To some folks, “radio-friendly” is a dirty term – a phrase wielded to imply a band has abandoned any integrity and is now trying to appeal to the broadest audience possible. Several iconic bands have had this term used against them throughout the history of heavy metal, one of those being the super-talented Megadeth.
While being interviewed on The Jeremy White Show, Dave Mustaine reflected on the band’s early days, specifically their time working with producer Max Norman. Norman produced the band’s beloved 1992 album Countdown to Extinction, and would later go on to produce 1994’s Youthanasia and their 1995 EP Hidden Treasures.
What prompts Mustaine to talk about Norman is when White asks him if Megadeth was ever pressured to work with producers Bob Rock or Mutt Lange; both producers have worked with other major metal bands and have brought a polished, glitzy touch into the music they’ve worked on. In response to this Mustaine brings up Megadeth’s experience with Norman, and while doing so, mentions something really interesting about the band’s record Youthanasia. Per Mustaine (as transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):
“Some people would argue that that happened with Max Norman. I thought Max was great because he did Ozzy’s stuff. When Ozzy first went solo, ‘Diary of a Madman’ and ‘Blizzard of Ozz,’ Max Norman had done [them]. And Max mixed ‘Rust in Peace’ which was a great mix. And when we did ‘Countdown [to Extinction]’… ‘Countdown’ was our biggest record ever. So stands to reason I’m gonna think this guy is our best guy. So we did ‘Countdown’ and the next record we did was ‘Youthanasia’ and the fans started to get bummed.”
What was it about Youthanasia that got Megadeth fans “bummed”? Well, per Mustaine, he says it’s because Megadeth’s music started to take on a “radio track structure.”
Mustaine continues: “And why was that? Well, it was because the songs slowed down and they all started taking on radio track structure. Megadeth didn’t have songs that were based on verse-chorus-solo [structure]. It was beginning of the song, talking about bunch of shit, do a bunch of jam and trading solos, do like yelling at the end and then balls out to the end of the song.
“It’s kind of like what we were doing then. Then you start thinking verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, chorus, out, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, chorus, out… It’s sucking the life out of our creativity. And that’s why we made some management changes.”
Do you agree with Mustaine’s point that Megadeth got a little radi0-friendly with the release of Youthanasia? Is that a descriptor you would use to describe Megadeth today?