Functional Tonality: An Interview with Chris Broderick of Megadeth

By Jeb Wright

Chris Broderick was well respected in the guitar world as both a virtuoso player and a great teacher, but on February 4, 2008, his life changed dramatically. It was on that day that he made his debut as the new lead guitarist of Megadeth.

Broderick has spent the last three years touring the world, playing to sold out stadiums and writing and recording music for two Megadeth albums. His playing may just be the best the band has ever seen, and that is saying a lot. Yet, no one in the bands’ past, not even Marty Friedman, can say that they can one up Broderick. He more than holds his own and, in fact, has really boosted new life into the band as their albums Endgame and TH1RT3EN have proven.

Not just a Metal gunslinger, Broderick is well versed, and appreciates, all styles of guitar playing. He is influenced as much by classic players as he is by shredders. Another player of the same caliber as Chris is Testament’s Alex Skolnick. He, too, shreds and still hits the road playing other styles, namely jazz in the Alex Skolnick Trio. The two of them deciding to join forces and put on a winter guitar retreat is a true match made in heaven.

There is still time to learn more and sign up for the retreat, which takes place the week after Christmas. Imagine spending five days hanging out with Alex Skolnick and Chris Broderick and soaking up their guitar knowledge. Oh yeah, you might even get to jam with them at the Master Class too.

In the interview that follows Chris tells Classic Rock Revisited all one needs to know about the winter retreat but we also talk about Megadeth, how he composes solos and if he was more a Metallica or Megadeth fan growing up.


 

Jeb: Before we even get into the new album TH1RT3EN, you are doing something really cool. You and Alex Skolnick are doing a winter retreat for guitar players at the Full Moon Resort in New York. Tell me about that.

Chris: It was presented to us and we both thought it was a great idea because of our musical backgrounds and because we have both been teachers. I thought it really made good sense. We’ve toured together and we’ve hung out together in the past, so that makes it really cool.

People can come and hang out at the resort, which is a nice environment and learn about guitar playing. It is really set up so a person can take a vacation centered around the guitar. While they are here they will get to see how we view the guitar and learn about things we utilize to create on the guitar. We will cover every aspect of our playing and they can learn from us.

Jeb: Is there a minimum skill level of player that should attend this?

Chris: It is open this year to anyone. This is the first time I have done anything quite like this. The first year I will be getting the lay of the land and seeing what people are most interested in and what they want to learn. I don’t think that how accomplished you are on the instrument will make you either qualified, or unqualified, to attend.

Jeb: From the perspective of the instructor, do you have any preset goals you want to get across?

Chris: I have a list of goals. I had to come up with a curriculum that I wanted to teach. I have all of the things I want to do planned out but whether I get to all of them or not will depend on the class.

Jeb: Will Alex and you be doing any teaching or performing together?

Chris: Yes, definitely. We will teach a couple of glasses together and then, at the end of the night, we will do a Master Class where we get everyone together and we allow the students to get up and play with us.

Jeb: Are the classes limited?

Chris: I am sure there is a limit to the size of the hotel but for all purposes, right now, there is no limit. People can sign up and come to the resort.

Jeb: This is coming up really quickly.

Chris: It is December 26th through the 30th. I have not been to the resort yet but I have heard it is really a wonderful place.

Jeb: Alex is great guitar player, as you are. Both of you are versed in many styles. What is it about Alex’s playing that attracts you to him?

Chris: I think Alex has really cool choices when it comes to note selection. If you listen to his solo in “Soul of Black” or “The Preacher” then you realize that his guitar lines are really, really cool.

Jeb: Have you checked out his jazz band?

Chris: Not too much. I know he has a tour this week with The Alex Skolnick Trio. I know they cover songs like “War Pigs” and stuff, which is really cool.

Jeb: You have a scope of musical interest well beyond Metal. What would Megadeth fans be surprised at from you at this clinic?

Chris: I think that is true for both of us. I really can’t say because I don’t know what they will know about me. I know that my history has become fairly common public knowledge. We have also posted our curriculum for the people who have signed up for this.

Jeb: It is obvious from a fan perspective to see what they get out of this but I wonder what you, as instructors, get out of this.

Chris: Seeing someone really grasp onto the knowledge you’re trying to convey, and really utilize it and make it part of their own is very rewarding. I really get a lot out of that. Passing on the knowledge is really what excites me.

Jeb: Megadeth is a larger than life situation. You are able to not be the big Rock Star during this time, you’re a real person.

Chris: I just consider myself lucky to even have got into the position that I’m in. I am glad people really like what I do and how I play but I realize that there are a lot of other great players out there.

Jeb: You are one of those guitar players that make you really become inspired but at the same time you make me want to smash my guitar over my head. Who inspired you to get to the level you’re at?

