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Monday
Aug062012

Megadeth - Shawn Drover

Megadeth is perhaps the most overlooked group in Metal today.  While founder and frontman Dave Mustaine's previous band, Metallica, has achieved more mainstream success, Megadeth (for the most part) have always stuck to their guns.  After almost 30 years, Megadeth continues to wage their war against the politically corrupt and unjust with an arsenal of metalic fury.  Firing the percussive artillery for the group is drummer Shawn Drover.  Drover has the second longest tenure of any drummer in the band, as apparently he seems to know what works and what doesn't.  Speaking to Shawn Drover was rather refreshing, as you can hear in his voice that still enjoys what he does for a living, as he comes across very upbeat and enthusiastic.  In our conversation with Shawn, we touched upon many topics, from touring to recording, and to what it takes to keep your job in a band that goes through many personnel changes.  Hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did conducting it.
 
RockMusicStar:  These days, the biggest topic of discussion for live bands is the set list that they perform.  While struggling between satisfying the diehard fans and appeasing the masses, a lot of bands get stuck in the rut of playing repetitive 'greatest hits' type sets.  How does Megadeth go about choosing the 'right' set list?
 
Shawn Drover:  That's a good question.  We kind of minorly juggle the set list every night.  Sometimes you have different time slots.  Sometimes it depends on who you're touring with.  If you play with Slayer and Anthrax and Testament, or something like that, we may kind of pull out some more thrashier tunes.  Where if we tour with somebody else who's not as thrashy, that could have us veer in a different direction.  That being said, you have to play the classics.  You have to play "Symphony," "Holy Wars," "Peace Sells." And you also have to support the new record, which we're playing 3 songs, pretty much every night, from.  When you have 13 records, with as many songs that we have, it's a difficult thing to do.  
 
RMS:  With so many bands who play the same set list year after year, it's good to hear that Megadeth is willing to try to switch it up when the opportunity arises.
 
SD:  Well, ultimately, you can't make everyone happy.  We know that, but you have to cater to the masses.  That's why the bands play what people know.  I'm not talking about the hardcore, psycho fans, who know every song better than we do.  While we love them, you have to think about the just, everyday kind of person, who wants to go to a show and rock out in the summertime, in an amphitheater.  If you're Lynyrd Skynyrd, and you don't play "Freebird," people are going to freak out. 
 
RMS:  Right.  But it's nice to see a band like Megadeth can play the classics, and you're still willing to rotate in lesser known songs and play songs from your most recent records.
 
SD:  There's actually more classics that we can play, but we say, "OK.  What songs do we have to play?"  We'll play those 6 or 7 seven songs, whatever it is, depending on the length of the set.  If the set is 75 minutes, then maybe one of those songs has got to go.  Because we're going to promote our new record no matter what.  Even if we have only an hour time slot, we're gonna play at least 2 songs from the new record.  Which means, one of those classics may not be able to be played that night.  It's extremely difficult for us to pick the perfect set list, because utimately you can't make everybody happy.  But we certainly try.
 
RMS:  I'd like to discuss your most recent CD, "TH1RT3EN" and the last 2 CDs before that ("United Abominations" and "Endgame").  I really think these records bring the band to a new level.  A trinity of greatness, if you will.  However, what I really like about "TH1RT3EN" versus the other 2 records, is the production of the CD.  It seems like with "United Abominations" and "Endgame," there was such an emphasis on being so percise, the way that they were produced, at times some of the songs came off sounding kind of robotic.  Whereas, "TH1RT3EN" sounds much more raw and brutal by comparison.  Do you find that there is a fine line between being precise and where the music can start sounding robotic?
 
SD:  "Robotic," I wouldn't say that's the correct word to use.  When you're recording today, it's obviously different than it was 20 years ago.  You're dealing with protools now, and everything as a whole is much more precise now.  You can move things around and you can take 'that piece' from 'that take.'  There are so many things that you can do.  Having said that, we really don't abuse the system.  We really try to make it as organic as possible.  But we really try to make it as good and tight as we can.  I don't know if "TH1RT3EN" is less precise than "United" or "Endgame," but the songs are a little different.  There's not quite as many fast and furious tunes, with all kinds of tempo changes.  Some of these songs like "Wrecker" or "Whose Life"....."Whose Life" kind of has a little more of punky vibe, which may attribute to some of the 'looseness' you're implying that this record has.  We also had a different producer this time around.  Every producer brings in a different element.  I love Andy Sneap (who produced "United Abominations" and "Endgame").  He's a great producer, and he's a good friend to all of us in the band.  He does an amazing job and leaves his stamp on his product.  Johnny K ("TH1RT3EN" producer) does too.  I think if you go back to our catalog and listen to all of our different producers and stuff, the good ones kind of leave their mark a little bit on everything.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  What we do, is we try to make our best record, every time.  The best songs we can write, the best lyrics, the best performances, so on and so forth.
 
