THERE WAS THIS WHOLE UNDERGROUND METAL THING happening in the early ’80s, with a handful of bands circulating demos and appearing on indie compilations. It was a small scene, but the people who knew about it went nuts over it. I knew about Metallica back then, before they had a record deal, but I didn’t actually meet those guys for a few more years.
I have no idea about the dynamics or details that led to the split between Dave Mustaine and Metallica, but all things considered, it was meant to be. We are all better off for it. Because otherwise, we wouldn’t have had the focus on Dave that came with him leading his own band.
We wouldn’t have had Megadeth.
Steven Adler and I loved Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? It was our favorite record. I was in love with everything about the album, but I liked the guitar playing especially, of course. Chris Poland remains, to this day, one of my favorite lead guitar players that Dave has had in Megadeth.
Guns N’ Roses was kind of laying low, in a holding pattern, around that time. We had become a pretty well-known band in LA, but after we signed with Geffen Records, we went sort of under the radar for a while. The record company didn’t want us doing many gigs around then.
I could be wrong, but I think it was Steven who introduced me to David Ellefson. Junior is a very sincere, friendly, and outgoing person. There are no airs with him. Mustaine was a bit more serious, much more sort of reserved socially, but we all got along really well together.
Steven and Izzy Stradlin were renting this, like, “guest house” just south of Sunset. I was hanging out at some chick’s place; I didn’t actually live anywhere, technically. Mustaine had an apartment just around the corner from where I was staying, maybe a couple of blocks away.
I started hanging around over there a lot and became really good friends with Junior and Dave. We did a lot of partying, but it wasn’t “partying” in the traditional sense. We weren’t at the bar. In fact, “partying” isn’t even really the right word, as far as what that connotates for most people. It’s quite the opposite, actually. It was very insular. We stayed inside, did drugs, and made music. We jammed quite a bit. We wrote some pretty dark, heavy, drug-fueled shit together.
I never became a metal guy, but I related to something about the way both Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield approached guitar. There were a lot of thrash bands, but those two created a sound unique unto themselves. There are bits and pieces in my playing that came from listening to those guys and especially from jamming with Dave. It definitely had some influence on me. I really dug playing with him. I’m a riff guy and he has a certain way of riffing that appeals to me.
Dave’s style of guitar playing is so uniquely his own; it’s difficult to put into words. His fingering style, his overall approach. It’s instantly recognizable. I know it’s him, immediately.
I talked about this a little bit in my book, but there was a point when all of us were temporarily frustrated with our existing bands and so we briefly talked about maybe teaming up together, ’though we never pursued it in earnest. I loved Megadeth, but my heart was in Guns.
Guns made Appetite with producer Mike Clink. Not long before we geared up to go back into the studio to make the Use Your Illusion records, Mike told me he was working with Megadeth. “How’s it going?” I’d ask. “What are you guys doing?” He’d share anecdotal info, like, they’d just finished vocals, or they were doing overdubs, but I didn’t have many details.
Then I heard the record.
Rust in Peace is a great album.
It’s a great sounding album, too.
I’m a pretty big Megadeth fan. I can’t think of a Megadeth album that I would consider “not worthy.” There’s something cool and memorable on pretty much every record. Peace Sells… was clearly a milestone for them, but Rust in Peace put the band on the map on a bigger scale. It broadened their audience. It made Megadeth a household name, by metal standards. It has really fucking cool songs on it. “Hangar 18” is awesome. Marty Friedman is great, obviously. I mean, there’s just a bunch of cool shit on that record. I certainly understand why every important Rust in Peace anniversary is celebrated as a pivotal moment for both Megadeth and for heavy metal.
FOR NEARLY THIRTY YEARS, I HAVE BEEN PROUDLY LISTENING to fans and music critics alike proclaim that Rust in Peace is one of the greatest and most influential metal records of all time, and it’s truly one of my proudest offerings. I hope to retell the tale of the writing, recording, and simply living, if you can call it that, of the Rust in Peace years. Once you start reading this, you will see why the recording was so explosive and volatile, and when you finish this, hopefully, you will understand me and Megadeth just a little bit better; just like I do now.
I’m glad I took this trip back down memory lane. I remember a lot from that period of recording RIP, with all the drama, but this is even more detailed, more painful, more rewarding, more revealing, and more exciting when hearing all the missing parts, and all the others’ perspectives during that time. I sincerely thank all those who contributed to this as well.
Deep thanks go to my amazing manager, Cory Brennan, and 5B Artist Management, especially Chris Shields, Bob Johnsen, and Justin Arcangel. I’d like to also thank Zora Ellis and Stephen Reeder. Oh, how I wish 5BAM had been managing Megadeth from the start.
