Dave Mustaine opens up on failed James Hetfield reunion: “We were talking about getting back together”

Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage via Getty)

The notoriously fractitious relationship between former bandmates and heavy metal heavyweights Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield is well-documented, but recent developments seemed to suggest the pair’s contentious history was well and truly water under the bridge.

After all, it was only two months ago that Mustaine revealed he reached out to the Metallica frontman following his on-stage show of vulnerability, before doubling down and stating for the record that “there is a pretty good possibility” the pair might write new music together in the future.

However, hopes that the duo will rekindle their musical relationship seem to have been dashed, with Mustaine now seemingly conceding that a reunion is officially off the table.

According to the Gibson signature artist, the two were talking about coming together for a project, before a disagreement over a “publishing discrepancy” merely served to undo the pair's positive rapprochement.

When asked about his “reputation for being outspoken” by Guitar.com, Mustaine publicly revealed the plans for the first time, observing, “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 James Hetfield because we were talking about getting back together and doing a project,” he continued.

However, before he agreed to anything, Mustaine wanted to clear up a long-standing publishing disagreement they had been arguing about for “years and years and years”.

Unfortunately, the disagreement was deemed insurmountable, and thus proved to be the final nail in the coffin for any potential Mustaine/Hetfield reunion.

Mustaine 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 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.’

Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield

(Image credit: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SiriusXM / Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Global Citizen)

“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!”

Though it wasn’t confirmed, it’s possible the “publishing discrepancy” Mustaine alludes to concerns an abandoned reissue of Metallica’s No Life Til Leather demo that contained the Megadeth man’s playing and songwriting contributions.

It looks for all the world that the reunion of Mustaine and Hetfield is destined to become one of music’s greatest “what if” tales. Though Megadeth’s leader has been vocal about the link-up before, it always seems to fall at the final hurdle.

In 2012, for example, Mustaine apologized to Hetfield for making public comments about the possibility of forming a Metallica/Megadeth supergroup, which would comprise himself, Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and then-Megadeth bassist David Ellefson.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.