic shows on the DVD “Arsenal Of Megadeth”, it really stands out that there’s more than meets the eye with the compositions.
Shawn Drover: It’s okay to have melodic components within metal. It can coexist. This band has proven that many times. Not every song has to be ultra-heavy or even ultra-serious all the time and I am more than cool with that. MEGADETH has always had that, going back to “Countdown To Extinction”, and even before that, with “In My Darkest Hour”. I’m all for diversity as far as music goes and MEGADETH is really one of those bands who can really do a lot of things within the parameters of metal and still not offend a ton of people; we’re very fortunate for that.
Read the entire interview from Legendary Rock Interviews.