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Megadeth, Metallica feud over
TORONTO ñ Every time he sits in front of journalists, Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine knows the first question is always going to be, ‘What do you think about Metallica?’
Ditched just before the rockers started to hit the big time in the early ’80s, the 48-year-old has endured a battle of the bands that has spanned decades and provides much of the grist for his new book, Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir.
“Without my songs and my solos, without my energy,” he says, “I don’t know that Metallica ever would have become the band that it was.”
A bold statement, but Mustaine insists there’s no bad blood with the band.
“It’s the journalists who’ve kept this going,” he says in an interview at his Canadian publisher’s head office. “The hatchet was buried a long time ago. People know not to bring up Metallica stuff with me because it was all just s— talking.”
Still, the story of how Mustaine helped start one of the world’s biggest rock bands only to be fired for overindulging in drugs and alcohol is one he needed to set straight.
“There’s a lot of stuff that’s been told a hundred times or more,” he says. “The only thing I tried to say was, ‘Hey, it’s true. The stuff [Metallica] said I did, well, I really did it.’ And I tried not to talk about what they did.
“Whatever caused them to fire me, I probably deserved.”
What helped him stick around long enough to launch Megadeth was his honesty and intricate guitar licks. But after hearing James Hetfield’s killer pipes on a nightly basis, he wasn’t convinced he could actually front his own band.
“You can’t change the voice of a band without serious problems,” he says, naming, AC/DC and Van Halen as the only two that have successfully swapped lead singers. But he wasn’t going to let some glam rocker lead him into battle with his ex-bandmates.
“The first time I sang, I felt like I had put a nail through my eyeball. Fortunately for us, I didn’t realize how long lasting the repercussions were going to be for me becoming a frontman.”
Left “dead f—ing broke” after his ouster, Mustaine was livid when Metallica’s debut, “Kill ‘Em All,” was released in the summer of 1983, and four of his songs were included.
“I was out for blood,” he writes. “I wanted to kick Metallica’s ass.”
And it was that perceived slap in the face that pushed him to form Megadeth, who rocketed up the charts following 1985’s “Killing Is My BusinessÖAnd Business is Good.”
But just like his time in Metallica, Mustaine continued to abuse drugs and alcohol, threatening his career and his heavy metal legacy.
Throughout the 346-page book, he candidly takes readers inside his troubled childhood, repeated visits to rehab and an almost career-ending ailment before becoming a born-again Christian in 2002.
“There’s some stuff in there I wish wasn’t, but it’s really necessary to paint the picture so people can see that I’m a survivor.”
He’s watched musicians come and go ñ in its various incarnations Megadeth has had close to two dozen members in almost 25 years ñ and his marriage almost went up in smoke.
It’s when a compressed nerve in his left arm almost ruined his ability to play the guitar in the early 2000s that he turned his life around.
Mustaine credits religion and his newly sober lifestyle with helping Megadeth stay relevant to a new generation of metal fans. But he sometimes thinks ’80s rockers might have an unfair advantage.
“When it comes down to doing solos, new guys don’t do them because they aren’t any good. There is a whole generation of nu-metal guitarists who don’t play solos because they don’t know how to.
“There’s nothing new that’s made me go ‘Wow,’ like the first AC/DC record I ever heard. I know that people felt that way when they first heard Metallica and Megadeth. We changed the world. People listened to us and said, ‘Who’s this band? Who’s that on guitar?'”
Along with Slayer and Anthrax, Metallica and Megadeth performed at the Big Four metal concerts in Europe last month and Mustaine has high hopes the tour will come to North America.
Proof, he says, that there’s no more bad blood.
“Now that the concerts have happened and a DVD is coming out, if people have to constantly be asking me if there’s still a feud, there’s something fundamentally wrong with them.
“What more do you need? A love child? We’re friends. [Metallica drummer] Lars [Urlich] and I sat next to each other at a dinner in Poland last month. Of course there’s the relationship that people see in the press, but the press also said aliens have visited the White House.
“How much of that s— do people really believe?”