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Megadeth front man displays mega-force

“The (expletive) who did this are just plain lucky I can’t fly a fighter jet myself.” Dave Mustaine

“…if you toss a frog into boiling water, it’s smart enough to jump out … if you a put a frog in and turn on the stove …the stupid thing will get boiled alive” Dave Mustaine

Maybe what the world needs right now is Dave Mustaine.

For nearly two decades, the outspoken founder and leader of Megadeth has been at the front of the American metal traditionalist pack.

With a fluid line-up of musicians backing him, the singer and guitarist has put out some of metal’s most technically finessed and intelligent music, including the band’s most recent album, “The World Needs a Hero.”

Mustaine, 40, also has earned a reputation for saying exactly what’s on his mind, especially when it comes to sharing his politically astute world view.

Mustaine and his current band mates Megadeth co-founder and bassist Dave Ellefson, drummer Jimmy DeGrasso and guitarist Al Pitrelli were just a few shows into their current national tour when the events of Sept. 11 quaked our country and culture.

Megadeth canceled its show in Seattle the night of the attacks but picked up the tour the following day in Vancouver.

“It would take a hell of a lot more than some cowards ramming planes into buildings for us to cancel our shows,” Mustaine said in his online diary at a few days after the attacks. “The (expletive) who did this are just plain lucky I can’t fly a fighter jet myself.”

Speaking by phone in late Sept., Mustaine tempered his typically feisty attitude with compassion for victims – both direct and indirect – of the attacks.

“I’ve been predicting that there was going to be this kind of holocaust for a long time,” Mustaine said. “I’ve always been pro-America … (but) I’m a little frustrated that the government, the military, the CIA and the FBI had as much knowledge as they did and we still got blindsided.”

Despite the confrontational tone of much of his song writing, Mustiness stressed that Americans should express their outrage over the attacks by standing unified as a nation rather than lashing out in irrational anger.

“I would hope Americans don’t act like the (expletive) in Arizona who killed a man from India, a Sikh, just because he thought he looked Middle Eastern,” Mustaine said. “I hope people will rally around the president.”

Before the events of Sept. 11 cast the comparatively trivial worlds of music and entertainment in a new and sobering light, Megadeth’s main focus was a comeback.

Mustaine and his band had weathered an acrimonious break-up with Megadeth’s longtime label, Capitol, and were finding new creative freedom with the metal upstart outfit Sanctuary Records.

The move to a smaller but more personal and enthusiastic label has coincided with Mustaine rethinking the direction he’s guided the band since its first release, 1985’s acclaimed “Killing is My Business … And Business is Good!”

Despite a string of platinum albums and sold-out shows, Megadeth had been feeling heat from its fans since the release of 1992’s “Countdown to Extinction.” The album was more accessible than the band’s earlier, more raw material, a trend that continued on the subsequent releases “Youthanasia” (1994), “Cryptic Writings” (1997) and “Risk” (1999).

“It was a natural progression from `Killing Is My Business’ to `Countdown,’ ” Mustaine said. “With `Youthanasia’ I think we started trying to force the songs, but we didn’t realize it.”

Mustaine paused and then tossed in one of his off-the-cuff analogies.

“It’s like boiling a frog – if you toss a frog into boiling water, it’s smart enough to jump out and get away,” he said. “But if you put a frog in water in a pot and turn on the stove, letting the water heat slowly, the stupid thing won’t notice the gradual change and will get boiled alive. I started feeling like, `Hey, my legs are getting a little cooked.'”

“The World Needs a Hero,” released on the Sanctuary label in May, has been lauded as the band’s best album in a decade. To show appreciation for those who have stuck with the band through its rockier last few years, Megadeth is letting fans from each city on the tour choose the shows’ set list through on-line voting at

“I’m going back to my roots, but I’m not there yet – that’s different than being at your roots,” Mustaine said. “It’s like saying you’re going to California, but you could still be in Nebraska, on your way there. Fans don’t always understand that.”

The band’s comeback among fans hungry for “the old Megadeth” of the `80s and early `90s now seems to go hand-in-hand with an added appreciation for Mustaine’s often gritty, always honest political viewpoint.

“As soon as I hit the stage, the fans chant `U-S-A, U-S-A’ – people know I’m a patriot,” Mustaine said, adding that he’ll continue to do what he does best – make aggressive, often confrontational music – in the manner he feels most appropriate.

“There are some things I won’t do,” Mustaine said after a recent show in Ariz., when fans voted to include in the set list Megadeth’s reworked version of the punk classic “Anarchy in the UK.”

“I said, wait a minute, I’m making an executive decision,” Mustaine said, recalling his words to the audience. “We’ll play one verse and one chorus of it, but that’s it. America does not need anarchy at this time.”