INTERVIEW: Shawn Drover (Act of Defiance/Ex-Megadeth)
Levi: Firstly, you've got a brand new album that's really cool. Act of Defiance, your new band, it's a bit different of Megadeth, a bit more ... I don't know how I'd describe it, just a very good modern metal album. It's cool, it's got great drumming, great guitar solos, vocals, everything you'd expect from a good metal album. How did it go recording it?
Shawn Drover: It was a lot of fun. Chris and I started writing this material in November and in the midst of that we also had to try to assemble a band and all the other things that go with making a record. We started recording the record in January and we had everything done, turned in by May, so everything was very seamless and it was a very positive experience. We're all excited to make this record and I think the results speak for themselves. I think it turned out very well.
Levi: How was it working with Chris; because I assume you must've got along well in Megadeth, that's why you wanted to continue working. How does he compare to working with Dave Mustaine?
Shawn Drover: Oh it's all different. Working with different musicians gives you different results. I've had good experiences working with everybody that I've worked with over the years. With my brother, all the Eidolon records that I did and working with the Megadeth guys. It's just different experiences. You go in there with the best of intentions and you try to make the best record you can in every given situation. I appreciated all the situations that I've been in.
Levi: I was kind of surprised. I thought when you quit Megadeth that maybe you'd want to work with Glen Drover again. Did you ever consider having him as a second guitarist with the Act of Defiance band?
Shawn Drover: The thing with Glen is he doesn't like to tour that much anymore. That's one of the reasons why he left Megadeth. After being in that band for four years and touring, touring, touring, making records and being away from home so much he kinda didn't want to do that anymore. He has a recording studio at home, he records a lot of bands, he produces bands. He works with them creating music and all that kind of stuff. With Act of Defiance this is something we want to take on the road and really work hard and doing a lot of road work. It's something that he wouldn't be able to do over the course of time. I wouldn't want to have him in the band and then two years later have him quit, or say, "You know what guys, I don't want to do this anymore," so that's really the only reason why I never considered having Glen to do this was because he doesn't want to tour. That would obviously be an issue.
In terms of music, obviously Glen helped me record all of my songs on demos for this record. Glen was a very big help with me to get these songs presented to Chris and the other guys in the band in demo form to help move this along in a way ... because, again, because Glen has a recording studio he can make really high quality production and he was a vital asset to helping me record the demos. He was nice enough to take the songs that I recorded and record them all over putting guitars bass and drums on it so I could present it to the band in a professional way. He was a real vital asset to helping me get my songs across on this record for demos, for sure.
Levi: Do you find playing with your brother, you think of all those classic brother bands, Pantera with Vinnie and Dimebag, and Van Halen with Alex and Eddie. Do you find it's unique playing with your brother? I know they kind of have a signature sound by playing together. Do you find playing together that, it's something special playing with Glen?
Shawn Drover: Certainly because we've been doing that for so many years you can almost read each other's thoughts, musically speaking. That was always a great thing. We know each other's musical mannerisms and the whole bit. It was always very tight when we did the Eidolon stuff, or the stuff in Megadeth you know it was great playing with him in that band as well. It's always a special thing. It's always different playing with your brother, someone that you're close to, because you can, again, you can kind of read each other's musical thoughts and understand how each other works to where that may not always happen working with musicians you're not brothers with. It's just a different situation. It's certainly unique growing up with your brother and as teenagers playing music for the first time and learning tunes from bands. That's how you start. That's how we started, jamming to Ted Nugent songs and Black Sabbath song and Deep Purple songs, learning how to play. Then you naturally gravitate and learn to connect on a musical level that way. It's certainly a unique experience for sure, and it's a great one.
Levi: It must be a driving force, too. I know brothers are pretty competitive. If you know a good drum beat, he'll want to show you up and do a better solo. Did that kind of thing happen much back in the day?
Shawn Drover: No, it was never a competitive thing. It was always more of for the band; how could we make it sound better? If he could come up with something better, it wouldn't be to show me up, it would be, "Look we can do it this way, it would be better for the band," and if it was better ... and it was vice versa, if he came up with something and say "Well no, you should do it this way because it'll sound better for the song," it was always to make the song better or to make the band sound better. We never were competitive in that way at all.
Levi: I know when you left Megadeth it sounded like you were still on pretty good terms with everyone in the band. I know Dave came out of the Golden Globe awards and referred to you guys as "the two quitters". Were you a bit disappointed when he said that?
Shawn Drover: I didn't even know about that. I don't even know how to respond to something like that. With respect to the past, I don't live in the past and I choose to focus on what I'm doing now with Act of Defiance. I had great times in that band. I have nothing bad to say whatsoever. It's something that I haven't done that in a year now, I haven't been in that band for a year and this is my focus right now, to present this band in the most professional way and to let the music speak for itself.
