Dave Mustaine Explains What Makes a Good Band Leader, Speaks Up on Working with Teemu Mäntysaari

According to Megadeth mastermind and frontman Dave Mustaine, there’s one trait that makes for a great band leader — it’s all about giving other members of the band creative freedom.

Sure, we’re all aware that Megadeth is de facto Mustaine’s band. But although metal fans often think of him as someone who does all the writing, the thrash metal legend claims that he always found ways to give them enough of creative freedom. The talk about this came up during his recent interview with Brazil’s Radio Rock when he was asked whether it’s possible to make a “classic metal album in the same organic way” these days.

“Sure, I think anything’s possible,” Mustaine replied (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs). “It just depends on who the artist is. There’s a lot of really good artists from the ’80s — they just weren’t allowed to really do their craft.”

“I mean, if you think about some bands, the way that the leader of the band treated or the people in the band so that they never really created music.”

“I let my guys all try and create music,” Dave added. However, on the other hand, he does admit that he has the final say in what goes through as a Megadeth song or not. He added

“And if it wasn’t any good, it wasn’t that I didn’t like their music — it’s just that if it wasn’t a good song, it wasn’t a good song.”

“So I think bands that do that — that allow the other band members to experiment and to write stuff — that’s a really good leader. That’s somebody who has self-confidence.”

“Because you know what? If I’m in a band, and they write a song that’s a massive hit, how stupid would I be to say no?”

During the chat, Mustaine also reflected on the biggest lesson he learned after all these years leading one of the most successful metal forces known to man.

“I’ve learned a lot of different stuff over the years,” Mustaine reflected. “Probably the most important thing — this is going to sound bizarre — I’ve learned how to be a really good friend and parent because I see all these kids all the time and I can see in their faces where the tears were.”

Megadeth - Crush the World Tour 2023 - Full Concert - Hamilton , Ontario , Canada

“I can see where the scars are,” he added. “I can tell and look inside their eyes, into their soul, how they’re really doing. And that I can make them happy for just a moment, that is the greatest thing for me ever. Just to bring somebody a little bit of comfort. That’s the greatest thing ever.”

Wholesome Mustaine stuff aside, Dave also discussed one thing that’s on every Megadeth fan’s mind, one way or the other. As we all know, at this point, Kiko Loureiro is out of the picture.

Although initially, this was planned as a temporary leave, in late 2023, it was pretty clear that he’s no longer a member of Megadeth. His replacement, Teemu Mäntysaari, who Kiko himself recommended, is now playing as a full-time member.

Megadeth - Full Concert | Aftershock 2023 | Live | Discovery Park | Sacramento Ca 10/6/23

Reflecting on this, when asked what’s in store for the band and whether he’s “looking forward to the new chapter,” Mustaine said:

“I’m expecting us to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Kiko had recommended Teemu, and Teemu is an exceptional guitar player. Kiko was at the top of his game when this happened, so we were obviously disappointed by it, but it is what it is. And if Kiko would have said, ‘I don’t know anybody, and you’re on your own,’ that would have been a lot harder.”

According to Dave, Mäntysaari is the perfect fit for them, adding:

“But see, Teemu is the right guy for Megadeth. And Kiko knows me, so he knows if Teemu is the right guy for me. So he actually did us a really big favor. I love him, and I wish him the best with everything that he does.”

“Now, Teemu is going to make a lot of people happy because we’re going to be playing some songs that we haven’t played for a long time. When he came in, I figured, instead of just saying, ‘Well, you’ve got to learn these 30 songs here’, I asked him to learn a couple more.”

“I mean, what’s the difference when you’re learning 30 songs? What’s 33, right? If you learn three, then you gotta learn 30 — that’s different. But I asked him to do some other songs that Dirk and James had been asking me to play for a very long time, and we’re adding them now, which is great.”

During the interview, Mustaine was also asked whether “doors will be open” for Kiko. However, the Megadeth leader pointed out that this is not something that he thinks about at the moment.

Megadeth - Live at Wacken Open Air 2023

“Kiko and I are friends, and I’m sure it’s gonna stay that way,” he said. “I don’t know what you mean by ‘the doors being opened’. Kiko can’t tour as much as we need to, and it would be interesting if we were someplace where he ended up being there, and we decided to play a song or something.”

“But it’s just not in the cards right now,” Dave explained. “It could be in the future, but Kiko stepped down and he recommended Teemu, so that’s where we’re at. That’s where we’re going. That’s what’s gonna be like.”

“And I certainly encourage all Megadeth fans around the world to keep following Kiko and what he does — don’t all of a sudden stop following him. I encourage people to keep in touch with him, and also to remember that he could pick Teemu.”

Megadeth - Live at Graspop Metal Meeting 2022 (Pro-Shot) [60fps]

Photos: Selbymay (HF2022Megadeth 4), S. Bollmann (Wintersun Rockharz 2019 52)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.