Megadeth: From Vic’s Garage To Endgame With Shawn Drover
By Kevin Stewart-Panko
The words “Megadeth” and “Dave Mustaine” are pretty much synonymous. In fact, we’d be willing to wager substantial sums of money that we don’t actually have that “Megadeth” and “Dave Mustaine” are far and away more synonymous with each other than “megadeath” and “Herman Kahn,” the gentleman who just happens to be the RAND military strategist who devised and first used the term in 1953 to describe one million deaths as a result of a thermonuclear war. Megadeth, the band, are back with their 12th album, Endgame, and to celebrate the occasion, we tracked down drummer and ex-pat Canadian, Shawn Drover for a short chat. You can be assured that from now until the subsequent touring cycle for Endgame is over and done with, you’re going to be stumbling across a lot of what Mustaine has to say as everyone hangs on and publishes the ponderings and opinions of the guitarist/vocalist/founding member/driving engine/main mouthpiece. In the interest of nailing down a different perspective on all things Megadeth, Hellbound lets you in on what Shawn has to say.
Do you do many interviews?
I’ve done tons. Obviously, the lion’s share of people want to speak to the source and that’s Dave, but it depends. I’ll do a lot of music magazine related ones or sometimes someone will request different band members. Obviously, he can’t do everything, so we always say, if there’s something another band member can do, we’re here.
Your brother [guitarist Glen Drover] left the band. From your perspective, in being in a band with your brother, how did that impact you?
I hated it, but once I came to the realisation that it was the right thing to do for him, I supported him. Of course, I miss my brother. We’ve always gotten along really well and we’ve pretty much played in bands together our whole lives, except for little bits pieces, like when he was in King Diamond for three years. Initially, I did everything I could do to talk him out of it. Then, I realised it was the right thing to do. He gracefully stepped down and did it at the right time. We had an 11-week break before we started up a tour which was beginning in Europe. He had a choice: he either had to stick out the rest of the world tour and then say he couldn’t do it or he had to stop at that point. We talked about it and he said he just couldn’t keep doing it. He couldn’t give 100% and I understood that and respected it. Having said that, when all that went down, we had to find a guitar player. Ultimately, me and Glen were the ones who picked Chris [Broderick]. We had a really short list of people we knew who could, first of all, cut the gig music-wise and secondly, who were the least problematic. There are all these stupid things that come along with players sometimes, like the person has a big ego or likes to snort ants or something. You want to have someone who’s the least problematic and Chris was that guy and within 24 hours of Glen leaving, Chris was all but in the band. He went down and talked to Dave and it was a very quick turnaround. But it happened because of me and Glen and Glen actually recommending Chris. It worked out good, but it was definitely difficult.
Is that sort of family decision one you’ve ever had to take into consideration at any point over the years?
No, because my situation is different. The only reason Glen chose to do that was because he had a very young boy. When he joined Megadeth his son was only two and over the course of two-and-a-half or three years, he really started to miss being with his son and it really started to eat him up. It was really difficult, just realizing that he only had one kid – the only kid he will have – and he only gets one chance to see his kid grow up and he was having a hard time with that. My kids are grown so my situation is completely different.
So, the new album was recorded at the new Vic’s Garage complex/studio?
Yeah, we had Vic’s Garage built in southern California, just north of San Diego which is where [bassist] James [Lomenzo] and Dave live. Chris lives closer to L.A. I’m the only guy who lives out of state. But yeah, we had the studio constructed specifically for that purpose, to record Endgame, and for future recordings as well. We also have a huge warehouse and rehearsal space; it’s kind of a multi-use place and it was really a smart move on Dave’s part because every time you go to rehearse for a tour in L.A., you have to go to a rehearsal building and it costs you an arm-and-a-leg and it’s kind of a pain in the butt because you’re at the mercy of the people who own the building as to when you can play and whether it’s even available. It’s the same with the studio where you’re on the clock. This is just a different situation and made for a more relaxed atmosphere for the recording of the record and it’s our place. I’m really glad he did it, it turned out to be a really cool thing and obviously we’re going to use it in the future because it’s our studio.
How do things work out logistically when you guys want to get together for writing sessions or rehearsals?
I’m a plane ride away. I’m four hours away. So, if anything, it’s just coordinating it through management and all that stuff and there you go. It’s quite easy. Lots of bands nowadays don’t all live in the exact same place and they make it work. It’s a helluva lot easier than in 2004 when Dave was the only guy who lived in California. Glen was in Toronto, I was here in Atlanta and ex-bassist] James [MacDonough] lived down in Florida. It’s certainly a lot easier having three guys in the band who live in the same area.
Thus far, the reaction, on-line chatter and even some of the comments Chris has made in interviews have mentioned the new record having more of an old-school feel or vibe. I was wondering what your take was on the direction the new record has taken?
