It’s all about the number 13 in the MEGADETH camp at the moment! ‘Th1rt3en’ is the band’s 13th album, it has 13 songs, it hit the Australian and New Zealand music charts at #13… 13 was the age that frontman Dave Mustaine picked up his first guitar and would you believe it, the new album was even released in New Zealand on October 31 – that’s 13 backwards!
NZRock caught up with guitarist Chris Broderick to find out more about the new album, what it’s like working with Dave Mustaine, and some tips for aspiring guitarists.
NZRock: ‘Th1rt3en’ is the second studio recording you’ve been on with MEGADETH. How does it feel to be contributing to the MEGADETH discography rather than just being live on stage.
Chris: For me that’s awesome. That’s really more of where I would say I really like to be as a musician – more on the compositional side than in the performance side. Even thought I love that too, there’s just something about when you write something and you can’t quit listening to it you know. And you really feel like you’ve achieved something special. That lasts forever, for the life of the song. And performances, even though they’re great, they’re a lot of fun especially when the crowd is really rowdy and everything. But that’s a one night deal so for me, that’s really where I like to be.
NZRock: What guitar sections are you most proud of on the album?
Chris: I think that um… you know the one thing that I was most proud of was the fact that I was kind of able to sit back and listen to the music and think about what was appropriate for it in terms of adding the guitar melodies on top and the guitar solos. You know, just thinking about how everything fits together as a song a little bit more this time around rather than just really trying to go over the top with my soloing or anything like that. I was thinking a lot more musically minded this time.
NZRock: What’s it like working with Dave Mustaine because I can imagine he has a very defined vision of what the band should sound like. Is he still open to a lot of input from you?
Chris: Well one of the cool things about this CD was that I think he wanted to get a little bit more of an organic sound and a little more individualism so things like my guitar tone and my guitar solos, he wanted to leave that alone a little bit more. So there was a little bit more individuality in those particular things. But as far as the creativity side and Dave with his songs, I think he’s just like I am in a sense. When you have a vision for what you want to hear, there’s no changing that vision in a way. So I think as far as his creativity and what he wants to hear out of the songs, he definitely has the direction as far as that goes. But I think at the same time he felt comfortable enough with me to let me have a bit more freedom.
NZRock: It sounds like you guys only had a short amount of time to get ‘Th1rt3en’ done. Was that a productive pressure cooker sort of situation to be in though?
Chris: Yeah I think so because for the most part this album went really smooth. The lyrics seemed to flow out and the organisation of the songs seemed to come out really easily and everything. It was really just our own “wow, I think we can get this done by the time that we have to leave for our tour so lets shoot for it”. And that’s when it was like “ok, time to scramble haha”! It was really a rather painless CD but once we were coming up a potential deadline then we were like “ok, we’ve got to get this done”.
NZRock: On the new album one of the songs which caught my eye was ‘New World Order’ because that song has been kicking around since the Marty Friedman and Nick Menza era of MEGADETH. How’d that song end up on the album?
Chris: Well, I mean the big thing was the overall process that we went through. We all came up with our own riffs and our own ideas and kind of tucked them away on hard drives and stuff like that. Then we put them all together in one file and what made the songs get chosen was basically going through and listening to all of the different riffs and seeing what fit the mood of this CD and MEGADETH the best. So that’s really why all of these songs were chosen for this CD.
NZRock: There are 13 songs on the album which makes complete sense, but were there any songs that you had to sacrifice to keep that number 13?
Chris: Haha! Well I would tell you that when we compiled all of the ideas to look at what we were going to use for this CD, we had a total of over 250 parts – riffs and potential ideas. There was a lot of stuff that Sean Drover, David Ellefson and I brought to the table but also Dave just had a huge back catalogue of riffs that he’s kept over the years. So you know, it’s kind of funny, that’s an odd question but very relevant in this case. We could’ve taken any one of those riffs and those could’ve been on the CD potentially.
NZRock: When you’re listening back to over 250 ideas, what makes you say yes, this is riff we’re going to use and then create a song around it?
Chris: I think it’s the ones that you find the most inspiring and the ones that fit the style of what you’re doing. Sometimes I think we all get into the creative moods where we’ll write something that’s maybe in another genre whether it’s more Death Metal or sounds more like a ballad or whatever it may be. They’re still valuable riffs but they might not fit the CD as well. So those are the choices that you have to make when you compile all of those ideas.
