Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Metal Star: "Black Magic" Ruined My Life!

There's a famous old story about bluesman Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil in order to become a great musician. But Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Metallica fame recently told the Toronto Sun that as a teenager "he got into black magic and it ruined his life."

Megadeth rocker Dave Mustaine refuses to play heavy rock anthem The Conjuring live - because the track is laden with black magic imagery and occult spells.

The singer became fascinated in witchcraft as a teen and he's convinced spells he cast have come back to haunt him.

Now a strict Christian, he's keen to distance himself from his dark past - and refuses to play his song The Conjuring from 1986 album Peace Sells... but Who's Buying on tour - because the lyrics about black magic still affect him.

He tells Total Guitar magazine, "Performance wise, The Conjuring is one of the heaviest songs on the record, but unfortunately it's got black magic in it and I promised that I wouldn't play it any more, because there's a lot of instructions for hexes in that song.

"Although it seems kinda corny, anybody who's a Wiccan (witch) or a warlock or anything like that will know that all of that stuff is instrumental.

"When I got into black magic I put a couple of spells on people when I was a teenager and it haunted me forever, and I've had so much torment. People say, 'Goddamn, Dave never gets a break, he's had such a hard life,' and I just think, 'No, Dave didn't - he got into black magic and it ruined his life.'

"Fortunately for me, with all the work and the love of my friends, and not giving up with my guitar playing, I got over it. So I look back now and I think, 'Hmm, I don't wanna play The Conjuring'."

Obviously Mustaine can play or not play whatever songs he wants at his shows, but with comments like these part of me just wants to shake the guy and yell "Dude, you're an effing rock star!" That's not a life most people would consider "ruined."

Let's take a look at Mustaine's biography courtesy of Wikipedia and see where it all went wrong.

Mustaine was born on September 13, 1961 in La Mesa, California, to Emily and John Mustaine. His mother was a Jehovah's Witness, and his father was also a Christian. When his parents divorced, he spent much of his youth with his mother and sisters moving constantly to avoid contact with his father. By the age of 15, Mustaine had rented his own apartment and was surviving financially by dealing drugs. One of his clients was often short of cash, but worked in a record store, so she offered him albums by artists such as Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Motörhead and Judas Priest in trade, which helped form his taste in hard rock and heavy metal. In the late 1970s, Mustaine started to play electric guitar, most notably a B.C. Rich and joined a band known as Panic for a short time.

So let's see - at 15 he had left home, was dealing drugs, and just happened to find himself in a situation that stimulated his interest in heavy metal music. I'm assuming that it must have been during or around this time that he got interesting in "black magic." What do you think the odds are that once he decided he was interested in becoming a musician he cast a spell to make himself a rock star? I'm thinking they're pretty high. That's such a cliche I've seen it in numerous B-movies and television programs.

So did the spell work?

In 1981, Mustaine left Panic to join Metallica as the lead guitarist. Metallica's drummer (Lars Ulrich) had posted an ad in a local newspaper, The Recycler, looking for a lead guitarist. In his own words, Mustaine remembers his first meeting with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich: "I was convinced that I should be in the band and went to rehearsal. I was tuning up when all the other guys in the band were in another room. They weren't talking to me, so I went in and said, 'What the fuck, am I in or not?!', 'You've got the job.' I couldn't believe how easy it had been and suggested that we get some beer to celebrate."

I'd call that a big yes. At the age of 20, with only a few years of playing guitar behind him, Mustaine was picked to be the lead guitarist for Metallica, a band that would go on to worldwide fame. Seriously, what are the odds? Mustaine is a very talented player, but there are a lot of talented musicians in the world who never get anything resembling this sort of break. The bottom line? Magick works.

Mustaine's membership in Metallica would last less than two years. Brian Slagel, owner of Metal Blade Records, recalls in an interview: "Dave was an incredibly talented guy, but he also had an incredibly large problem with alcohol and drugs. He'd get wasted and become a real crazy person, a raging maniac, and the other guys just couldn't deal with that after a while. I mean, they all drank of course, but Dave drank more...much more. I could see they were beginning to get fed up of seeing Dave drunk out of his mind all the time."

While addiction has proved challenging for Mustaine during most of his adult life and is probably what he's referring to in interviews when he talks about how difficult his life has been, could his meddling with magick really be the cause behind it all? Or might a more likely hypothesis be that taking some of those drugs he was dealing as a teenager while his brain was still developing predisposed him to addiction? I know what a neuroscientist would say.

Despite being fired from Metallica for reasons that would have ended many musicians' careers, Mustaine's rise to fame was far from over. Within a year he had a new band, Megadeth, and a new record contract.

