DAVID ELLEFSON Looks Back On Day DAVE MUSTAINE Heard METALLICA's 'Kill 'Em All' For First Time: 'He Was Pissed'
December 18, 2020
During an appearance on MACHINE HEAD frontman Robb Flynn's "No Fuckin' Regrets With Robb Flynn" podcast, MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson recounted the experience of listening to METALLICA's debut album, "Kill 'Em All", for the first time with Dave Mustaine, MEGADETH frontman and former METALLICA member, a mere three months after Mustaine was ejected from METALLICA.
"[The record] got sent out to us [by mail]," Ellefson recalled. "I remember [MEGADETH's then-guitarist] Greg [Handevidt] — he remembers in detail sitting there for like an hour of silence, or 38 minutes of silence, opening the box, looking at the record, opening the shrink wrap and putting it on the turntable. It was obviously a weird moment, 'cause me and Greg are there going, 'Oh my God. This is the moment.' It's like that moment you probably see your ex with somebody else. The pictures are there, and we were sitting there listening to it. [Dave was] listening to it, just staring at the speakers in complete silence, studying the songs. And I remember me and Greg sitting around him, just kind of nervously going, 'Oh my God. What's the reaction gonna be to this?' And I remember one of the first things he said, he goes, 'He fucking ripped off my solos.' That was Dave's first reaction — that Kirk [Hammett] had played his solos. They're not entirely the same, but to some degree."
He continued: "I remember that was a very personal thing to Dave — the solos. At that point, those [METALLICA] songs at least were well known in the [San Francisco] Bay Area, and people knew of those songs, and that ['No Life 'Til Leather'] demo had been traded around, so people knew. Dave definitely put the stamp and the die had been cast on that demo, the 'No Life 'Til Leather' demo. And you know how Dave plays — what he plays he plays night after night after night. It's a written part of the song. It's not some ad-libby, groovy jam solo. What's been recorded, that's there forever — that's exactly the way it's played night after night. So to Dave, the solo was as much a part of the composition — it wasn't a blues jam. And then, obviously, seeing the way the credits were on the record — songs Dave had written and brought it, and now the credits were divided up. So probably a lot like a divorce. He was pissed. And that was that moment that I think was, like, 'Oh, God. Here's the reality of it.' And, of course, for me, I'm, like, 'What's the big deal? We've got our own band. We're doing our own thing.' But at the same time, we had to be respectful. Obviously, this was Dave coming out of this big group that we had not heard of yet, METALLICA."
Hammett addressed the fact that he copied parts of Mustaine's original "No Life 'Til Leather" solos in a 2009 interview with Music Radar. He said: "I had a week to learn the songs [after being asked to join METALLICA]. At the end of that week, I flew out and I had a week to rehearse with them, and then we started playing shows. Every show just kept on getting better. When it came time to go into the studio, Johnny Z, our manager, said, 'You know you have to play Dave's solos.' I said I didn't really want to. 'Then why don't you take the opening to every solo, so that people think that they're Dave's solos and then you can go somewhere else with them?' he said.
"As a 20-year-old kid, put in a position like that, you don't want to rock the boat too much, especially being the new kid in town — the fresh guy," Hammett explained. "So I said, 'Sure.' That's exactly what I did. I took the first four bars of most of the solos and changed them. When I changed them, it was always for the better, and everyone liked it."
Mustaine did not play on any METALLICA albums and did not attend their induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2009.
METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich later explained to The Plain Dealer that Mustaine was not included because "you've got to kind of cap it somewhere. Dave 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 11 months, predominantly in 1982... I'm not trying to play it down. I have nothing but respect and admiration for his accomplishments since."
Mustaine told Norway's Lydverket that he never had any intention of attending METALLICA's Rock Hall induction if he wasn't going to be honored along with his former bandmates.
"I think someone would have to be a complete fool to think I was gonna go there and sit in the audience and watch them be inducted into the Hall Of Fame," he said. "It was nice that Lars that invited me, but any of the public that thinks I was gonna go... But what are you — stupid?! I'm proud of them, I wish them well, but what do I have to do?! That's masochism."
