Friday, Sept. 14, 2001 | 9:22 a.m.
So, what's Dennis Miller doing in a metal band?
All the pieces seem to fit. It seems the tall, lanky "Monday Night Football" announcer has, for nearly 20 years, masqueraded as the tall, lanky frontman for Megadeth, Dave Mustaine.
Sure, the 'dos are now different -- short to long -- and different colors -- black to red -- but are you saying David Lee Roth still has the same hair he did when he fronted Van Halen?
Besides, after talking to Mustaine in a recent interview from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Miller late last year, there seemed to be little doubt the rock star and the comedian are one and the same.
Both have that rapid-fire, acerbic wit that comes on strong as a California wildfire; let it go too long without being controlled, and it becomes impossible to manage as it consumes everything in its path.
In the case of Mustaine, who performs with Megadeth Wednesday at House of Blues at Mandalay Bay, his ironic sensibilities were mainly directed toward difficult people and problems the band recently has faced.
For example, his take on the band's cancellation of a recent show scheduled in Malaysia, due to that government's negative perception of the group's image and music.
"I recognize what the Malaysia government is trying to do, and it is admirable (of) them trying to protect the young people in the country. But it just shows the degree of (expletive) ignorance and apathy that the government has toward the problem," Mustaine said.
"They're trying to eliminate a black-metal uprising there, and we're not black metal. They're going, like, 'Oh my God, people are killing cats, they're killing goats and ... they're smearing blood on the walls, so let's go get a band. Megadeth. Hmmm, that sounds Satanic, let's get them.' It's like, 'You (expletive) idiot.' "
Not that he blames the Maylaysian people for this sentiment.
"I would have loved to have played Malaysia. I think the Malaysian fans were cheated," Mustaine said. "I think the Malaysian government did what they thought was the right thing, but I mean most politicians are crookeder than a dog's hind leg."
Then there was his reasoning behind the band's leaving Capitol Records in 2000 after 15 years for the relatively new label, Sanctuary Records:
"We took a serious hit with Capitol Records, and their negligence and their not being able to handle us," Mustaine said. "They don't give a (expletive). They'd rather have some Greek dude with bleached-blond hair and a black goatee. That's their idea of a good band. We've sold more records than they have (in) the time we've been there. We've been there longer than anybody that was alive."
And his diatribe about Megadeth's former manager's ex-girlfriend, no matter how it's cleaned up, is not fit for print in a family newspaper. (Let's just say Mustaine claims the woman, a cover model for a fitness magazine, made advances toward him while she was dating the band's manager. This ultimately led to the manager parting ways with the band.)
"Sadly, I've spent the past eight years trying to figure out what the hell went wrong" after the manager left, he said.
During that time there were Mustaine's numerous trips to rehab -- all of which were chronicled on a VH1 "Behind the Music" episode on Megadeth, which originally aired in April -- and a parade of new bandmates -- Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson are the only remaining original members.
Despite the problems, however, all is not wrong in Mustaine's world.
The singer/guitarist is excited to be with Sanctuary, a label that "understands" Megadeth, he said, and will help the band return to its core mission: "To be the heaviest and ultra-furiest metal band in the world.
"Even though they've got some people working for them from an independent (label) background -- and you don't want to have a bunch of guys who just finished their last game of the Little League World Series opening up for the Arizona Diamondbacks -- there is a learning curve and you need to be willing to watch these things grow," Mustaine said.
"We really feel at home with Sanctuary. It's a great opportunity for us to re-establish ourselves in the marketplace."
And he's hoping that Megadeth's latest effort, the appropriately titled "The World Needs a Hero," will help the band gain the momentum it had from previous releases, such as 1992's "Countdown to Extinction," which debuted at No. 2 on Billboard.
To do that, the band is again relying on straight-ahead power metal instead of the experimental styles exhibited on its last album, 1999's "Risk." But, Mustaine said, the return to its roots is a slow process.
"It takes a while to get there," he said. "Like, you can turn the wheel on an ocean liner all the way left to right, but it takes a while for that baby to get turned around. We're about halfway through that long arching turn."