Interview by Jeff Treppel
Megadeth’s upcoming CD, TH1RT3EN, is guitarist Chris Broderick’s second with the group, and it allows him to showcase his classically-influenced, harmonically rich style in a variety of settings, from the head-down, high-tech thrash heard on the band’s last CD, 2009’s Endgame, to more melodic, anthemic songs reminiscent of albums like Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia. We reached out to Chris to find out how he feels about TH1RT3EN, what he feels he brings to Megadeth, and more.
(This is the first in a four-part series of interviews with all four members of Megadeth, leading up to the release of TH1RT3EN on November 1.)
How does being in Megadeth compare to being in your previous bands like Jag Panzer and Nevermore?
It's a whole new level, in terms of the amount of prep that I have to do, to the video shoots to all of that. Where I'm at on stage, the amount of production we have, it's just a lot more. Takes up a lot more of your time, and it's a much bigger stage.
Is it more satisfying?
I would say it gives me more of a sense of accomplishment, the fact that I'm able to do what I love – which is playing the guitar – for a living.
What's it like to work with Dave Mustaine on the guitar parts?
I think it's great, because he comes from a different background than I do. He brings an insight from a totally different light than I view it from. And you can sense it in our playing styles, too, that we' re very different in that sense. So I think that's awesome.
What's the viewpoint that you bring to your playing?
Dave got his playing from the street, he picked up a lot of his playing from listening to records. I come from a more schooled approach.
How do you feel that the styles complement each other?
I think they're very complementary. [Dave] has more of that grit and that push and pull of the beat, where he'll play a little ahead of the beat or a little bit behind the beat. Mine tends to be right on the beat. So it was cool to learn that style, to actually play in front of the beat a little bit and then pull back when you want to do that, but then also lock in with the beat when it was time to do that.
Do you try to replicate the band's classic songs live, or do you try to put your own stamp on them?
I try to do as good a job as possible to re-create the original as faithfully as possible, but at the same time we all have our own ways that we approach the instrument, so I think a little bit of my playing would come out within those songs as well. But I do try to keep it as close to the original as possible.
What does your playing bring to Megadeth that your predecessors didn't?
It's definitely going to be my own influences, my classical guitar background, the schooling that I came up with. It's just a different balance of influences, you know? I can't speak exactly to what their abilities are and aren't, I can only listen to what they recorded in the past and make assumptions on that.
Could you be specific on some of your influences?
I've got a lot of time invested in counterpoint, which is the main form of composition that Bach would use, and I utilize that information when I write and when we come up with guitar harmonies.
Can you explain counterpoint for some of our readers who might not know what that is?
Sure. It's the idea of having a melody and a counter melody that work in harmony together really well. When you harmonize on guitar, usually what you would do is you would move up an interval and harmonize the exact same guitar line as the original, whereas counterpoint would have you do an entirely different melody, but it still works harmoniously with the original melody. So there's a lot of governing rules behind that and how you make that work.
Are there any examples on TH1RT3EN?
Yeah, but they're more textures buried in the background, making them hard to point out. There's a little bit of contrapuntal harmony in "Millennium of the Blind"...I'm trying to think of where else there would be as well. There were some things that we recorded, but we didn't use – they made things too complex, took away too much from the original melody.
So when you go into putting together guitar parts for a Megadeth record, making it sound like a Megadeth record is the top priority?
We'll come into the recording process and the songwriting process with all those different possibilities, whether contrapuntal or bringing in different styles of music were just presenting harmonic and rhythmic ideas. And then, of course, after you try it, you're like, "Okay. That's definitely not the correct style for this song." Or it doesn't fit the song correctly, and you put it on the back burner. Definitely all that stuff's open, but like you said, at the end of the day it has to sound like Megadeth.
Does Dave do the lion's share of the writing?
Yeah, except for, obviously, I write my solos, and sometimes the guitar melodies over the top I'll write. The countermelodies, the harmonies, things like that I'll have a big say on. Most of the rhythms are Dave.
How do you approach writing the solos? Is it more of a compositional thing or more of an instinctive thing?
It's a little bit of both. When I hear the rhythm, I usually like to loop it and solo over the top, getting the feel for the phrasing, what is going to be like, hearing it in my head. And then from there I like to think about compositional skills and how I can develop what I'm hearing. That's the ideal way. Sometimes you run into time constraints and things of that nature where you have to move a bit more quickly and you don't have all the time in the world to compose exactly what you want.
It sounds like the recording of the album went quickly. Was it quick in a good way, or in the "oh crap, we have to get this thing done" way?
A little bit of both. We did have the deadline of the fact that we were leaving for Europe to do a tour and the Big Four shows, but I don't think it was absolutely crucial that we finished the CD by then. It was a goal, and we ended up meeting that goal. For me, it was awesome, in the sense that it came out quickly and it came out well within the time that we had. Now, that being said, you can always sit there and listen to the song again and again and see if there's any marginal thing that you could do to make it just that much better, but then a lot of times that leads to second-guessing yourself. I'd say overall I'm pleased with the fact that we got it finished as quickly as we did.
Megadeth's TH1RT3EN will be in stores November 1. You can pre-order the album on CD or deluxe double picture disc vinyl at this link.