In an interview with Lydverket, Mustaine said that he was "so hurt" by getting kicked out of METALLICA for allegedly drinking too much. "I said, 'What?! No second chance, no warning? C'mon, we all drink. C'mon.'" he recalled. "And [they were like], 'No, that's it. You're gone.' And I was like, 'All right.'"
Mustaine also went on to claim that an altercation with METALLICA frontman James Hetfield led to his being fired from the band.
"I was selling pot," Dave said. "When I would go play in concert, people knew that my pot was sitting in my apartment just saying, 'Go ahead and keep me company.' So I was broken in on. People stole everything that I had; all my stash. And I figured, screw this. I'm gonna get some dogs to stay in the apartment when I leave. So I got two dogs and I took one of them up to a rehearsal one time and she put her paws up on Ron's [McGovney, METALLICA's then-bassist] car. And James kicked it right in the side. And I was like, 'What did you do?' [And I was like] 'It's a dog, it's what they do. You don't kick animals.' So we went into the house, and we started arguing some more. And I ended up punching him in the face and I think that was the root of why I lost my job."
In a 2009 interview with the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas radio station 97.1 The Eagle Rocks, Hetfield said that it was "so odd" to hear Mustaine still talking about his exit from METALLICA. "It is very Dave, and that's him," James said. "And no matter what band he was in or whatever... I mean, Dave is not in this band for a reason, and this is the reason. It's super-simple. He was in the band for 11 months and it goes on and on and on and on and on. I don't know any other band on this planet that there was a member in the band for a short amount of time and they've still got this big chip on his shoulder. It's insane.... You know what?! He's in love, and that's fine, 'cause we love him back."
Back in 2016, Hammett told the "Word Of Wheeler" podcast that he understood Dave's continued resentment toward his former bandmates over the way he was dismissed from the group. "I've always seen Dave as someone who was just really, really sad, really angry, really frustrated about his situation with METALLICA, and he never could let that go," he said. "And, you know, I've always shown a lot of empathy for him, understanding that he was just pissed off. It's the equivalent of the woman of your life leaving you. I mean, really. When your band kicks you out… I've never been kicked out, but I can imagine it's a horrible experience, especially if it's a band that you feel really passionately about. So I can understand Dave's plight over all these years. But I will also say that when we did these 30th-anniversary shows at the Fillmore [in San Francisco], and we invited Dave to play on all those 'Kill 'Em All' songs, man, it felt so good to have him playing on stage. It felt perfectly fine for me to, while Dave was playing the guitar solos, for me to go over to James and play the rhythm parts with James, and it wasn't a big deal at all. And I could see from the look on Dave's face and just from his whole attitude that it was super-cathartic for him. And I could see how it was helping him. And so I just took it all in stride. And it's interesting, because since then, I think, Dave's relationship with us is a little bit better now. I'd like to think that that whole thing just kind of healed some scars that needed to be healed."
After Hammett's comments about Mustaine were reported by BLABBERMOUTH.NET and other music sites, Dave took to his Twitter to respond. He wrote: "I have tremendous respect for @KirkHammett and I appreciate his take on this. he is almost 100% accurate...almost. I wish him the best."
In a September 2011 interview with Artisan News, Mustaine appeared to concur that his onstage reunion with METALLICA went a long way toward healing the wounds from the way his tenure in the band ended. Dave said: "When we [played a cover of DIAMOND HEAD's] 'Helpless' [as part of a 'Big Four' jam] one night, I walked over to say hello to Kirk on the stage and he said, 'Do you wanna take the solo?" and I said, 'Yeah.' [Laughs] But we forgot to tell anybody on the stage or [running] the sound out front that I was gonna do the solo, so the song's playing along and Kirk's playing rhythm full blast, and I'm sitting there going you can't hear what I'm doing. At least we knew what had happened. It was kind of a symbolic passing of the torch back to me and it was a nice gesture. I think that that helped Kirk and my relationship improve a bit."
In a September 2004 interview, Mustaine famously stated, "I really don't care about Kirk — he stole my job, but at least I got to bang his girlfriend before he took my job. How do I taste, Kirk?"