Last September, MEGADETH mainman Dave Mustaine underwent surgery for stenosis, a neck and spine condition that he says was caused by years of headbanging.
Earlier this month, Artisan News spoke to Mustaine and asked him about how he's doing eight months after the surgery. "It's good," he said. "Leading up to it, it was horrible. But I think probably the thing was the most painful was the stuff people were saying. Like I wasn't really hurt and I was faking it. I was hurt. And when they pulled that bone fragment out of my neck… It's one thing to have a bulging disc and have stuff fused together, but when they find broken pieces of bone in your spinal cord, that stuff causes pain. And I wasn't gonna let it affect me or keep me from going on stage and playing. I probably hurt myself more by going out there like that, but, you know… I don't know if I'm just stubborn or what, but I was always taught the show must go on, and I went up into the point where I had to be hospitalized. Which is kind of rock and roll, if you think about it. [laughs]"
He added, "There are, every once in a while, some sharp pains and stuff like that, if I move it wrong, but it's completely healed. And I don't have any fear. I do have a little bit of apprehension when I'm getting out on stage and I start to get too revved up. 'Cause it's really easy, once that button turns on, for you to go to a place you don't wanna physically go to — you're hanging over the cliff 'cause you're headbanging too much."
As to how he thinks his stage performance exacerbated his condition, Mustaine said, "There's one move I used to do; I used to always snap my head back and forth. . . It wasn't like I was doing it for a dance move or something choreographed or corny like that. It was just a form of expression and I think that's probably one of the positions that I hurt myself in, 'cause it's more of a grinding movement."
Even though Mustaine has fully recovered from his surgery, he does admit that performing live has become more difficult in the months following the procedure. "After the surgery, it's been harder to sing," he said. "They said that that would happen. And it's been harder to sing, which is sad, 'cause I've already had… Singing is not my forté. I try my best to do it, but I'm not a great singer, and like I said, they told me that it was gonna get more difficult, and I didn't believe 'em. So now I'm dealing with it. When I go out there and play, I look at the fans out there and I don't think, 'Well, there's a guy that's seen me 20 times.' I think about, 'What about the person that's seeing us for the very first time?'"
Speaking to Decibel magazine last November, Mustaine stated about his neck injury, "The way [2011's Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival] ended, with me being hurt, I knew I was hurt, but I didn't know how bad. Nobody knew the writing was on the wall. I pretty much thought, 'Well, I''m hurt, but I'll just take it easy, have a couple of glasses of wine. I'll get through it, get a couple of trigger point injections, get an epidural.' There were a couple of times they gave me a shot in my neck that numbed me up. I saw chiropractors and masseuses all the time. It inevitably gets to the point where you're starting to take medication, and that's never good, because if you're taking something and you never feel the pain… You saw Curt Schilling when he was playing for the Diamondbacks, and Randy Johnson; I can't remember if [Schilling] was playing for the Diamondbacks that time he had the bloody sock or if he'd gone back to Boston or not yet — [he] did some heroic feat where he had his foot put back together and he went out there and played."
He added, "I'm an athlete, as a guitar player and as an onstage persona. But as far as being a musician that has to do hurdles — I don't think most musicians, when they start playing music, think that they're going to be playing this demanding-type music that those of us who are part of the 'Big Four' and all the bands we influenced and kind of created [play]. With the advent of the headbanging — which was not my invention, by any means; I'm not like Al Gore who invented the Internet — there was that whole headbanging thing that came around, it's hurt a lot us… What is headbanging, anyway? It's kind of like chronic whiplash syndrome, isn't it?"