Nineteen years after first touring together under the "Clash of the Titans" banner, thrash metal kings Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax are reunited and back on the road, this time on the "Jagermeister Music Tour." But make no mistake: In the eyes of both the bands, it's "Clash of the Titans: Revisited."
Before the tour's opening night in Dallas (read SPIN's concert review here), Slayer's Kerry King, Megadeth's Dave Mustaine, and Anthrax's Scott Ian chatted backstage with SPIN.com about what's changed over the past two decades, an upcoming U.S. Big Four tour with Metallica, and their "timeless" sounds.
"I head-banged all day yesterday just to get myself ready," King said of his pre-tour preparation.
Nineteen years is a long time. Can you guys still party backstage like you used to?
Kerry King: I drank a lot then and I probably drink more now. You just get better at it.
Scott Ian: Well, I didn't drink then -- hardly at all. And now I kind of drink. So I drink now more than I did 19 years ago.
Dave Mustaine: I hardly drink at all. The party, for me, is just playing with these guys. We've all grown up from the first time we did the Clash tour. When we did Big Four tour in Europe with Metallica, it was really cool to see the bond, like, "Look at all we've survived. Look at all we've created. Look at how we've changed the world." And it really started to sink in how the four of us have really changed history -- not only with playing, but with the whole lifestyle that goes along with it, too.
What's it like to be back touring together in the states?
KK: Europe was cool. But this is a whole other monster because it's just us three. We've done this tour before, so it's like a sequel almost 20 years later. That's cool because some of the fans who are going to be here weren't even alive then.
Have you guys been getting nostalgic?
DM: No. This music is really popular right now, and we're the best at what we do. There's a very small group of us that play like this, so when we all get together, it's basically getting the cream of the crop. And for us to say that it's like nostalgia, then that would be kind of corny, like we're Styx or REO Speedwagon. We're still relevant. We still have young people that are attracted to our music. It's not like we have old fuckers coming here!
SI: Our 25-year-old music is better than anything else. And we play it better than we've ever played it before. It still opens doors and still breaks down doors, and, other than a few bands in the last 25 years that have also achieved amazing successes and made great records, who is better than us? I'm not trying to be a dick when I say that. It's what I truly believe. And there are generations of kids that never got to see it -- not the first time around. We're playing songs that are just timeless.
DM: With the same solos in them!
SI: Yeah, they're just timeless.
Why tour together now? Was the rumored feud between Dave and Kerry on the first "Clash of the Titans" tour a problem?
DM: We've played together several times in recent years. But it's only that this is the time where all three of us had the time lined up where we can all go down the same path. And it's cool for us, but it's not like there was some kind of weird thing that was keeping us from doing it. Even though I had said some bad stuff -- and, of course, it was regrettable and I've made amends [Mustaine and King publicly feuded in the mid-90s] -- but that still didn't keep us from playing together. We still recognized that it's good business for us to play together. So, me growing up a lot, that's made it a lot easier for us to get together and play. But that was then and this is now. We're a lot wiser, we're definitely a lot more successful, and, when you get to a certain level like that, you really can step out of your role and look around you and see that you've really helped people. And it's a really good feeling. You know, some guy in Europe came up to us and he had this tattoo of Kerry. His whole back was this huge masterpiece of red and yellow and orange ink -- which does not come out good on skin -- and it was unbelievable.
Did it do you justice, Kerry?
KK: Well, y'know, he said it wasn't done yet. But it was good. And he was proud of it. And it was a fucking big-ass back piece.
DM: It was huge.
[Kerry pulls out his iPhone and pulls up a picture of the guy's back.]
KK: That's a big-ass tattoo!
DM: Yeah, that's it!
Do you think that being with one another steps your game up? Do you have to perform at a higher level?
DM: It makes me want to play better because I'm with two bands that I really dig and that are really great bands. I get excited.
SI: That's the best way I could put it, too.
DM: I'll blab about this for ten minutes trying to get across my point, but I just get really excited about it.
SI: Yeah, it definitely makes me want to elevate my game. It's just more exciting to know I'm getting onstage tonight in Dallas tonight with Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer than it was at our warm-up show in Oklahoma City last night with a bunch of local bands. We still had a great show, but there's an excitement level that starts today that, of course, I didn't have last night. I'm definitely more pumped.
So who puts on the best show?
DM: The best live show that I've ever seen is Slayer. Their energy is just over the top. We try to play our best. But, as far as the energy and stuff, I've never seen anybody do what Kerry and Slayer can do.
KK: We're all totally different animals. I call Megadeth nerd metal -- not detrimentally, but they're guitar geeks. They blow away the guitar geeks. They're very good at what they do. And then you have guitar geeks come look at us, and they're like, "Yeah, it's kind of heavy." But the intricacies of the leads and stuff? C'mon, that's Megadeth's specialty. We're just angry and throwing and spitting aggression. All four band (including Metallica) started from one place and evolved into a four-headed monster. There's four very different things happening.
DM: Same body; four different heads. That's a great way to put it.
Who's the best guitarist on this tour?
KK: It's got to be either Dave or [Megadeth guitarist Chris] Broderick.
SI: Yeah, I'd say either Dave or Rob [Caggiano] from our band. From a pure technical standpoint as players, they're insane. It's just like they're using a whole other language that I could never even learn.
DM: Everyone's such a talent. Kerry's right hand is just so fast and articulate. And Scott has all these melodies. Everybody has their own niche. Chris Broderick is a better guitar player than I am because he's learned -- I don't know the names of the scales or any of that shit. I'm self-taught, and to a degree that's what makes all us as raw as we are. I remember when Kerry and I played together -- Kerry was in Megadeth for a while when we couldn't secure another guitar player -- and just the two of us playing together, it was just so cool. We were from two different worlds, but we were converging on this new style. And I knew that something was going to happen. When Kerry came over and helped us out -- those concerts are legendary. Watch them on YouTube. The filming is shit. But the concerts were legendary.
SI: You've got all these guys with just amazing right hands on this tour. The rhythm capabilities of everyone is second-to-none.
Do you guys remember when you all first met?
SI: Dave and I met in New York. One day he came up to New York with Metallica. They were basically coming up to live in this squat that was also rehearsal rooms, and we had a room there, and our manager was like, "Hey, can you take care of these guys? If they need anything, help them out." We met right away. I think I met Kerry at a Mercyful Fate show in, like, 1985.
KK: We could've!
SI: I can't remember.
KK: I can't remember when I met Scott. But, Dave, it had be when I went to audition. Either that or at the B.C. Rich Factory.
DM: There was a whole bunch of guys over at B.C. Rich -- that place, back in the day, was party central. I remember going back there and Tony Iommi and Rick Derringer were there and everybody was partying [makes snorting motion], and I was just like, "Woah." And for me to have said that back then? That's pretty crazy. But I remember the first time I went to Kerry's house. He was building a belt. Kerry's sitting on the floor in this suburban house, perfectly normal, and he's hammering nails through a big piece of leather, knocking a Pentagram into it. I was just like, "What the hell is going on here?" It was crazy.
What's the status of a North American Big Four tour [the trek hit Europe this summer, with the concerts broadcast to select U.S. movie theaters]?
SI: We all want to do it. Absolutely. America deserves it.
DM: Well, we've got the Big Three-Quarters right now.
SI: America deserves it. We played seven shows in Europe and you've got four American bands. We have to play in the United States.
KK: The funny thing is when you've got your wife and your friends -- and they have to go see your show in a fucking movie theater?
[All three laugh]
KK: I mean, c'mon!