Subsequent to his firing, in 1983, Mustaine met bass player Dave Ellefson . He then enlisted guitarist Greg Handevidt and drummer Dijon Carruthers. After a series of unsuccessful vocalist auditions, Mustaine elected to take on vocal duties himself in addition to playing lead guitar. In 1984, Megadeth cut a three-song demo with drummer Lee Raush. Kerry King joined the band for a few shows; however, he opted to leave Megadeth after less than a week so he could continue working on his own band, Slayer. Jazz-influenced drummer Gar Samuelson replaced Raush. Megadeth recorded a demo as a three-piece band which captured the attention of guitarist Chris Poland, also a jazz player and a friend of Samuelson, who subsequently joined the band. In November, the band signed a deal with Combat Records and headed off to tour.

Megadeth went on to great worldwide success that has endured to the present day. This despite Mustaine's continuing battles with addiction. Many addicts wind up destitute failures, but not him, who instead went on to become one of the world's greatest metal musicians.

In 2009 he was ranked No. 1 in Joel McIver's book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists. Mustaine was also ranked eighty-ninth by Hit Parader on their list of the 100 Greatest Metal Vocalists of All Time.

So it still would seem that the magick is working, even though Mustaine gave up the practice years ago. That's the thing about spells with no time limit - they just keep running.

Mustaine began to focus on religion more directly while attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Finding that the meetings were actually impeding his progress in sobriety and spirituality, Mustaine left to focus on Christianity on his own. Through this process he became a committed Christian. In line with this it has become his policy not to appear with any band that is seen as black metal or satanic, such as his declining to appear in a music festival in Greece with the band Rotting Christ, and an appearance in Israel with the band Dissection.

As I've mentioned numerous times unlike a lot of people in the occult community I don't have any real problems with Christianity as a religion. If being a practicing Christian is what works for Mustaine to manage his problems with addiction, more power to him. I'll add that he's lucky in that regard as well - for all of Charlie Sheen's crazy ranting about "tiger blood" his comments on Alcoholics Anonymous are more accurate than the organization would like to admit. It has a very low success rate overall, most independent researchers estimating that it only works for about one person in twenty.

Regarding Mustaine's comments in the Toronto Sun article about no longer playing his song "The Conjuring" because it contains references to real magick, this would appear to be the section in question:

Behold the flames rise
From the compass' cardinal points.
Burn the sacred oil,
And, with the ashes you'll annoint.
Arrange the symbols,
Of the wizard and magician.
Light the candles,
Place the parchment paper in position.
Between its leaves place
The lash from a black cat's eye,
A straw of a broom,
Fold, and, burn, and, centralise.

I will say that's a better description of a magical ritual than what you're likely to find in most metal songs. Looking at the rest of the lyrics I doubt this is the only reason Mustaine no longer sings the song, though - like the story of Robert Johnson, the last verse alludes to selling one's soul to the devil. I imagine a sincere Christian would have a lot more trouble singing about that than the brief technical outline above.

So what's my point in all this? It alludes back to behavior that I see from people who experiment with magick, have some success, get scared, and decide that they want to give it up and convert to Christianity. They "give testimony" about how magick is dangerous and how no one should ever try it - even though they'll admit to benefiting from their practice before giving it up. This isn't confined to a handful of fringe individuals, either - earlier this year the Roman Catholic Church put out an official guide to converting Wiccans and Pagans that contains these same ideas. But the fact is that if magick universally ruined lives nobody would practice it, certainly not for any significant period of time.

While ceremonial magical practice is certainly not for everyone, as I see it if you're drawn to study magick but allow yourself to be held back by fear of what might happen you have already done greater harm to yourself than any magical practice ever could. Religious authorities who work at ramping up the fear know this, which I'm convinced is one of the reasons that they do it. They're perfectly willing to use their own magick that they call "prayer" as long as they can remain the ones in control of it.

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A.M. said...

Great posts lately! You're on a roll.

Beorn said...

Yeah, the thing with Dave is he likes to complain about his life every week or so as a part of his press strategy. It would be amusing, if it weren't for the fact that I think that he might have some serious issues that he needs to deal with.

At least for the most part he blames what he did with magic, not necessarily magic itself.

As for 'success', he's had a fair bit of material success and a lot of success in the musical world (I for one love his music), but do you think the guy has been a success in the ways that we might talk about success?

Scott Stenwick said...

I like his music too, which is another reason I find it kind of sad to see him knocking magick so much.

I wonder if it's ever occurred to him to use magick to get rid of the addictive aspects of his personality. His level of material success certainly implies a strong natural talent, even if at least from "The Conjuring" it sounds like his magical understanding is kind of fragmentary.