Metallica split with guitarist Mustaine in 1983 due to his substance abuse problems – and he was replaced by current axeman, Kirk Hammett.
Despite their strained relationship, Mustaine has since made amends with the band – and performed alongside Metallica at the San Francisco Fillmore in 2011.
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Now Hetfield calls his former colleague an “old friend” who went on to carve a successful career in the industry.
He tells Bild: “He’s an old friend of ours for sure and he has done very well for himself in Megadeth. And after him getting kicked out of Metallica he went on to have an amazing career.
“Dave is an amazing guitar player, great songwriter and he has done some amazing stuff in his band.”
Watch the full interview below.
Earlier this month Hammett said he understands Mustaine’s long-held grudge about being fired. The Megadeth frontman responded that he “appreciated” his replacement’s regard – and added that he has “tremendous respect” for him.
Mustaine has recently been talking up the chance of returning to stages alongside fellow thrash icons Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax – with Metallica’s Robert Trujillo voiced his own support for the idea.
Read Mustaine’s review of Metallica’s new album Hardwired… To Self Destruct.
Metallica tour dates 2017 so far
Jan 11: Seoul Gocheok Sky Dome, South Korea
Jan 18: Beijing Le Sports Centre, China
Jan 20: Hong Kong AsiaWorld-Expo, China
Jan 22: Singapore Indoor Stadium, Singapore
Feb 03: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Feb 05: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Feb 07: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Feb 09: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Mar 01: Mexico City Foro Sol, Mexico
Mar 03: Mexico City Foro Sol, Mexico
Mar 25: Sao Paulo Interlagos Racetrack, Brazil
Mar 31-Apr 01: Buenos Aires Hippodrome San Isidro, Argentina
Apr 01-02: Santiago Parque O’Higgins, Chile
May 19-21: Rock On The Range festival, OH