Dave Mustaine’s bizarre attempt at relevance: Pseudo-endorsing Santorum

Last week the news hit that Dave Mustaine, front man for metal group Megadeth, may have endorsed Rick Santorum. I didn’t even tweet about it–I was still befuddled that anyone still listens to Dave Mustaine or his music, let alone give a crap about who the maestro that created a “Symphony of Destruction” is endorsing in the presidential run.

I knew my share of headbangers in high school and I remember some of them claiming Mustaine was mega-smart. From what I understood about metal, despite what one might assume was it’s primarily white listenership, metal was about expressing anger against oppressive social constructs–critical of religious institutions, sexual repression and limits on self expression (how else can you justify growing your hair long and howling like a wolf. Also, back when Mustaine was considered hot I doubt he was monogamous or practicing abstinence).

I used to listen to some metal and found there is a long and diverse lineage of who listens to metal very much associated with class and geography. My friend Laina Dawes has written and spoken about being a black, female metal fan. I have long defended metal heads as they were more the freaks, geeks and weirdos, than the rest of the jock assholes who I imagined would grow up to endorse the Romney’s and the Bush’s or the world.

But despite this, Dave Mustaine has been an asshole for a long time. While a diversity of people might listen to metal and some metal might have challenged the very social constructs that the GOP endorses, the instances of artists that cater to these views are harder to find than I had hoped. Many metal artists have consistently shown warped views on women or displayed blatant homophobia (most typified by Axel Rose). And upon closer inspection–it is surprisingly difficult to tell apart Santorum quotes and Megadeth lyrics. See if you can on this quiz at Mother Jones. (Hint: I did very poorly).

Mustaine’s weird attempt at relevance does not escape me. I too wonder what it would have been like for me if most of my fans were left in the 90s, I failed to cut my hair when entering a new century and had to forever know that the only new many of the people that listen to my music are suburban white kids that stay off rap mainly because they are still upset that people of color are getting so much airtime.

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19 Comments

  1. Posted February 22, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    This post comes across as very bitter and petty. I get being annoyed by anyone supporting santorum, but making fun of someone for not cutting their hair in line with fashion trends? Come on. This really doesn’t seem like it was even worth posting, better to just ignore the guy.

  2. Posted February 22, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    wow… this post just blows my mind. It comes off as incredibly petty. “I don’t like what you’re saying, so nah nah nah you were only popular in the 90′s and NO ONE has hair like that any more!!!”
    I wouldn’t support santorum obviously (which um, Dave points out that he didn’t say he was either…), but this whole post is just chock full of assumptions and stereotypes. “…The only new people that listen to my music are suburban white kids that stay off rap mainly because they are still upset that people of color are getting so much airtime…” WOW. All I can think of is that Amy Pohler segement “REALLY?! Really.”

  3. Posted February 22, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Wow you really took Mustaine to task for not cutting his hair and metal fans to task for not being relevant.

    I hate Santorum and I don’t really understand this rather bizarre shift in Mustaine’s political sensibilities (he was, for example, the MTV correspondent for the Democratic National Convention during Bill Clinton’s first run).

    But this is one of the most offensive and dismissive pieces I’ve ever read toward metal and those who listen to it.

    Where does the claim that “the only new people that listen to my music are suburban white kids that stay off rap mainly because they are still upset that people of color are getting so much airtime” even come from? Is there a source for this?

  4. Posted February 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    “But this is one of the most offensive and dismissive pieces I’ve ever read toward metal and those who listen to it.” No, I don’t think that’s right. I’ve seen worse, I actually try and make the case for metal listeners and negotiating my own experience with the music.

    The hair comment clearly offended, but his hair is stuck in that past. ALL his contemporaries have cut it off, so I can only conclude one thing–he is having trouble letting go. What, I can’t joke?

    Anyway, dude is a grade A asshole. Wanna go to bat for him, fine–but don’t call me petty for saying things you don’t like.

    • Posted February 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      Wow, so long hair is “stuck in the past”. You sound as mature as the white kids who used to try to sneak up behind me in grade school with scissors. Congratulations on burying your point (I agree that he is a grade A asshole) by irritating anyone who has ever been told they have the “wrong” hair.

      • Posted February 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        You know what, you are right. I’m sorry you had that experience, it was offensive of me to make fun of his long hair.

        But STILL not as offensive has his politics.

  5. Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m a metalhead, and I don’t listen to Mustaine anymore. He’s not relevant, or interesting, and I’m pretty sure he’s not even making music anymore.

    I don’t like being painted with the same broad brush as Mustaine, and frankly? For someone who’s supposed to defend and champion peoples’ rights, you’re using the same tactics on us that prejudiced assholes use against feminists, homosexuals, and anyone who could even remotely fall in the “other” classification.

  6. Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Samhita, I have to disagree with the rest of the posters.

