Dave Mustaine: To be better than James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett means so much

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth with James Hetfield of Metallica

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth is out promoting his new album Endgame with an interview in Classic Rock. As usual, since he was fired from Metallica in 1983, Metallica is the topic of many of his interviews.

How did it feel to be No.1 in Joel McIver’s recent book, The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists?

It was especially sweet when I found out that Joel has written books on Metallica. I looked at my copy of the book – I wasn’t on the cover or the back. I figured I’d be somewhere like No.69. So I thumbed through it; it’s a really comprehensive, good book. I got to No.50 and I thought, ‘Am I in here?’ I’d been told that I was, but not which position. So I got No.16 and I saw Hetfield. I thought, ‘Wow’ because I respect James. I’m a better lead player than he is, but he’s one of the three best rhythm players in the world.

The other two being?

Malcolm Young [of AC/DC] and myself. Malcolm kept it basic but brought a whole new style of rhythm playing to the world. So I got to the Top 10… I still wasn’t in there. Every page I turned, I became more excited. I get to No.5 and it’s Kirk [Hammett], and I thought, ‘Thank you, God’.

At that point it didn’t matter [which position I was]. To be better than both of them [Hetfield and Hammett] meant so much – it’s been one of the pet peeves of my career and I’ve never known how to deal with it. I didn’t realise that it has had so much bearing upon my life. Then I got to No.2 and it was John Petrucci [of Dream Theater] and I froze. I was No.1.

What made it better still is that the guy wrote: ‘This isn’t about Dave as a person because he’s been a cock’ – [interjects with a bray of laughter] – ‘These four pages are about his guitar playing, which is the best. There are people who are better at one thing that Mustaine does, and others that are better than another, but no-one who’s as good at everything’. All I thought was… I win!

In a way did it represent closure?

That’s it exactly. I’m not addicted [to anything] anymore. And I’m no longer struggling with past demons from another band [Metallica]. That game has ended. Lars [Ulrich] called me up and offered the chance to come to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame thing and not be inducted, to sit in the audience [instead].

‘It’s only for people who’ve been on the records’ is what I was told. That would have been awkward. So I didn’t go. There are obviously some unresolved issues on Lars’ part. But you know what? If God wants me in the Hall Of Fame, I will be there.