From Eidolon to Megadeth: Drummer Shawn Drover Tells All
Drummer Shawn Drover’s thunderous beats have been echoing across the landscape of hard rock and heavy metal for the better part of thirty years, leaving shuttering masses quivering in his wake.
Drover first erupted onto an unsuspecting scene alongside his brother, Glen Drover, forming Canadian power metal band, Eidolon. And between 1996 and 2002, Drover lent his cavernous drum licks to five stellar records before Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine came calling, changing the drummer’s trajectory forever.
Once integrated into the fold, Drover appeared on United Abominations (2007), Endgame (2009), Thirteen (2011), and Super Collider (2013), aiding Mustaine in allowing Megadeth to regain its footing after its reformation and clocking in as the band’s longest-tenured drummer.
Drover’s time with Megadeth was both prosperous and fulfilling. Still, he sought to make heavier music, and in 2014 the veteran drummer formed Act of Defiance, churning out two additional records before taking a moment to catch his breath.
Amidst work on his latest yet-to-be-named project, Drover took a moment with me to recount his musical origins, his time with Eidolon and Megadeth, and what’s next for him moving forward.
You played guitar early on, right? What first led you to pick up the drums?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 14 years old and still do to this day, but I’m primarily a drummer. Playing guitar has been beneficial to me over the years, though, since I’ve written most of the songs for Eidolon over the years and around 40%-ish of the music for Act of Defiance as well. I’ve been a drummer since I was 13 years old, but I’ve also been a songwriter for almost as many years, so it’s worked out well for me to be able to play both instruments.
What were some of your early gigs?
Early gigs were, of course, the usual high school band stuff, which looking back, is an important part of being a young musician; interacting with other young musicians and learning how to play cover tunes and things like that. It’s all part of the growth process to becoming a better musician over time, or at least it was for me.
Can you break down your unorthodox technique and how it was developed?
I am left-handed, so when I started attempting to play drums at 14 and figuring it out, of course, I was playing on a right-handed drum kit; not knowing any better, I just played openhanded because it felt natural to me. Looking back now, I’m certainly glad I did it that way instead of setting up a kit completely the opposite way for a left-handed drummer. It has some advantages and a few disadvantages. Still, I’ve been playing this way for so long now that it’s completely natural just jumping on anybody’s drum kit and being able to play openhanded.
Walk me through the formation of Eidolon.
My brother Glen and I have been playing together on and off since we started playing in our early teens. We recorded various demos early on, and Glen became interested in how that whole recording process works, so he bought various parts and began building his own home studio, which took a long time and a lot of work to figure out how to do all of that stuff. By 1993, Glen had gotten comfortable enough to record full-length recordings, to which we did two guitar-shredding instrumental records, which we named Eidolon. Around 1995, we decided to become an actual band, so we found a singer and a bass player. We started recording full-length band records, which ultimately were signed by Metal Blade Records in 1999, and we released several records through them.
What are your memories of the recording of Zero Hour?
That record was released in 1996, so some of the memories are kind of vague, but I do remember us knowing that we had a batch of solid heavy metal songs, so it was an exciting time for us. Also, it was the first record where it was a full band, so we were all pretty jacked up to make the best record we could, and that’s exactly what we did. It’s a pretty underground record, but of those who do have that record, most of them really enjoy it, which is a good thing.
My favorite Eidolon record is Coma Nation. Can you break it down for me?
In my opinion, that was a solid record as well. We had just gotten Pat [Mulock] into the band as our new singer, and again we knew that we had a good batch of really solid heavy metal songs, so it was business as usual for us. We set out to make the best music we could and hoped that other people liked it as well as we did. That’s all you can really do in the end.
Do you regret ending the band or feel there is unfinished business?
No, I don’t regret ending Eidolon at all because, honestly, it was never much more than a recording band that played the occasional festival somewhere in Europe. It was never a band that toured seven months out of the year, so after six records with less than stellar results in terms of sales, the band had kind of run its course if you ask me. It was an important part of what was to come, though.
How did you ultimately come to meet Dave Mustaine and join Megadeth?
A fan of Eidolon from England named Sam Shuttleford heard that Megadeth was resurrecting the band, and we’re looking for some new musicians. So, Sam contacted somebody at Megadeth management or something like that and recommended that my brother be considered for the new guitar slot. Of course, Glen had no intention of auditioning or anything like that, so once Megadeth people contacted Glen via email, it was completely out of the blue. But both of us being such fans of Megadeth, Glen decided to go for it, to which he got the gig in 2004. Once they started rehearsals for their upcoming tour, it was not working out with their drummer, so six days before the tour, I was also asked to be in the band upon Glen’s recommendation, which was again a complete shock, but I knew I had to go for it and I’m glad I did. The rest is history.
What were the biggest challenges of being in Megadeth as opposed to Eidolon?