This amazing tale was captured and told by wordsmith Joel Selvin. And of course, thank you to Ben Schafer, Fred Francis, Carrie Napolitano, Amanda Kain, Michael Barrs, and Anna Hall of Hachette Books for helping me give another compelling look deep into the unknown of Dave Mustaine and the Megadeth saga.
I’d like to thank my excellent wife, Pam, who is constantly pushing me to be my best, our outstanding children, Justis (my best friend) and Electra Mustaine, for loving me when I fall and always encouraging me to get up. Thank you to our webmaster, friend, and CyberArmy Fanclub President, Dave McRobb.
Obvious thanks go to the Rust in Peace lineup: Marty Friedman, David Ellefson, and Nick Menza. I must also thank the other members of this story: Andy Sommers, Mike Clink, Micajah Ryan, Max Norman, Tony Lettieri, Randy Kertz, and Bob Nalbandian.
Finally, it’s with deep gratitude that I thank the former players for Megadeth.
Last, but not least… thank you, Vic.
I wanna thank you for all the cool times we chilled, albeit briefly, either jamming or hanging out with Jr. and the other band guys… or whoever was at one of our apartments at any given moment.
I hope you know how much I dug those times. Hell, I still remember sitting on the couch, next to a pet boa constrictor or python you owned, watching in total amazement as you effortlessly shredded your guitar with solo after solo.
So, beloved brother, it was a “no-brainer” asking you to do the foreword for my second book, and I was pumped when you said yes! I give enormous thanks to you for writing the foreword to this new book! I just can’t think of a cooler person to have done this. In other words: Thanks, Fucking Dude! You Fucking Rock, Man!
BEGINNINGS CAN OFTEN BE FOUND INSIDE ENDINGS. This story begins at an ending, the Megadeth performance August 20, 1988, at the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington, where the band was to appear before a record crowd of 108,000, playing through a more than 100,000-watt sound system—so large it made the Guinness Book of World Records—on a bill with Iron Maiden, Kiss, David Lee Roth, and a new band from Los Angeles whose first album, Appetite for Destruction, was starting to make some noise back in the States.
DAVE MUSTAINE: Everybody was strung out and, of course, you never take enough heroin, so everybody ran out and got dope sick. Our bassist, David Ellefson—we called him Junior to avoid having a second Dave in the band—couldn’t handle it. He snapped. He told our manager that he was a junkie. Everybody had known about my bad habits, but not about David’s. They came up with this lie that he fell in the tub and sprained his wrist, but he never did.
At Castle Donington, the show went off, but what happened after was the beginning of things falling apart. We had just finished the Iron Maiden Seventh Son of a Seventh Son tour in America, and I thought that had been a great opportunity for us. After Donington, we had another seven stadium dates as support to Iron Maiden through Europe. So Far So Good… So What!, our third album, had come out in January, and we had just done the video for “In My Darkest Hour” for the Penelope Spheeris movie The Decline of Western Civilization.
CHUCK BEHLER: I was only the drummer in the band for less than two years. We went from clubs to arenas that quick. To play a show like Donington was just unimaginable to me, and we were excited. We had already done America, Europe, and Japan and took a little break. I was really looking forward to this show because I had the album Monsters of Rock from the first festival in 1980, with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and the other bands. The cover of the record featured a live overhead shot of this massive crowd. I knew there were going to be a lot of people. I was kind of nervous, but at the same time I was really looking forward to that.
DAVID ELLEFSON: I had the same Castle Donington record as a kid growing up in Minnesota; Rainbow, Quiet Riot, Scorpions, April Wine—cool bands that I was into. It was this mythical, legendary festival that still maintained its stature as the crème de la crème of all European rock festivals. As an American metal band, the goal was always to break in Europe—that was really the end game—because once you broke in Europe, you had planted your flag, you were deemed cool, worthy. Of course, Metallica had a huge leg up on that, drummer Lars Ulrich being from Denmark. He knew how to connect with that. But Anthrax had also been there. Slayer had been over there. Megadeth had gone over only a couple of times, so this was really a huge moment for us. But Metallica had certainly broken down a lot of doors before all of us.
We played a warmup for the show at the Ritz in New York. We were going to fly to New York, play the Ritz, and from there, fly over to England, which was good because it gave us one last chance to cop and make sure we had enough drugs to get from New York to England. None of us smuggled heroin. We never brought drugs through borders or any of that stuff. By the time we got to England and were driving up to Donington, some of us were coming down off the heroin and starting to jones. I was thinking Guns N’ Roses was going to be there, and we knew they got high. We knew that they were like us; they did heroin and coke.
