Dave Mustaine's new book, Rust in Peace: The Inside Story of the Megadeth Masterpiece, provides just what the subtitle suggests — an in-depth, behind-the-curtain look at the creation and legacy of the thrash-metal pioneers' trailblazing 1990 album. Written by the Megadeth bandleader with veteran rock journalist Joel Selvin, the tome covers everything from the band's search for a new lead guitarist and drummer after their split with Jeff Young and Chuck Behler, to Mustaine and founding bassist David Ellefson's struggles with drug addiction, to the group's ultimate creative triumphant in the form of a watershed album.
In the exclusive excerpt below, Mustaine, Ellefson, a.k.a. "Junior," and former drummer Behler look back at the crazy period right before the recording of Rust in Peace — a time when Megadeth reached out to Pantera's Dimebag Darrell to join the band, partied hard with Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, and honed soon-to-be-classic songs. Rust in Peace: The Inside Story of the Megadeth Masterpiece is available now via Hachette Books.
DAVE MUSTAINE David Ellefson's recollection of details is much more reliable than just about everyone else's. Dates, times, places, etc. David must have journaled everything.
CHUCK BEHLER We finally started rehearsing for Rust in Peace. We did a four-track demo on a few songs and went into the Music Grinder — where they did Peace Sells — to do a more proper demo of four songs. "Holy Wars" was one and some of the others had different names — the "Rust in Peace" song and two more. It was just the three of us for three days. Casey McMackin, who had worked with us before, engineered the sessions with Dave. There was a pretty good rapport between us, I thought. When we finally did get to working on it, I thought the music was fantastic. I was looking forward to being able to show a lot more of my drumming ability than on the previous record. On that record, I came in so quick, I basically learned it on a couch and had about three weeks to rehearse. I didn't have much time to do anything fancy, although Dave didn't want a lot of extravagant time fills or decorations. He wanted it more straightforward, pounding, thrash-heavy-heavy, so I did my best to accommodate him. At a couple rehearsals, it was just me and Dave going over parts of "Holy Wars," like the end section, and Dave had an amazing command of his guitar parts. He could be high as hell, but when it came to playing the guitar, there was never any problem.
DAVID ELLEFSON We rehearsed at this tiny, dingy room near Dodger Stadium in Echo Park called Hully Gully. I had been doing so much coke that I started to get sores. We wrote three songs and did a demo of them at a studio in North Hollywood called Amigo Studios, which, by that time, was kind of a dilapidated, rundown studio but had been made famous by producer Michael Wagener on all the records that he had been working on through most of the Eighties. He had mixed the So Far, So Good... So What! record, but he had also mixed Master of Puppets for Metallica. He did Dokken records, Accept; he had a pretty shining A-list résumé of really great, popular MTV metal records.
We cut these three tracks and there was a young engineer there named GGGGarth Richardson, and he literally called himself that in his credits. They called him GGGGarth, of course, because he stuttered when he talked. He would go on to have a successful producing career during the late Nineties and Aughts, but at this point, he was just an engineer. He helped with the writing. The three songs we did were "Holy Wars," which was pretty much written and done in its entirety; "Polaris," which again was written and pretty much done, but it was not called "Rust in Peace... Polaris" yet. Another song had the working title of "Child Saints" that Dave put some lyrics on with a melody that never made it to the final. The music of that song was done and it would eventually become "Tornado of Souls," although Dave wouldn't title it "Tornado of Souls" until we were recording the Rust in Peace album. We used the engineer from the Peace Sells album named Casey McMackin to add some final overdubs and mix those three songs on the demo at another studio called Track Records. We loved Casey. We felt like Casey understood Megadeth. He was a real rocker. Oddly enough, the manager at the studio was a friend of mine named Alan Morphew, who was a bass player and singer in a band I belonged to briefly in Iowa called Renegade. Al was one of a number of friends of mine who followed me when I moved to Hollywood in 1983.
CHUCK BEHLER When we were starting to work on the Rust in Peace record, there was a lot of drug use going on. I think Dave got into his addiction even more and was using a lot of cocaine, which would make him paranoid. He would think people were against him.
DAVID ELLEFSON Around this time, I became friends with Slash. He had just come home from the Appetite for Destruction tour and had a run-down little apartment behind Tower Records off Sunset Boulevard. He was like Dave and me. He liked to snort some heroin, snort some coke, and play guitar. We became fast friends. We had good times hanging out, the three of us, but especially Slash and I. We became good guitar-playing buddies.
DAVE MUSTAINE David had moved from the Ranch to the place on Cherokee with his girlfriend. That's the place where he and I and Slash hung out. We became good friends and even asked Slash to join the band. He thought that was funny; their record was exploding like a rocket, but he actually considered it.
DAVID ELLEFSON One night, Dave and I sort of tendered the idea to Slash: "Hey, what do you think about maybe joining Megadeth?" We were becoming fast friends and having a lot of fun playing guitar and writing. I think he needed a little time away from Guns N' Roses and it was more a buddy hang, but we did put the idea out there and raised the question. Nothing serious ever came of it.
DAVE MUSTAINE We needed a guitar player. I called Dimebag Darrell Abbott from Pantera. We knew each other from touring together. The guy had one of my lyrics tattooed on his leg. He made a practice of getting a tattoo from every tour of something that would recall the tour to him. When they went on tour with us, he tattooed a lyric from my song "Sweating Bullets" on his shin. The song talks about a line from one of the spiritual books I read and says something about a black-toothed grin. Someday you too will know my pain and smile its blacktooth grin. He liked that blacktooth grin line, and they invented a cocktail they called the black-toothed grin, which, instead of a glass of Coke with a shot of whiskey, was a glass of whiskey with a shot of Coke. Those guys were hard drinkers. And he was this great, shredding guitar player. He liked the idea of joining our band; he said he wanted to do it. I thought this would be the greatest thing ever, but then he asked if he could bring his brother. He founded Pantera with his brother Vinnie Paul Abbott on drums. We already had a drummer. That was a deal-breaker for Dimebag. He wouldn't come without his brother. To this day, I still wonder in wondrous wonder what it would have been like with Vinnie and Darrell.
DAVID ELLEFSON We had reached out to Diamond Darrell from Pantera, who later was known as Dimebag Darrell but at the time was Diamond Darrell. I had met him one night in Dallas in summer 1988 and we had a bunch of drinks. The next night, I went to see them play at his club in Dallas and they were fucking amazing. They were great, super-tight. They invited me to jump up and play "Peace Sells" with them, which I did. Those boys could drink hard and play their asses off. And Darrell was definitely a guitar star. He was a big deal in the guitar magazines, and Pantera was modestly popular on a more regional level. I talked to Dave about Darrell and we called him up. He basically said his brother Vinnie comes with him or nothing doing. We already had Nick, so we declined and moved on. Also under consideration to be our other guitar player was Jeff Waters of Annihilator. I don't know that we ever reached him, but his band Annihilator was taking off, getting popular, so he essentially proved unavailable, whether or not we ever really connected with him to make the offer. We'd expressed interest and he declined.
DAVE MUSTAINE I don't know whether Jeff Waters declined or accepted from David Ellefson, because I can't remember us ever making an official call to Jeff. He is a great guitarist, but I think Annihilator is his calling.
CHUCK BEHLER We had Doug Thaler and Doc McGhee as our management and we would get rehearsal schedules on gold-leaf paper in the mail. It felt really professional, top-notch stuff. But when we were supposed to be at a rehearsal, nobody would show up. I'd go and wait for hours. Sometimes Junior would come. It began to become rare that we all got together. That was not a good sign.
Copyright Dave Mustaine; courtesy of Hachette Books.