Photos from Megadeth myspace page (no credits listed).
It’s been about 5 years since I first met Megadeth guitar player Chris Broderick. Newly transplanted to Los Angeles from Colorado, he was just a man with his guitar and a hope in his pocket, educating whoever he could in the art of shred. Well, at least teaching aspiring guitar players like myself whatever we could absorb.
At the time, Broderick was tearing it up in the legendary power metal band, Jag Panzer. Anyone who listened to Jag at the time knew how much of a beast Broderick was on the 7-string (and in real-life), and when a friend played Casting the Stones for me one day, I knew that this was someone that I had to learn from. That album is still one of my all-time favorite metal albums.
I think most people know the story by now, how Nevermore needed a tour replacement for Steve Smyth, which eventually led to Dave Mustaine discovering him and ultimately “approving” of Broderick after watching his YouTube videos. There appears to be no limit for the newly-appointed lead axe-man.
I talked with Chris this weekend about the upcoming Megadeth tour, guitar playing and music. He told me about a few things that help to make him be a better player and gave some advice on how you can be in a band like Megadeth.
First off, congratulations on the Grammy nomination. That’s awesome!
Thanks! Yeah it was awesome. Even to get the nomination was awesome.
I’m curious, did they tell you guys exactly what “Best Metal Performance” meant? I would’ve assumed that there would’ve been a “Best Metal Album” category.
Yeah, I guess it’s the best “live performance of a song”. I didn’t really understand the category that well, but it was between us, Judas Priest, Ministry, Slayer and Lamb of God.
They had some good nominations.
Right. I think it’s good that they even have a category for metal, at this point. I hope that eventually there will be even more categories, it just all depends on the popularity of the genre though.
It seems like just yesterday that the news came out about you joining Megadeth, but it’s been over two years now! How has the ride been so far?
It’s been great! It’s an iconic band that has a very “guitaristic” sound to it and what better role could you get if you’re a guitarist?
Absolutely. I think most people would agree with you there. The set-list for this Rust In Peace tour is killer. It looks like 19 songs – is that your longest set-list to date?
Well, I don’t know if it’s our “longest” set-list, that’s for sure. It’s somewhere around 19 songs – we’ll play Rust In Peace, play through all of that, and end it with some really popular songs.
I saw Dave Mustaine post an update on his myspace saying that he’s in the studio working on some stuff. Are you guys already working on a new album?
No, not a new album yet, but we do have a new song that will be coming out.
Coming out on this tour?
It won’t be for this tour, but unfortunately I can’t say what it’s for.
Ahhh okay. It’s top-secret.
It’s top-super-secret! I’ve got agents at your place right now keeping an eye on you. If I accidentally tell you, they’re going to take you out!
(Chris with High on Fire at Gigantour and a bottle of, what appears to be, hot sauce?)
You guys have a lot of awesome tours this year. Obviously, later this year you’re going to make history at the Big 4 tour. I have to ask, since you’re in one of the most legendary Thrash bands of all-time, and fans up here are ravenous when it comes to Metallica, Testament and Exodus [myself included] – what’s your take on the thrash scene these days?
You know, I don’t feel like I’ve really got a good beat on it. It seems like it’s doing well because it’s got a bit of a resurgence, especially from the younger population. But I don’t know if it’s a passing phase or if it’s because there are so many iconic bands that came from thrash and the Bay Area and all of that. I really don’t know where it’s going or where it will be.
Yeah. Well it’s a pretty good bet that you guys will be around no matter what happens.
Yeah, ha. It does seem to have a momentum all on its own. It’s not absolutely contingent upon us constantly making sure that people know who we are and where we are and what we’re up to. It kind of takes on a life on its own, which is great.
I’ve heard you do some new stuff on guitar on Endgame that I haven’t heard you play before, per se. Like those whammy bends with the big dive-bar harmonics that Dimebag used to do [listen to the track, "Endgame"]. Do you find yourself experimenting more on guitar these days, or are you melding your style into a more traditional Megadeth sound?
Some of the sounds that you’ve heard are quite odd for somebody to bring up because some of the tremolo-bar work that I did was really more my own, although definitely influenced by Dimebag and Jason Becker and all of the old Shrapnel [records] shredders like that. But my main premise going into Endgame was to try and emulate and really kind of fit into that Megadeth sound as much as possible. That’s how I was trying to alter my playing – much more pentatonics and flat-five blues that I associate with Megadeth solos.
You list Marty Friedman on your website as someone that has influenced your playing, which is cool because you’ve done a great job of capturing Marty’s solos as they were originally played. What is it about his style in particular that influenced you?
