In the historic lore of Metallica, the firing of Dave Mustaine is legendary. Not only did Megadeth get spawned out of Dave’s long, bitter bus ride back to California from Queens, but his departure also made way for Kirk Hammett to solidify Metallica’s infamous line-up. Now, in a new interview, Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian has recounted the moment Mustaine got let go, and the total disbelief he felt upon hearing the news.
As reported by Metal Injection, Scott recently told his side of the story via Robb Flynn’s No Fuckin’ Regrets podcast, saying, “[The Metallica guys] all drank, but Dave drank more than they did. And the difference with Dave was, from my memory of that time, ’cause we were there all the time — we were hanging out with them all the time — all those other guys would get drunk and it was always fun, and Dave was kind of the not-fun guy when he would get too drunk. I mean, everybody knows one [guy like that]. And I think that was basically the beginning of the end, because now they were living together [at the rehearsal studio], and they were in close quarters all the time together, and I think they realized, they were, like, ‘How the hell are we gonna keep doing this and move forward if we’re constantly worrying about this?’
“I remember walking in one day and Cliff [Burton, then-Metallica bassist] was standing outside having a smoke,” he went on. “And I [said], ‘Hey, man, what’s up?’ He was, like, ‘Not much. We fired Mustaine. He’s on a bus, he’s on a Greyhound back to the [San Francisco] Bay Area.’ [And I was, like], ‘Yeah, right.’ He was, like, ‘No. I’m serious.’ And it’s Cliff, so he was that total ballbuster wise-ass. And he was just kind of smirking at me. And I’m, like, ‘Shut up. You’re playing a show week. Who’s gonna play guitar?’ He was, like, ‘We’ve already got a guy coming.’ I said, ‘Get the fuck outta here.’ He goes, ‘Go upstairs. Ask James.’ So I go up to the room. They’re just kind of dicking around in the room. I don’t see Dave. And I’m, like, ‘What’s going on? Cliff tells me you guys fired Dave.’ And Lars [Ulrich, Metallica drummer] was, like, ‘We did. Early this morning, we put him on a bus. He’s already five hours on the way back to California.’ [I was, like], ‘What? What?’ We had no idea. I [said], ‘What are you gonna do?’ [They said], ‘We’ve got this guy coming from this band Exodus that we know. He’s getting here tomorrow.'”
Ian also makes a point of mentioning that back in the day, Dave was very much the reason that a lot of people loved Metallica, going so far as to call him the band’s frontman.
“People don’t know that,” said Scott. “James wasn’t James yet. When I first met James, he would drink and he would change, but James, he was kind of like a shy, quiet dude. Dave was the mouthpiece. Dave was the guy. He was the frontman — a hundred percent… He was the attitude; he was the personality — it was everything. And I was kind of, like, ‘You think this is the right idea?’ And [they said], ‘We had to. We couldn’t deal with it anymore. He was getting us into trouble.'”
Check out the full episode below:
Words by Chris Krovatin