The Metallica Vs. Dave Mustaine Feud Timeline Explained

Metallica and Megadeth have been two of the biggest bands in thrash metal since their 1980s debuts. According to AllMusic, Metallica formed in 1981, and within months original members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich welcomed a redheaded, drug-dealing guitar player named Dave Mustaine to the band. They forged bonds as friends and bandmates, before their clashing personalities and substance abuse issues drove them apart.

Before long, Hetfield and Ulrich kicked Mustaine out and replaced him with a new guitar player, Kirk Hammett, and released their now famous debut, "Kill 'Em All." Mustaine soon countered forming Megadeth and by 1985 had released an album of his own that found huge underground success. Mustaine and Metallica have constantly traded barbs in the media ever since. Mustaine has accused Metallica of stealing his songs and solos, while Metallica has countered by pointing out Mustaine's seemingly infinite ego and his struggles with substance abuse.

Get ready for a wild ride, this is the Metallica vs. Dave Mustaine feud timeline explained.

Metallica forms and Dave Mustaine joins within a few months

Metallica officially formed on October 28, 1981, in California. In a 1997 interview with HardRadio, former bass player Ron McGovney said Metallica got their start when drummer Lars Ulrich placed an ad in the local newspaper "The Recycler" looking to start a band. The ad stated, "Heavy Metal Guitarist Wanted for music much heavier than the L.A. scene." James Hetfield was playing with McGovney in the band "Leather Charm" at the time, but he answered the "Recycler" ad and decided to form a new band with Ulrich on drums and McGovney on bass. According to McGovney, they originally had "a black dude with a Jamaican accent" named Lloyd Grant on guitar, but they quickly replaced him with Dave Mustaine.

They took the name "Metallica" on the suggestion of their friend and fellow Bay Area metalhead Ron Quintana (per the official Metallica website). After initially touring around the Los Angeles area, even supporting the band Saxon at one point, they relocated to San Francisco, which has stayed their home base over the last four decades.

Metallica plays first show on March 14, 1982

Metallica played their first public show on March 14, 1982, at Radio City in Anaheim. According to Paul Stenning's 2010 book "Metallica: All That Matters," the band played only one original during their debut show, "Hit the Lights," and the set consisted mainly of covers. James Hetfield did not play guitar and instead only sang, and he recalled being "really nervous and a little uncomfortable" on stage without his guitar in hand. Dave Mustaine broke a string during the first song, leading to an awkward period of downtime while he changed it himself.

In 2019, on the 37th anniversary of the show, Lars Ulrich posted on his personal Instagram account commemorating the event. The band made just $15 for the performance, and the show posters referred to them as "Metallica (Metalus Maximus)" and "the Young Metal Attack." At the time, the band still consisted of Hetfield, Ulrich, Mustaine, and Ron McGovney. Metallica was the only band on the bill and, according to Ulrich's diary entry at the time, around 75 people attended their first performance, mainly friends of the band. The feud between Metallica and Mustaine had not yet begun.

The Ron McGovney dog incident

In the Summer of 1982, during practice at Ron McGovney's house, Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield got into a violent altercation. Mustaine described the incident in a 2009 interview with Norwegian outlet Lydverket (per Blabbermouth). According to him he was dealing marijuana at the time. "When I would go play in concert, people knew that my pot was sitting in my apartment ... People stole everything that I had; all my stash," he said. In his 2011 autobiography, Mustaine stated this caused him to get a pair of big, tough dogs that "naturally, scared the s*** out of most people." He brought one of the dogs to practice one afternoon, and it jumped on the quarter panel of McGovney's car (pictured above), which prompted Hetfield to "give the dog a hard kick across its chest."

In an interview with Shockwaves, McGovney said that Mustaine and Hetfield started fighting. Mustaine punched Hetfield in the mouth, which prompted McGovney to jump on Mustaine's back, and the two of them started to scuffle. Eventually, Mustaine's martial arts training partner intervened and broke up the fight. The band fired Mustaine on the spot. However, the next day, McGovney claims Mustaine came back "crying [and] pleading," and they let him back in.

Dave Mustaine's drug and alcohol issues destroy his relationship with Metallica

Dave Mustaine's already prevalent substance abuse issues only increased during his time in the band. In "Metallica: All That Matters," by Paul Stenning, Ron McGovney claimed that Mustaine caused him to quit the band because he constantly stole from him and his equipment. James Hetfield claimed the band's issues with Mustaine were not "musical problems" but "personal" (via "Metallica: 'Talking'").

