by Drew Ailes
When I began interviewing bands eight years ago, my ultimate goal was to interview one person: Dave Mustaine from Megadeth, my favorite band since I was thirteen years old. Sitting in front of my parents' computer and ruining my ears through a pair of oversize headphones, I listened and loved Mustaine's snarling vocals and impossibly fast guitar solos. I sat in school and drew pictures of their strange skull mascot, which looked like it was wearing evil braces. I even bought some stupid-ass comic books that were based around the band.
I grew older and found out about smoking pot. I had a phase where I listened to nothing but gabber music. I had a phase where I was into late-'90s industrial metal. I even had a hip-hop phase when I managed to catch P.O.S.' first show at the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis.
Throughout all of these segments of musical distraction, one thing stayed constant: my love of Megadeth.
Even to this day, I can still be found stumbling through bars or yelling from rides at amusement parks, debating Megadeth's superior status in the realm of heavy-metal music. In 2009 Metallica played at the Target Center in Minneapolis. On my way home, I stopped people outside of the arena to ask them who they were going to see. After they said, "Metallica," I'd force-feed them my rehearsed answer of, "Oh, you mean that Megadeth cover band?" (For anyone who participated in activities outside of doing drugs in high school, Megadeth's lead singer used to play in Metallica until he got kicked out. He formed Megadeth out of spite and swore to become better and more well-known than Metallica.)
Shortly after the heated exchanges that occurred outside of the downtown venue, I took my status as a Megadeth tried-and-true dirtbag one step further. On a crisp morning before heading out to my job working for the federal government, I keyed "Megadeth" into the side passenger door of my 1998 Mazda 626. I had already keyed the word "car" into one of the doors earlier that week and realized that if I was just keying things into my car, I should key in something meaningful.
On a bright summer day, I still catch glares from my elders and giggles from my peers. I see them mouth the word "MEG-GUH-DETH" as I drive by, and I wonder if they know what it means.
Once, I deliberately thought about Megadeth every day for 27 days in a row.
It wasn't that I am or ever was Megadeth's No. 1 fan by any means. While I listen to the first four albums weekly, I stopped following the band after 1997's Cryptic Writings. But I continued to be intrigued by the band and in particular by its frontman, Dave Mustaine, who had become a born-again Christian and seemed even more "uneven" than the rock & roll tabloids I read about him in when I was young. Once, he said that women in Africa who have too many kids should "put a plug in it." He made "birther" remarks about Obama and claimed that the Sandy Hook Massacre was a conspiracy to take away our guns.
It was fascinating to see a man who once wrote openly Satanic songs and cover the Sex Pistols become a right-winger. But while all of the websites called him a bigoted moron, I stayed with Megadeth.
"I bet he's just trying to get a rise out of people. I bet once you talk to him alone, he's real caring and genuine," I thought.
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Last week, I finally got an opportunity to interview Dave from Megadeth. Well, Dave Ellefson, the bassist, who cofounded the band. While it was not Dave Mustaine, it was still a victory blow for thirteen-year-old Drew Ailes. Unfortunately, due to a problem with the e-mail system of the PR company working with them, the interview didn't get scheduled until over a week after we made the request -- and two days before the show it was meant to preview. Desperately, I did what any crazed fan would do and still agreed to do the interview with Dave Ellefson at 10 a.m., with less than 24 hours of preparation time.
I should've taken it as a soul-crushing harbinger when the person from the PR agency said something to extent of how she never got into Megadeth, but she used to listen to Metallica. After a short scolding, she then asked me for my address so she could send me press materials for a boy-band she referred to as "the next One Direction."
After appropriately shuddering, I hung up on the phone and immediately began dreading the following day. What was I going to say? How was I going to come up with decent topics to discuss in such a short period of time? The questions loomed over my head and generated constricting anxiety over the idea of doing a bad interview with the bassist of my favorite band. Later that day, I calmed down and retreated to my room, cranking out about fifteen uninformed and terrible questions.
I slept poorly that night. I had a dream that I was flying on an airplane that tried to land inside an airport. The plane decapitated a dozen people before coming to a halt. I woke up the next morning feeling shaken, discouraged and drained. I sat in my kitchen, staring at a lukewarm cup of black coffee and smelling the four strips of bacon I had just burned while lost in worry.
Then I realized that I had an ace up my sleeve to relieve myself of the responsibility of screwing up the most important interview of my life: I had forgotten to ask my boss at my day job if he would be OK if I happened to show up around a half an hour late. I asked. It wasn't. I was needed at the shop, as evidently Halloween is an important time for a business called Frightprops.
