Dave Mustaine Of Megadeth

Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine: “I Think The Real Talent In Metallica Has Always Been Around The Guitar – Everybody Makes Fun Of The Drums”


Megadeth frontman/guitarist Dave Mustaine has opened up a bit further on the rift that once again derailed his relationship with his former Metallica bandmates James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. Mustaine‘s 1983 ouster from the esteemed thrash metal outfit led to decades of hostility and tension between the trio, while also serving as the impetus for Mustaine to eventually launch Megadeth.

While there have been moments of healing and coexistence (see Mustaine in Metallica‘s ‘Some Kind Of Monster‘ and the past ‘Big Four‘ touring), a mid 2010s dispute over old song publishing credits fractured that previously mended relationship once again.

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If you’re unaware that dispute stems from Metallica‘s plans for their “No Life ‘Til Leather” box set, which they were forced to shelf back in 2016. Mustaine‘s issues lie in the Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich‘s publishing percentages in several of the featured songs.

Mustaine somewhat infamously laid that out to RockHard back in 2018, stating:

“I’m not gonna give him [Lars] my credit, so I’m not gonna be part of it. I wrote all of ‘Mechanix‘, I wrote all of ‘Jump In The Fire‘, so me giving any percentage of that to Lars Ulrich, he can pound sand. And as far as the song ‘Phantom Lord‘, I wrote every note of that music, James [Hetfield] wrote all the lyrics. That’s 50/50. If James wants to give his percentage up to Lars because he’s afraid of him, that’s up to him.

I’m not afraid of Lars Ulrich, and I’m not giving him my percentage. And the same thing with ‘Metal Militia‘; I wrote every single note of that music, James wrote every note of that lyric — that’s 50/50. If James wants to give Lars his percentage, that’s fine if he’s afraid of him. I’m not afraid of him. I’m not giving nothing to Lars Ulrich…”

According to Mustaine, that disagreement ended discussions he and Hetfield had been having about potentially working together on new music. In a new interview with Songfacts, Mustaine was asked for more details about that failed reunion with Hetfield, to which the Megadeth founder replied:

“The last time we talked it didn’t end very well because we have some memory of a couple of things that took place when I was in the band. I remember it one way and he is saying that it happened another. But it’s about somebody else – it’s not even him. He’s talking to me on behalf of ‘you know who’ [Lars Ulrich].

They wanted to release ‘No Life ‘Til Leather‘ – 27 songs, posters, flyers, pictures, everything. I said I would love to do this thing, and James said,'”Look, we fucked up. The last three things we’ve done failed abysmally.’

He said it was ‘Lulu‘, something called ‘Orion‘ [Metallica‘s past ‘Orion Music + More‘ festivals], and there was one other thing… I think it was a film about a fan or something [‘Metallica: Through The Never‘]. I don’t know. I don’t see them as a failure.

But, I had said, ‘Yeah, I’d be interested.’ And he said, ‘We’d like to get everything right with all the history, the publishing and stuff.’ And I said, ‘Good.’ Because part of the reason why we haven’t been able to really reconcile is because I had songs that when I left I didn’t want them to record, and they went ahead and recorded them but they didn’t pay me what my share of the songs were.

James and I wrote ‘Metal Militia‘ and ‘Phantom Lord‘ – every note. And somehow, on the record [‘Kill ‘Em All‘] it says Lars gets 10%. And on ‘Metal Militia‘ that Kirk gets some of it, and he wasn’t even in the band!

So I’ve come to terms with it, and when he said, ‘We’d like to get this right,’ I said, ‘Great. Let’s do it. I have no problem.’ And when I said, ‘This is what it is,’ he said, ‘No. It’s kind of what it was, and that’s how it is.’

And I thought to myself, you know what? When you guys did that to me before, it was not cool. I said, ‘Don’t use my stuff’ and you did it, and then didn’t give me my fair share. So why would I want to willingly enter into something like that? I wouldn’t. So that’s where we stand right now.

I would love to work with James. I’d like to work with Lars again, too, but I think the real talent in Metallica has always been around the guitar – everybody makes fun of the drums.

Lars is a really great song arranger. And believe it or not, I watched him on a piece-of-shit acoustic guitar write the opening riff to ‘Ride The Lightning‘.” [Sings riff, which turns out to be ‘Master Of Puppets‘.]

You know what that was? It was a guy with a guitar that doesn’t know how to play, and he’s going [mimics playing a chromatic run] on the neck. It wasn’t anything really mind-blowing by any means. The way James played it made it mind-blowing.”

When it was pointed out that the riff he hummed sounded more like ‘Master Of Puppets‘, Mustaine responded:

“Yeah, whatever that is. I don’t fuckin’ know their song names. I don’t listen to them. I totally respect them, I just don’t listen to them. It’s not out of me not liking them. When they come on the radio in my car, a long time ago I would change the channel, but I don’t anymore. It’s just music, and I’ve been able to put all that stuff behind.

That’s why when I saw James talking bad about himself [see here], I was thinking, ‘Fuck that, man. Don’t buy into that.’ I don’t know if he’s back in the bottle or not, but I love that guy. I fought somebody because of James. Somebody was going to beat his ass in San Francisco, and I got in between them – and got knocked around a bit myself. But I would never let anything happen to those guys.

Somebody picked on Lars and I snapped his leg – you remember that, right? And I’m not a violent person, I’m just very protective of the people I love. And when I see James saying stuff like that, I don’t like it. I want to help him. He probably wouldn’t want my help, but maybe if a couple of guys with guitars and a bag full of chips can get through a conversation and become friends again, who knows?”

In the same interview, Mustaine also stated his wishes that he hoped to reunite the Big Four (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax) for at least another show, in which they could help ‘pass the torch’ to the ‘new Big Four’. Mustaine was asked about which guitarists he currently admires, when he brought up that idea, stating the following of it:

“…I think a lot of the household names in metal can go without saying: Michael [Amott] from Arch Enemy, and some of the guys like Jeff Loomis. And the guys from Lamb of God and the guys from Trivium. They’re all really good guitar players in their right.

And I really think it’s time for the guys in Metallica to step up, and us do one last round, see if we can get Slayer to come out of retirement and do a “Big 4 passing of the torch” to the new Big 4. It would remain to be seen who they are, but I have a feeling it would include some of the players we already mentioned.

I think it would be really cool symbolically if we did something at like, the LA Coliseum, even if it’s one show and that’s it. Slayer is from Los Angeles, so it would probably make it more convenient for them to go home at night. I personally have been hoping for this for a while, and I keep asking and asking and asking. They’re just not into it. But that’s up to them.”

You can find more from Mustaine, including which song he feels is a hidden gem in the Megadeth catalog, over at Songfacts.

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