Dave Mustaine: Lars Ulrich wrote the opening riff to Metallica’s Master of Puppets

Dave Mustaine (left) and Lars Ulrich perform onstage in 2022
(Image credit: Keith Griner, Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Earlier this month, Megadeth frontman and electric guitar player Dave Mustaine sat down for an interview with Songfacts (opens in new tab).

In it, he confirmed his next Gibson signature guitarsan Explorer and a 24-fret Les Paul, to be exact – and discussed his desire to work with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, his former bandmates in Metallica, again.

Seemingly buried within Mustaine's discussion of his time in Metallica though, was a truly fascinating tidbit. According to Mustaine, Ulrich, not Hetfield, was the true author of the opening riff to Master of Puppets, one of Metallica's most enduringly popular and influential songs.  

"Lars is a really great song arranger," Mustaine said (opens in new tab). "And believe it or not, I watched him on a piece-of-shit acoustic guitar write the opening riff to Ride The Lightning."

Now, before you have us arrested for clickbait in the first degree, let us add that Mustaine then sang the riff in question, which was – interviewer Greg Prato quickly realized – decidedly not Ride The Lightning.

"You know what that was? It was a guy with a guitar that doesn't know how to play," Mustaine said, singing the riff. "It wasn't anything really mind-blowing by any means. The way James played it made it mind-blowing."

Included in the interview (opens in new tab), and audible below, is an audio clip of Mustaine singing what he describes as Ride The Lightning, but sounds a whole lot like the Master of Puppets riff. 

When the discrepancy was pointed out to Mustaine, he responded, "Yeah, whatever that is. I don't fuckin' know their song names. I don't listen to them. 

"I totally respect them, I just don't listen to them," he explained. "It's not out of me not liking them. When they come on the radio in my car, a long time ago I would change the channel, but I don't anymore. It's just music, and I've been able to put all that stuff behind."

Earlier this month, Mustaine said that though he and Hetfield had been tentatively discussing working on a project together, a disagreement over a “publishing discrepancy” led to the discussions falling through

“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,' Mustaine told Guitar.com (opens in new tab). "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.’

“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!”

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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.