“I slugged James in the mouth – what would you do if someone pelted you?” Back in the ’80s, Dave Mustaine admitted he “earned” getting fired from Metallica

Dave Mustaine in 1987
(Image credit: Ross Marino/Getty Images)

It’s amazing that the whole Metallica vs Megadeth thing is 40 years old now. In 1983, Dave Mustaine was booted out of the Four Horsemen and sent packing on a four-day bus ride from New York to California. During that time, he plotted his revenge, charting a course for his next band to be faster, heavier and more successful than his ex-colleagues. And there’s still no general consensus on which one is better.

Despite Megadeth’s successes, Dave’s often talking about Metallica in the press. He’s been friendly with them in interviews, talked smack about them, wanted to tour with them as part of the Big Four again and vowed to keep his distance – and that’s just over the last couple years. A more interesting statement about the whole thing came in a rare late-’80s interview (embedded below), however, where MegaDave admitted he basically deserved to be sacked from what’s now the biggest band in metal.

In the clip, an interviewer asks Dave, “They threw you out of Metallica, is that right?”

“I kinda earned that myself,” the singer/guitarist admits in response. He laughs: “I slugged James [Hetfield] in the mouth, and what would you do if somebody pelted you?”

The incident Dave’s referring to occurred while he was still in Metallica. Reportedly, Dave’s pitbull scratched the paint on then-bassist Ron McGovney’s car. When James kicked the dog, Dave punched him in retaliation.

The interviewer then asks Dave if there were any “bad words” between Metallica and Megadeth five years after he got fired. “No!” Dave categorically answers, although he then denies being “best friends” with James Hetfield.

“That’s pushing it,” says Dave. “The truth is that me and James went to a bar the other night, together, and drank together. It really reminded me of the old days quite a bit. It was weird in a sense but it felt good.”

Although Dave’s frequently asked about Metallica in interviews, Megadeth went on to become one of the most successful bands in heavy music. Their 1992 album, Countdown To Extinction, made it to number two in the US charts and the band won the Grammy Award For Best Metal Performance with Dystopia in 2017.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.