Interview by Jeff Treppel
Megadeth’s upcoming CD, TH1RT3EN, is drummer Shawn Drover's third with the band (he joined in 2004, along with his guitarist brother Glen), and it's a great vehicle for him to demonstrate facility in a variety of styles; there's some thrashy material as furious as anything on 2009’s Endgame, but there's a lot of melodic, anthemic music, too, like first single "Public Enemy No. 1." We reached out to Shawn to find out how he feels about playing with prodigal bassist Dave Ellefson, what he feels he brings to classic Megadeth material onstage, and more.
(This is the second in a four-part series of interviews with all four members of Megadeth, leading up to the release of TH1RT3EN on November 1.)
How do you feel the Big Four show at Yankee Stadium went?
It was awesome! We're the first hard rock/metal bands that have ever played Yankee Stadium as far as I know. I know Eminem and Jay-Z had played Yankee Stadium previously, but as far as I know we are the first metal bands to play Yankee Stadium, so that in itself is quite an achievement and quite a great thing for metal. The show itself was fantastic, the place was packed—it's Yankee Stadium, you know? I wouldn't even put that on my bucket list, it's such a monumental thing that I didn't think I would ever play something like that in my lifetime. Madison Square Garden, yes, of course we've played that, but Yankee Stadium was quite an honor, I've gotta say.
How did recording TH1RT3EN compared to your previous experiences doing Megadeth records?
It's weird—speaking for myself, but I think I can say that for pretty much everybody, the record was a very easy process. I'm not really sure why. Everything went very smoothly, we just rolled along and got things done at a very quick pace. We had about nine weeks between tours to record this record, and we really pulled it off. We're ecstatic about the results of the record. We think it's a great record, and we hope the fans will as well. I think the biggest difference between this and United Abominations, Endgame before it, and so on and so forth, is how easy it was. There is no special reason why. Everything just seemed to click. Songs came together very well and very effortlessly, and it was just a really enjoyable record for us to make. Certainly on my behalf, that's for sure.
Did having David Ellefson back after a long absence contribute to that ease?
You know, I don't think that contributed to the record being easier. He had a lot of input on the riffs we used, but we all did, we all fed off of each other. Dave [Mustaine] has such a library of riffs that he's recorded on tour, riffs that we've recorded on previous tours. He just keeps everything on file, so he's got such an abundance of riffs, partial songs, finished songs, all sorts of things he can choose from that we never have an issue like, “oh, we don't have enough material.” We always have more than enough material. Which is a great thing to have. So it's not the reason the record was easier to make, but I'll tell you what, it was great being on a record, for me personally, with both Daves. He was one of the ones that started the band, and having him back in the band and back on the record is certainly a great thing in my opinion. I'm loving it. We get along very well, and I'm glad he's back in the band.
Did you find it easy to establish the chemistry with him as the other half of the rhythm section?
Yeah. We clicked. It's funny, the first time David came down to Arizona to rehearse with us, this was just before the Rust in Peace tour that we were going to do—and I've met him several times before, but this was the first time we'd ever gotten in a room and jammed together and stuff. He plugged in, and we started playing tunes, and right away everything just locked in. Not that it was any better or any worse with James LoMenzo or James MacDonough, they were fantastic as well, but there was something about performing with someone who was on those records and performed the original bass parts. For the most part, I'm emulating other drummers and trying to bring their nuances to songs that I haven't played on. It was cool to play with someone who had played on pretty much all the records for the first 20 years of the band, to play all those old classics again and have the original bass player and guitar player play on that stuff.
When you play songs from before your tenure in the band, do you try to emulate them as closely as possible or do you try to throw in some of your own identity?
I keep a pretty close. There are certain things here or there, certain things I feel are not as important—like if there is a certain drumroll on a song, or something that's really integral to the song, I would never change anything like that. But there are a few things here or there where I try to add a little of my own flavor to it while not deterring from the original recording. We try to keep things as close as you can get to the original recording. It's almost impossible to have everything note perfect and jump around on stage and headbang and all that crazy stuff. I try to keep it as close as I can just out of respect to the previous drummers and out of respect to the fans who want to hear stuff close to the record.
When writing the new material, do you come up with the drum parts yourself?
In the studio, it's a collaborative effort. When we are tracking, I'll get in there and play a track to it, and then we'll listen to it—myself, the producer, and Dave—we'll all sit down and talk about it, and sometimes they'll have ideas like "why don't you add to this part, or why don't you do this instead of that" and we talk about it. If I feel very strongly about something, and I know the way that I played it is better than the way that they're suggesting, I'll speak up about it. But in the end, it's a collaborative effort. It all stems from the track that I lay down, we just change certain parts. Sometimes we change parts more than others, and some we barely change it at all from my original idea. At the end of the day, it's a collaborative effort between the three of us. I look at it as three heads are better than one, because sometimes they'll come up with an idea that's better than the one I originally had in mind. At the end of the day, we want to service the song. I want the song to be as good as possible and play what the song requires.
Megadeth's TH1RT3EN will be in stores November 1, but you can pre-order it now on CD or deluxe double picture disc vinyl at this link.