    Although I doubt many other metal musicians would endorse Santorum (unless they were born-again Christians like Mustaine) because of his religious extremism, there is a tendency towards the right in metal. Especially extreme metal genres like black metal. It’s more of a libertarian slant than anything else, but occasionally someone like Varg Vikernes or Faust (to give two extreme examples, given that they’re both murderers) will say or do something disgustingly racist/homophobic. Then you have genres like National Socialist Black Metal. There’s also the obsession even in more mainstream genres with violently killing women in lyrics. No one gives Eminem a pass, so I don’t seek one on behalf of Mayhem.

    That’s without mentioning all the fans you’ll find on popular metal forums. Suffice to say that “suburban white kids”, who get outraged that anyone would question these themes in metal, significantly outnumber reasonable voices.

    I mean, I know this because I listen to a lot of metal myself. I’m not trying to say that there aren’t artists out there who avoid these tropes, or conscious metal fans. Maybe a good idea for a thread would be dedicated to awesome women in metal and other bands that buck the trend. But you are absolutely kidding yourself if you deny that metal is generally one of the most politically conservative types of music out there, with one of the highest concentrations of absolute douchebags involved in it. I think getting butthurt over a petty joke about someone’s hair is both missing the point entirely and refusing to own up to the fact some of the things you like have systemic problems.

    • Posted February 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      Mayhem was also a band that had a lead singer who shot himself, only to be found by the guitarist, who proceeded to grab a chunk of the skull and make it into a necklace. Not exactly the picture of sanity. Maybe don’t go to the most extreme example to make a point. There are PLENTY of Metal bands that are the exact opposite of this.

  7. Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Mustaine has been an asshole for a long time. He was kicked out of Metallica for his drinking and for being unable to get along with anyone. One might think that getting sober might allow him to get along with people, but for Mustaine, sobriety was of the evangelical right-wing Christian variety, and he’s been an asshole ever since. He appears to have had a flirtation with the center left in the Clinton era, but he also has a history of homophobic remarks and he is now a confirmed Obama hater and right winger.

    About the hair, I remember the 1980s, a time when metal was growing musically by leaps and bounds and thrash metal as a subgenre was in its prime, with Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax all writing the stuff that became the Ur-text, and other subgenres getting wide play and doing interesting work. I had a Bruce Dickinson through much of the 80s, with blunt bangs and the rest down the middle of my back. But it is interesting that Mustaine hasn’t moved on in personal style even as his contemporaries have. It’s not that it’s the wrong hair, it’s that like Bjorn Borg’s sad comeback he seems to be visibly clinging to a time that has passed.

    Mustaine is not the only right wing Christian to come out of 80s metal. I immediately think of Blackie Lawless, who was born again at 11, then became famous fronting WASP, and even more famous when Tipper Gore and the PMRC singled them out, and then returned to his conservative Christian roots and is a right wing evangelical today, and Axl Rose wrote his bigotry right into his music, and there are a few others, though I’m struggling to come up with names at the moment.

    I think for some folks who love metal, Mustaine was a bit of a hero in that he’s not stupid or inarticulate, he has thoughts and can express them. There’s an unfair stereotype of metal as a dumb genre, which always puzzled me because in terms of musicianship and complexity, metal is probably up there with jazz in rewarding self-expression to the point of wanking, and completely wow-look-what-I-can-do progressive music with nine minute songs is an acceptable space in metal (see Dream Theater, see also Mastodon) where it would be called wanking and kicked out of the club in punk (though see the Black Flag instrumental album The Process of Weeding Out as a counterpoint; I guess if it’s instrumental you can play experimental jazz and call it hardcore, but as soon as there are vocals, it’s got to be under two minutes with no solos).

    So okay, metal is unfairly dismissed. But at least among teen metalheads, there can be a false sense of genre solidarity, built by churning ordinary teen disaffection into a self-created myth of genuine oppression, sort of the way right wing Christians tell themselves that they’re oppressed and marginalized, that isn’t the same thing as actually understanding oppression, or opposing it. And metal, because it’s often not overtly political, can appeal to disaffection and anger without bringing with it perspective or a commitment to change. If you’re an angry teen and listen to punk, much of the genre is expressly political and you have to engage with the politics one way or another, while there’s plenty of metal that one can listen to without really engaging with the politics at all, so that a kid who is white, male, cis and het and very privileged and pissed at his parents and school authorities can go seamlessly from angry kid to angry middle aged man, Republican, MRA and NRA and Santorum supported without being challenged by the music he loves.

    Mustaine is a douche. He’s not a stupid or an inarticulate douche, but a douche nonetheless.