I don’t know if they were necessarily challenges, but we certainly had to adapt to all of a sudden being in a huge heavy metal band. But we are both apt pupils, so we learned quickly what to do and what not to do. Our focus was always on the music because we loved it so much, so it was always about making sure we played the songs as well as we could; the rest of it was just icing on the cake, and it sure was a lot of fun.
How steep was the learning curve for United Abominations?
The recording process for that record was great fun as we recorded all drum tracks in England, so we had a great time recording there at Sarm Studios. At that point, Glen and I had recorded many records previously, so there wasn’t much of a learning curve; again, it was all about knowing and executing the new music the best that we could.
Can you take me through the compositional process of “Headcrusher” from Endgame?
If memory serves me, I wrote that song probably within a couple of hours, which often is the case for me when I’m inspired to write music. The version that I had of that song had a few parts that were omitted and replaced with riffs that Dave came up with, which ultimately made the song better, but probably about 80% of the music and that song came from me. Honestly, all I wanted to do was write an up-tempo heavy song that sounded like Megadeth, which in my opinion, is exactly what it is.
Did you find the band dynamics more challenging to manage in the wake of Glen leaving?
No, it was just different. Glen left at the end of the United Abominations World Tour back in early 2008. At that point, I think Glen just had enough of the touring life and wanted to be home more, so he made the difficult decision to leave the band. It was nothing personal against the band or musical at all; he just did not wanna tour as much as we were touring at that time.
Both you and Glen were instrumental in Chris Broderick joining Megadeth. What made him a good fit?
When Glen was getting ready to leave the band, we took it upon ourselves to think of potential replacements. We wanted it to be a quick turnaround in terms of getting a new guy instead of having a cattle call with forty guitar shredder dudes. We had both heard a lot of good things about Chris, so once Glen made the call to management saying he was leaving, he told them to give Chris a call. So, they gave Chris a call the next day, and I believe within about three or four days, Chris was the new guitar player. So, it was a fast turnaround with getting a new guitar player in the band, and it worked out well for everyone at the time.
Super Collider was your final record with Megadeth and perhaps your finest. Take me through the sessions.
I’m going to have to disagree with you here; that record is certainly not the best record that I played on with Megadeth, in my opinion. Although opinions are subjective, so you certainly have the right to your opinion as well. For me personally, that record is the least favorite of my time in that band, so I really don’t have a lot of memories that I recall doing that record other than we recorded it in our own studio in Van Nuys, California just as we did for Endgame and Thirteen. If you know anything about me at all, I am always an advocate for the heavy stuff, and that record did not have enough heavy material, in my opinion. So, it is definitely not my favorite, but I’m glad you like it.
During your time in Megadeth, what was your approach to legacy tracks by Gar and Nick?
I was always a huge fan of Gar, but his approach is way different than mine as he was much more of a jazz-influenced drummer. But I always tried to keep the songs fairly close to the original while adding a little bit of my own flair in there, though not too much. Killing Is My Business and Peace Sells are two of my all-time favorite thrash metal records.
What led you to leave Megadeth after clocking in as the band’s longest-serving drummer and member behind David Ellefson?
I just think after ten years, I had just had enough, and I wanted to do something different musically. I had great fun in that band, and I don’t regret one second of it, but I figured at some point I had to go back to writing and recording my own music. And that is exactly what I did when I formed Act of Defiance back in 2015.
Is Dave as hard to work with as he’s made out to be? Did you feel you couldn’t pursue your own music while in Megadeth?
I always knew what my role in the band was, and I was never disillusioned enough to think that I was an equal partner at any point. Megadeth is and will always be Dave Mustaine’s band which is great, so I just did my job and respected the legacy of that band and what it represented. So, I really never had any problems at all, to be honest. I had no desire to do any outside music for the ten years that I was in that band. My focus was always on Megadeth for the ten years I was in Megadeth. I was very happy and content with that.
What has Act of Defiance allowed you to do that perhaps you couldn’t while with Megadeth?
I love all kinds of metal, but at that time, I really wanted to go and do something ultra heavy but not stray too far from what I have done for years. So, that’s exactly what I did with Act of Defiance, and for two records and three years of touring, I enjoyed doing just that.
What was your approach during the recording of Birth and Burial and Old Scars, New Wounds?
The only blueprint we had for Act of Defiance was just to write a batch of slamming heavy metal songs. We didn’t have any musical parameters except for not straying outside of the heavy metal box, so we had thrash songs, slow-pounding songs, you name it. So, that was very satisfying artistically at the time.
What’s next for you?
For the past year, I have been working on a new record with Glen, Joe DiBiase from Fates Warning, and Henning Basse, who is a great German singer! We are really taking our time with it and want to make sure that everything comes out exactly the way we want it to. So far, we are really happy with the results that we have, and we hope to have the record out sometime in 2023!