MEGADETH's DIRK VERBEUREN Says Songwriting For 'The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!' Was 'A Very Collaborative Process'December 10, 2022
MEGADETH drummer Dirk Verbeuren spoke to That Metal Interview about the songwriting process for the band's latest album, "The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!", which arrived on September 2 via UMe. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "There was a lot of freedom. [Dave Mustaine, MEGADETH leader] invited Kiko [Loureiro, MEGADETH guitarist] and myself from the get-go to contribute our own ideas and our interpretations, and that's what we did.
"The way we work and the way Dave tends to work is that he has this massive vault of riffs, guitar riffs that go all the way back to the early years, to the '80s. And that's all sitting in a folder and organized. And so we started by him picking out a bunch of riffs and working with those. And as the process went on, those started turning into songs and we would maybe add some riffs or change some riffs or maybe go fishing for some more or write new ones — whatever felt right at the time. So I also contributed some music myself, and so did Kiko; Kiko co-wrote quite a few of the songs on the album. So it was a very collaborative process. As far as the drums went, same thing. Of course there were certain parts where Dave preferred one idea over the idea, and he would be, like, 'Play it more like this,' or, 'I prefer that beat over this beat.' But for the most part I pretty much got to do what I wanted to do and how I felt it. Because I think, at this point, having been in the band for over six years, I've got a pretty good feel of what MEGADETH drums are supposed to sound like, and it seems like Dave feels the same way."
Dirk went on to say that he didn't want to deviate too far from the drumming style that characterized MEGADETH's classic albums. "It's an important thing, because I'm also a MEGADETH fan," he explained. "I was for many years when I was younger. So I know what it's like to be a fan and going and watching your band or hearing a new album by your band that you like and you expect it to be within certain parameters. So, having grown up listening to [previous MEGADETH drummers] Gar Samuelson and Chuck Behler and Nick Menza, of course, I wanted to have kind of that vibe. So that's what I aimed for. In the end, it's gonna sound like me as well, because I can't change that. And I also put some of my own flavors in there, of course. But I did wanna be very mindful of the legacy of MEGADETH history and respect that and carry on that tradition."
"The Sick, The Dying... And The Dead!" sold 48,000 equivalent album units in the U.S. in its first week of release to land at position No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart. It marked MEGADETH's eighth top 10-charting album. Of "The Sick, The Dying... And The Dead!"'s 48,000 units earned for the week, album sales comprised 45,000, SEA units comprised 3,000 and TEA units comprised a negligible sum.
MEGADETH's previous top 10 entries on the Billboard 200 were "Countdown to Extinction" (No. 2, 1992),"Youthanasia" (No. 4, 1994),"Cryptic Writings" (No. 10, 1997),"United Abominations" (No. 8, 2007),"Endgame" (No. 9, 2009),"Super Collider" (No. 6, 2013) and "Dystopia" (No. 3, 2016).
Two months ago, Heavy Music, Loureiro spoke about his increased number of songwriting credits on "The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!" compared to the first MEGADETH album he appeared on, 2016's "Dystopia". He said: "In the beginning, in the very beginning [of the songwriting process for 'The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!'], even before we got together in Nashville in 2019, I was selecting riffs. I'm always somehow creating stuff. And then sometimes it's more MEGADETH; sometimes it's not very MEGADETH. So when I record ideas — it can be a simple idea — I try to label them, that's, like, 'MD', that's more MEGADETH-like.
"When I met [MEGADETH leader] Dave [Mustaine to begin working on 'Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!']… Before going to Nashville, I was bringing some ideas and recording this with the producer in a way to present the riffs and guitar ideas… The way Dave works with his ideas, he kind of organizes them, labels the riffs, the names; he's pretty organized," Kiko continued. "So then I started working the same way, putting my ideas with the names and the tempos. That's the way Dave organizes his ideas; he has his way. So I put my ideas into his way of organization with the producer. So I think that's the first step. So I was bringing some ideas that I had. I re-recorded them. And then I was adding more ideas. So all those guitar riffs from 'Night Stalkers' or 'We'll Be Back' and 'Célebutante' and 'Killing Time', they came from those ideas, from those ideas that I brought before getting together. And then when we got together, we started listening to the ideas and kind of assembling them and structuring them. Dave had, of course, a lot of ideas. And then [drummer] Dirk [Verbeuren contributed his ideas] as well.
