DAVID ELLEFSON Says METALLICA 'Did The Right Thing' By Crediting DAVE MUSTAINE: 'They Gave Him A Chance For A Second Chance'
October 8, 2022
In a new interview with Artists On Record Starring ADIKA Live!, original MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson discussed Dave Mustaine's early rivalry with his former band METALLICA. Mustaine, who founded MEGADETH nearly four decades ago, is credited with co-writing four songs on METALLICA's 1983 debut album, "Kill 'Em All", which was recorded just weeks after his dismissal from the group.
"I was always encouraging Dave, going, 'Dude, don't look over there," Ellefson said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). "It's blinders. What we're doing is cool, man.' I mean, look, Lars [Ulrich, METALLICA drummer] was coming to our shows, paying attention to what we were doing. He was definitely a fan of Dave's work and he was a friend of Dave. I think it probably bummed him out that he had to let him go. He had to make a choice. But he continued to come to the gigs; he hung out; he was always friends with Dave. So it's, like, 'Look, these guys haven't forgotten you. Look, they used your songs; they put your name on it; and they paid you. I mean, they don't hate you.' There's a lot of other bands where it's, like, 'Fuck that guy. We're gonna steal his songs. We're not gonna credit him. And we're not gonna pay him. Fuck you. Sue us.' That's how it usually goes in the music business. So the fact that those guys did the right thing every step of the way, I think, is awesome. Because otherwise, look, Dave — using a BEATLES analogy — he could have been the Pete Best of METALLICA, the most forgotten, never-heard-of-again member of METALLICA, had they not put his name on those records. That validated him. They gave him a chance for a second chance by putting his name on those records, using those compositions, and then again, paying him."
In August, Mustaine reflected on his 1983 dismissal from METALLICA and the formation of MEGADETH while speaking to podcaster Joe Rogan of "The Joe Rogan Experience". When asked if went "right into" MEGADETH after his exit from METALLICA or if it took him some time to plot his next move, Dave said: "I think in my mind I went right into MEGADETH, but at the time I was still kind of trying to digest everything that took place.
"The thing that bothered me the most was I had all my music, and I left it behind and I said, 'Don't use my music.' And of course they did. They used it on the first record [1983's 'Kill 'Em All'], on the second record [1984's 'Ride The Lightning']. There's parts of my music on a song on the third record [1986's 'Master Of Puppets']. All the solos on the first record are mine, except that they're just performed by Kirk [Hammett, METALLICA's current guitarist]. And [they're] close but not the same. And he's not a bad guitar player."
When asked if he got royalties for that, Mustaine said: "Well, most of 'em, yeah, but Kirk got my royalties for [the song] 'Metal Militia' [from 'Kill 'Em All'] for many, many years. And he has to see the check, so I know somebody saw that I wasn't getting paid.
After Rogan noted that Mustaine feels both "sadness and bitterness" over his departure from METALLICA, Dave said: "Not bitterness — I'm over it. It's just money. At the end of the day, my happiness and my family and my wife and my children are more important to me than anything in this world. I love our fans. I have so many things in this life that I'm happy about. But, man, it's my family. And obviously my relationship with God. I take that very, very personal. And I don't talk to people about it; I don't push it on 'em at all. It's my thing. And I just look at it like where I'm at right now… Yeah, [I was] 20 [years old] in METALLICA, and now, look at me, I'm 60 [years old] in MEGADETH. And I'm a Grammy winner. I'm a New York Times best-selling author — all these things."
In a 2009 interview with Norway's 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?"
Mustaine did not play on any METALLICA albums and did not attend their induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2009.
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."
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