Megadeth's Chris Broderick: Shredding is his business

Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick

March 20, 2010

Chris Broderick follows a long line of Megadeth guitarists, but judging from the constant praise that mainman Dave Mustaine bestows upon him, it seems that Chris should be around for long time. With a degree in classical guitar musical performance, he began his career with the power metal band Jag Panzer and also spent time in Nevermore (who appeared on Megadeth's 2005 Gigantour). When guitarist Glen Drover left Megadeth in 2008, Chris' time began.

2009's Endgame was Broderick's recording debut with the band and his technical thrash playing and solo trade-offs with Mustaine cover the disc from start to finish.

In March 2010 Megadeth embarked on the month long Rust In Peace 20th anniversary tour. Fans all know who the guitarist was on that album, so how would Broderick be recieved? Does he feel the pressure from fans that clamor for Marty Friedman and the Rust In Peace lineup?'s Jeff and Greg Maki sat down with Broderick backstage at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Md., prior to Megadeth's ill-fated show that ended after just three songs on March 16, 2010.

Jeff Maki: Does it feel at all strange doing an anniversary tour for an album that you didn’t have any part in making?

Chris Broderick: I think if you step back, you can take that view with it. But no. I go in and I do my job. I look at what I have to play and try to do the original composer as much justice as possible. That’s really my view on it. I try to present it as well as I can.

Jeff: Especially with this Rust in Peace tour and now with Ellefson back in the band, fans are always clamoring for the Rust in Peace lineup. Do any of these things bother you?

No. I can totally understand why people would want the original lineup back in the band, because it’s kind of what they grew up with. When they think of Rust in Peace, they think of that lineup of people. But in my mind, what is the original? Because it’s gone through so many incarnations, and in a way, I think it could potentially have been some of the rebirth of Megadeth in the first place, because each person—no matter how big or how little of a part they may have in the writing of a CD or something like that—you kind of put your fingerprint on it and you kind of give it your own little style. I know for the Rust in Peace thing, it’s Marty’s CD. But if you look at the full course of Megadeth, you can’t just see one guitarist in there.

Jeff: How did Ellefson rejoining the band affect you, personally and musically?

Well, to tell you the truth, I know [former bassist] James [Lomenzo] really well. He’s a great bass player, a good guy. But when Ellefson came in, for me it was so quick. He stepped in and just started playing the songs, and it was just like when I joined. It was, “OK, let’s get down to work.” So we did. We just started hunkering down and playing the songs, and since then I’ve gotten to know Dave and he’s a great guy, as well. For me, it’s just one more great musician I’ve gotten to play with now. It’s awesome.

Greg Maki: How much rehearsal was involved for the Rust in Peace album and which songs were the hardest to learn?

The amazing thing is, we had a lot of rehearsal time for this tour, and that’s never happened before. Even when I joined, I was rehearsing the songs a lot, but when it came to the full band getting together, it was like one or two days. With this tour, I think we were together probably for a little over two weeks—something like that, somewhere along those lines. As far as the difficulty of the different songs, I’d have to say when I originally learned the first five songs that I know off of Rust in Peace, like “Tornado of Souls” and “Holy Wars,” as being the most difficult because one, I had no experience with Marty Friedman’s playing, and two, it was so under the gun—I had so much more material to get down. Now that I’ve had time to experience his playing and see what he’s like, to go back and learn “Poison Was the Cure” and “Lucretia,” and just kind of relax with those solos, they’re fun. They’re just fun to play. I love “Lucretia.” It’s probably my favorite solo to play right now.

Greg: I know all the fans coming out aren’t 35, 40 years old. You’ve got kids, teenagers, people who weren’t even alive when Rust in Peace came out. What is it like playing those songs for them and interacting with them?

To me, it’s funny to step back and think about that because I see a kid where the CD is older than they are and they’re so into it, and it’s like they’ve grown up on it their whole lives, as well. The only thing I’m thinking usually when I see that, especially when I’m onstage, is I try and feed off their energy. If they’re really into it, it only helps me be that much more into it. I appreciate it to no end.

Greg: At the European festivals coming up, the so-called “Big Four” [Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax] are playing. Are you excited about that? What are your thoughts on that?

I’m excited about it, of course. But my thing is, I’m always just trying to work on my performance, and so I really try to narrow my focus to that all the time. So whether we’re playing in front of a club crowd or whether we’re playing in front of 60,000 people or whatever, my focus is still pretty much the exact same. I want people who come to a small show to see something that’s as good as something that you could see anywhere. That’s my focus.

