Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Six-band Gigantour hits city with the subtlety of a wrecking ball

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Step aside, fiddle-playing folkies -- it's time for Winnipeg to crank it up.

Two metal mainstays, Kiss and Megadeth, invade the MTS Centre with their distorted earth-shaking rattle on two separate evenings in the next week.

The Kiss concert on July 18 marks the first time fire-breathing frontman Gene Simmons returns to Winnipeg since receiving the key to the city in 2011. Mayor Sam Katz's decision raised a small uproar in civic political circles before and after the ceremony.

An uproar of a different kind will take place four days later. On Monday, the heavy metal fest Gigantour arrives at the arena, with Megadeth as the headliner of a six-band, six-hour-plus bill that begins at 4:30 p.m.

Megadeth founder Dave Mustaine is the mastermind behind Gigantour, and along with a cadre of key advisers, he finds like-minded bands to join the heavy metal circus.

"The cool thing with Gigantour is that I never wanted it to be a rigid thing," Mustaine says in a telephone interview from Oklahoma City, where proceeds from the show went to help people displaced by tornadoes that ravaged the city earlier this year.

Bands have rotated in and out of Gigantour since it launched in 2005, with Megadeth serving as the Gigantour linchpin on tours across North America, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The heavy metal community is a tight-knit one and often there's a close connection between members of the different bands, Mustaine says.

"It's the spirit of heavy metal -- fellowship with people who are like-minded," Mustaine says. "We're salt-of-the-earth people, from the working class."

Musicians from different bands have often performed together previously or recorded together in the past.

For example, David Draiman, vocalist for Device, one of Gigantour's July 22 six-pack, appears on the Megadeth track Dance in the Rain, a single from their new album Super Collider.

Other Mustaine selections for Gigantour are Black Label Society, founded by former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde; metal supergroup Hellyeah; Newsted, a new band formed by former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted; and Death Division, which includes former Hellyeah bassist Jerry Montano.

When there's so many potential hellraisers on the same bill, trying to keep the personalities from clashing is critical, Mustaine says.

"It doesn't always work," he says, recalling fractious talks with one potential Gigantour artist that didn't pan out. "It was just terrible. He was worse that I ever was. We couldn't even get through negotiations before we said, 'Forget it.'"

The right mix of music -- even in the thrash-metal genre Megadeth helped pioneer -- is another aspect to consider, Mustaine says.

"If someone has to listen to six hours of the same thing, then forget it."

Megadeth tries for some of that variety on Super Collider, which hit the streets in April. A cello shares the guttural sound in Dance in the Rain while a ganjo -- a banjo body with a six-string guitar neck -- adds a nasty intro to The Blackest Crow.

"(We were) trying to go for that haunted-house-in-a-bayou sound," Mustaine says.

Difficulties within his family played a part in the new album's lyrics, he says.

"I started writing about my mother-in-law who has Alzheimer's disease and that has really shook us up," Mustaine says, adding that some of those thoughts eventually made it into songs like Forget to Remember.

"That's one of the scariest feelings -- to be alone. That nobody cares," he says.

Mustaine recognizes music's role in coping with life's difficulties. That's where heavy metal's loud-and-proud sound and garish costumes can come in.

"Sadly, when world turmoil is on the rise, that's when heavy metal becomes more popular," Mustaine explains. "It helps to try to sing about outrage, whether it's politics or the economy.

"It's a great outlet to release your stress."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2013 C3

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