Chris: Jason Becker, Paco de Lucia and players like that, in general, inspired me. I was definitely always into harder rock but I was also into the whole classical thing. Early on, I was into jazz but I can appreciate any genre as long as it is played and executed well.

Jeb: I think you have brought a lot of fresh air into the last two Megadeth releases. I have not stopped cranking up Endgame and now I have to find time for TH1RT3EN. Do you feel you’ve really brought something to the band?

Chris: I don’t feel like I have been a game changer, or anything like that, but I do bring my knowledge of harmonization and functional tonality to the band. I also bring my influences, as well. I would think that anyone in my position would bring something to the band. There should be some inflection of personality to the band and I think that’s what I bring.

Jeb: Whitesnake has a huge legacy of great guitar players. Megadeth is doing that as well. Mustaine always surrounds himself with classy players. Do you pat yourself on the back at all to be a member of that Brotherhood?

Chris: When I first joined, I didn’t even have time to think about the people who I was trying to replace. I just knew I had a lot of work to do, in terms of getting the music down, and trying to learn it accurately. It wasn’t until maybe a year ago that I could even think about where I was positioned as a guitarist.

Jeb: You joined the band and then started doing Big 4 Shows and playing huge stadiums around the entire world. The last few years must be a huge whirlwind.

Chris: Absolutely, it really has been. It is to the point that you don’t even recount half of it anymore because there is so much going on, constantly. It has just been awesome.

Jeb: Dave Ellefson is a great guy but also a very good musician. You made one album without him and now you’ve made one with him. You’re in a unique position to comment on what he brings to Megadeth.

Chris: I would say I noticed the element of friendship that they have between each other right away. They have a great camaraderie. Dave and Dave have such a history that they can really read each other’s mind, which is awesome. Ellefson is a great bass player, who is very professional. I can’t say enough about getting to jam with him.

Jeb: You look at the new album and I have to say that it has a very classic Metal sound. “We the People” is classic Mustaine and “Public Enemy No. 1” is a great track. The one that I have been cranking up is “Sudden Death.” Tell me about that song.

Chris: That was written for Guitar Hero and we knew that they wanted a lot of guitar soloing on it. It was one of those things where we went and wrote the song around the solos and then expanded the song from there. Dave and I went back and forth taking solos and we really wrote the solos first and then the song was arranged around that. It was a backwards way of doing it but it really worked.

Jeb: How do you and Dave work? Does he come in with the ideas and just have you create solos?

Chris: We all present ideas. If you’re a musician then you’re always writing music but, at the end of the day, we have to look at what fits Megadeth.

Jeb: Outside of the fan base, people are still scared of Megadeth. The reality is that you are all solid musicians and it is really all about the music.

Chris: You have to be professional at all times. In today’s day and age there is a lot of scrutiny and you end up on YouTube almost every night. You’ve got to develop some tough skin as there are a lot of people checking you out.

Jeb: Do you take the mathematical approach to creating guitar solos or do you just rip them out and then go back and figure out what you just did?

Chris: I really do both, but at the end of the day, I prefer to compose the solos. When you have time to think about what is going into a part of the song, then you can think more complexly than if you just solo over the top of something. When you just solo over the top of something then you’re at the whim of your technique and you’re at the whim of what you’re thinking about at the moment.

Jeb: Was TH1RT3EN a tough album to make? Dave Mustaine tends to be a superstitious man. Did the name of the album worry him?

Chris: Not at all. This album was one of the smoothest albums I’ve ever been involved in. From start to finish, we were able to start the songs and finish them and move onto the next. It really was an easy album to make.

Jeb: Will Megadeth continue on the road in 2012?

Chris: We are going out on the Gigantour Tour in 2012. Plans are even being worked on past that. It is going to be a very busy 2012.

Jeb: Before we go, I have to talk about the song “Head Crusher” from Endgame. OH MY GOD! That is all I’ve got to say about that one. The guitar in that is SICK.

Chris: I think we were after a really aggressive sound for that whole CD. “Head Crusher” is very, very in your face and that’s what we were looking to do. Wow, I’m glad you said that.

Jeb: TH1RT3EN has a lot more melody than Endgame. Which style do you like playing in better?

Chris: It does have a lot more melody. I’m a guitar player, so I guess I like to play songs like the ones on Endgame better, but if you really look at some of the melodies and the guitar playing that was put down for TH1RT3EN, then you see how it is so much more appropriate for the music. Personally, I think most people are going to gravitate towards TH1RT3EN than your average guitar player would.

Jeb: Last one: Growing up were you in the Metallica camp or the Megadeth camp?

Chris: Growing up? The problem is that it is not a fair assessment. I really didn’t follow Megadeth until Marty Friedman got into Megadeth. I got into Metallica in the Ride the Lightening era. I didn’t get into Megadeth until much later, so I can’t really make that judgment.

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