Jeff: Were you a fan of Testament and Exodus? You’re not really from the thrash scene, so what is it like being in the whole—

It’s kind of cool. It’s like a new introduction to me because it’s got its own kind of culture and its own kind of social group that it belongs to. I think it’s really cool, especially when you think of Bay Area thrash. It’s in-your-face, loud guitars, blast beats on the drums and the same thing with the vocals, just in your face. So I actually like it a lot. It’s a little bit different from where I came from, which was kind of like everything from classical to jazz to the very virtuosic guitarists that Shrapnel would record. So that’s kind of where my roots lie.

Greg: You’re a very schooled musician. You’ve got a music degree. So how did you end up in metal from that background?

Gigantour 2008

The funny thing is, there are aspects of each type of music that draw me to it. For classical, it was its compositional excellence and its beauty and its elegance and stuff like that. With metal, it was just totally almost like the opposite of that, in a way, where whatever goes, whatever happens. I love jazz because of its harmonic density and flamenco because it’s like classical but with fire behind it. I have all these little labels for reasons why I like different styles of music, but it’s funny because within each genre I’m very picky about the artist. What it comes down to me in the end is that you always have to have an artist that is competent at what they do for me to like it. If I hear something that sounds like they’re doing it just because it’s what they’re technically allowed, then I generally won’t like it.

Greg: Of those different styles that you’ve played, which would you say is the most challenging?

You’ll never master any of them. I could practice 12 hours a day on my electric guitar for the next 60 years and I still wouldn’t be where I wanted to be on the electric. And the same thing for the classical. So it doesn’t really matter.

Greg: Obviously, Megadeth is keeping you busy, but do you have any aspirations to record and do things in those other styles?

Oh yeah. Yeah, definitely. But my thing is amalgamation. I love to try and blend those ideas and put them in a song or on a CD at least. I think every style of music needs climaxes and ebbs and tides in its flow. So that definitely helps, kind of like a film score or something like that.

Jeff: A few weeks after Endgame was released, Mustaine was publicly displeased with the album’s promotion. I don’t want to get you in trouble with the label or anything. Did you share that sentiment at the time and what are your feelings now?

Well, again, that’s an area where I don’t really have much expertise in a way, because I wasn’t really keeping tabs on how much they were advertising it, how much magazine time they were giving it, how much airplay they were trying to push for it or any of that. So I can’t really speak to that. Yeah, that’s simply it for that question.

Greg: What was the experience like writing and recording with this band and Dave Mustaine?

It was awesome. We started the process with just kind of submitting our own ideas, each of us, from [drummer] Shawn [Drover] to James to myself—and, of course, Dave, right? [laughter] He might’ve submitted one or two. But at any rate, we all started with that process, and then we started weeding down what sounded the most Megadeth. And, of course, Dave—you can’t go to a better guy to sound like Megadeth, right? So most of his material was on the CD, but both Shawn and I had a little bit of a role in a couple of the songs. The coolest thing about it was, when we were recording, we would work on some riffs or parts of songs that we had an idea on and we’d actually be able to record it and then sit back and listen to it and say, “Let’s double that chorus” or “Let’s transpose that chorus up a whole step”—anything—“Let’s make this part faster, that part slower”—and kind of bounce ideas off each other in the construction of the song process at that point. That’s a luxury I’ve never had because in the prior projects I did, it was always you had to know exactly what you were going to record before you went in because you had such a finite amount of time to record, and usually even then you’re struggling to be able to get what you wanted down. So that was awesome.

Jeff: You hear all this talk about Dave Mustaine and his hired guns. You’ve been in the band a while now. At this point, do you truly feel like a part of Megadeth, a full-fledged member of Megadeth?

Definitely. It’s one of those things where you have the 90 days when you get a job. I feel like I’ve been through that, and we’re looking at the long term at this point in time. And to tell you the truth, again, I’ve always felt so busy in this project that I haven’t even had time to consider that one way or the other. I do what I come to do. I play the guitar and that’s it.

Jeff: You’re obviously hoping to finish your career with the band. Have there been any discussions with that?

I’ll leave that up to Dave because he’s talked sometimes about the next CD being his last one and then he’s talked about continuing on. So you never know where things may go with his mindset. But as long as he is making CDs, I plan to be there.