Y’know what dude? It’s just a bunch of metal songs. If people think all that stuff, in a good way, and that makes them happy, then that’s great and I’m all for it. We didn’t go in there saying, “Okay, we gotta make this song sound like something off Peace Sells” and all that kinda stuff. If it turns out that way and it gives people the thought that it’s reminiscent of this or that record, then that’s great. But we didn’t go in there with that intention. We just wanted to go in there and make the best record that we can and hope that the consensus is positive. Those who’ve heard this record so far, most of the reaction has been very positive and I’m thankful for that, but we didn’t have a specific formula.
So, you had Andy Sneap come over and produce at the new studio?
Yeah, that’s correct. Well, him and Dave, they both did it together, but yeah, Andy was the knob-twister, the engineer and co-producer.
You’ve already pretty much answered this, but did you find that recording scenario more relaxed than previous sessions?
Oh my God, yes! Are you kidding me? It’s so true, firstly, because it’s our place. We were there from the inception and we even did some manual building stuff. I did some work in the warehouse based on what I used to do in my previous life, just to make the place that much better. It was totally remodelled and created to be a studio in the front of the building, and once you go out the studio’s back door, it opens up to this huge warehouse/storage space/rehearsal spot and that’s also where I recorded all my drum tracks. Absolutely it was comfortable. If we wanted to stay there, hang out all night and party, leave early, whatever, we were not on anybody’s agenda but our own.
You mention you owned the place. Is there like a maintenance or housekeeping staff that works there to keep the place in order?
Yeah, Dave has two or three people working there. One guy works there every day and there are a couple other people who come in and out just to make sure everything is in running order and stuff.
Taking into considering the Vic’s Garage set-up and the people who work there, along with the people who maintain your website, your crew, the press people, the people at the label and on and on, did you ever imagine or realize that as a musician you’d have all this responsibility to all these other people and things outside of the actual band and music?
No, but I mean how can you when you’re 13 years old and starting out? The dream for me and Glen was to play the Montreal Forum because that’s where we were born and raised. The whole business aspect of it never crossed our minds. You don’t think of those things, you just aspire to be successful. All that stuff comes when you attain that kind of success. Once I joined this band, it was already many years into a successful existence, but I’m not really part of the business either. This is Dave’s baby and I’m not involved in all the day-to-day business, which is absolutely fine by me. But I see what you’re saying, he’s responsible for a lot of people, but it’s no different than any other corporation. If you’re the owner of a company with employees, you’re responsible for them. It’s really not that much different, except that we tour around the world and play metal [laughs].
And you don’t have to wear a suit-and-tie.
Unless we want to.
But, you don’t have a dress code dictated to you and circulated in a company memo.
No, I guess not.
So, I noticed you have a song writing credit on the song “Headcrusher.” Is that something you came up with on guitar or was the credit related to your doing the arrangement or what?
Yeah, I wrote that song. “Headcrusher,” musically, came from a song I wrote, but Dave changed certain parts of it and it became a more collaborative effort. But the root of the song came from my music and Dave, of course, wrote all the lyrics.
Do you find yourself playing much guitar and writing riffs and songs?
I’ve been playing guitar for 20 years.
No, no what I meant is that in light of your playing drums in Megadeth, do you find yourself with the opportunity to sit down with a guitar and play or write?
It depends. Sometimes on tour, I’ll play and when I’m at home, I’ll usually play more guitar than drums, to be honest. Just because after a tour, the last thing I want to do is pick up the instrument I’ve been playing for however long and play it some more. I like to take a break from it and I usually end up playing more guitar. It terms of the record, I had a pile of riffs and when we started working on it, Dave was like, “I wanna hear what you guys have.” I had arranged different pieces into what ultimately became that song. I recorded it in a studio and presented it to him and he liked parts of it.
The That One Night DVD makes the reaction you receive in Argentina look pretty insane. Is it that much more off the charts when compared to other countries?
I don’t know. I don’t view it as a contest and I don’t have an applause meter or anything. They’re just really passionate fans, but we have passionate fans around the world. But having said that, if you want a comparison, in Argentina, there are always definitely more people at the hotel trying to find us that probably anywhere else on Earth. There were hundreds of kids outside the hotel staying out there all hours of the night singing Megadeth songs… it’s pretty mind-boggling and definitely one of the most passionate fanbases we have on the planet.
Have you spoken to anyone from there, or even Dave, and gotten any insight as to why this is?
I don’t know. That’s a good question, but I just don’t know. When we play Argentina, I always make the effort to go out there and meet the kids camped outside the hotel. They can’t get into the hotel because there are too many of them and security isn’t going to let them in. So, I’ll go talk to them, but it’s basically small talk and saying “hi.” I’ve never really had an in-depth conversation with anybody on the topic. It’s just one of those places where they go mental for Megadeth and we’re glad about that.
Endgame will be released in Canada on September 15th.