Dave Mustaine is feeling pretty good. In the fall of 2011, Mustaine had surgery for a bone fragment that had lodged in his spine.
"My surgeon was the same one who did Tennessee's beloved Peyton Manning, and I was walking right away and able to start playing right away," says Mustaine, in a call while driving.
He says he was disappointed that the surgeon didn't save the fragment.
"I wanted to make it into a necklace — something really gross, but they had to do a biopsy on it. I just thought, 'I coulda' eBayed that thing!'"
Preparing to go back on tour with his longtime group Megadeth, he is cheerful and amiable. It's a far cry from the Mustaine with the drug problems and with running feuds with Metallica, the band he co-founded in 1981, and Slayer guitarist Kerry King, who once guested with Megadeth.
Megadeth formed in 1983, after Mustaine was booted from Metallica, reportedly for excessive alcohol and drug use. Megadeth became one of the early stars of the thrash metal movement. The group's 1990 album "Rust In Peace" is considered one of the classics of the genre. Through the years, the group has had a number of ups, downs, member changes, and, of course, controversy.
"It's no longer an issue," says Mustaine.
He finally beat his drug and alcohol problems in the early 2000s. One of the tools used by people in 12-step programs is to make "One Year" lists — lists of things participants hope to accomplish during a first year of sobriety. Mustaine recently ran across a list he'd made several years ago.
"I had written: Be friends with Kerry King again. Make up with Metallica, to play again on tour with Metallica and make up with my old band."
Mustaine says that he and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich have always been close despite how it looked in the press.
"When Lars and I started talking again (during the making of the "Some Kind of Monster" documentary shooting) I really started to become aware, 'We are friends.'"
In September 2011, he accomplished the rest of the goals on that list.
"I had never thought I was gonna get on stage and play with Metallica, but on their 30th anniversary they asked me to come up and play with them. ... There's just something magical about when James (Hetfield) and I play together and when Lars and I would talk about what we wanted to do, our dreams, our goals. It felt like we were kids again getting ready to drink vodka and play old Diamond Head songs."
He also made up with King and the two, who are both Oakland Raiders fans, enjoy texting each other on Sundays while watching football.
Mustaine's born-again Christianity has sometimes become an issue in his music. He has sometimes refused to play on the bill with anti-Christian groups and he was recently in the news as being a rocker supporting Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, although he more recently said his support did not mean an endorsement.
He says he's most happy now about being in the position to help fund humanitarian work through his church and World Vision.
He's also sometimes surprised at how well-known he and Megadeth have become.
"My wife says I am the only person who doesn't realize how popular I am. My manager is pretty amused by it, too. We'll go places and people will know who I am and I'll be, 'I had no idea.'
I tell 'em you don't understand I had three sisters who picked on me my whole life and that whole trauma, whether it was self-imposed or not, and that purgatory that I ended up in during that whole thing departing from my previous band, that really had affected my esteem. I thought I was a good guitar player, but I didn't think anybody cared. The streets are littered with good guitar players. It takes a very special breed to be a good guitar player and be successful. The problem with guitar players is that they have mouths and they open them!"
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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