Dirk Verbeuren, drummer for Megadeth, got his chops playing bands like Scarve, Aborted, and most notably Soilwork. True, he’s bashed skins for about 20 other bands/artists, but he made his mark jamming with the aforementioned. That’s likely what got him hired in Megadeth, in addition to the Chris Adler (Lamb of God) tip off. Verbeuren is proving to be the perfect fit for a recently (as of 2015) reconfigured Megadeth, where he’s able to show off his technical prowess, but also his respect for Megadeth songs recent and past.
Decibel asked Verbeuren what he thought about playing songs by Megadeth’s previous set of talented drummers before we tasked him with a list. Was it challenging to play from a song from 2016’s Grammy-winning “Dystopia” to then follow it up by a song from “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?,” an album from almost a lifetime ago? Turns out, it was and wasn’t: “I really had to try and understand the drums from all eras by listening to the albums in detail. What each drummer’s approach was. Also, what the band’s approach to that album was. The band has also evolved. For example, “Dystopia” has this very cold, futuristic vibe to it. Whereas, the early albums were more rock ‘n’ roll groove. They’re worlds apart. They fuse together with Dave’s voice and guitar, but it was a challenge to get the songs right, while also respecting what each drummer brought to Megadeth. At the same time, I wanted to be me. I didn’t want to be a 100 percent clone drummer. I wanted to put little things in the songs, so it was important, for me, to find the balance between the originals and what I could add to the songs. I didn’t want to overstep the songs. Dave [Mustaine] and David [Ellefson] were super-cool in helping me find my place.”
And with that, here’s Verbeuren’s Top 5 hardest Megadeth songs to play…
5. ‘The Threat is Real’ (“Dystopia”)
OK, so I’m going to mention ‘The Threat is Real,’ a Chris Adler track. People will say, “Ah, that’s really simple to play.” Actually, it’s not. Only when you try to play it [for real] that you can really lock it in. Sure, it’s simple on the surface, but there are things under the surface that aren’t as easy as they sound. For me, it’s easy to play busier stuff, like when I was with Scarve or Soilwork, than it is to play something stripped down like ‘The Threat is Real”. If I mess up with Megadeth, it’s obvious. I can hide behind the busy stuff. It’s been a learning experience for me.
4. ‘Holy Wars’ (“Rust in Peace”)
There are some tricky Nick Menza songs. Like ‘Holy Wars’. It’s a long song with lots of parts and lots of different grooves to get right. Plus, the live arrangement is tough to get right. It’s a stamina song for my right hand. Usually, the first two shows [on tour] my right hand is falling off. I’m trying to look like it’s fine, but inside I’m like, “Oooouch!” [Laughs] That’s the thing with Nick. Nick was more stripped down compared to Gar. But there are always a few really intricate fills, really fast things. It’s a fun song to play though.
3. ‘Sweating Bullets’ (“Countdown to Extinction”)
‘Sweating Bullets’ may seem like a simple song, but there’s a really fast triplet fill in there. I always have to really focus on that one. Megadeth is really groove oriented. I mean, I knew Megadeth, but when you play the songs, there’s a whole new level of appreciation happening. I had to learn what the focus was. It’s the groove, or the swing that’s happening. Dave [Mustaine] is such an amazingly solid rhythm guitar player. I have him in my ears and the nights when we can really lock in are really great. Maybe once every 30 shows. [Laughs] We play to a click, ’cause we’re all synched up to the videos. Everything’s clicked, but they’re an organic click. It’s not always straight. The older songs follow the vibe of the albums, which was interesting to learn. It’s like, “Woah, it goes slower here, wait, faster here?” You have to get into it.
2. ‘Mechanix’ (“Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!”)
I’ll say ‘Mechanix’. It’s a Gar [Samuelsson] track. It’s weird. It’s a mix of or between ternary and binary grooves. It’s not quite 2 and it’s not quite 3. It’s somewhere in-between. At first, I thought I’d just play a ternary with a triplet beat. Kind of follow the guitars. Then, Dave [Mustaine] told me I have to listen again, ’cause that’s not exactly how it’s played. I went back and thought, “Yeah, he’s right.” It’s a very Gar thing. Not sure how to describe it. [Laughs] I had to really focus to get that groove, the way the original sounds. Dave isn’t a drummer, but he has a very keen ear for everything that’s going on. If something is even slightly off, he notices.
1. ‘Wake Up Dead’ (“Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying?”)
The first song that comes to mind is ‘Wake Up Dead,’ which is one of my favorite songs to play. Mostly it’s technical, ’cause Gar, the drummer on the first two Megadeth records, had a really unique approach, blending rock and jazz-fusion influences. Also, back then drums weren’t recorded to a click-track, so it has a very organic kind of flow. It got a point where I asked Dave [Mustaine] to send me the drums only, so I could really figure out what was going on. Lots of little details—ghost notes—where I wasn’t sure what was going on. It’s a tricky song to play. It’s a short song, but it has a lot of different vibes in it and grooves that took a while to get used to.