The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!
After the release of their 2016 album Dystopia, metal masters Megadeth went through some drastic lineup changes. First, session drummer Chris Adler (formerly of Lamb of God) was replaced by longtime Soilwork drummer Dirk Verbeuren. Then, Megadeth ringleader Dave Mustaine fired longtime bassist Dave Ellefson and brought in Testament’s Steve DiGiorgio to play on The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! “Having a new rhythm section doesn’t affect how I approach things, but it certainly changes the way things are approached,” Mustaine tells Apple Music. “When you have different people involved, there’s going to be different recording techniques and different psychology involved. In that situation, communication is one of the most important things.” Below, he comments on each song. “The Sick, the Dying ... and the Dead!” “The lyrics are about the Black Plague and how critters on a boat brought the disease onshore. It's also about that really morbid child's nursery rhyme, ‘Ring Around the Rosie’: ‘Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies.’ The ‘rosies’ were the scars on your face from the disease, and the posies were to cover up the stench of all the dead bodies everywhere. The end of it, ‘Ashes, ashes, they all fall down’: Well, everybody's falling down because they have the plague, and you have to burn the bodies. So, that sweet little nursery rhyme isn't quite so innocuous.” “Life in Hell” “The title ‘Life in Hell’ was tongue-in-cheek about To Live and Die in LA. I liked that movie, which was about somebody who was so self-absorbed that all they think about is themselves. This song ended up not being even close to what the movie is about, but [that was the initial inspiration].” “Night Stalkers” (feat. Ice-T) “This song was written about the helicopter special ops forces up in Fort Campbell. Some friends of mine were pilots there—they have since retired, but they were really important in a lot of the rescue missions and famous raids. It's a great inspiration to see people who can endure life-threatening situations and basic training that’s basically a freckle away from torture. It’s a different breed of person that’s able to endure it. Ice-T is a part of the song because he was in the military, too. When I first met him, he told me he was a ranger. I thought that was pretty badass.” “Dogs of Chernobyl” “It's basically about a relationship that ends, and the person is going through the feeling of abandonment. One moment, he's in a relationship. The next moment, the significant other is gone out of his life forever and there's no explanation. Essentially, that's what I felt when I watched the specials they had on Chernobyl. One was a sci-fi movie about these four kids that go to see the nuclear meltdown site, and they come across these dogs. I just thought about how awful it must have been to be a dog in that situation, where your caretakers just leave them. What do they do? I wrote down, ‘You left me like the dogs of Chernobyl,’ and that was the germination for the whole song.” “Sacrifice” “Years ago, I went to an after-hours party in Los Angeles. There were some famous musicians there, and one of them was wearing these expensive sunglasses. I don’t know how they ended up on the ground, but I remember seeing another guy go over and step on them. I remember thinking, ‘That’s so uncool.’ And this guy who had the sunglasses was like the Michael Jordan of guitar players, so obviously the other guy felt threatened or intimidated. ‘Sacrifice’ was inspired by a song that the guy with the sunglasses wrote many years ago.” “Junkie” “This song is about somebody who has character traits that lead them to live their life in excess. When you're just starting out in life and you get around the wrong people, you start having some areas of your life ruined. When I was little, my mom would say, ‘Show me your friends and I'll show you who you are.’ I thought, ‘Mom, stop.’ But when I looked at that sage advice from my mom, there were a lot of friends I had that needed to go. Once you make some of the necessary changes that you need to make, it makes things way better.” “Psychopathy” “‘Psychopathy’ and ‘Killing Time’ are a one-two punch. The beginning of ‘Psychopathy’ is obviously about a psychiatrist talking about the dangers of mental illness and how often people will get misdiagnosed. I’ve had a lot of things said about me because of my health when I got cancer, when I got married, when I got saved, and I've just grown accustomed to the fact that whatever I do, people are going to talk.” “Killing Time” “If I'm in a relationship with somebody, they're always going to put their best face on when we first meet. But then when stuff starts to get a little sticky, you start to see who people really are. ‘Killing Time’ has nothing to do with killing—it’s about procrastination. It’s about people who are lackadaisical and waste their time. But time is the most valuable thing we have in this world. How many beats of the heart do I have left? How many breaths I am going to take before my last? How many times will I get to say ‘I love you’ again to my wife, to my kids, to my fans? I don’t know, but I’m going to cherish every moment.” “Soldier On!” “If you look at the lyrics on this, it clearly tells you who it is [about]. If you're part of the inner circle here, if you know what's been going on over the past 10 years, you'll be able to recognize some of the shenanigans that were taking place in the band and in our presence, and sometimes behind our backs, too. ‘Soldier On!’ was one of those things where I knew that in order for me to continue to experience any happiness in the world, I was going to have to walk away from the relationship that I had. It was much like ‘Tornado of Souls.’ If I told you ‘Tornado of Souls’ is a failed relationship song, most people would say, ‘Wow, I didn’t get that,’ but it’s the truth.” “Célebutante” “I had heard Yngwie [Malmsteen] when he first came over to the United States—he was an artist that Mike Varney had signed. Back in the Metallica days, James [Hetfield] and I went over to Varney’s house to go meet this Yngwie dude. He wasn’t there, but his cabinets were. He had ‘666’ painted all over his cabinets, and I thought, ‘Oh, boy.’ I ended up meeting him later, and I think he’s a brilliant guitar player.” “Mission to Mars” “This was inspired by all the sage wisdom from TED Talks and a lot of other discussions about space travel. I remember going down to NASA in Houston because the Japanese had sent a professor into space to blow bubbles to see if bubbles were capable of being blown in zero gravity. I said, ‘You're kidding. You're spending 15 million fucking dollars to send a scientist into space on our space shuttle to blow bubbles?’ One of the astronauts’ wives heard me on the air and took exception and invited me to come down there. I don’t really know much about what I saw, but it looked like there was a bunch of stuff going on that we couldn’t even fathom. It’s exciting, the space race.” “We'll Be Back” “This is about persevering in the end. You know you can't hold me down, and no matter what, I am not going to give up. The things you can count on in this world are death, taxes, and Dave Mustaine coming through any kind of hardship.”