Levi: I've always respected Dave Mustaine. He seems pretty clever and switched on, but he's definitely not your average personality. He definitely speaks his mind. Did you get along with him? Was he an easy guy to work with? I know he's definitely a unique character, but I do respect him in a lot of ways. Was he cool to work with?
Shawn Drover: I never had an issue with him whatsoever. I always thought we got along very well and I knew my role in the band that's a big part of joining a band like that. If you don't know your role and think that you can walk into a situation, to an established band and think that you can be an equal partner in it or something foolish like that that would be just that, that would be very foolish. I walked into the situation knowing what my role was, and I respected the legacy of the band and just tried to do the best that I could. It actually was quite easy. I got along with him very well. I got along with everybody very well. I was smart enough to know what the situation was, and never thinking, "I'll make my songs on the next record." It was never like that. With respect to the legacy of the band and trying to uphold that to the best of my abilities, no matter what lineup was in the band at the time. I just did my job. At the end of the day, I left the band. I was not fired, I wanted to write heavier music and that's what I did.
Levi: I did actually did get to see you play once with Megadeth. That was at Gigantour and I think, oh what bands were on that in Australia? That was a great tour anyway. I think Static X played. It was a lot of fun.
Shawn Drover: Arch Enemy and Lacuna Coil, wasn't it? That was a lot of fun.
Levi: That was one of the best shows I've seen in Brisbane.
Shawn Drover: It was 2007. That was a lot of fun.
Levi: I like mini-festivals because a whole day at a festival you get kind of over it after 12 hours, but just seeing five great bands in a row it was a really great day.
Shawn Drover: Either situation of course is different. A lot of festivals are 2, 3, 4 day festivals. I couldn't imagine sticking around for four days and hearing that. A lot of people do. A lot of people wanted to have that experience, to get away for 2-3 days and see every freaking metal band that they can, which is a cool thing, too. The Gigantour thing was different. It was less bands but it was a lot of fun.
Levi: Can we expect Act of Defiance to come play shows in Australia any time soon? Would you like to come down again?
Shawn Drover: Of course. That's obviously ... well knowing, I've been down there many times. The fans down there are just so passionate and they just love heavy metal just as I do. Going down there has always been such a great experience for me. I love it down there. I find it very different and unique, just like the fans. Extremely passionate. If they love your band, man, it's the real deal. They're not fairweather fans where they like you today and forget about you later today. If they're into your band, man, they're into it for life. That's an endearing quality that every heavy metal fan should have. If you're really into a band ... a lot of young fans, teenagers, listen to whatever pop music is popular that's played on MTV and that kind of stuff. Those are more fairweather fans. They like what's hip. As they get older, as they turn 16, 17, 18 year old adults then all the sudden they don't like the teeny bopper stuff anymore because they're not teeny boppers.
There's no longevity. What I'm getting at is heavy metal has been around now since 1969 with the first Sabbath record. It's still thriving today in 2015 and that's attributed to the fans who continue to stand by this music and make that a part of their lives. That's an amazing thing. That's something not to take lightly. Making this kind of music, I always have it in mind, with this record I wanted to make sure that it was uncompromising because I don't want to let ... you don't want to let fans down who really are hardcore metal guys. They don't want to hear fluffy music. They want to hear pounding metal stuff that's uncompromising. That's exactly what this record is. It's pure and it's organic and it's uncompromising.
Levi: That's what I love about heavy metal is there are no 'flavor of the month' bands. Just yesterday I bought Iron Maiden's latest album on vinyl which was very expensive, but I'm happy to pay because I got so much respect for them. Forty years down the road they're still kicking asses. It's probably one of their best albums to date. I just love the longevity that metal bands strive for ...
Shawn Drover: It's just what you do. As a real fan it's what you do. It's what I've done for years. I bought the new Judas Priest record because it was Judas Priest. I didn't have to hear it on the radio. In fact of course you didn't hear it on the radio because they weren't a radio band. You just bought it because it's what you did. If you're a real fan you don't even have to hear it because you know they're not gonna let you down. It's the real deal. That's what fans do. They support the scene, they support their bands. That's the sensibility that I want to bring to this band and to the people who will like this band. We're going to establish very quickly that this is not going to change. We're not going to put out our next record and it's going to have some pop-influenced hard rock songs. That's not going to happen. It's going to be crushing metal from beginning to end and we will build a fan base based on that. It'll take time, but I have a lot of time.
Don't forget to check out our full chat with Shawn Drover