Guitarist Chris Poland has left an indelible mark on the metal world. A member of Megadeth from their earliest days, the New York state native provided the yin with his fluid leads, to Dave Mustaine's more abrasive yang, on their first two LPs; ‘Killing is My Business… And Business is good!’ and the landmark ‘Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?’. Parting ways with the band in 1987, he’s since moved back to concentrating on his jazz fusion stylings, with three-piece OHM. We caught up with Chris at NAMM, to chat his work with Legator Guitars, his time in and out of Megadeth, and how he ain’t superstitious about ever playing with them again. Last rites; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Chris, you’ve just played some astonishing solos here at NAMM 2019; what’s it like to pick up one of these Legator guitars and let rip like that?
Well, me and Ken and Ryan [Knowles] have been working on this design for four or five months, and I am so blown away. It’s perfectly balanced. It’s the best guitar I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a lot of guitars, man; Paul Reed Smiths, Andersons, Jacksons, Schecters; and that is the best guitar I’ve ever played.
Click HERE to see Chris in action at NAMM 2019.
You’re a regular at the winter NAMM Show; what makes you come back year after year?
Well, normally I get a room and I come all four days, but I just couldn’t do it this year; I had stuff at home going on, and I just was like; “I’m just going to come on Saturday”. But I wish I did come for all four days, because then I’d have a chance to go look at new stuff.
When you’re at NAMM, do you still get recognised a lot from your Megadeth days?
Oh, of course. No matter what I do, no matter how good I do anything; it’s always going to be me and Megadeth. But I’m very proud of everything we did together.
The tales of Megadeth’s early days are infamous; was it as crazy as it’s made out to be?
Oh God; it was way crazier than that! No, there was… I can’t even tell you the stories.
On the ‘So Far, So Good… So What!’ album, there’s the song ‘Liar’, which was supposedly written about you.
Oh know man. You know what? I never even listened to it, but somebody told me about it, and I’m like; “Yeah, okay, so Dave’s pissed – so what?!”
Do you have any connection with any of the Megadeth guys at all these days?
You know what, not really, man. I have no animosity towards them; it’s just that I’ve got too much other shit going on.
You did almost re-join Megadeth on a couple of occasions; firstly for the ‘Rust in Peace’ album.
It almost did happen [then]. My manager Janie Hoffman, she told me they wanted me in the band, and then she said; “You know what? If you join that band, you’re going to die”. And I thought about it. I was going to do it, but then on the way down there, I think we had dinner at The Ivy; it was Ron Laffitte [Megadeth manager], Mustaine, me, Janie. And on the way down I said; “You know what? I’m not going to do it”. And she basically said; “You have a deal; you have a record deal for your own thing that you love to do; why are you going to take a chance on joining a band where you’ve just got sober, and those guys might not be sober? And if they’re not, you know it’s only going to take a month before you start using again”.
You’re talking about your debut solo album ‘Return to Metalopolis’ ; how do you view it all these years later?
I had just got sober, and before that I wasn’t a tone chaser, so I just felt like the tones I got for that record were kind of like everything I could just get on the spot. My tone’s a lot different now because I care now. Back then I didn’t really care; I would just take a Rockman [amp], and plug it into the front of a Marshall half-stack, and that was it.
Moving forward, and the second time you did end up working with Megadeth was on ‘The System has Failed’ album, in 2004.
That was just a studio thing. But what was really cool was Ralph Patlan was the engineer on that record, and he had a Plexi 51 Marshall in there that was the best late-sixties’ Plexi I ever heard. So I brought my whole rig down, and I played it for him, and he goes; “Here, plug into this amp”, and as soon as I plugged into that amp, man, I was like; “Alright, I’ll use this!” And then he had a case that was like three feet wide, and six feet long and two feet high full of vintage pedals, so the wah sound that we got on the last song on the record [‘My Kingdom’], was this furry, red Vox wah that he had. Dude, I had my pick of all these pedals, and that was a really great session.
Hearing you talk about your sound, and watching you tweaking the EQ today; you’re very much about the tone these days.
Well, they had the tweeters on these Yamaha NS10 copies flat out! So it’s like trying to play a razor blade, you know?!
Dave Mustaine has talked about Megadeth’s possible induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; if that happened, would you be up for jumping up on stage with the band again?
Absolutely! I don’t have any [problem with anyone]. Like I said; everybody’s got their own life. If anybody’s got a problem with our lives before, then they should have dealt with it by now.
Finally, you’re looking remarkably healthy these days, which is a long away from those hedonistic early days; would you say you’ve made the right decisions along the way?
Oh, thank you very much! Oh, I think so, especially letting go of the opiate thing. But I love playing guitar, and I’ll play guitar until I can’t. Luckily, I don’t have arthritis yet!
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Visit Chris Poland's Legator Guitars profile, HERE.