Anthrax’s Scott Ian Recalls Metallica Telling Him They Just Fired Dave Mustaine
Anthrax's Scott Ian hung out with Metallica quite a lot when the band was in New York preparing to record their debut album, Kill 'Em All. As a guest on Machine Head mainman Robb Flynn's podcast, Ian recalled learning that Metallica had fired Dave Mustaine and had another guitarist already en route to the Empire State.
The reasons for Mustaine's sudden dismissal have been well documented in the nearly four decades since that pivotal moment where they sent the guitarist on a cross-country bus trip back home to San Francisco. His drinking had become problematic for the rest of the band, so they elected to let him go.
Ian supported this sentiment on the "No Fuckin' Regrets With Robb Flynn" podcast, recollecting (transcription via Blabbermouth), "They all drank, but Dave drank more than they did and the difference with Dave was, from my memory of that time, 'cause we were there all the time — we were hanging out with them all the time — all those other guys would get drunk and it was always fun, and Dave was kind of the not-fun guy when he would get too drunk. I mean, everybody knows one [guy like that]."
"And I think that was basically the beginning of the end," continued Ian, who just dropped a new album, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, as a member of Mr. Bungle. The difference, in his eyes at least, was, "now [Metallica] were living together [at the rehearsal studio], and they were in close quarters all the time together, and I think they realized, they were, like, 'How the hell are we gonna keep doing this and move forward if we're constantly worrying about this?'"
Making what appeared to be another routine trip to the studio where Metallica were posted up, Ian spotted Metallica bassist Cliff Burton outside smoking. Ian went on, "I [said], 'Hey, man, what's up?' He was, like, 'Not much. We fired Mustaine. He's on a bus, he's on a Greyhound back to the [San Francisco] Bay Area.' [And I was, like], 'Yeah, right.' He was, like, 'No. I'm serious.'"
In disbelief, Ian chalked this up as a joke of sorts and remembered Burton warmly as a "total ballbuster wise-ass."
When Ian pressed Burton about who would fill the guitar slot, Burton said, "We've already got a guy coming." The Anthrax axeman still wasn't certain of the news and the bassist implored him, "Go upstairs. Ask James [Hetfield]."
"So I go up to the room. They're just kind of dicking around in the room," Ian elaborated, "I don't see Dave. And I'm, like, 'What's going on? Cliff tells me you guys fired Dave.' And Lars [Ulrich] was, like, 'We did. Early this morning, we put him on a bus. He's already five hours on the way back to California.' [I was, like], 'What? What?' We had no idea. I [said], 'What are you gonna do?' [They said], 'We've got this guy coming from this band Exodus that we know. He's getting here tomorrow.'"
Of course, that guitarist was Kirk Hammett, who has remained with the band ever since.
Perhaps one of the reasons Ian found the move so perplexing at the time, was that Mustaine's personality shined through live and he was the frontman of the band in a way, despite not handling any lead vocals.
"People don't know that," Ian stated.
"James wasn't James yet," he added. "When I first met James, he would drink and he would change, but James, he was kind of like a shy, quiet dude. Dave was the mouthpiece. Dave was the guy. He was the frontman — a hundred percent… He was the attitude; he was the personality — it was everything. And I was kind of, like, 'You think this is the right idea?' And [they said], 'We had to. We couldn't deal with it anymore. He was getting us into trouble.'"
Ultimately, the decision to fire Mustaine from Metallica is one Ian can wrap his head around.
"It was hard enough living on the floor of a freezing-cold building, I guess, and dealing with your own issues [and then] have to worry about someone else's… I mean, I get it," the Anthrax guitarist said. "I understand. It's what had to happen in that moment. I've been there myself, making personnel changes in my band. I understand it. Sometimes it's the most impossible, worst thing in the world to have to do, but in order to take that next step forward, you have to."
Listen to the complete three-plus hour podcast directly below.
Fast forward 37 years and Ian, Mustaine and Metallica are all still going strong. Megadeth are eyeing 2021 for the release of their long-awaited new record and Anthrax have long been at work on new material as well. However, Ian has cautioned fans not to expect Anthrax to release a new album until touring comes back, presumably once the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
Scott Ian on Robb Flynn's "No Fuckin' Regrets" Podcast
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