Living the dream isn't free--it comes with expectations. Just ask Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick, who had to step into some big shoes when he became the thrash metal legend's seventh lead guitarist in 2008.
"I'd consider it high stress, not necessarily because of the actual workload but more because of the microscope you're under at this level," said Broderick. "Everybody is video-recording you. Everybody has an expectation because of all the great guitarists that have been in Megadeth in the past."
There's also the fact that this is some of the music Broderick grew up on. He got his first guitar in 1981 and remembers the album Peace Sells ... But Who's Buying? exploding on MTV in 1986. Admittedly, Broderick was more of a classic metal fan initially.
"[When I got my first guitar], the first thing I did was spray it red and put black duct tape on it, because I wanted to be Eddie Van Halen," he recalled. "Then as soon as I heard Yngwie [Malmsteen], it was all over for me. Then I got into all the shredders like Jason Becker [who played with later Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman in Cacophony] and Paul Gilbert."
Broderick eventually graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in classical guitar performance. He took over for another shredder, Joey Tafolla, in Jag Panzer in 1997 and remained with the band until Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine called.
When Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover left to focus on his family, Glen's brother and Megadeth drummer Shawn Drover suggested Broderick. He showed Mustaine a video of Broderick playing classical and electric guitar. Mustaine was impressed. In an interview a year later, the Megadeth frontman compared Broderick's arrival to Ozzy Osbourne teaming with Randy Rhoads.
Of course, Osbourne isn't a guitarist like Mustaine is, but the idea of a perfect foil is applicable. Not only have Megadeth's two studio albums featuring Broderick (2009's Endgame and 2011's TH1RT3EN) been as aggressive and tight as the best in the band's catalog, but the two guitarists have complementary styles. Broderick describes them as "street vs. school."
"Dave's always been self-taught and he always kind of gets what he wants out of his playing, but you can tell he fights for it all the way there. You can hear it in his playing and in the way he attacks the guitar," said Broderick.
"I came at it from a very different road, where I had a lot of different instructors and people showing me the path to get there. I've always been about trying to minimize effort to do what I'm trying to do--two different paths," he said. "I think it's so cool because [our styles] both translate into their own feel and their own kind of sound. When you put them together, they complement each other very well.
"He brings his own writing style into the mix, so when I look at that, I'm thinking, 'How do I write a counter melody or a counter harmony to that particular part?' It definitely makes it that much more interesting for me," Broderick said.
Though there was a public furor over Broderick's addition--like there is with any change in a popular heavyweight act like Megadeth--he wasn't concerned. Broderick was more focused on the business at hand.
"I only saw the work that I had to do. I was like, 'I've got 22 songs to get down in less than a month, and I have to get cracking on these,'" he recalled. "It's one of those kinds of things where as soon as I saw the work, that's what I did. I didn't think about peripheral matters."
Broderick came on just as thrash started to regain prominence. He has enjoyed seeing firsthand the genre reach a new wave of fans.
"It's cool to see it transcend so many generations. Knowing that it's been around since 1983, and it's got fans that are still with us from then, but also to see it resurge in the younger generation is really cool. It's awesome to see them appreciate thrash the way I do," he said.
In that way, TH1RT3EN is the perfect album. It touches on the band's entire legacy, offering an introduction to its catalog. Part of this was seeded by Mustaine's decision to revisit and rework some of the band's old demos. Several of these tracks wound up on the album, bringing with them the inimitable air of earlier releases.
"It's almost like one song was pulled from each of the last CDs," said Broderick. "It kind of sums up the whole discography."
Not that the band is about to rest on its laurels. In fact, Broderick reports that during the last few weeks, Megadeth has been back in the studio.
"We're so busy right now. We're writing the new CD in our off time. And we're really not taking a lot of time off in the first place. We're just moving and grooving," he said.
But Broderick added that the band hasn't gotten that far into the process yet.
"We're demoing songs and starting to look at the direction we want it to go in," he said.
Broderick acknowledged that it's a challenge for a band like Megadeth to remain relevant--something it has managed to do as well as any of its Big 4 (Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth) peers. The band wants to keep pushing in new directions but not so much as to alienate its fans. It's a tough balance but one Broderick believes should be managed by not thinking about it and relying on instincts.
"As soon as you make something like that external and you start chasing a concept or an idea, it's not going to ring true," he said. "The best you can do is write what you want to hear, and write what you like and hope that other people appreciate it."