  8. Posted February 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Mustaine is the new Nugent.

    I just finished reading Mustaine’s biography and it has the strangest ending. The whole book is about living a reckless lifestyle, doing far too many drugs, pissing people off, ruining tours because of rehab, never being able to hold together the same members of a band from album to album, etc. Then at the end, around 2007, he does a half-assed conversion to Christianity, which doesn’t seems sincere.

    In the end he’s a bit of an ass but ultimately harmless. Unlike Nugent he’s not getting on a soap box with a gun and blasting a warped world view at anyone who opposes him.

    Most metal heads cut their hair because of male pattern baldness and don’t want to wind up looking like Gallager. Good for Dave for letting his strawberry blond locks flow after 50.


    What do you mean,
    “I don’t believe in God”?
    I talk to him everyday.

    What do you mean,
    “I don’t support your system”?
    I go to court when I have to.

    What do you mean,
    “I can’t get to work on time”?
    I got nothing better to do.

    And, what do you mean,
    “I don’t pay my bills”?
    Why do you think I’m broke? Huh?

    If there is the new way,
    I’ll be the first in line.
    But, it better work this time.

    Peace sells… but who’s buying?

    • Posted February 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Nugent isn’t harmless. He was having sex with a seventeen year old, and he got her parents to let him adopt her so that he could continue to have sex with her though she was too young to legally marry him. That’s the kind of thing he does when it leaves a public record.

  9. Posted February 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Butthead might be cool with this, but Beavis is gonna be PISSED and turn into Cornholio again. And then they’ll start giggling over the alternate definition of “Santorum” and forget about it.

    (Off to play some Judas Priest and wait to hear how offended people get over a joke involving some metalhead cartoon characters.)

    • Posted February 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      P.S. I remember the kids with long hair being just as quick to make fun of my shaved and spiky hair, and the “gay/faggy” bands me and my friends listened to, and just having some vague idea that if my hair was weird to such conventional and obviously homophobic people, there must be something right about what I was doing with it.

  10. Posted February 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I think like there’s a the basis of a really good article about politics in metal, but this piece feels rather under researched and bitter.

    This is all going to be anecdotal, but I’m a girl and I played with an American metal band for four years. In my experience, I found that the scene was a pretty mixed bag of political views; it’s a hugely varied group of people and I can’t easily paint them with any one brush. It’s pretty much like any other large group, you can’t generalize about it because the members swing from extremely conservative to extremely liberal and everything in between. In my time with that band I met musicians who walk in the March for Life and musicians who volunteered as escorts at clinics. I’ve met bands that write songs about slitting women’s throats, I’ve met bands who write songs about women feeling like second class citizens. I’ve met assholes with long hair, but one of my best metal friends has long hair too. It’s impossible to generalize.

  11. Posted February 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Yeah the hair comment is really out of place, especially on this blog. Ridiculing people for the way they present themselves never really adds anything useful to a discussion, does it?

  12. Posted February 22, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    This whole post ignores that music, while sometimes a cultural commentary, is primarily about music. Good metal tends to be very complex and is about technical skill and whereas rap tends to be about lyricism and rhythm. There is good rap and awful rap just like there is good metal and awful metal.

    To better understand the cultural aspect of metal, both negative and positive, I recommend watching “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey”, one of my favorite documentaries.

    Anyway, as other readers said, the hair commentary was way off base and I happen to quite like the guys with long hair “look”, as long as they’re not assholes like Dave Mustaine. As with most people, the variables that make them good or bad depend less on superficial aesthetic and more on an examination of the beliefs they hold under the surface.

  13. Posted February 22, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Your favourite band sucks too, Samhita.

    Way to smear and dismiss an entire subculture because of the actions of one man, then try to brush it of as ‘just joking, can’t you take a joke?’

    As a genderqueer person I have found the metal culture to be immensely supportive and that support has literally saved my life. You will find misogynistic, homophobic, racist assholes everywhere you go and it is immensely unfair to take their actions as representative of the mean. Time to check your privilege.

  14. Posted February 22, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I understand your point of view, and Dave Mustaine HAS always been an asshole. I was just at a Megadeth concert where he blasted our local radio station for always playing Nickelback – the same radio station that helped sell-out the concert. However, your tendency to dangerously border on huge generalizations is disheartening. The metal fanbase isn’t just filled with a bunch of rebellious long-haired (omg!) nimrods, reeking of parental disappointment. There are a wide variety of fans, and a wide variety of metal musicians, all different from the next, all with different political point of views and levels of intelligence. I don’t have a problem with the fact that Mustaine refuses to cut his hair, and neither should anyone else. His “more popular” counterparts haven’t either (Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo of Metallica are a good example). Besides, pointing out such a feature is petty and ridiculous anyways. I don’t like making generalizations off of looks, and making such statements only perpetuates the problem that we put too much of an emphasis on looks in society.

    I think you should watch the documentary “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey.” It may help you with some of your more ignorant views.

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