Don’t be surprised if Dave Mustaine slips a little Mahler into his Megadeth set at the Pima County Fair Saturday night.

The metal group guitarist played a sold-out concert of classical pieces with the San Diego Symphony over the weekend, taking the lead on works from composers such as Dvorak, Bach, Berlioz and Vivaldi.

It was Mustaine’s first foray into the classical realm.

“I love challenges like this,” he said in a phone interview in March from his Southern California home. “I’ve succeeded in this business with adversity that would have caused most people to roll over and die. This stuff excites me. You say I can’t do it? Watch me.”

Megadeth’s set at the fair will be less about orchestral works and more about showcasing the band’s extensive repertoire, which includes songs from its 2013 album, “Super Collider.”

Any ties to Tucson? “Living right up the freeway for so many years, we spent a lot of time trekking back and forth to Tucson. We played a bunch of places from clubs to casinos to arenas. It is great to be able to look back over a period of time and see how it has changed, if there are people that we still know. The music industry is such a small family.”

Congrats on the symphony gig. Have you ever performed with an orchestra before? “Not that I remember. I like classical music. I always have. I thought it was really cool in cartoons when something bad was going to happen and the music changed.

“I was trying to tell my daughter about the Richard Wagner piece from Bugs Bunny. The one where Elmer Fudd sings ‘Kill the wabbit. Kill the wabbit.’ She thinks I am insane. I guess it is better to have a dad that is fun than an uptight (expletive).”

Did you reach out to the symphony or did they come to you? “We reached out to them a little bit. Metal music has always been kind of dramatic. We’ve had a lot of string stuff on our records over the years. You can’t hear it dominating, but it is there.

“We are a metal band. We use it as ear candy. I think if it is done right and it is cool, it can really be great.”

What are you most excited about with the classical collaboration? “How the two different cultures will come together. What is it going to be like with guys rolling up in leather and spikes. There will be a lot of wondering. ‘When do you clap? When do you take pictures?’ Most concerts, they are stomping up and down the aisles with beers in their hands.”

Can we expect to hear any Vivaldi at the fair? “If you are there, I’ll play it for you in the dressing room. But not on stage. I am saving that for when the Tucson Symphony invites me to play with them so that I can say, ‘I’ll be there with pleasure.’ “

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at or 807-8430