CHUCK BEHLER: We stayed in an old-style hotel where Guns N’ Roses was staying too. I hung out a lot with their drummer, Steven Adler, a cool guy. He told me, “This is it—this is the gig, man. It doesn’t get any better than this.” He was kind of nervous. We got on the bus to go to the gig and when we drove past the fence and saw the crowd for the first time, it was almost overwhelming. It was a sea of people. We had done a sound check the day before—there were so many bands, they held sound checks for three days before the festival; we did ours the same day as Kiss and Guns N’ Roses—but nobody was there. The day of the show, though, it was just… wow.
DAVE MUSTAINE: At the hotel the night before Castle Donington, the bar was a who’s who of hard rock. The promoter showed up in his Lamborghini Countach to check on everybody. This was his biggest show ever. We weren’t the only band jonesing for heroin. Someone said one of the Guns N’ Roses guys got mugged out in the streets that night trying to score.
DAVID ELLEFSON: Heroin is a very difficult drug to tour with. Whereas coke, pot, and beer were readily available, heroin was not. Guns N’ Roses had just come off a huge run though America with Aerosmith and they were mostly cleaned up. We were not. We stayed at a hotel at Leicester Square, and the Iron Maiden guys were there. In addition to being super jet-lagged, I was coming down hard off my heroin. I was getting dope sick big-time. My girlfriend Charlie was with me, and she had put her foot down about the drugs when we first got together, so I had been hiding my habit from her. And everybody else but Dave. But now the word was out.
I called a doctor to come to the hotel, and he wrote me a prescription for codeine, which, when you’re on heroin, is like taking baby aspirin. It doesn’t really do much. The doctor was disgusted with me and called me a “fucking American drug addict.” Our agent, Andy Somers, was there and he chastised me, telling me how disappointed in me he was. The whole fucking house of cards was crumbling down.
That night, Charlie got extravagantly drunk. The next day when we had to leave to go to Donington Park, she was still so fucked up I had to leave her in my bunk on our bus. She was a wreck. Meanwhile, I was dope sick and felt terrible. Biggest day of my life, biggest day of the band’s career, our biggest show ever, and I’m fucking not fully present because I was so strung out. All of our heroes were there—Iron Maiden, Kiss, David Lee Roth.
DAVE MUSTAINE: His girlfriend was really bad. She was very controlling. She once made him dump a gram of heroin into the carpet. Too bad he didn’t know that if you blew up a balloon and rubbed it over the carpet, all the heroin would stick to the balloon and it would come out of the carpet, but he was pretty much an amateur junkie. Ha-ha.
CHUCK BEHLER: I was standing on the side of the stage watching Guns N’ Roses with Lars Ulrich, who was there hanging out. We had no idea what was happening, but the band suddenly stopped playing. At first, I just thought it was some weirdness because Guns N’ Roses back then was known for doing all kinds of crazy stuff. Stopping playing in the middle of a show was just the kind of crap they would pull. Steven got off his drums and pointed into the audience. I thought maybe vocalist Axl Rose was mad at somebody and had jumped into the crowd. He would do stuff like that. But when the band went silent and walked off the stage, it was obvious something else went wrong. It turned out that the massive crowd, slipping around on a muddy, soggy field, had crushed two people down in front. The kids died, but we didn’t know that until much later. We did know they were hurt because we saw the ambulance come. I don’t know how the heck they got them out of there, but they did. Dave and I gave an interview between sets to a local radio station and we didn’t mention anything, even though it was on our minds.
DAVE MUSTAINE: I was not watching Guns N’ Roses when the people got crushed to death, but we were all aware what had happened. There were a lot of people pulled out of the crowd who were getting crushed. It was a terrible setup. The hill sloped down to the stage from the far end of the raceway. The field was sloppy and muddy from rain. With a hundred thousand people at the top of the hill, they simply slid down and couldn’t help themselves. Many people were taken out of the front and, to tell the truth, the promoters were lucky that only two died. Behind the stage was an embankment where they laid out all these kids along the wall. There were a lot of kids. I walked by them on my way to the stage—“You guys okay? You okay? You okay? You okay?” That was fucked up, seeing all the people that had been squashed.
DAVID ELLEFSON: They sold these two-liter bottles of ale and these fans would drink the ale, piss in the bottle, and throw the bottle at the stage. When they’d throw it, piss would come flying out in a big ten-foot wheel of urine. People were throwing mud, not because they hated us, but as a kind of weird salute, the way they gobbed the punk bands. I was strung out. I used my bass as a Viking shield to try to stave off the mud and the piss wheels. Somehow we got through the show.
