Dave Mustaine: “Me and James Hetfield Are Among the Fantastic Four of Rhythm Guitar”

(Image credit: Jo Hale (Mustaine), Kevin Winter (Hetfield)/Getty Images)

Megadeth may be known for making technical, complex music, but underneath it all frontman Dave Mustaine appreciates the value of a strong rhythm guitarist.

In a new interview with Rock Cellar Magazine, Mustaine calls out the players he puts in his “Fantastic Four” of rhythm guitar. He gives special props to Metallica’s James Hetfield, who was Mustaine’s onetime bandmate during his tumultuous tenure in the band back in the early Eighties.

Early on in his career, Mustaine says, “I devoted much more of my time to playing rhythm. I still feel to this day that a good band can be measured by its rhythm. You’ve got all-guitar hero bands and the solos are excellent but try and hum one of those songs outside of maybe a quick flash lick.”

Mustaine was hired to play lead guitar in Metallica in 1981, but his abrasiveness and problems with drinking led to his termination in 1983. Despite years of animosity over his firing, Mustaine seems to have made peace with the matter in recent years.

Turning to his brief tenure in Metallica, Mustaine tells Rock Cellar that he and Hetfield have much in common when it comes to performance styles.

“If you put the two of us together side-by-side, split a TV monitor in half, and had us both hopping around onstage, there’s a lot of similarities,” he says. “The way he acts and moves with his guitar and stuff like that.”

Perhaps the greatest similarities he sees are in their talents as rhythm guitarists. Mustaine rates himself and Hetfield among the best, right up there with two other legends.

“I think James is one of the best rhythm guitar players in the world,” Mustaine says. “As far as rhythm guitar players are concerned, there’s James, there’s me, there’s Malcolm Young and there’s Rudolf Schenker. There’s no one else that touches the four of us. We’re the fantastic four.”

You can read the full interview at RockCellarMagazine.com.

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Christopher Scapelliti

Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player (opens in new tab) magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World (opens in new tab), a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.