Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review: Mustaine

I have gotten plenty of care packages since arriving in Iraq. Most have been snacks and toiletries which are always welcomed. However, I got the word out that I would like a steady influx of reading material and I certainly got my wish. I have received probably twenty books since arriving in Iraq so I have a plethora of different reads to choose from. A book that really caught my attention was sent out last month by my little brother Andy. Unfortunately, I had to make my way through a couple resume books that I had started in anticipation of next year's job search. But I knew that I soon as I finished the resume books that my brother's gift was next up in the queue.

The book that he sent me is entitled "Mustaine" by Dave Mustaine and Joe Laydon. The average person may not know who Dave Mustaine is, but any lover of metal will recognize the name as the frontman and rhythm guitarist of one of the greatest bands ever....Megadeth. The book is an autobiography of Mustaine's troubled yet amazing life.

The fall and rise of a heavy metal icon

Dave Mustaine is the first to admit that he's bottomed out a few times in his dark and twisted speed metal version of a Dickensian life.

Impoverished, transient childhood? Check.

Abusive, alcoholic parent? Check.

Mind-fucking religious weirdness (in his case the extremes of the Jehovah's Witnesses and Satanism)? Check.

Alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness? Check, check, check.

Soul-crushing professional and artistic setbacks? Check.

Rehab? Check (seventeen times, give or take).

Near-death experience? Check that one, too.

James Hetfield, with whom many years ago Mustaine founded a band known as Metallica, once observed, with some incredulity, that Mustaine must have been born with a horseshoe up his ass. That's how lucky he's been, how fortunate he is to be pulling breath after so many close calls. And Hetfield is right. Mustaine has been lucky. He has been blessed. But here's the thing about having a horseshoe lodged in your rectum: It also hurts like hell. And you never forget it's there.

Mustaine has battled through it all to achieve dizzying heights. From the early, heady days of Metallica, being unceremoniously let go only to become a world-famous rock star—founder, front man, singer, songwriter, and guitarist (and de facto CEO) for Megadeth, one of the most popular bands in heavy metal—Mustaine's is a story that will inspire, stun, and terrify.

I picked up this 346 page gem and finished it in less than four days. Part of that is due to the fact I have had a case of the flu and have had a bit more rest/read time than usual. But most of it is due to the fact that the book is a great read. Now I am definitely biased. I grew up listening to, and still listen to, a ton of metal music. Megadeth has consistently been in my playlist and there are a few Megadeth records that I regard as some of the best metal records ever recorded. I even wrote a letter to Dave Mustaine when I was 12 years old and included some lyrics I had written to get his thoughts. I totally forgot about the letter but then one day when I was 15 years old and well into high school I got a letter back from the man himself. I thought that was pretty cool. A real classy thing to do. Matching up the timeline of when I wrote the letter with the story of Dave's life in the book it is pretty safe to say that he was an embattled drug addict at this time. This paradox is one of the things that makes the read so powerful. Dave opens the door to his crazy life, revisiting all his sins and regrets, yet you put down the book realizing that there is a really good person behind the drugs, the fights, the family struggles, etc.

You are probably asking yourself, "why would I want to read a detailed account of the ascension of the Bay Area Thrash Metal Movement and one metalhead's crazy role during that period?" If you are a metalhead the answer is simple. This book is a historical glimpse into one of the most exciting periods in metal through the eyes of one it's founding fathers. If you aren't a metalhead let me tell you why you should give this book a chance. This book, while set to a heavy metal backdrop, does an incredible job of simultaneously showing man's incredible ability to survive and overcome while also showing just how truly fragile we all are. Dave is an embodiment of these polar opposite ends of the human condition and many of the lessons from the book transcend the 80's thrash metal scene in which the story is told. This book receives my highest recommendation for metal heads and non metalists alike.

