In a new interview with Greg Prato of Songfacts, MEGADETH leader Dave Mustaine was asked to elaborate on his recent comment that he would like to collaborate again with METALLICA frontman James Hetfield. Asked if he actually discussed that with James, Dave said: "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'," apparently referring to METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich. "They wanted to release 'No Life 'Til Leather' [the early METALLICA demo Mustaine was on] — 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' [METALLICA's collaboration with Lou Reed, released in 2011], something called Orion [a festival called Orion Music + More that took place in 2012 and 2013], and there was one other thing... I think it was a film about a fan or something [the 2013 film '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," Dave continued. "And somehow, on the record ['Kill 'Em All'] it says Lars gets 10%. And on 'Metal Militia' that Kirk [Hammett, METALLICA's current guitarist] 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 '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."
Nearly three years ago, Mustaine said that he didn't want to "perpetuate false information" by giving Ulrich songwriting credit on the previously announced expanded version of "No Life 'Til Leather".
"No Life 'Til Leather" was released as a limited-edition cassette for Record Store Day in April 2015, available exclusively in independent record stores. It featured artwork copies from drummer Ulrich's own personal copy of the original demo, as well as his handwriting. At the time, the band also promised that expanded editions of the demo, which had never before been commercially available, would arrive on CD, vinyl and in a collector's set.
The seven-song tape was recorded with the first lineup of the band that appeared live as METALLICA, including Ulrich, Hetfield, lead guitarist Mustaine and bassist Ron McGovney. The original recordings were paid for by High Velocity record label owner Kenny Kane, with a view of making them available as an EP in 1982.
Mustaine discussed the proposed expanded edition of "No Life 'Til Leather" during a June 2018 interview with U.K.'s Kerrang! magazine. Saying that the last time he spoke to Hetfield was when the METALLICA guitarist/vocalist called him to talk about the "No Life 'Til Leather" re-release, Mustaine recalled: "He was trying to get me to give publishing over to Lars, despite James and I being the sole songwriters. Lars wanted a percentage and I just said no. I love James, he's a terrific guitar player, but yeah, I can't do that. The songs are already out there. I'm not going to release something just to have a product to sell — especially if they are perpetuating false information. Lars did not write the songs. It was just me and James. Period."
Ulrich told Metal Forces in 2016 that "some unexpected difficulties on the legal side… prevented the 'No Life 'Til Leather' box set and our vision for how we were going to kick this whole reissue series off. We spent some time doing that dance, but then James and I decided that it wasn't worth it getting bogged down in all the unpleasantries, because this was supposed to be a celebration and not end up being a tug of war, so we thought, 'You know what? Fuck it. We'll just move on to 'Kill 'Em All'," he said.
Ulrich did not want to get into the details of the exact issues that were preventing the demo tape from being released. "It's a little more complicated than that," he said. "There's no reason to go deeper into it. It was just something that we hadn't expected."
Back in November 2017, Mustaine tweeted that he was contacted by Hetfield two years earlier about "officially" releasing "No Life Till Leather" with "27 tracks, pics, the whole enchilada," but, he said, "the talks broke down because Lars wanted credit on two songs I wrote every note and word to. I have the texts. I passed."
When Ulrich spoke to Metal Forces in 2016, he made it clear that METALLICA was still hopeful that the expanded version "No Life 'Til Leather" would arrive at a later date. "As you know, I am the eternal optimist, and I am the eternal 'glass is well fucking half full,' so who knows?" he said. "I think some of those parties have circled back around now that they've seen that this is real and so we'll have to see. It would be great to share 'No Life 'Til Leather' in a year or two with our fans and with the people that care. We haven't shut the door on it."
"No Life 'Til Leather" was recorded on July 6, 1982 at Chateau East Studio in Tustin, California. All the songs on the tape later appeared on the band's 1983 debut album, "Kill 'Em All", including "Hit The Lights", "Motorbreath", "Jump In The Fire", "Seek And Destroy", "Metal Militia", "Phantom Lord" and "The Mechanix", which was renamed "The Four Horsemen" on the album.
"No Life 'Til Leather" track listing:
01. Hit The Lights
02. The Mechanix
04. Seek & Destroy
05. Metal Militia
06. Jump In The Fire
07. Phantom Lord
"No Life 'Til Leather" recording lineup:
James Hetfield - lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Lars Ulrich - drums
Dave Mustaine - lead guitar
Ron McGovney - bass
Mustaine was a member of METALLICA for less than two years, from 1981 to 1983, before being dismissed and replaced by Kirk Hammett.
Mustaine was not inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with METALLICA during the April 2009 ceremony at Cleveland, Ohio's Public Auditorium. Ulrich later explained to The Plain Dealer that Mustaine "never played on any METALLICA records. No disrespect to him. But there [were] half a dozen other people that were in the lineup in the early days. We thought... the fair thing to do would be to include anybody that played on a METALLICA record." He added: "Dave Mustaine was in the band for eleven months, predominantly in 1982... I'm not trying to play it down. I have nothing but respect and admiration for his accomplishments since."