RMS:  You have a very unique drumming style.  You're left handed, but you play a right handed drum set up, using an open handed drumming technique.  Your style is also very controlled, as you don't flip your hair around or twirl your drum sticks, or any of that.  You don't seem to expend any useless energy.  Did you always play in this controlled type style or did you develop it over time?
 
SD:  Maybe when I was younger, I twirled the sticks and all that.  I was little more flamboyant when I was younger.  This situation calls for a lot of control.  A lot of these tunes are difficult to play.  You can't be flailing drum sticks, and throwing them behind your back and catching them in your teeth when you're playing "Take No Prisoners."  Like (for example) Tommy Lee is fantastic.  A great drummer and real flamboyant and that stuff.  You can really do that kind of stuff in Motley Crue.  It's a lot of groove orientated stuff and it's great, and he's a great drummer.  For me, there's a lot more frantic stuff going on, which requires a lot of control and a lot of focus.  My job is to play to the best of my ability.  That's just how I roll.  Look at Charlie (Benante) from Anthrax.  He's not throwing sticks behind his back and all that stuff either, because he's got all that stuff going on.  I think it all depends on the situation.  
 
RMS:  Megadeth has gone through several drummers over the years, but you've been in the band for about 8 years, almost as long as Nick Menza.  What do you fell you've done different than others to stay in this band as long as you have?
 
SD:  I think Dave and I share a lot of the same visions about what we want for the band.  Bottom line is, this is Dave's band.  If you think you're going to go in and take over the situation, you're not going to last real long.  Dave's real militant about how he wants things done.  He wants everything done to the best of everyone's capabilities, but so do I.  I want that as well.  I'm not here to be a hack.  I'm here to make this unit, in this organization, the best that it can be.  We share a lot of the same vision on that.  Once you have that, it becomes quite easy to get along.  I know what my role is in this band and I'm quite happy with my role.
 
RMS:  A lot of people perceive Dave Mustaine to be like a totalitarian dictator, is that at all accurate or does Dave get a bad rap?
 
SD:  No.  I think a lot of stuff is just perpetuated from the press.  Stuff that happened 25-30 years ago.  Like I said, Dave knows what he wants with this organization, and that's a good thing.  You have to have someone with a vision.  Somebody has to be the guy who makes decisons and has a vision, has that 3 year/5 year plan.  With going forward, with what they're going to do.  For my situation, I think it's great that this is Dave's band, because he knows what he wants and he's been doing this for almost 30 years.  Obviously, he must be doing something right, to maintain the level that this band is at.  You have to respect that.  All that stuff that's said in the press, I don't care about any of that crap.  Sometimes, interviewers don't even do the research to talk about the latest record like you are.  You're asking great questions.  Often, a lot of these people wanna dredge up that stuff from the past and are not even asking about anything current.
 
RMS:  I wanted to get your perspective on the return of Dave Ellefson to the band.  I feel he really came back at the perfect time, coinciding with the anniversary of "Rust In Peace."  With that album being so bass guitar orientated, with having 'Dave Jr.' back, it really added a lot of authenticity to the sound, with him back, and playing those songs.
 
SD:  The situation was sheer coincidence to be honest.  It was a situation where we were supposed to do a lot of touring with Slayer, and Tom (Araya) messed up his back and his neck, and he had to have surgery.  So we were kind of left with a situation of where we could either go home, and hang out at home for the next 2-3 months, before the next leg of the tour starts, or do something a little bit different.  It was suggested by management to do something for the 25th anniversary of "Rust In Peace."  At the same time, Dave had wanted to make a member change.  So it was kind of presented that we just need to get another bass player.  When I received this information, with this "Rust In Peace" thing, rehearsals were just beginning to get under way.  In my mind, you just can't replace James Lomenzo, with just 'some guy.'  A lot of our fans really embraced James as a great player, and really a great person.  So I kind of took it upon myself to get in touch with David Ellefson.  And I did, and I asked him flat out, and said, "Look man, if you're ever thinking of coming back, you need to tell me right now.  And I don't mean 'right now' like next week.  I mean like 'right now,' now on the phone."  He had to ponder it real quickly, and then I had to talk to Dave (Mustaine) about it.  Because of their past and stuff, there was stuff that needed to be ironed out.  My greedy little mind was like, "Ya know what? They'll work that out.  Screw it.  It will be worked out somehow.  Let's just get David back in the band, and all will be well in the universe."  I kind of got my grubby little way and it worked out great.  I didn't just do it for myself to be honest, I did it for the fans too.  I knew that's what the fans want.  So there ya go.  Here we are over 2 years later and it's been great!