"So it was a good environment," Loureiro added. "We bring in our ideas but we put our ideas in the way Dave likes to organize them, which is very methodic, which is very good. So it was a good thing for me also. Because he thinks songs in chunks, in parts. If I'm gonna write a song myself, I kind of play a part; then I try to get inspired with another one. And then this part inspires me to the third one. And I try to keep it going and I try to get the same momentum… I try to feel the music, feel the song and I try to finish the song. Dave doesn't work like this. He creates a good part, he stops and records that good part. He doesn't keep trying to, 'Oh, what's the next part of this one?' and get inspired and be jamming forever. He just keeps that one, and then he labels that… He's very organized and methodic. Even songs like 'Célebutante', I created a song like this one part after the other, and then I cut it in chunks, so it's easier to understand as well. So also because Dave sometimes, he sings on top, sometimes he's, like, 'Oh, let's put a solo on top of this.' Then we start messing around with those ideas. It can be, like, 'Oh, this can be an intro but can [also] be a pre-chorus.' And then you start labeling the way you feel the parts. It's pretty interesting. It's a bit different than I did in the past."
Kiko previously talked about the MEGADETH songwriting process in a September 2022 interview with Andrew DiCecco of Vinyl Writer Music. At the time, he said: "I think doing 'Dystopia', I was very new in the band — I was like five days new in the band. I met Dave, and then, like a week later, I was there at the studio learning the parts and open for suggestions. So it was already a thing for me to have some credits, some collaborations, with Dave on 'Dystopia'. And now, of course, after so many years of understanding MEGADETH better, not only Dave and getting the confidence from Dave but also understanding the fans, the band, the catalog, and playing the songs… As a metal fan, I know MEGADETH, but, of course, after four or five years of playing so many different countries and seeing fans' faces and their reaction, playing the songs from the '80s and the '90s, you understand the band better. So when you bring ideas, you know, 'Okay, this will fit. This is MEGADETH. I know what I'm bringing is still something completely related to MEGADETH.' I think Dave just felt like, 'I'm in a safe place with those guys.' So, I was always bringing ideas and giving suggestions — not only in the ideas that I brought but also his songs and his guitar stuff; I would say something. No fear, you know? I think creating a creative environment is like feeling that you're in a safe place because you might give an idea that's not good, that sucks, but it has to be okay to receive a 'No, this doesn't fit.' It has to be okay, and then try again and propose something else. And then vice versa — the person who is receiving that idea has to be open to be, like, 'Okay…' Maybe the person doesn't like the idea that much but can say, 'Okay, let's try.' So, it's both ways, right? We have to be open to receiving a no, and the other person has to be open to trying the idea, even if, at first sight, the idea is not that great.
"I think I understand Dave," he continued. "Sometimes — it's hard to explain — he has a very artistic vision of things. Bringing elements that you have no idea where he is coming from; [it] can be colors, can be an old movie, can be the soundtrack of something that I don't know, an old TV show — things like that. And then, when you listen to the theme of the old TV show, it has no correlation to what the riff is presenting. But there's something there that reminds him. So you have to give time to understand what the person is thinking. Sometimes it's just a feeling of, 'I want something like that intro of that old TV show from the '60s.' Then it's, like, 'Let's hear that. Let's go there.' Then, I think, because I have my past music experience with other composers or me writing my songs, I know that. So, I kind of understand where he is coming from, so I think Dave feels safe saying those crazy ideas out loud. Then it's a creative process, and everybody is free to bring their own ideas. Then I think Dirk felt, 'You know what? I can bring some ideas, too, because that's a cool environment.' So, during the process, [Dirk] just brought some riffs — because he plays guitar — and then Dave helped him get what he wants because he has certain guitar techniques. So, then we play, and it's, like, 'Oh, we can refine your idea.' The same goes when we suggest a drumbeat, and then Dirk goes and plays something like one hundred times better, but coming from what we are suggesting. So, that's a mutual collaboration."
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