Publishing Disputes Stood in the Way of a Mustaine/Hetfield Collaboration


There could have been a world in which we would have seen Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield come together for a special project, had an ongoing and unsettled publishing dispute not gotten in the way. At least, that’s what the outspoken Megadeth frontman said in a recent interview with Guitar.com.

According to Mustaine, one of the last conversations he had with his Metallica counterpart was the idea of working together on something. Both parties apparently seemed into the idea, but Mustaine says the discussion eventually turned to money and past agreements, where it seemed like ice water was thrown on the whole project.

“There’s three sides to every story, right. There’s my side, there would be the other person’s side, and then there would be the truth which is somewhere right in the middle.

“You know, oddly enough that was one of the last conversations I ever had with [Metallica guitarist/vocalist] James Hetfield because we were talking about getting back together and doing a project,” he continued. “Something had come up about the publishing discrepancy that we have been arguing about for years and years and years, and I told James, ‘I’ll do it but we’ve got to get this stuff sorted out first’. And he said, ‘Oh yeah, sure’. So I said, ‘Now these two songs you and me split 50/50. Lars [Ulrich, Metallica drummer] didn’t write on this song — you know that. I don’t know why you gave him percentages but I’m not. I’m not going to sign another deal that’s gonna confirm that because I never agreed to that’. And James said, ‘Well, Lars has a different recollection of that,’ and I said that’s fine; there’s his side of the story, my side and the truth is somewhere. And that blew his mind, and we haven’t talked since.

“You know, I was trying to be really friendly with him; he told me that the last three projects they did bombed, and they wanted to go back and use all the stuff that I was on, and I said sure. As soon as I said that ‘three stories’ bit, it was over.”

As you may or may not remember, this all likely stems from the ongoing debate about which classic Metallica songs Mustaine should or shouldn’t have writing credits on. Dave has long asserted that more songs from at least the first three albums should have his name on them.

When it came time for Metallica to release an expanded version of the No Life ‘Til Leather demo tape, Mustaine put the kibosh on that because he didn’t want to “perpetuate false information” regarding the writing credits. In 2018, Mustaine said he’d discussed the expanded demo tape, but said no to the project when Lars wanted publishing on it “despite James and I being the sole songwriters.”

Now, if we were to use Mustaine’s logic right now, then there’s his story and there’s Hetfield’s story about how this all went down. I, for one, would love to hear James talk about this apparent interaction and see how it differs from Dave’s. That being said, I doubt we’ll ever get that side of the conversation, since Hetfield’s too busy counting the stacks of money and kicking it in Colorado when he’s not off selling out tours all over the world.

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