As anyone who has ever poured their heart and soul into a project will tell you, it’s important to be recognized for your work.
While potential accolades hardly make for a good reason to do your best, a little appreciation from time to time goes a long way.
Most artists are driven by forces outside of conventional normality. Something primal inside each of them moves the hand to create. Art is personal exorcism and those who are the best in their fields usually do it because nothing else in the world makes any sense. There is a metaphoric pressure valve of sorts inside every artist who is worth their salt. If that pressure isn’t released, they will explode. In that regard, creation is about self preservation and survival.
By and large, heavy metal musicians understand that the fruits of their labor will only appeal to a small segment of the global population. The antagonistic nature of the genre stands in defiance of polite society, with a distinct awareness that this is music for outsiders, by outsiders.
For instance, the Grammy Awards didn’t recognize heavy metal as an entity until 1989, and even then Metallica lost out to the folk rock band Jethro Tull. Disappointing as that was, it fit with the bleak and repressive cultural standards of the day.
Over the years, the Grammys have become more accepting of heavy music. That doesn’t mean that everyone always got their rightful dues, though. In the case of Megadeth, the thrash legends were nominated nine times before finally winning in 2016 for Dystopia.
Speaking to Billboard at the time, frontman and mastermind Dave Mustaine said that was feeling “A little bit of everything, obviously the gratitude of being recognized, but also the disappointment lingering from the years where they’ve given the award to somebody that didn’t belong in that category.”
Megadeth was in good company that year as far as the Heavy Metal category went, with nü-metal legends Korn also being nominated as well as Gojira, Baroness and Periphery. Mustaine spoke of his admiration for Korn in particular, saying: “When they were just coming out with their first record, we took them out on one of their first national tours, and we’ve been friends ever since.
I just think it was really terrific for us, when we received it, to be there with people that have been part of the struggle, for lack of a better word. People that have been there and in some way or capacity have contributed to us getting that Grammy.”
Mustaine’s good spirits and general pragmatism around the Grammy win were particularly admirable, given the house band’s ultimate faux pas upon the Megadeth win. Unbeknownst to anyone then, they broke out into a cover of “Master Of Puppets,” a classic song by Mustaine’s former band and notorious rivals, Metallica. He took it all in stride, playing air guitar to the ill-advised track as Megadeth approached the podium.
“They could have played any song by anybody, and it wouldn’t have mattered because that was our moment,” said Mustaine. “I could see the correlation with [the band] who would think, ‘Oh, Megadeth, Metallica, we don’t know any Megadeth, but we do know this one Metallica song, so let’s play this. You think he’ll get mad? I don’t think so, let’s hope not. Hit it, Lefty!’ And then we get up there and go, ‘Boy, that was the worst fucking version of “Master of Puppets” I’ve ever heard.’ But that kind of stuff, you’ve just won a Grammy and you’re going to worry about some house band doing a cover song in the background?”