Conservative Underground

02.15.12

Megadeth Frontman Dave Mustaine Supports Rick Santorum

That the founder of a popular metal band would embrace the GOP’s most passionate religious ideologue might seem shocking. But looking over Mustaine’s conspiratorial obsession with politics and his personal religious journey, it’s no surprise. Plus, see photos of other GOP celebrity endorsements.

On Wednesday, Dave Mustaine, a former Metallica guitarist who founded the heavy-metal band Megadeth, seemed to join a side that has historically been a mortal foe of his kind: the Christian right. In an interview with Music Radar, Mustaine expressed support for the GOP’s resident religious ideologue, Rick Santorum, saying he was impressed that Santorum left the trail to be with his sick daughter and kept his distance from the Mitt-Newt character savagery.

Considering the kinds of things conservative Christians had to say about hard music in the 1980s and '90s, it might seem like Mustaine, 50, is trying to love his enemies. Religious antipathy toward rock music goes all the way back to the Beatles and beyond, but the attacks on Mustaine’s genre were particularly passionate. Conservative Christian books and magazines overflowed with warnings to parents about the dangerous influence of heavy metal, citing everything from satanic symbols on album covers to subliminal messages to the supposedly demonic effects of the “rock beat.” Metallica and Marilyn Manson were among the leading cultural villains, tempting the youth of America toward subversive movements like the game Magic: The Gathering and Wiccanism.

But if they’d listened a little more closely, they might have heard people like Mustaine articulating a message—though admittedly a version decked out in the F word, black leather, and faux-Satanism—not altogether unlike their own cultural alarmism. In a 1988 interview in the British music newspaper Sounds, Mustaine said, “It says in the Bible that men should not lay with men like they lay with women. I mean I don’t wanna f--k up and not go to heaven.” In the same interview, he added some thoughts on immigration that seem ripped from a 2012 GOP debate transcript. "If I were president of the United States, I'd build a great wall along the Mexican border and not let anybody in.” He also dished to conspiracy theorist and radio personality Alex Jones about the “new world order,” a pervasive scare trope of '90s evangelical entertainment, including the Left Behind series.

Mustaine’s socially conservative values, however, weren’t doing much for his own life at the time. His rocky two-year stint in Metallica in the early '80s ended in large part over his raging alcoholism and drug use. Some years later, he turned to Christianity after growing discontent with Alcoholics Anonymous. In a 2007 interview with Decibel magazine, Mustaine explained: “It's supposed to be founded in believing in God, but say the word God in an AA meeting and most people's asses grow together. So I kinda just went to the source … I figured I'd go direct to God, cut out the middleman, and not have to pay my dollar every week.”

Today, Mustaine has swung even further into line with the religious right. He can hardly get through an interview without going on about how bad 2012 will be for the country.

In the mid-2000s, the now-born-again Mustaine belatedly discovered the '90s religious right’s passion for boycotts. He threatened to pull Megadeth out of a 2005 festival that featured other metal bands named Rotting Christ and Dissection over their professed Satanism. “I’ve never believed in singing about Satan and thinking he's cool, because he's not,” he told Decibel. “As far as me playing with bands like that, I started thinking, ‘You know what, Dave? You're a headliner. If you don't wanna play with people that make you uncomfortable, you don't have to.’ Especially if they're singing about the confessed enemy of someone you believe in. I mean, what idiot gets onstage with their confessed enemy?’ ”

Video screenshot

Today, Mustaine has swung even further into line with the religious right and its latest iteration, the Tea Party. Obama is “the most divisive president we’ve ever had.” Mustaine can hardly get through an interview without going on about how bad 2012 will be for the country. “Given our choices for president, I think next year is going to be just terrible,” he said in December. “Everything is pretty s--tty right now, with the eradication of the middle class, and we've got an attorney general who won't come clean about the [ATF's Operation] Fast and Furious stuff. I think that we're headed for a lot of trouble. We've got an incredible debt, which is just continuing to get higher and higher. We need jobs right now, man. We don't need any more Washington deals, we need jobs.”

He’s even down with Rick Perry’s notion that President Obama is waging a “war on religion,” a notion that has now been adopted and even intensified by the remaining candidates. “It's pretty clear that they're taking prayer out of school. It's been happening for a very long time. The very first schoolbook that was written had God all over it. I collect books and I have some really, really old schoolbooks, and God is mentioned on every single page. They're taking God out of the schools to dumb us down.”

So despite the flowing yellow mane, the profanity, and the decades in a grungy subculture that contrasts sharply with the sweater-vest family values embodied by Rick Santorum, his latest endorsement is not much of a turn for Mustaine at all. But Santorum should think twice before inviting Mustaine onstage to give his endorsement publicly. You never know if the frontman might pick that moment to open up to Santorum’s Catholic base about the well-documented fact that “the first corporation in the world was the Catholic church.”

Editor's Note: After the media reported his comments, Mustaine emphasized that he did not use the word "endorse," and clarified that he simply hopes a Republican wins in 2012. This article has been update to reflect the clarification.