Ex-Megadeth Guitarist Opens Up on Dave Mustine’s ’Irresponsibility,’ Explains How He’s Different Compared to Band’s Other Guitarists

Jeff Young, known as the former Megadeth guitarist who played on the band’s 1988 album “So Far, so Good… So What!,” recently sat down with Ultimate Guitar for an interview where he reflected on his work with the band. Apart from that, Jeff is also currently involved with ex-Megadeth bassist David Ellefson in a new band called Kings of Thrash.

When the interviewer Justin Beckner looked back on how plenty of former Megadeth members share this kinship comparable to a “survivor’s group,” Jeff replied:

“Oh yeah, it’s like a commiseration society of sorts and even before Kings of Thrash, I’d had Chris Poland on my radio show, Nick Menza, James LoMenzo, even Kiko Loureiro, I’m friends with Shawn Drover, all the guys and we all get along great.”

“There is that kind of element of it because we all have mutual understanding of what we all went through. It’s rock and roll veteran society of sorts.”

When asked about his status as a “straight edge” musician back then, meaning that he wasn’t into drugs and other substances, Jeff said:

“Yeah, true then and true now, and that was a ‘Hey, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore’ kind of scenario when I joined the band, because I was super green, you know, I had just arrived in LA… By the time I got the gig, I had been there four years, but it was four years locked in my bedroom, playing guitar 14 hours a day… That makes Jeff a dull boy.”

“So I hadn’t really been around and so what I started being exposed to in short order, once I stepped in the studio and onward was a shock in no uncertain terms for sure. But I remember, early on, I made a pledge to myself that I’d stay in the band only as long as it was healthy for me. You can trace my duration with the band and correlate those two elements and there you go.”


When asked whether he knew Ellefson or Mustaine before joining the band, he said:

“Oddly, I had met David Ellefson just briefly, in passing, when I was living in what we called the Broken Silence band house that was the band that I was in shortly before Megadeth. Our manager Barry Levine and Chris Key shared a house and there was a 16-track studio up there and musicians were coming and going all hours of the day and night. My roommate in the back of the house was Punky Meadows from Angel and his girlfriend lived there. Barry had done their album covers for all the classic Angel stuff.

“Ellefson was friends with Jay Reynolds, who was also living in the house from the band Malice and he passed through the house only quick enough to say, ‘oh, hey, this is David.’ I don’t even think he said his last name. It was just, ‘Oh, hey, nice to meet you.’ I had never heard of Megadeth or heard anything by them.

Megadeth - Mary Jane

“I don’t think I had even heard that much by Metallica, but I do remember there was a point where he played me a little bit of ‘Peace Sells’ and said they were thinking about replacing the guitar player. At that time, it was pretty heavy for me. I was more into players like Gary Moore, John Sykes, Allan Holdsworth at that point. So I kind of passed on even pursuing it any further.

“Flash forward a few months later when that band had it imploded and I’d moved into a different locale. I ended up getting a call from Jay Reynolds looking for me. He wanted to hire me to teach him guitar lessons for 50 bucks an hour. The job entailed helping them figure out Chris Poland’s solos from the first two records, ‘Killing…’ and ‘Peace Sells’, as well as helping him write solos for what became ‘So Far, So Good… So What!’ and at that point, when I started working at the studio, I still hadn’t met Dave Mustaine, I never rehearsed with the band, and what I was hearing, as I was giving Jay guitar lessons was literally a minute or a minute and change of any given song.”

“The very first one I remember was ‘Hook In Mouth’ and I remembered that Jay liked Michael Schenker, so I was trying to kind of write something in a German style scale and kind of, I don’t want to say repetitive, because it’s not repetitive, but more like something Randy Rhoads did in ‘Over the Mountain’, that that kind of classical sounding riff at the beginning of his solo.

Hook In Mouth (Remastered)

“As I started writing it, I realized that it was really hard to play — to this day, even when I wasn’t doing King of Thrash, I would always use that ‘Hook in Mouth’ solo, not just a warm up, but a way to keep my chops up. Because it’s really, really, really difficult to play at tempo. And it came out more like a ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ kind of thing because it just doesn’t stop. So Ellefson and Chuck were kind of walking through the studio as I was giving him lessons down at the recording studio, and they’d raise an eyebrow, walk out of the room real fast, and then a few days later, my answering machine was blinking.

“So one day I got home and there was Dave Mustaine leaving a message for me and he wanted to meet with me the next day at the studio, and that’s when he broke the news to J that they didn’t think he was going to cut it to replace Chris Poland, who is a phenomenal guitar player and rightfully so that they were trepidatious.

“Anyway, the message said to meet him down at the studio. So I went down there the next day, and he gave me 60 or 70 seconds of ‘In My Darkest Hour’ and said, ‘Hey, work on this tonight, come back tomorrow and throw down a solo’, he told me where to start and where to stop and that was what became ‘In My Darkest Hour.‘”

In My Darkest Hour - Megadeth

“So I went home and for me the biggest lesson for myself or anyone maybe reading this is, when an opportunity comes along like that. It really, really is true what they say. I mean, cliches are cliches for a reason, and when they say success is when preparation and luck intersect, it’s true.

