Issued in 1999, “Risk” received a mixed response from critics and alienated hardcore MEGADETH fans due to its departure from the band’s heavy thrash metal roots to a more commercial, pop rock sound. The album debuted at No. 16 on the Billboard chart and was later certified gold for selling half a million copies in the United States.
During an appearance on last week’s edition of “Trunk Nation LA Invasion: Live From The Rainbow Bar & Grill” on SiriusXM, Mustaine admitted that MEGADETH had a few directional missteps over the course of its three-decade-plus career and pointed to the late 1990s and early 2000s as a particularly turbulent period in the band’s history.
“The ‘Risk’ record had great players on it,” Mustaine said. “You had Marty Friedman playing guitar on it. That was me, personally, capitulating to Marty‘s desires to be more of an alternative band, and we kept slowing down and slowing down and slowing down. If that record would have been called THE DAVE MUSTAINE PROJECT and not MEGADETH, I think it would have been successful. People wanted a MEGADETH record. They didn’t wanna see Dave bending over backwards to keep Marty Friedman happy, ’cause Marty wanted us to sound like fucking DISHWALLA.”
Mustaine went on to say that he doesn’t regret having made the “Risk” album. “I don’t regret anything that I’ve released,” he explained. “I think that the record came out at a time when, like I said, I was trying really hard to keep the band together. Marty and Nick [Menza, drums] were… everybody was just fighting all the time, and no one was happy.”
He continued: “Just think about it: okay, on the surface, what would Dave Mustaine have to do in order to have his management and his band convince him to do a song like ‘Crush ‘Em’? Which I don’t regret at all, but the type of a song that it is, it’s not our style of music. It’s very kind of like… God, I don’t even know how to say it… To me, it sounds like an electronic song; that’s the purpose of it, but somebody who didn’t really know all of the crazy keyboard shit behind it. ”
Mustaine added: “That period for us was… I just wanted Marty to be happy, wanted him to stay in the band. I wanted Nick to be happy, wanted him to play. And it just seemed like a Chinese finger puzzle. Every time I would move, it would just… it was the wrong thing. And after a while, I just figured, ‘I don’t need this shit.’ And Marty went this way, Nick went that way, and we just all kind of broke up.”
In a 2012 interview with Sweden’s Metalshrine, Friedman said that one of the reasons he left MEGADETH was because he felt the band wasn’t aggressive enough. “That’s totally true,” he said. “Totally, totally true. At the time when I left, it was the beginning of 2000, but I actually told the guys that I was gonna leave in the middle of ’99, but that’s another story. I left in 2000 and at that time every other band was just about a thousand times more aggressive than we were… With a name like MEGADETH and all the other bands are just blowing you away with this big deep heavy sound that is way scarier and way harder and more aggressive than a band called MEGADETH, it was not turning me on anymore. I was like, ‘Let’s do one thing or the other! Let’s either get friggin’ heavier or let’s just be a little bit more marketable, because right now, we’re kind of an underground band and we shouldn’t be. We’ve got so much great potential within the four members of the band that we shouldn’t be an underground traditional metal band.’ That’s not where I wanted to go, but maybe that’s where they wanted to go… I hear stuff now like DECAPITATED and stuff like that. I would’ve wanted to play stuff more in that vein than what we were doing. I thought, maybe our first couple of records when I joined the band were kind of aggressive for that time, but there was so much stuff after it that I would say was trumping us in that department. I know music’s not a competition and I wasn’t competing, but I just thought that other bands were doing what I thought we should do better. I don’t know why we were always in the mid-tempo kind of ’80s thrash metal zone and we were all beyond that, but that’s really what I meant back then and I totally meant it.