Well, I would say that what it really came from was from listening to Jason Becker and then his playing in Dragon’s Fist is really great. When you listen to Marty, he has such a unique sound. The generalized term for it is that “mid-eastern” or “eastern” sound, and as soon as you hear one of his solos you say, “Oh, that’s Marty!” That’s one of the best things that any player or soloist can have is their own sound and their own style, and that’s one thing that really influenced me.
Let’s talk music for a bit, well – “other” music.
Your “Betcha Can’t Play This” video on YouTube has something like 2 and half million views. Did you have any idea that video would be so popular?
No! Ha! The funny thing is, I don’t think Guitar World did either because they didn’t actually use that one. I filmed three videos for them and they didn’t want to use it because it was on a 7-string. I’m sure they wish they had used it now.
And now it’s like their most popular riff.
Ha! Yeah, it was great. It was awesome to see that people actually like that, but it’s not easy to play.
Do you get a lot of students asking you how to play that piece?
Yeah. I’ve had a few post their own versions of it too, which is really good.
Where are you teaching music these days? Do you still teach at Musician’s Institute and also at home?
I’m still listed on the faculty at M.I. but I haven’t been able to teach there with all of the touring, there just isn’t enough time to be home for a whole semester. I’ll go back and do some master classes and open counseling every once in awhile. For the most-part, when I do have some down-time I teach privately.
Do you see a trend or particular skill that gives guitar players an edge? For instance, I’ve heard some guitar players say that Jazz modes are the future. Or is that question completely off the wall?
I don’t think there’s anything in particular that I would say gives you an edge over anyone else. The more and more I play, the more I say that you should develop your own sound and style and develop as an individual. You’re making a statement with your instrument. I think the best thing you can do is enjoy what you’re doing because you’ll learn better and you’ll learn more and you’ll be happy doing it. Instead of having an attitude like, “Oh, I have to have an edge!” Really that’s what you should do – just have a good time.
What kind of stuff keeps you on your toes these days or makes you work to be a better musician?
Just hearing more, to tell you the truth. When I listen to things I pick-up more detail now than I used to, and I think that’ll be the same case in a few years from now. I’ll think, “I never heard how that vibrato was produced at that particular moment” or “I never heard how that picking style produced that sound against the string”, and then I’ll want to emulate that close-up. The more you hear and the more detail you pick-up, not only with your own playing but with other players, then the better you become at making that kind of sound and making that playing happen.
The simple answer to that is, “becoming a better listener.”
Ah, yes. That’s what my wife would say too.
You have a pretty incredible musical work ethic. Growing up, I can still remember one time when I was in high school – my father took away my CD collection because, among other things, one of my Megadeth CD’s had a song called “99 Ways to Die”.
I’m going to have to give him a call.
Ha! Did you ever have any moments like that growing up?
I have so many older siblings that by the time it came around to me, they just knew that kids were going to do what they were going to do. I’m the second to the youngest of eight. I don’t even think they knew who I was, like if I was a friend of my brothers or what. There were so many of us around.
I always find it amazing to watch metal singers play guitar at the same time. Even watching Mustaine play Hangar 18 still trips me out. Does this come naturally for you? Or do you ever ask him, “How long did it take you to learn that?”
Through watching him work with the music and the lyrics at the same time, you pretty much get an idea for what it takes. Back in the day, this was a long time ago now, when I was in a band called Industrial Eden I was the singer / guitar player and I can tell you first hand – it’s definitely not easy. In my mind it’s a little bit of a compromise because you can’t have 100% of your focus in two areas at once. But it is pretty amazing when you see someone do it well, and Dave does.
Lastly, what is the most valuable thing you’ve acquired over the years that has helped you out today? Is there something you can point to and say, “Kids, I would not be in Megadeth today if it weren’t for…my degree, my experience, my practice routine, my weight training regiment…?
You know, I see it as a combination of all those things. Dave definitely appreciates a few of those different aspects. He loves the fact that I have a classical guitar performance degree, and he loves the fact that I work-out and try and stay healthy. Part of the reason that he recognized me in the first place was those YouTube video clips for “Betcha Can’t Play This”, that was a big factor for helping me get the gig. All of those things coincided together into one big ball of luck, I would tell you, in a way. You can put all the effort in the world into what you’re doing, but some circumstances have to come together for you to be able to be recognized. So there’s a good amount of luck and I appreciate the fact that I was able to come into it.
So you’re saying, “Be well-rounded, and get out there and make yourself known”?
Exactly. That’s the best thing you can do.
For more about Chris, including information on taking lessons, see the official Chris Broderick web site.
Megadeth is on tour throughout March with Testament and Exodus. Check out the Megadeth web page for all the latest info.