You know Dave Mustaine, right? The strawberry blonde mega-babe who founded Megadeth? Great news. He wrote an autobiography a year or so ago called Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir and I was so excited to read it! Rock bios are all I want to read lately, and Dave Mustaine has fascinated me ever since I saw his embarrassing interview in the embarrassing Metallica documentary, Some Kind of Monster.
Can you even believe Dave Mustaine STILL holds a grudge against Metallica for kicking him out 28 years ago? Even after he went on to form Megadeth? Rather than going on to manage a Guitar Center, Mustaine made Megadeth and Megadeth made it huge! As one of the “Big Four” pioneers of thrash metal (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer), Megadeth sold millions of records, made millions of dollars, and comes in only second to Metallica of the “Big Four” in commercial metal success. But it’s that “comes in second” that has been haunting poor lil’ Dave Mustaine his whole career. And he will never, ever, shut up about it.
Dave Mustaine grew up in California, the way youngest of three children. (His sisters are 18, 15, and 3 years older than him.) Dad was an absentee drinker and mom got mixed up with the Jehovah’s Witness after the inevitable divorce.
"To this day I still have trauma caused by the Jehovah's Witnesses. I don't get all excited around Christmas..."
Dave ended up living alone at the age of 15 – dealing weed, smoking weed, shredding, and not much else, since weed means you don’t have to go to school anymore. At this time, he claims to be a formidable shredder. He started a short-lived band called Panic, reconnected with his dad (who then died a week later from complications caused by falling off of a bar stool), and began to experiment with drugs. Not cocaine, though: “Cocaine was for the Village People and Donna Summer crowds, or the pussies you’d see at a Flock of Seagulls concert.” After Panic dissolved, Dave responded to a classified ad seeking a guitar player for a metal band. Can you even GUESS who took the ad out???
It’s boy drummer Lars Ulrich! When Dave met Lars for the first time at the Ulrich mansion, he was put off by Lars’ wealth, exotic Danish pornography collection, and age (Lars is almost 18 to Dave’s 20, so it’s pretty uncomfortable). Even so, they met again for an audition at Rob McGovney’s house (Rob is the OG bass player for Metallica, Dave hates that guy). James Hetfield was also there (“…black spandex tights tucked into boots and a cheetah print shirt… James, you could just tell was trying too hard to look like a rock star”). After noodling in a room alone for a half hour, assuming he is warming up, he came out of the practice room to find he already has the job!
Now it’s time to hear about how Dave was the best part of Metallica, how he wrote the sweetest songs, and how Metallica DID NOT have it together back then, when they were just starting out. Lars kind of sucked at drums at first, James didn’t want to play guitar while singing yet, and what’s-his-name on bass was just a stupid jerk. Lars and Dave disagreed about shoes and rock fashion of the times – Dave just could not believe a man would want to dress like a woman! He is pleased with himself for coming up with the idea that GLAM rock stands for “Gay Ass Los Angeles.” Metallica played all kinds of shows, James finally started playing rhythm guitar, and people loved them. It was then decided they needed bass player Cliff Burton in the picture so badly, they would move to San Francisco about it and leave the other bass player in the dust. Since Dave hated the other bass player so much he once poured an entire beer into the pickups of his Washburn bass, he was cool with this decision.
"You were either like Plant (hair down, and thus cool) or you were Mötley Crüe (hair up, and thus not cool). My hair went down, always did and always will."
Dave is a mean karate drunk. Cue snooze fest chronicling of petty arguments turned bloody, drugs and booze and sex and drugs and booze and girls who hang around and get referred to as “bitches.” Dave did the sex, did the drinking, did the drugs, but it wasn’t really his fault! Hard luck! Bad childhood! Metallica! And besides, all the other dudes were way worse! The things in this book that offend Dave are pretty unbelievable. He is so squeamish about the dumbest stuff.
“Literally – I once saw Lars take a bite of a sandwich, chew it up, then lean over and spit the cud into James’s gaping maw, like a mother bird feeding it’s chick. My threshold for depravity was pretty high in those days, but I recall with some clarity thinking that this particular right of passage, or whatever it was, seemed mighty fucked-up.”
Things were looking good for Metallica and they decide to head to NY to play shows and get signed. Dave doesn’t remember planning to do that, but he was always drunk. The last thing he does in SF is sleep with Kirk Hammett’s girlfriend. He mentions this non sequitur, so I did, too. On the long drive to NY Dave gets rust in his eyes, thinks he is going blind and wants to seek medical attention, but the dudes say no. While he was in the back of the trailer with their equipment fuming about eye rust, the other dudes were up in the front listening to demo tapes of other guitar players to replace him.
When he is finally relieved of his shredding duties in Metallica (in Chapter 5, titled “Dumped by Alcoholica”) a few months later, it’s out of the blue (even though none of the band’s preliminary contracts have included his name and some of the tracks they've been recording feature other guitar players). Dave woke up from a brutal hangover with the dudes all standing around him. His bags were packed and he was told to leave right then and there, no second chances, just a bus ticket home. James drove him to the bus station and cried on the way there.
"The day after I was dismissed from Metallica, Kirk Hammett was in New York, taking my place, auditioning for my role in the band, and mimicking the blistering lead guitar solos I created, solos that stand today as the genesis of thrash metal."
After moping back home for a few months, Dave heard Metallica’s first album, Kill ‘Em All, and couldn’t believe four of his songs were on there. Dave claims after being told to leave the band he said “Okay, but don’t use my stuff.” By which he apparently meant his songs.
Dave knew he needed to start the most bitching band ever to get back at Metallica. Dave met David Ellefson when Ellefson was practicing bass too loudly in the apartment below him and woke him up from a hangover. Dave opened his window and yelled at him to shut up. A few minutes later, Ellefson came to his door and asked if he was old enough to buy beer, which won Dave’s heart. Dave asked Ellefson to be in his band and renamed him Junior. “We couldn’t have two guys named Dave. Too confusing.”
The rest of the book, I don’t even know what to tell you. Dave fails to include the interesting details of his career, like song/album writing insights or really anything about Megadeth’s music, he just wants you to know what he’s had to “overcome” in terms of feuds, grudges, drugs, and bad album covers.
Here’s the rest of the book: Dave became a snort and smoke junkie (well, he shot a few times, but mostly thinks needles are gross). He was also drinking so much and doing so many other drugs that he could barely keep his new band together. But the other dudes were worse, so he fired member after member on grounds that they partied too hard. He and Junior (the only permanent-ish Megadeth member) tried to keep Megadeth together while settling into a binging, fighting, recording, and going to rehab cycle. Megadeth sold millions of records. Metallica sold more. Dave taught Kerry King the “Devil’s Interval” and it is used in every Slayer song. Dave got a “hot wife” and had two kids. Dave denied ever being a political musician. Dave had some weird nerve damage happen to his arm. Every record that Megadeth made was to get back at Metallica – even the turkey of an album Risk was to get back at Lars for telling the press that Dave was afraid to take risks (“I could accept the challenge with our next record. And I could call it Risk…”). Sobriety finally stuck and Dave became born again, which leads to a very awkward Christian ending and two epilogues.