There aren’t many compelling examples in rock history of awesome musicians finding religion and then continuing to be awesome. Bob Dylan was Born Again in the late 70s and almost immediately became a sanctimonious douche. Brian “Head” Welch quit Korn to start making Christian rock that nobody listens to, unless you’re into fun party music like “Bury Me, Resurrected.” Alice Cooper is a borderline tolerable Christian, when he’s not making untenable claims like “Sarah Palin is a breath of fresh air.” Probably the closest thing to a rock star who started going to church and managed not to alienate his fan base is Dave Mustaine. The Megadeth frontman converted to Christianity in 2003, and didn’t immediately try to destroy his legacy with religious claptrap. He’s admitted to praying with his band before shows, Madonna-in-Truth-or-Dare-style, and he once refused to play on the same bill as overtly anti-Christian bands like Rotting Christ and Dissection. But none of that qualifies as insane behavior. His just released Rock Prodigy interactive app offers lessons in guitar shredding, not scripture. And his just released Megadeth album, Th1rt3en, doesn’t even have hints of his Born Again beliefs. Okay sure, he went on ABC News in July and made some crazy claims about Satan. “He could be in this room right now,” Mustaine said with a spooky gravitas that wouldn’t have been embarrassing if he was a camp counselor trying to freak out teenage campers. And then he told SPINmagazine last month that he cured a Megadeth fan in Kentucky of throat cancer, which would’ve been funny coming from somebody who doesn’t also believe that a guy named Jesus performed miracles and rose from the dead. But Mustaine’s music remains, for the most part, thank the sweet Lord, relatively non-pious.
I called Mustaine to talk about Th1rt3en, but really, I wanted to ask him about heaven and hell and Rick Perry.
Eric Spitznagel: Was there some significance to naming the new album Th1rt3en? Or did you just pick it cause it sounds badass?
Dave Mustaine: Well, one would think the latter. But there’s actually a deeper meaning to the number thirteen for me. There’ve been a lot of thirteens in my life. I was born on the 13th of September. I started playing guitar when I was thirteen. And this is Megadeth’s thirteenth record.
Do you think theories that thirteen is an unlucky number are just superstitious hogwash?
It hasn’t been unlucky for me, that’s all I know. It was definitely unlucky for the Knights Templar, because they all got burned at the stake on Friday the 13th. I think that’s where all the superstition about thirteen being a bad number came from. But for me, it’s always been lucky.
I read somewhere that Taylor Swift loves the number thirteen and writes it on her hand before concerts.
Yep, that’s where I got it from. You busted me, dude.
Did I just ruin thirteen for you?
No, it’s fine. What Taylor Swift believes or doesn’t believe really doesn’t bother me one way or the other.
Do you consider yourself an optimist? Are you looking ahead to 2012 and thinking, “This year’s gonna rock?”
I think 2012 is going to be fine for me in some circumstances, but I think it’s going to be really horrible for our country.
Everything is pretty shitty right now, with the eradication of the middle class, and we’ve got an attorney general who won’t come clean about the Fast and Furious stuff. I think that we’re headed for a lot of trouble. We’ve got an incredible debt, which is just continuing to get higher and higher. We need jobs right now, man. We don’t need any more Washington deals, we need jobs. There are so many things wrong with this current administration.
If you could give one piece of advice to Obama, what would it be?
To me, a president should be the one who steps up to the plate and says “Knock it off.”
Maybe he should consider using that as his election slogan instead of “Yes We Can.”
That’s not a bad idea.
Obama in 2012: “Knock It Off!”
Yeah, I still don’t think I’d believe him. I always thought Colin Powell would make a great president, but he doesn’t want anything to do with politics anymore. I can’t say I blame him. Given our choices for president, I think next year is going to be just terrible.
Even more so if the Mayans are right and we’re all doomed.
Yeah, but nobody seriously buys into that crap. It’s just a lot of fear-mongering.
Do you believe in the apocalypse?
Based on the Mayan Calendar?
Doesn’t have to be on their timetable. Do you believe in End Times at all? Are you braced for the Rapture?