“Fortunately for me, when that opportunity or when the luck came, I was prepared because I recently graduated GIT, I was practicing every waking moment, I was never going out and enjoying the Hollywood lifestyle like a lot of the other cats that went to GIT and I was listening to a lot of ‘Victims of the Future’, the Gary Moore album that was out at that time — his tone was killing and the licks on that album were amazing. I remember slowing my turntable down to half speed and trying to figure out all these licks and you can hear that on that album [‘So Far So Good So What’]. There are definitely some Gary Moore ‘Victims Of The Future’ vibes in some of my solos.

“So because the preparation was there when the luck came when he gave me that tape and asked me to come down the next day you know, I was able to go in there and improvise the solo for ‘My Darkest Hour’ and you know that led to him saying, ‘Okay, come back tomorrow. Here’s another tape.’

Megadeth - Live in Essen 1988/05/20 [50fps]

Further on, Jeff was asked about his stylistic versatility and whether it spontaneously found its way into his music while he was in Megadeth or whether it came later on. He replied:

“Oh, for sure. At the time of the Megadeth album, I hadn’t had the chance, as I did later, when I worked on the Brazilian project with Badi Assad. I hadn’t been to Spain in the capacity to really understand flamenco, but even back when I was 16, I remember when everyone was really hot on the ‘Friday Night in San Francisco’ the album by Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía, but the one that touched me was the studio album they did together [two years later] ‘Passion, Grace and Fire.‘”

“When I heard that album, I immediately could tell that Paco was playing with his fingers, because I was already taking classical lessons, I was inspired by Randy Rhoads and hearing Eddie Van Halen, ‘Spanish Fly’ and Steve Howe ‘Mood for a Day’ and all that.”

JEFF YOUNG - "IN THE FLESH" (Instrumental) *Middle Solo Teaser

“So when that came around, I instantly saw right there, for me, Paco de Lucia out of the three, and I love John McLaughlin, but there was something about that flamenco style… I could notice that Paco was playing as fast fingerstyle as they were with a pick.

“So that really got me into flamenco, which is something that I was trying to assimilate from afar in there because I never until later on, long after Megadeth, was able to actually sit down with a legit flamenco guitar teacher, but just by ear and trying to figure out things and understanding scales and maybe incorporating a little Uli John Roth, because there’s a lot of similarity between what some of these guitar players like Uli and Richie Blackmore, who was into classical music, they were they were using some of those gypsy scales, and some of those classical and flamenco scales that went beyond blues.

“So, when I did the Megadeth album, honestly, if you listen, one of the best examples of what I’m speaking about is would be ‘Set The World Afire’, which is really my first solo on the album where people hear me, it’s over an E to F progression, which is that half step, kind of that JAWS thing or its flamenco progression.

“That was a great lesson to me in that moment, about how different musical styles are, but what similarities there can be from what you would think are two juxtaposed styles as thrash metal and flamenco, but that chord progression at the end of ‘Set the World Afire’ is the exact same chord progression that’s in, you know, hundreds of flamenco songs.

“It‘s so easy to just superimpose a flamenco scale over a Megadeth tune. So to be honest, that’s what I was doing. I was kind of trying to channel Paco de Lucia, even back then on ‘Mary Jane’, you can hear it as well. I mean there was even a bit of that styling in ‘Hook In Mouth’ – you can hear the kind of gypsy scales in there.

What Jeff also reflected on during the interview was his artistic freedom in the studio with Megadeth. As he explains, he had all the freedom that he wanted, simply because Dave Mustaine wasn’t there when he recorded his part. Asked about it, he offered:

“Yeah, because he was never there. Not one second. I mean, the producer, wasn’t even there. Paul Lani, he took off. I was blown away. They left me there with the second engineer – the kid looked like he was eighteen.

“It was just me and him and he was punching me in, and I had total freedom, and it was because of the drug abuse that was going on in the band. Probably that caused that irresponsibility on their part, but it worked to my advantage because, you know, I did what I want, and then they would hear the solos after the fact, and they’d love it. They’d go, ‘Okay, here’s another tape come back tomorrow.’

“Sometimes I’d do two solos in a day, I think I did, ‘Hook in Mouth’ because I’d already started that with Jay, and then they gave me ‘Liar’ and I went in the other room for half hour and just went over some changes and then went in and laid that solo down.

“That’s probably one difference that people don’t realize, between maybe me and Chris Poland and Marty Friedman and some of the other Megadeth guitar players is that the others had a chance to rehearse with the band and probably hear the songs in their entirety [before writing solos].

Dave mustaine explains how Jeff young and chuck behler got fired

“I was hearing just bits and pieces, I never heard any vocals, and never really, I don’t even think I knew the titles of the songs when I was tracking them. I was just recording to snapshots and just focusing on each thin like, okay, here’s my little composition within that song. Okay, here’s my little improvisation within that song.

Photo: S. Bollmann (Megadeth Summer Breeze Open Air 2017 18)


  • 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.