In a 1984 interview with Metal Forces magazine, Lars Ulrich asserted, "he had a problem ... he would become extremely obnoxious and very hard to control ... he put us in some very embarrassing situations." In his autobiography, Mustaine wrote, "when I drank I would often get combative ... I certainly never walked away from [a fight]. Even when it involved my friends and bandmates." He later said, "the more we drank, the more our personalities diverged." The band became so fed up with Mustaine's antics and substance abuse they started listening to guitar players from other bands to potentially fill his role.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He crashes the band's truck while driving drunk

According to Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood's 2013 book, "Birth School Metallica Death," in March 1983, the band took a trip to the northeast to play some shows. During one of Dave Mustaine's driving shifts through Laramie, Wyoming, he "mishandled" the van and caused it to jackknife in the snow, almost killing all of the occupants. James Hetfield confirmed that Mustaine had been drunk while behind the wheel. Mustaine himself claimed they all were "stoned or drunk" and said the incident made him feel like an outcast. "There was less laughter, more hostility."

In 2021, Mustaine gave an interview as part of Gibson's Icons series, which featured a segment on the incident. According to a letter from bassist Cliff Burton, while the band was waiting for a tow truck, another car lost control and hit the U-Haul, almost killing them twice in the same night. The conditions were so bad that night almost all of the vehicles on the road had trouble, including "a big rig with 2 big trailers [of] hazardus [sic] materials [that] fliped [sic] off the road and smashed to pieces."

Dave Mustaine is kicked out of Metallica in April 1983

On April 11, 1983, after just over a year in the band, Metallica fired Dave Mustaine while on tour in New York (per "Birth School Metallica Death," by Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood). They woke up a passed out Mustaine and informed him he was no longer in the band. When he asked when his plane was departing, the band responded by handing him a ticket for a Greyhound Bus leaving in an hour. Lars Ulrich claimed the decision was not "particularly emotional," and Mustaine was "too destructive ... he was going to take us down." The band immediately replaced him with Kirk Hammett.

In a 2021 interview with Kerrang, Mustaine lamented that he was kicked out rather than given a second chance to continue on with the band. "Just, like, someone saying, 'Hey, Dave, you're drinking too much and please stop punching the singer in the face!' I probably would've been fine with that." He said he was "definitely dangerous" back then and suggested his fate was probably already sealed with the Ron McGovney dog altercation and their constantly clashing personalities.

His drug use spiraled after being kicked out

Dave Mustaine formed Megadeth immediately after getting the boot from Metallica, and he soon started releasing albums of his own. In an interview with Kerrang he said, "revenge and animosity" towards Metallica fueled the early years of Megadeth. "I was pissed ... I no longer cared, because what I was doing felt more important than what they were doing."

According to his autobiography, he met future drummer Gar Samuelson through his cocaine dealer Jay Jones. Samuelson himself was a severe heroin addict, and he told Mustaine in order to be a great musician he had to do heroin, too. Mustaine's reaction was to immediately snort a line of heroin from the table in front of them. This started a decades-long heroin addiction that he struggled to kick. Mustaine found heroin a solution to the "pain, anger, and loneliness" he felt after getting kicked out of Metallica. In his 2020 book, "Rust in Peace," Mustaine recalled how bad his heroin addiction had become by the late 1980s (per the Rolling Stone). He detailed an experience where he had friends sneak him heroin hidden inside his distortion pedals so he could get high in rehab.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Dave Mustaine criticizes Metallica in press after his firing

Immediately after he was fired, Dave Mustaine started mentioning Metallica in the press in less than flattering ways. During a 1985 interview with Metal Forces magazine, he claimed Metallica's new guitarist, Kirk Hammett, "ripped off every lead break I'd played," and he took credit for writing most of their songs. He even suggested bassist Cliff Burton had to write Hammett's solos while Hammett was reviewing old practice tapes of Mustaine's. In another interview with Metal Forces a year later, Mustaine doubled down on his comments claiming Hammett won the Metal Forces reader's poll "because of my guitar solos" (per "Metallica: 'Talking"). 

A few months later, Mustaine said Metallica was "brainwashing the world" against Megadeth and claimed album sales suffered as a result. He maintained he had written "Leper Messiah" from the "Master of Puppets" album and complained that James Hetfield had ripped off his charismatic stage persona. Mustaine lamented that the band constantly made light of his alcohol issues, which he refused to acknowledge, and said he couldn't even be himself on stage because people claimed he was just ripping off Metallica.

Metallica hit back in the press with their own comments

The members of Metallica, for their part, also talked about Dave Mustaine in many of their interviews. In a 1984 interview with Metal Forces magazine, Lars Ulrich said Metallica never saw Mustaine as a longtime member, and he was destined to be replaced eventually. Ulrich asserted Mustaine wasn't "as good a lead guitar player as we wanted for the band," and he couldn't take life on the road.

