In the four-minute clip below, MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson talks about the story leading to the creation of "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due", the opening track of the band's 1990 album "Rust In Peace".
MEGADETH leader Dave Mustaine told the U.K. magazine Guitarist that he was inspired to write "Holy Wars" in Northern Ireland, when he discovered bootlegged T-shirts of his band were on sale and was dissuaded from taking action to have them removed on the basis that they were part of fundraising activities for "The Cause". But little did he know "The Cause" was a euphemism for the IRA (Irish Republican Army), which at that time conducted terrorist attacks both in Northern Ireland and mainland Britain as it sought unification with Ireland.
Mustaine told Rolling Stone: "One time when I was in Ireland, I saw people selling T-shirts in front of a venue and asked what it was about, and he said The Cause. And when the guy told me what it meant, he just said, 'Oh, it's just prejudiced religion. One religion thinks it's better than another religion. The Protestants think they're better than the Catholics.' And I went, 'Well, shit, I don't know if I'm either one of them, but I'm certainly not any one of those two because I don't judge other religions.' So at the concert, I introduced a song by saying, 'This one's for The Cause' from the stage and [whistles] wrong thing to say. I learned my lesson quick so I don't talk about religion anymore. [Laughs]
"I was really mad about what happened over there so I was really beating my guitar to make that riff come out. That's why it was really fast.
"The second part of the song, 'The Punishment Due' — which comes in after the Middle Eastern part — is about Frank Castle from Marvel's 'The Punisher'. We timed that so that part would be at the end, 'the could-be messenger of God.' There's so many people who act like that. So we tried to make a complete shift and make it really melodic, something really BEATLES-esque with that sweeping [guitar] pattern that went back and forth. The chorus was definitely like a BEATLES pattern. One of the first music books I ever got was an anthology by THE BEATLES so I learned so many brilliant chord progressions from those guys. And that's a song that has a lot of chord progressions that they use moving bass lines underneath a chord."