Metal Army caught up with Shawn Drover of MEGADETH at this year’s ROCKSTAR ENERGY DRINK MAYHEM FESTIVAL. Even though we were being attacked by trees and wind Shawn was kind with his time and very candid about topics such as touring, their upcoming new record Thirteen (Roadrunner), choosing a set list, drumming in a band with famous former players and The Big 4 shows.
MAA: How is the tour going so far?
SD: It’s going good man. We are finally settled in now. We had done a bunch of shows in Europe with The Big 4, jumped on a plane from France to San Francisco and played about five hours later on stage. It was a real test of our endurance, but we pulled it off and it’s been all good. This entire tour has been a lot of fun with a lot of diverse bands out here.
MAA: The band is playing a new MEGADETH song, “Public Enemy #1” live on the tour. How does is stack up compared to the tracks on Endgame?
SD: Musically speaking? It’s just another metal song by. I don’t like to compare apples and oranges. It’s just another good, mid-tempo metal song by us. I don’t know why we are playing that particular song to be honest, because we are really happy with the new record. The new album is great and covers a lot of ground within the parameters of metal. I’m glad we’re playing it. It’s just a good tune, man. It’s catchy and heavy so its going over really well. We’ve done this before, with stuff that hasn’t been heard by the public. We did that last time with “Headcrusher”, we did that with “Washington Is Next” before that on the previous tour. This is a good vehicle to do that, to see what goes over well and what doesn’t go over well. We like trying out new songs in a live setting, so our batting average previewing tracks early is pretty high. So we’re very happy to do it.
MAA: I understand the band finished Thirteen really quickly between tours. How did that come about?
SD: We finished it in record time! Certainly the fastest time to record an album since I’ve been in the band, by leaps and bounds. I’m glad we finished it, but if we didn’t it would have been okay. We would have just gone back in and finished it up after this tour leg with Mayhem. We’ve all been really inspired and we such a mass good riffs to assemble songs and that is always good too. We were really prepared to work and even some stuff we didn’t even use, which is a great thing as well. It just goes to show that you can do it. If you bear down and put your nose to the grindstone, you can get it done. We’ve proved that. The results will speak for themselves. We’re really happy with the record.
MAA: Thirteen will be your third album with the band. Has your playing changed over these albums if at all, since you came into the band?
SD: I don’t think it has too much. I have been playing for so long, I play the way I play. Playing your own stuff is easy. Emulating others is the trick. If you got asked to play something by EDDIE VAN HALEN, maybe some stuff you could do and some stuff you couldn’t because it’s not who you are. For me I am emulating a lot of different drummers, which is fun too. Maybe there are some things I might have done differently back in the day if it was me, but it’s neither here nor there. For me the stuff I have played on, it’s just the way I naturally play. Stylistically, I haven’t changed much at all. I’ve always been a double-bass playing metal drummer. I haven’t changed, I’ve just gotten older. (laughs)
MAA: Who was your favorite MEGADETH drummer before you joined the band?
SD: Gar (Samuelson)! Hands down! For me its all about the original lineup. I love all the drummers, they are all great and I respect all of them a lot, but for me its all about Gar. Gar was really a fusion drummer when they really mixed fusion with speed metal. There were other bands that came in after and took it further with that, but MEGADETH were really pioneers, whether they realized it or not. They probably did, but maybe they didn’t realize they were invented something very cool. Chris Poland and Gar. It’s just the original lineup is the one for me and certainly my favorite MEGADETH line-up.
MAA: Speaking of that lineup: is the band still going to do a tour celebrating the Peace Sells 25th anniversary?
SD: I don’t know. The thing with that is we were only supposed to do the Rust In Peace 20th Anniversary tour for one tour leg. Then Tom Araya from SLAYER got injured and we canceled a tour. So we had to decide if we wanted to come off the road and wait for Tom’s issues to clear up or do this tour for the fans. So Dave and management had the idea to do more of the 20th Anniversary tours. And then David (Ellefson) came back in the band and all these ducks started lining up. It wasn’t planned like that, but then it just evolved this way. And people say oh you have to play here and play there so it lasted a full year. Would I like to do it? Yeah. Do I want to do it for a year? No. You don’t want to become that band that does that kind of thing because this year it’s Peace Sells and next year it would be the 20th anniversary of Countdown and it just keeps going and going. But everybody was so jacked up about of us doing all of Rust In Peace. So we were like “why not?” MEGADETH had never done anything like playing an entire album live in their career. And I’m glad we did it! Again, it was just something that evolved and we went with it. We’re glad we did it. It was really successful. We made a live album and a DVD out of it so it was really, great fun. Anything is possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Certainly not for an entire tour.
MAA: Any adjustments from the year of playing the Rust In Peace set to doing a more standard MEGADETH set on this tour?
SD: We practice part of the set everyday back stage, not the whole thing but a few songs for warm up. In an environment like this, your casual everyday rockers who just want to rock out want you to play the songs they know. You want to appeal to the masses at this kind of tour. If you were a casual LYNYRD SKYNYRD fan and they didn’t play “Freebird”, you’d be really pissed. For us we know we have to play “Symphony”, “Peace Sells”, “Holy Wars” and we gotta play “Hangar 18” every show. “A Tout Le Monde” we should really play every show and we’ve been trying to. Our fans are so hardcore and they want to hear the most obscure songs, which we have also tried to do here and there. Depending on what we are doing and where we are doing it we will sometimes throw out an obscure track. But then that goes over the heads of 80% of the audience and they go “what the hell was that? Was that a new tune?” With this kind of tour, we need to reach out to their fans, like the GODSMACK and DISTURBED fans might know our name and maybe a few tunes, but they may not really know too much about us. We might try to play our well known songs and try to latch on to them. I think it’s better if we do that so we play our “hits”. Which I know sounds like it should be a dirty word for metal, but it is not.
MAA: Now that we are in the second year of Big 4 shows are you still pumped up for them?
SD: Oh yeah! How could I not be? We have been playing to crowds of 50,000 people up every show. Yankee Stadium? It will probably be one of the top three venues to play in my life time. Not to diss any other venue. One of my bucket-list things was always to play Madison Square Garden, but screw that! I’m playing Yankee Stadium! Every show with the Big 4 has been just so beyond massive. We are all thrilled to be part of it. We’re making history. It’s so cool that after twenty-five years or more its been great to do it for the fans and for all four bands. It’s good for metal and the fans really wanted to see it. I hope it continues… forever! Yankee Stadium is the only show we have on the books right now. Who knows what the future brings? We’ll see.
(Special Thanks to Shawn Drover, Roadrunner Records and Curtis Dunlap Photography)
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes