“DAVE IS VERY PARTICULAR!”
The secret to Megadeth’s two-guitar attack,
This is the second Megadeth album you’ve worked on. Did you find it easier this time?
Yes. When I joined the band in 2015, I went straight to the studio to record Dystopia. I had ideas for songs, but it’s really hard to work with a band until you really get to know them as people. After a lot of touring, we created this bond so I had more confidence to show them my ideas. I contributed writing to five songs on the album, including the acoustic parts for Dogsofchernobyl and the beginning part of Nightstalkers.
What was the biggest challenge for you when you joined Megadeth?
For me, it wasn’t so much about the solos. It was more about the riffs. Dave is very particular! He has his way of playing riffs as one of the founding fathers of this kind of music, and, for me, it’s very important to respect the style that creates those sounds, even though it’s not the way I learned to play. I played a lot of classical guitar and learned theory and all that. So every time I played, I used as minimal hand effort as possible and I tried to be as clean and accurate as possible. Dave is the opposite. He plays aggressive and dirty. I had to learn to play his way, and that includes the way you pick the strings and the chords with the right touch, the way you mute the strings — all those fine details of the rhythm guitar that Dave brought to Megadeth to get that powerful guitar sound. So when I joined the band, that’s when he went, ‘Let me show you the way we do things here!’
Are there differences between the way you and Dave set your guitar tones? For instance, do either of you scoop the mids?
I like the mids. I think guitar has to have a lot of mids because the bass has a low end and a top-end as well. That’s very characteristic for Megadeth from the bassist playing with a pick. So you need the mids so the guitars can fit right in that unfilled region of the sound. So, neither of us scoop the mids. But my guitar sounds cleaner than Dave’s. He has more gain and I like a signature Dimarzio pickup that’s based on the P-90, so it’s classic sounding. It’s not as hot as a lot of players.
How do you bring your songwriting ideas to the band?
I made a computer folder and filled it with a lot of riffs, and I kept them short. Each file was just the good part of the riff — the main idea. Dave doesn’t want to read the story. It’s more like, ‘Just read me the headline and let me see if it’s catchy or cool enough.’ Then we put some of the riffs together to make them into songs.
Did you have to adapt to a certain style when you tracked leads?
Not really. Everyone is okay with my way of playing as long as it fits in with the band. I have some solo albums where I explore more styles and more different scales. I have to find the right spots to add those elements with Megadeth. And I have opportunities to do that because of the styles of past players like Chris Poland and Marty Friedman, whose solos are different from that basic pentatonic rock ’n’ roll solo. So that leaves some open doors for me to experiment.