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Fired From Metallica, So He Formed Megadeth: Dave Mustaine's Story

Music | September 13, 2020

Megadeth 1987 David Ellefson, Chuck Behler, Jeff Young and Dave Mustaine (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)

Dave Mustaine, of thrash-metal gods Megadeth, was fired by Metallica in 1983 -- and his career path is a lesson in how to channel rage and bitterness into success. After being sacked from the most innovative metal band of the early 1980s, he formed the next dominant group of the genre. Mustaine’s story is the perfect example of going from zero to hero as his firing from Metallica inspired him to form another band that would conquer the metal world, and they would be called Megadeth.

Mustaine Was A Key Member Of Metallica In The Early Days

Metallica lineup with Dave Mustaine. Source: Metalheadzone.com

While reading the local Los Angeles newspaper The Recycler on a casual morning in 1981, metal enthusiast Dave Mustaine noticed an ad from a band looking for a lead guitarist. Mustaine knew this was his time to demonstrate his sensational shred-style of guitar playing. When he arrived for the audition, drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist James Hetfield were already hooked when they heard Mustaine warming up. It was then, before he even had the chance to audition, that they decided Mustaine would be a member of their new band, which would be called Metallica.

Mustaine spent the next two years touring and co-writing songs with Metallica, constantly blowing crowds away with his dynamic, mind-melting guitar solos. The audience loved him, but his bandmates were less enthralled because of his personal issues. Mustaine developed a serious addiction to drugs and alcohol during his tenure with Metallica, so much that it even frustrated the party-loving band nicknamed “Alcoholia”. Mustaine pushed his substance abuse to another level with his aggressive and violent behavior that came out when he was drunk, which was his usual state of mind. In one instance, Mustaine's dog scratched bassist Ron McGovney’s car; McGovney retaliated by kicking the pooch, and Mustaine responded by physically beating McGovney and Hetfield. Another time, he dumped beer down McGovney’s bass neck and pickups, practically destroying McGovney’s prized instrument. It was clear the clashing personalities were causing more harm than good. 

Metallica Fired Mustaine And Put Him On A Bus

On April 11, 1983, Metallica was in New York to record their debut album -- that's also the last day Mustaine was a member of the group. The band was so agitated with his destructive behavior and belligerent drunkenness so they ended his time with them for good. Waking up with a hangover, Mustaine was informed he was out of the band. Instead of sending him on a plane, they drove him to a bus terminal and sent him back to Los Angeles on a Greyhound. They gave him nothing else. 

Mustaine was furious with the abruptness of their decision, leaving him no warning and without a dime to his name. He spent the next phase of his life homeless, begging for change and couch hopping. Mustaine was especially frustratrd since he had co-written many songs on the album they were just about to record, Kill 'Em All, and in fact Mustaine's would be considered the best songs on the album. Without wasting a moment of time, Mustaine did write the lyrics for the future Megadeth song “Set The World Afire” on that uncomfortable bus ride home.

Megadeth Was Mustaine's Revenge

Source: Ultimate Guitar

Mustaine was enraged, but would not give up on his musical ambitions and was now out for revenge on his previous bandmates. When he was home, he decided on a mission of “building the perfect beast,” and that he “was out for blood. [He] wanted to kick Metallica’s ass, and [he] couldn’t do that with amateurs. The mission was too important for dilettantes.” One night in 1983, while Mustaine was trying to catch up on sleep, he was disrupted by the bass player downstairs playing Van Halen’s “Runnin’ With The Devil.” Ironically, Mustaine approached his neighbor to complain about the noise. This is when he met Dave Ellefson and Greg Handevidt, with whom he stayed up all night discussing music, and by morning they decided to form their own band, which would eventually be called Megadeth.

Megadeth Challenged Metallica For Thrash Metal Dominance

Megadeth in 1985. Source: MetalSucks

This new thrash metal band ended up taking the world by storm, shocking the members of Metallica, who were convinced Mustaine would spend the rest of his years as a drunken bum wandering the streets regretting his actions. Mustaine’s firing ended up being the best thing that could have ever happened to him as he was now able to lead his own band and take control. He encouraged Megadeth to play even faster, heavier, and darker than Metallica, which seemed impossible since Metallica was at the top of this game. Megadeth still accomplished this mission. Megadeth continued to push the boundaries of music, and even helped thrash metal gain popularity as they released multiple platinum-selling albums and became one of the most admired metal bands of the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Mustaine has apologized to Metallica for his excessive behaviors, and they have since reconciled their differences. The former rival bands have even toured together in recent years. Mustaine still has no regrets over his life since everything he ever desired came together with Megadeth.  

Tags: Dave Mustaine | Heavy Metal | Megadeth | Metallica

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Emily Morenz

Author

Despite her younger age, Emily Morenz (Emo) is a serious 1960s/1970s enthusiast who is pretty much the Austin Powers of this decade. Through her all-vintage wardrobe, obsession with old time rock 'n' roll, and her mid century bedroom and 1,200+ vinyl collection you might think she just stepped out of a time machine. Emo plays the rare gems of the ‘60s and ‘70s on her radio show on OC’s 101.5 KOCI and teaches rock ‘n’ roll history on her podcast “The Rock & Roll Sweetheart.” When there's not a pandemic, she's rockin’ out with all the middle aged-men at every single classic rock concert happening around the town, and she will battle her away to front row and dance hard. Paul McCartney even once brought her up on stage to dance...while she was in a walrus costume. You also might find Emo surfing waves, skateboarding through a neighborhood, groovin' '60s gogo style, and pretending like she can play bass. And she's obsessed with peanut butter and corgis.