Here are a few notes that I took from this great read:

A Horseshoe Up My Ass:
- He no longer loves music until it is taken away

Daddy Dearest:
- He has sympathy for addicts. "....this did not make him an evil man. A weak man, perhaps, and a man who did some bad things."
- He fell in love with music and had plenty of people against him and his passion

Reefer Madness:
- "I wanted to fit in and belong"
- His father died of brain trauma in a bar. Couldn't reach the family to save his one cared about him.
- Sister told him he would end up just like his dad while his father was on his deathbed.

Lars & Me:
- Wanted to be the leader

- Metallica's ascent happened very fast
- Relocate the band for a bass player (Cliff Burton)? He was that good and we were that driven.

Dumped by Alcoholica:
- Its amazing how low they got on the trip to NJ
- When they kicked Dave out it was pretty ruthless
- He found the term Megadeth on a political pamphlet of the bus he was on back to California. Started writing what would become Set The World Afire.

Building the Perfect Beast - Megadeth:
- Caught in the lie that he had quit Metallica. But in that humbling moment he actually stated he wanted to start his own band. Inspiring moment that made him move forward.
- The drug induced life they lived sounds awful but you can see how easy it is to digress to that point

Mission: To Break All The Rules of God & Man:
- Chris Poland coined that mission statement

Familiarity Breeds Contempt:
- He learned the hard lessons of the music biz
- "All bands eventually break up because of one or more of the following: Power, Prosperity, Prestige, Pussy."
- Wrote In My Darkest Hour for Cliff Burton upon hearing news of his death
- He began to see that they couldn't go on like that forever

The End of Western Civilization:
- Alice Cooper told Mustaine he would either burn out or die
- It's pretty simple, really: when you are an addict, you don't listen to people. It doesn't matter what anyone else says or does. Very rarely will you find someone with a drug or alcohol problem who is easily influenced. Very rarely does the conversation go like this: "Hey man you should stop drinking and clean up your act." "Really? You mean I shouldn't get high and plow through this line of Swedish bikini models? Okay you're right. Ill stop. Thanks for looking out for me bro."
- Dave, even in a drug induced stupor, believed in merit

The Traveling Carnival:
- Even as a drug addict he expected people to be held accountable for their choices
- Talked about making up over the years and how when they look back they were all out of their minds

Against Medical Advice:
- I need help was something he thought he would never say

The Living Years:
- He is very passionate about his marriage

I Pray The Lord My Soul To Keep:
- Countdown to Extinction was #2 on the Billboard charts behind Billy Rae Cyrus
- He struggled with envy of Metallica

The Inner Weasel:
- Megadeth changed to a business entity

Soul For Sale:
- As they got more famous there were more and more money arguments

Some Kind of God:
- Metallica screwed him into doing Some Kind of Monster
- He would relapse after years of sobriety
- He realized family is what is truly important, not work
- "I allowed myself to become a victim"
- "I've seen the error of my ways and what drinking and drug use has done to me and my family, and what its done to my career and my body. Drinking and doing drugs, for me, makes about as much sense as pissing my pants on a winter's day: it'll feel good for a little while...until that cold wind begins to blow. And then it won't feel so great."

Megadeth Reborn:

- "You know that old joke about the guy stranded in the flood, perched atop the roof of his house, waiting for God to save him? He repeatedly turns away rescue efforts based on the belief that God will personally take care of him. The floodwaters ultimately sweep him away and he winds up at heaven's gate, wondering why God has forsaken him. St. Peter looks at the poor guy and laughs. 'What are you talking about? We sent three boats and a helicopter.' I feel like the boat has come by for me more than a few times. Whether I deserved it or not, I had success with Metallica. I had success with Megadeth. I had success with Megadath again after my arm was wrecked. I have a wife who has stayed with me through some very hard times. And I have two healthy, happy children. So at some point you have to wonder: how many times does God have to say, 'Dude, I love you,' before I straighten up for good? I've got everything a man could want, and then some. It's time."

No comments: