Slayer’s Kerry King and Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine Discuss the “Big Four” Broadcast
The Big Four of Thrash—Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax—are four of the most influential bands in metal. And yet, in the nearly 30 years since their debut albums were released, these four giants have never shared a stage due to a mix of bad blood, growing pains, and other logistical problems. Now, finally, the Big Four are sharing one stage for a short string of European festival dates this summer. And as if this meeting of metal titans weren’t earth-shaking enough, their performances at the Sonisphere Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria, will be broadcast live to select theaters throughout the world on Tuesday, June 22, so that headbangers from New York to Peru can witness this historic day in metal history. Find where the Big Four will be playing near you at thebigfourlive.com. Revolver tracked down Slayer guitarist and hellraiser Kerry King in Austria and Megadeth frontsmasher Dave Mustaine in Warsaw, Poland, where they graciously filled us in on this amazing global event.
REVOLVER When did you first hear the term “The Big Four” in reference to you guys?
DAVE MUSTAINE That term’s been around for a long time. We used to be called the Four Horsemen. Maybe 20 years ago.
How did the Big Four tour come about?
KERRY KING It was something that was trying to be made happen, so it just took everyone signing off on it. I gotta tell you, man, I can’t believe, in the 27 years since we put our first record out, that no one’s tried to make this happen. Because now that it is happening, it’s so cool, it’s so important, that every territory in the world wants it. I don’t know what took so long.
MUSTAINE We had some opportunities to do these festivals, and we had been doing the Carnage dates [with Slayer], which were of course so popular in the States and Canada. For me, personally, I didn’t see it coming… Having dinner with Lars [Ulrich] the other night, he told me that he had talked to Slayer’s tour manager a year and a half ago about whether or not this was gonna happen, and I thought, God, I’m so glad I didn’t know about this a year and a half ago, because I would’ve had to spend every day with that “I’ve got a big gig coming” brain.
Has there been a change amongst metal fans to suddenly give the Big Four tour this much worldwide attention?
MUSTAINE No, this has just been a long time coming. The fans have always been there. All types of people love this music. A lot of people like to poke fun at it, or perpetuate this image of the Jeff Spicoli character, but in my experience, that’s not always how it is. The other day, a fan handed me a cigar who turned out to be a cardiologist that operates on pregnant women and on their babies. I thought, Oh, God. Someday my wife’s gonna get surgery, and the guy’s gonna be listening to “Black Friday!”
With the satellite broadcast, will this tour become an international act?
MUSTAINE Maybe. I love to play. It was what I was created to do. This production with the movie-theater broadcast is just much more than I expected, and now, looking back on everything we’ve done together, this feels like the completion of a journey. It’s been up, it’s been down…but we’ve been there, I was there, a part of it, and it’s been a great ride. So yeah, hopefully, we’ll take it to the States, and we can do the next interview backstage.
KING I think, as far as American metal, it’s gotta be the most important tour that’s ever happened… I think the only reason [the movie theater broadcast] is happening is because it’s not scheduled to go to the States yet. So for now, it’s the only way to see it. It’s not even full sets—I think it’s 45 minutes of all of us and an hour of Metallica.
For a long time, it seemed like there was bad blood between you guys, specifically between Slayer and Megadeth, and Megadeth and Metallica. What squashed that beef?
KING Before we did the Australian and Japanese run with Megadeth, I was reading the Revolver Slayer issue, and reading this interview we did with Dave. And I just couldn’t remember why I wasn’t friends with this dude anymore—I could not remember what I was upset about. So we get to the airport, and I saw him coming out of the lounge, and I came up, shook his hand, and said, ‘Hey, dude, I don’t think I’ve talked to you in about 15 years!’ We have a shitload of dates coming up, and honestly, when I’ve talked to him, I remember the guy I dug 25 years ago.
MUSTAINE We’ve just learned how to step back see what we stand for in the world, the Big Four, and how each band has contributed to that in its own way. I had a huge turnaround on my whole outlook at life walking into this tour, these dates, with just a brand new relationship. The first person I talked to was Kirk [Hammet]. We talked for a while, and then at dinner, I sat next to James [Hetfield] and Lars, and it was cool to look at it—just how much we changed the world… Twenty years ago, this tour probably wouldn’t have happened—we were all young, and we weren’t dealing with the fame too well.
What do Slayer represent in the Big Four?
KING We represent all that is evil in the Big Four, and historically, I think we’ve represented thrash the best, but it’s funny, just how these four bands from this same movement went off to become different entities.
What about Megadeth?
MUSTAINE Our lyrics are a little deeper than some of the others, but we’re each different in that way—Slayer’s lyrics are really different from Anthrax’s. We’re really just like a four-paned window, you know—four different vantage points, all getting across that same message.
Since Metallica is headlining these shows, Kerry, should they be worried about getting blown off the stage by one of you?
KING The one thing I’m not happy about—and we didn’t know this until we got here—is that it’s not always the Big Four in a row. Some days, there are bands in between us, and that’s kind of a bummer. A night ending with Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer would be brutal. I have nothing against those other bands, but I didn’t know about that. But yeah, we open for Metallica some nights. I’ve seen Metallica twice on this tour, and they may not have all the spiel and bells and whistles they had in the States, but they’ve been killing it. They’re pros, man, they’ll have no problem. That said, man, our set’s brutal, and it ain’t there to make friends.
Interview by Chris Krovatin