Dave Mustaine recently perked the ears of metal heads when he revealed that he and his former Metallica band mate, James Hetfield, were at one point planning a “project” together.
But, he continued, things got derailed after Mustaine offended Hetfield with a comment about publishing royalties.
Now, Mustaine has expanded on his initial, somewhat cryptic comments in a new interview with Songfacts. In the process, he also confirmed that the project that led to the dispute about publishing royalties was the much-discussed reissue of Metallica's 1982 demo, No Life 'Til Leather, which was supposed to have happened in the mid-2010s.
"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," Mustaine said of his last conversation with Hetfield. "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" [likely a reference to Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich].
Mustaine continued, "They wanted to release No Life 'Til Leather — 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 2011 collaboration with Lou Reed], something called Orion [the Orion Music + More festival], 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. And somehow, on the [Kill 'Em All] record it says Lars gets 10 per cent. And on 'Metal Militia' that Kirk gets some of it, and he wasn't even in the band [at the time it was written].
"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.”
Mustaine concluded, "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."