Megadeth frontman and founder Dave Mustaine isn't sure why Rock the Vote, MTV's political program, chose him to be a correspondent for the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York.
"Maybe because I'm a college nerd incognito with hippie hair," he said in a recent phone interview from Holland, where his band is touring. "I think it was primarily because I'm politically aware and I know what's going on for young people."
Megadeth's fifth and most recent album, Countdown to Extinction, is the heavy metal band's most political record to date. Foreclosure of a Dream deals with Reaganomics while Symphony of Destruction records global war and the fall of world powers.
More personal songs such as Sweating Bullets and Skin O' My Teeth deal with Mustaine's recovery from heroin and cocaine addiction. A former member of Metallica, Mustaine was forced to find a new drummer and guitarist when Megadeth members Chuck Behler and Jeff Young would not seek drug counseling as well. Only bassist Dave Ellefson remains. With a new lineup including Nick Menza (drums) and Marty Friedman (guitar), Megadeth regularly sees a group therapist which, Mustaine says, helps the band stay cohesive as well as being intellectually stimulating.
Therapy wasn't quite necessary to prepare for convention, but it might have helped."The convention kind of made me feel like a bulimic," he says. "I completely binged on the excitement, and when I realized what I had done, I wanted to puke. Here I am, an anarchist, a rebellious man in the pit of snakes wondering, "Did I do anything? Did anything come of it?'
Despite the anxiety, Mustaine says convention coverage turned out to be a rewarding experience. Though, it didn't help when one Rock the Vote, official told him "the fate of America is in your hands."'
"I said, "Where's my Superman suit?' I felt like Captain America," Mustaine quips.
Though MTV's Rock the Vote effort has drawn criticism from those who say the station is trivializing the political process, Mustaine counters, "If it's a fad, they've started it off on a high note. If anything's been detrimental with MTV, it was having people that were kind of ignorant associated with its program in the beginning _ people who don't know how old you have to be to vote, people who aren't registered or having 40-year-olds speak for youth of America. Even I feel kind of old speaking for these young people," says Mustaine, who's 31.
Mustaine says that he has been politically outspoken for a long time, but, "I've just started to get some credibility for the art and music community. I'm not saying anything different," he says. "I just say it. Other people feel the same way, they just don't say it."
Megadeth at Lakeland Civic Center at 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20.25, available through Ticketmaster (which adds a service charge). For information call the Lakeland Civic Center at (813) 686-7126.