NZRock: Since you’ve been in MEGADETH David Ellefson has returned on bass. What’d that do for the morale of the band. I mean on one hand you lost a member, but then you had a founding member come back in return.
Chris: I think James Lomenzo is a great guy and I was sad to see him go, but when Ellefson came in it definitely seemed like the right time because we were doing the whole anniversary of ‘Rust In Peace’ so it was a great opportunity to have him come in to do that. And once I got to know Ellefson, he’s also an awesome guy and a great bass player as well. So, in a way I kind of count myself luck to have been able to play with both of them.
NZRock: Out of the former MEGADETH guitarists like Chris Poland and Marty Friedman which one’s style was the most challenging to learn when it comes to playing live?
Chris: They both have their challenges. As with any guitarist, they’re all individual. Marty Friedman was a larger influence of mine, I knew his playing before I’d gotten into MEGADETH and so Poland’s felt a little bit more foreign to me. So I guess if you can see that as a bigger challenge it would be in that sense.
NZRock: I saw a short guitar video you did where you mention that you were into the Shrapnel Records guitarists like Jason Becker. Were they a big influence on the music that you write?
Chris: Definitely! An influence is almost something you can’t get rid of you know. Once they’ve become that in your mind you know that’s part of your playing, it’s almost who you are.
NZRock: You’ve learned a lot of styles over the years and obviously in MEGADETH it’s all about Metal. Have the other ideas had to take a back seat or do you still have an outlet for those.
Chris: Well I still definitely listen to them all the time. I don’t get to practice the classical guitar right now as much as I’d like to but I definitely see that in my future it’ll always be there for me. It’s the same thing with flamenco. I know when I’m old and the dust is collecting on me I’ll be out on some front porch somewhere playing the flamenco guitar haha!
NZRock: You’ve been a fan of MEGADETH for a long time. Did you ever collect any of their vinyls?
Chris: No, unfortunately by the time I got into MEGADETH it was already like 91′ maybe even 92′ depending on how closely I followed Marty into the band and the release of ‘Rust In Peace’. So yeah, that was already past the age of vinyl at that time and from there I kind of got into their back catalogue and listened to them.
NZRock: In December you’re running at winter guitar retreat with Alex Skolnick from TESTAMENT. How’d you come up with that idea and how do you guys know each other?
Chris: Well we’ve toured together in the past, TESTAMENT has been on the bill with MEGADETH. We did ‘Priest Feast’ a couple of years ago and they were also on the ‘American Carnage Tour’ with us and SLAYER. So Alex and I had talked then and it wasn’t really then that we had come up with the idea for a guitar retreat but we definitely had formed a friendship and knew each other so when the idea came up it seemed like a good one – especially with someone like Alex.
NZRock: He was here in New Zealand a few years ago at the G-TARanaki guitar festival in New Plymouth with Uli Jon Roth (ex-SCORPIONS). Are you a part of that group of guitarists and would you ever think about coming to here to do some clinics?
Chris: I would love to. I always love heading over there but it always depends on logistics and that’s one thing I know, it’s a little bit harder over there, getting from place to place and getting your gear from those places as well. But I would love to as long as it seems viable and people would have me.
NZRock: For those who can’t make it to your winter retreat, do you have any quick tips for aspiring guitarists?
Chris: Yeah, I would tell them that they’ve definitely got a ton of resources that they can access just online whether it’s Youtube videos or simple programs like Power Tab and GuitarPro and Transcribe! And you know, obviously once they feel like they’re at a decent level to always put themselves out there to be seen, to be as visible as possible so that it increases your chances that you might get to advance your career.
NZRock: One of the things you cover on the guitar retreat is advice on performance on stage. Just thinking back to your first gig that you did with MEGADETH in Finland, did you have nerves when you were doing that?
Chris: Oh yeah! I thought my head was going to explode that night haha! I was so incredibly nervous and then when the show went on I just kind of ran out there and I think I was just running around like a monkey with it’s head cut off haha! But that’s kid of what I had to do to use up some of that nervous energy. But yeah, there would be a lot of talk like that and about if people do get nervous, things that they can do to aleviate it and all of that stuff.
NZRock: Just before I let you go, what are your top song picks from ‘Th1rt3en’?
Chris: Well being the guitar noodeler I am haha! I would recommend ‘Sudden Death’ and probably ‘Neverdead’.