Dave Mustaine has a reputation for many things besides his extraordinary guitar playing.
He's a founding member of Metallica and one of the godfathers of what became known as thrash metal, yet he was fired from that band just before it broke big because of his drugging and drinking.
His volatile 25-year tenure as the leader of Megadeth has been marked by several classic metal albums and a revolving-door lineup. His long-running battle with drugs and drink led to rehab and eventually his conversion to Christianity. His outspokenness has embroiled him in public spats with his band and others, including Metallica and Pantera.
Now he lays out the whole story in his autobiography, Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir (HarperCollins, $25.99), released as he tours with Megadeth and fellow thrash-metal icons Slayer and Testament — they'll be at Louisville's Broadbent Arena on Oct. 12.
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Mustaine had more to say when I caught up with him between tour dates:
Question: You've said that after writing your autobiography, you thought that finally you'd been understood. What were the biggest misunderstandings about you that you wanted to clear up?
Answer: The biggest misunderstanding is all of the stuff in the past, the disagreements with other bands, stuff that is so old. None of us care about it anymore. You can see what happened with the "Big 4" reunion (the Megadeth stadium shows in Europe this summer with '80s thrash-metal bands Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax) and all of us playing together. It was like there was some kind of enjoyment having disagreements, this feud among all of us. A lot of people have disagreements. But there we were on stage playing together and hugging at the end. How can this be a feud when you have proof right there on film? It will be released on DVD — the shot heard 'round the world. It shows you this whole terrible thing has been perpetuated by the press.
Q: Oh, c'mon, Dave. You can't deny that your relationship with those other bands has had its share of tension and competitiveness.
A: Like Lars (Ulrich of Metallica) says, there is the relationship we have and the relationship the press thinks we all have. And the proof is when we were all doing the jam on (Diamond Head's) Am I Evil, I was listening to how loud the crowd was, and it was as loud when we hugged each other as when we played the song. It gave me chills.
James (Hetfield of Metallica) and I being able to embrace on that world platform shows people that metal is a close-knit community. We don't leave our wounded behind. Kerry (King of Slayer) says to me, "I don't even know what I was mad about anymore."
What's important is that the four pillars of the metal community are all in a great relationship right now. It's a shame our politicians can't get along as well. In America there is always that good-luck story, and everyone wants to see the person win in the end. I've had a little redemption watching this whole thing come around full circle.
Q: Yet in the Metallica documentary (Some Kind of Monster in 2004), there is the scene where you and Lars talk and you come across like a guy who has never quite completely gotten over being fired from Metallica in 1983.
A: I think that's pretty accurate. I care about those things. I still do. I was drinking and drugging, but I never got any warning from Lars and James when they fired me. They just put me on a bus and sent me home.
The movie was something they were doing, and I didn't know what it was about. I'd been through enough therapy myself, so I didn't mind being put in that situation. All I wanted was some closure and to have a new relationship with those guys. We did so much damage to the relationship through drugs and alcohol. I still wanted to be friends with him. I knew sitting down and talking with that guy was going to address part of it. I just wanted closure with these guys so we could put the past behind us. We were kids when it all went down. But James wasn't there when Lars and I had our talk (in the movie).
James said to me at the Big 4 concert that he wished he had been there, and I was moved by that. I thought he was a gentleman; I was very proud of him. This is all so fantastic now. I am so exited about this new relationship I have with these guys.
Q: Is part of the reason for writing the book to give your take on Megadeth's legacy, its place in rock history?
A: I am not so concerned about my legacy. I know I see a lot of stuff written about me in the past, and it was painful. I'm just trying to live life as best I can and be helpful to people in the music industry.
I saw this tennis player with a really bad reputation when I was young, and I see him now and he still has that bad reputation. Is he tired of being that guy with the bad temper? I'm talking about John McEnroe. I don't want to be this guy known forever for something that happened when I was 20.