I called and e-mailed my contact for Megadeth with a sincere apology that I would have to cancel the interview. I was sad, but not as sad as screwing over my coworkers to conduct a mediocre interview with a hero of mine. Besides, Frightprops actually encouraged me to go to the Gathering of the Juggalos this year. They had done enough for me.
After I calmed down and came to terms with the fact that I would not be talking to anyone from Megadeth that day, my phone popped up with a new e-mail. It was my PR contact, asking me if we could reschedule for 6:45 p.m. I agreed, feeling optimistic that I would have an opportunity to do some additional research and come up with some better questions.
At 10 a.m. at my job, I was unlocking some garage doors to start the workday when Dave Ellefson called. He hadn't gotten the message that we rescheduled and when I informed him of the 6:45 p.m. time, he proposed to talk around 9 that evening, after he was done with a guitar clinic. He was friendly and didn't acknowledge the flustered, choking noises that I was making while talking to him.
After a healthy day of stress, later that evening I left band practice to go sit in the florescent practice space parking lot inside of my Mazda 626 with "Megadeth" carved on the door. I reviewed the two wrinkled pieces of paper that held my questions for Megadeth's bassist as I struggled to ignore the cacophony of piss-poor Weezer covers and skillfully played mariachi music pouring out of the practice space. As I listened, the maracas put me into a trance, and I thought of Dave Mustaine and his comments on the Mexican border.
If he were president, he'd "build a great wall around the Mexican border and not let anybody in."
My thoughts wandered and I recalled my band's first drummer, Tim, and how he used to talk to Dave Ellefson over e-mail. Once, I asked him to contact Dave to see if we could pay him to take a picture of himself holding a piece of paper with our band name on it. I wanted to use it as the back cover of our record. According to our ex-drummer, Ellefson never responded to his inquiry on our behalf. I don't blame him.
The bassist for my favorite heavy-metal band called me around 9:45 p.m. (we spoke at 9 p.m., but he was eating dinner). I had forgotten to direct him to call my Google Voice number so that I could record and later transcribe the interview. Ashamed, I gave him the right number to call me back on.
About twenty seconds into the call, I completely forgot how to use Google Voice. I pressed the 7 to activate the call recording. I pressed the 8. I pressed the 9. I pressed the 7 again. At this point, it sounded like I was attempting to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the telephone keys.
"I'm sorry, man. Something is going on with this thing. I can't seem to record it. I can just let you go, I know it's late," I said.
"Yeah. Maybe we should just try tomorrow afternoon," Ellefson replied. "See ya."
Dave Ellefson hung up. Sadness washed over me..
With my eyes watering from the frustrating failure, I got out of my car and hung my head. I relaxed for a tiny moment and gripped the handle of my car door, trying to tear it open so I could grab my questions for Dave Ellefson and violently expel them into the street. Then I realized that in my state of disarray, I had locked my keys in my car.
Screaming obscenities, I kicked a dent in the side of the vehicle, right in front of the door with "Megadeth" carved into it.
The next morning, on my way to drive to a wedding, I waited in my battered Mazda in the parking lot of a drugstore. I received and read an E-mail from someone named Jeremy with the subject line of "Megadeth."
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No e-mail signature, just pure anger from some guy. I immediately apologized for wasting everyone's time and tried to make it clear that no one was more disappointed than me. I also tried to point out that the interview was scheduled at the last minute and would've been of poor quality anyhow. I received this in response:
Evidently, my expressed sadness over screwing up an interview with the most important band of my life wasn't enough for Jeremy. He had to include the actual text from Dave Ellefson to show me what a true loser I really am.
There is a Barenaked Ladies lyric from one of their vile hits that everyone seems to know. "I'm the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral," refers to a natural, psychological response to emit laughter over genuinely sad things. I was done mourning, however. The laughter I bellowed out after reading that second e-mail was not out of sadness, but pure amusement over what my Bill and Ted inner monologue said to me:
"Dude, you pissed off Megadeth."
I looked up Jeremy and the other artists he has worked with. George Jones, Hank Williams Jr. and Charlie Daniels. Pair them with Dave Mustaine and you've got yourself a supergroup of conservatives that have their feet so far in their mouths, they should have suffocated years ago.
My love affair with Megadeth ended this week. I broke it off, finally. I went out to my car and scratched off the band's name from the door. I imagined it must've been a feeling similar to when one of my coworkers, Horatio, got his neck tattoo of his former wife removed. Today at my job, I listened to Metallica's Master of Puppets instead of my usual round of Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good.
Feeling free and empowered, I decided to express my dedication to another lifelong friend -- someone that had never let me down. Sorry, Megadeth, but it's over.