In a February 1987 interview, Kirk Hammett defended himself from Mustaine's allegations, which he considered nonsense. He argued his solos were completely different from Mustaine's solos (per "Metallica: 'Talking").

In a September 1988 interview, Ulrich bemoaned the press spreading hate for Metallica and adding fuel to the fire that was the feud between the band and Mustaine. He also sniped at Mustaine's substance abuse issues, saying that his personality depended on "the alcohol content in his blood at whatever time he's talking." James Hetfield said he felt sorry for Mustaine and his contentious personality. In a 1985 interview with MTV, Ulrich said Mustaine did not significantly contribute to the songwriting process, and his absence was not missed.

Metallica's 'Some Kind of Monster' documentary is released

In 2004, Metallica released their famous documentary, "Some Kind of Monster," which featured a retrospective on the band's history and included Dave Mustaine. The documentary also looked into Metallica's own struggles with alcohol and substance abuse, which culminated with James Hetfield leaving the band during filming to attend rehab for alcohol abuse, according to Joe Berlinger's 2004 book, "Metallica: the Monster Lives, the Inside Story of Some Kind of Monster." During his conversation with Lars Ulrich, Mustaine lamented constantly hearing Metallica songs on the radio and being mercilessly taunted by Metallica fans on the street. As highlighted in Berlinger's book, Mustaine asked why the band kicked him out instead of trying to help him get sober instead, like they were doing with Hetfield. He also said reading interviews from the band where they disparaged him as a fill-in, a temporary replacement, and a drunken loser, really hurt him emotionally and contributed to his substance issues.

After the documentary aired, Mustaine immediately complained that footage had been selectively edited to make him look as bad as possible (per MTV). He complained they only used five minutes of a three-hour interview, and that he had never given them final approval to use the interview in the film. The producers stood by their work and claimed all the footage they used was approved and above board.

Metallica and Dave Mustaine reunite on-stage in 2011

In late 2011, Metallica planned a series of four concerts at the Fillmore in San Francisco, California, for their 30th anniversary. According to Rolling Stone, speculation had been building over the week about the possible presence of Dave Mustaine in the lineup. Then, the morning of the final concert, Mustaine posted on his personal Twitter account, "I am up in SF for Metallica's 30 anniversary. I look forward to celebrating with them." The band invited him onstage for the first time since 1983 (pictured above), and they played "Phantom Lord," "Jump in the Fire," and "Metal Militia” for the packed audience.

Even more incredibly, the band also announced Mustaine's former nemesis in the band, Ron McGovney, and the guitarist that Mustaine had originally replaced, Lloyd Grant, were also joining them onstage for the reunion. They all took the stage together and played "Hit the Lights" and "Seek and Destroy" for the first time collectively. Though it seemed to many like this would be the end of the feud, it proved to be only an ephemeral moment of conciliation.

Dave Mustaine refuses to sign off on re-release of an old Metallica record

In 2015, according to Blabbermouth, Metallica released a limited-edition cassette of their 1982 demo tape, "No Life 'Till Leather," as a promotion for Record Store Day (pictured above). At the time, the band promised to release expanded versions of the demo in a collector's set, but the expanded versions never surfaced and eventually the idea was scrapped. In an interview with Greek outlet Rock Hard, Dave Mustaine said the release hinged on him signing over writing credits to Lars Ulrich, which he categorically refused to do. "I do not give them my rights. I will not be a part of it. ... I wrote all the music."

In a 2017 Twitter post Mustaine brought up the issue, claiming talks between himself and Metallica broke down over Ulrich insisting on credits for two tracks that Mustaine "wrote every note and word to." Ulrich and Metallica have not commented publicly on the issue.

Big Four of Thrash reunion in 2018 fizzles

In late 2010, Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer started playing shows and festivals together in Europe before embarking on a nationwide tour in 2011 (per the New York Times). Billed as "the Big Four of Thrash," the tour culminated with a seven-hour marathon concert at Yankee Stadium in September. In a 2018 interview with Sirius XM, addressing rumors about the possibility of more Big Four concerts, Dave Mustaine said he wanted to do more, but Metallica was holding them back.

In a 2021 interview with Kerrang, Mustaine said Lars Ulrich was still the biggest obstacle to more Big Four shows, though he noted that Slayer had since retired. Mustaine said the fans likely wanted more shows but "for some reason Lars is afraid of doing more Big Four shows." Ulrich has again avoided public comment on the issue.

Mustaine is now in his 60s, has kicked his terrible drug problem, and plans to release a new Megadeth album in 2022 to follow up his 2016 album "Dystopia." The members of Metallica are now all in their late 50s, and having released "Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct" in 2016, have been content with worldwide tours since. The feud still seems as prominent as ever, and only time will tell if Mustaine and the band can ever truly bury the hatchet.