Emblazoned on the cover of the new Megadeth record, "Super Collider," is a brilliantly colored image of a 12,500-ton particle detector that spends its days unraveling the mysteries of the universe at CERN physics lab in Switzerland.
For Megadeth's founding guitarist and ex-Metallica member Dave Mustaine, it's a "beautiful invention" -- and one he wanted to write about as a student of faith and science.
"People ask me, because they know I'm a Christian: 'Well, isn't it kind of hypocritical your song's about the super collider?' And I say, 'You know what, man? I don't know. Maybe God created the big bang to create the world. I don't know. I don't care. I mean, I'm here," said the famed thrash-metal pioneer, whose Gigantour showcase stops Tuesday, July 9, in Rosemont.
Mustaine said he didn't want to name a song after the so-called "God particle," which scientists believe may give matter its mass, "because so many people have totally misinterpreted my belief in God. I mean, the first line from (the title track of the 1986 Megadeth record) 'Peace Sells ... but Who's Buying?' is: 'What do you mean I don't believe in God? I talk to him every day.' Now, what kind of kid that grew up homeless would be able to say he survived if he wasn't praying to something that he'd get something to eat and a roof over his head? It's that foxhole atheist thing."
In a recent interview with the Daily Herald, Mustaine talked about spirituality, songwriting, sobriety and his musical tastes beyond metal.
Q. Is it any more or less difficult to write new music after 30 years and 14 Megadeth records? You never seem to be at a loss for material.
A. Thanks. I think that's because I have a pretty good relationship with the source for where my gift came from, and I don't think it's my doing. I'm not one of these cocky guitar players. I was at a festival a few days ago and there's this one guy -- I won't say who he is -- but, man, he makes me look like a church mouse. And I was just thinking, "God, I wonder if people think that about me." It just really makes you respect where you came from and where you're going.
Q. The new album ventures into some uncharted territory. The song "The Blackest Crow," for example, has slide guitar and a southern feel. How did you approach the songwriting?
A. I guess the most important thing is just to be true to yourself. If you're true to yourself when you write music, then you don't really have any preconceived notions when you go into it. I like the surprise factor when you don't really know what you're going to write. You just put it together and the song kind of tells you what you need. If you listen to the song and you feel the feeling of the song, you know, it's kind of like when you smell a cologne. You can tell if it's spicy, if it's citric or whatever. It kind of tells you where to go, and that's how I've always done my approach. Of course, there's a couple songs where I wrote the lyrics and the music all at the same time, like when (former Metallica bassist) Cliff Burton died, I wrote "In My Darkest Hour" in one sitting.
Q. There's been buzz that you and Jason Newsted (who replaced Burton in Metallica and later left the band to start his own) will jam together at Gigantour. What's the plan?
A. I would love to play with Jason, but I think we've got to remember there's (founding Megadeth bassist) David Ellefson we've got to consider. It really is kind of up to how Jason and Dave are getting along. I've never played with Jason before. We've only toured together, and it was when he was in Flotsam and Jetsam -- even back before he was in Metallica. We had a great time. He's super vibrant and energetic. I just love him, and I think Gigantour is going to be the bomb this year.
Q. You've talked about being on a path of sobriety and spirituality. Does being on the road present many challenges in that regard, and how do you stay focused?
A. I think you're as healthy in between your ears as you want to be. When you go into your hotel room, you go in there with a goal -- studying, resting or doing something like that -- or you go in there to do something else. And for us, we're always working. We're always around people. We have a lot of accountability and a lot of friends, so there's not a lot of idle time where you're sitting around and just stewing.
Q. When you are on your own, what kind of music do you listen to? It's hard to imagine your personal tastes are limited to metal.
A. When I'm alone, I usually listen to jazz and classical in my car, or the news. When my wife and kids are in the car, it depends on which kid. My son likes metal and my daughter likes country, so it's pretty much getting an eclectic mix of different types of music. And I think that keeps it fresh, too, because you're always listening to different ideas. Basically, country right now is like old-school rock with a bunch of nasal-y singers on it. It's kind of cool. It kind of rocks still. Plus, they're using all our old staging from the '80s.