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Off the Ice... with Dave Mustaine

An exclusive interview with the American musician, singer and songwriter

by Matt Cudzinowski @canadiensmtl / canadiens.com

Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine isn't just a thrash metal heavyweight. The 56-year-old guitarist, lead singer and songwriter has a deep rooted passion for sports, too - including hockey. Over the years, Mustaine has paid his fair share of visits to Montreal and the province of Quebec on tour and on business, and developed a love for it along the way. We recently caught up with the Nashville-based superstar to learn more about his interest in the best game on ice and his affection for all things La Belle Province ahead of Megadeth's performance at Place Bell on Tuesday night. 

Megadeth has forged a special relationship with the city of Montreal over the years. Tell us about that.

DAVE MUSTAINE: I don't really know how it started, but it just was one of those things where we just kind of felt welcome, I guess. I remember the first time we went and played Hull. I hadn't been out of the States. It was my first experience being in a country where they spoke a foreign language, other than Mexico. When we finally got into the bigger cities like Montreal, and being a hockey fan, I loved it. 

There was a terrible ice storm that happened a really long time ago up there and that's where it all started. We just felt compelled to do something to help the people. We had a concert and I said that anybody who brought food or blankets to donate to the homeless, I would personally meet them and shake their hand and thank them after the show. That lasted for hours after the show. It was very, very worthwhile. We're all brothers and sisters. It was just the right thing to do.

How does a guy from California, who's been travelling the world for many, many years, suddenly take an interest in and get involved in hockey?

DM: I actually wanted to play hockey when I was younger. My mom was a maid during the day, and when she'd go to work I had to find some place to go to stay out of trouble, so I would go to the ice rink. Some of the guys who played would come in after the public session, and - besides that ungodly smell - it seemed like something I wanted to do. My best friend at the time and I started saving up money and bought a bunch of gear and we went and tried out for a team. I remember getting one pass and it hit my blade and I looked up and I got knocked on my ass. The coach said, "Son, you need power skating." I said "No, I need a smoke." (Laughs) I skated off with my wounded pride and I figured. "I'll go play guitar instead." 

What position did you play during your brief tenure out there?

DM: Face first on the ice. (Laughs) I was still trying out. I still think I wouldn't have had great skating skills. Watching some of the players from the Great White North and seeing some of the finesse players from Europe nowadays, these guys don't even look like they touch the ice anymore. I kind of liked the game back in the day when there was a little bit more brawling. That whole thing a long time ago with [Donald] Brashear, that just rocked my world. I'd never, ever seen anything like that in my life in a professional sport. When you see just really bad plays and people taking people out, going for knees and stuff like that, it just really makes me think, if I were the commissioner, I would ban the coach and the player for life. If they're going to go try to end somebody's career, we're going to end yours. That good ol' cowboy justice will straighten up a lot of sports. It would straighten up the NBA, it would straighten up the NFL - it would straighten up a lot of things.

Would you consider yourself a Habs fan? 

DM: To be honest, I don't really have a deep vocabulary of all the rosters and I was never good with names anyways. Baseball was my thing when I was a little kid and I can hardly remember any of the players' names as it is, but I do know that there was a period where, correct me if I'm wrong, didn't Patrick Roy go from the Habs to the Avalanche? He had the greatest quote one time. It was so hard to understand him when he was talking because he barely gave any interviews, so I hadn't really heard his pronunciation of stuff. Somebody had talked some **** about him and he goes, "I can't hear you because I've got all of my Stanley Cup rings in my ears." That's so funny. It's awesome. (Laughs)

That ghost lives, because when people were giving me a hard time with the Metallica fiasco at the Grammy's, when they botched their show and all of their stuff wasn't working, somebody said, "Dave, did you watch the Metallica performance? Were you backstage when that happened?" The guy was trying to see if I messed with anything back there. I was like, "No, I was too busy talking to all of the press corps with my Grammy." I kept thinking of Patrick Roy when I said that. Thanks, Patty! (Laughs)

Do you have a general appreciation for the team and it history?

DM: I just remember the building [Bell Centre]. It's a beautiful building. It's kind of a familiar haunt for me, parking underneath, climbing the stairs and going to the dressing rooms. I've become friends with a lot of the staff there, too, which is really weird because you're just some American kid coming into an arena once every three years. It's great when you make friends like that, especially with the people that work there who don't get acknowledged, the ones that are in the shadows and take care of you and make sure the dressing room is set up. It's cool to go out of your way and say thank you.

What is your favorite hockey moment?

DM: The Miracle on Ice was great. It's fun to watch the All-Star Games, too, seeing some of the technique and talent and watching how close the players really are with one another when they're laughing at each other, at their missed shots and stuff. That's the stuff that makes me think golf may be the sport of kings, but hockey's for their bodyguards. 

Over the years, you've played the Forum, Metropolis, the Verdun Auditorium, Parc Jean-Drapeau and the Bell Centre. Have you ever been to a Canadiens game in Montreal?

DM: No, I haven't. I've seen them in Arizona, and that was it. 

Is it on your list?

DM: Oh, of course. I think it would be great if we went up there for a long weekend and we got to play the next night or something. That would be the ultimate weekend package for us.

Is hockey a Mustaine family thing?

DM: Well, our son Justis played for years. He played D. When we moved to Arizona, that's one of the things that a lot of the kids got into because it was just so damn hot during the summer. Justis had the luxury of being able to play hockey with his friends indoors when the rest of the kids turned into fried eggs on the sidewalk. 

How special is it singing À Tout le Monde in Quebec?

DM: It's great. It's almost as loud as when we did it in Paris. There's always going to be an opportunity to play that song some place and explain it to somebody, the story behind it, because it's a very interesting story how the whole chorus came about. I liked the Beatles song, Michelle. I thought it was beautiful. I'd always thought about speaking French because of my French last name. I was dating a girl from up there and she spoke French, so we just kind of talked a little bit, sweet talked, and I just started learning. Eventually, the idea just came about. I had a dream about my mom, just after she died. I had a visitation and the one thing she got to do was come back and visit, but she could only say one thing, "I love you." That was the interesting thing for me, and that's what the song is about, telling my friends, "I love you all."

How did your relationship with Unibroue come about?

DM: The relationship came through our management. When it's hot during the day, I don't think about having a glass of wine, I think about having a cold beer. We started getting involved in making some beer, and it took off. We went up to Unibroue and I met Jerry Vietz, the brewmaster. We were supposed to do a festival there, in front of 80,000 people, and I missed my soundcheck because I was too busy sampling beer with him. (Laughs) Then, the beer came out and it's just been great. It's slow and steady growth, because they can only make it so fast, but the good thing is they're not waiting to make it. They make it 24/7 right now. 

You're playing Place Bell on this trip to Montreal. How exciting is it to be the first major rock show in a brand new building?

DM: I just feel welcome. What better way to express how you feel about a place than to be welcome. Don't we all want to feel welcome, as a guest? I think our job is so hard, contrary to popular belief. You're bouncing around on a bus. It's hard work. When you go into a building and see those people you know, and the lights go off, and everybody's happy, and then the lights come back on and everybody's satisfied, that's the best feeling in the world. When we play up in Montreal, it's one of those things where you walk around the venue and any place nearby there, everybody's talking about it. Montreal has always been a huge success for us, no matter who we bring. It's always a great success.

Megadeth hits the stage with Scorpion at Place Bell in Laval tonight. For ticket info, visit evenko.ca

Follow Dave in real-time via his twitter account, @DaveMustaine.

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