DAVE MUSTAINE: Some of the things that were coming up on the stage were pieces of the ground, either chunks of grassy clay or soaking mud. Some were hunks of sod. Ellefson got hit a couple of times. My guitar got splattered, but I’m fairly agile onstage and can move around pretty good if I see stuff coming, but I was covered in mud before long.
CHUCK BEHLER: David Ellefson had been doing a lot of smack and he was in withdrawal. You would have never known it, watching him play that day, but he was in pretty bad shape.
DAVE MUSTAINE: We went up onstage to watch David Lee Roth. Lars was there. There are photos of Lars, Slash, and Axl from Guns N’ Roses and me sucking on a Jack Daniels bottle backstage after we played. We were all sitting in a circle waiting for one of the other bands to play. Lars was wearing Slash’s hat. It was one of the first times I’d run into him at anything significant we were doing, and here we were with this whole thing unraveling around us. That’s also where I met British rock photographer Ross Halfin. He was standing in my way and I went to give him a little pinch on his arm to get him out of the way, but I accidentally pinched him too hard. He pulled his arm back and looked up like, Who the fuck did that? Lars and I were both there, so I’m not even sure he knew it was me. I hope he didn’t.
CHUCK BEHLER: We went back to the hotel. Junior was sick, really sick. I didn’t see him acting that way or feeling that way at all during the show. They held some meetings, evidently, with our manager, Keith Rawls, and agent, Andy Somers, with the two of them in their hotel room later on that night. I didn’t really have much to say about it. They made that decision and that’s what happened. I wasn’t in the hotel room with them. I found out later that night. It wasn’t like we had a band meeting. But, to tell you the truth, I really wasn’t aware that David had gotten that bad. I really wasn’t.
DAVE MUSTAINE: Ellefson was coming out of his skin because he was going into withdrawal really bad. Whenever I went into withdrawal, I just toughed it out. I shook. I sweated. I puked. I shit. I would use alcohol and pot to power my way through it. And they do have stuff you can get over the counter in England to help you get through it, but he didn’t want to have any part of that. He wanted to go back home.
This had happened before, earlier in the year. We went to Japan and one of us ran out of heroin. We were supposed to go to Australia after that, but we canceled and came home. That cost us getting banned in Australia for quite a while.
DAVID ELLEFSON: I was so sick all I could do was crawl back to the bus after our set. Kiss, my favorite band growing up, was taking the stage, but I couldn’t even lift my head. I sank back in my bunk on the bus and covered my head. I could barely hear them play as the bus pulled out and we left Donington Park for London to catch our flight home. It had been agreed that Dave and I would go into rehab in Van Nuys at a program called ASAP as soon as we got back. It was pathetic.
It was further agreed upon that because I was the one forced to cancel the rest of the dates by my girlfriend that the excuse would be that I fell in the shower, broke my arm. That was the official reason announced as to why Megadeth would be off the remaining shows. They got Testament to fill in for us. And that was it.
DAVE MUSTAINE: But that wasn’t it. David Ellefson initially blamed Charlie for us having to cancel those dates. I’m sure today he would admit it was his disease of addiction that caused those cancelation disasters.
ANDY SOMERS: Junior came to me. I was shocked at how strung out and addicted he was. Did I always know Megadeth drank? Yeah. Did I always know there had been drug use, especially with the original lineup? Yeah. They were supposed to continue in Europe, but we pulled those dates down and came home.
DAVE MUSTAINE: I felt shitty. I understood what Ellefson was going through because obviously I’d been through it myself, the withdrawal and everything, but I didn’t want to cancel the dates. That was terrible, but it was bittersweet. We were going home and all I was thinking was, go home, get high, and then go check into rehab to see what that will be like.
THE BAND RETURNED to the United States and this lineup of Megadeth—Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson, Chuck Behler, and Jeff Young—never played together again.
DAVE MUSTAINE AND ANDY SOMMERS
Here I am with our first booking agent, Andy Sommers. Andy believed in us, and he was heavily involved in our success.
Bob was “well connected” in the LA scene. He introduced us to Marty, and Bob is still one of the band’s oldest and truest friends.
Chuck, somewhere on tour. Chuck was the most punk rock of all our drummers. This was taken shortly after waking up and about to sound check. I still stay in touch with him, and we see him each time we go to Detroit.
DAVE MUSTAINE, TONY LETTIERI, AND ROMMEL
Tony was my bodyguard during this era. That is the world-famous Rommel, the Rottweiler I got for Tony and nearly missed connecting with my amazing Pam.
Nick behind the famous Megadeth Drum Set and Riser and his Yamaha Rust in Peace drum kit.
On stage. Temperature is rising. Optimal fitness level. Ready to take on the world.
Marty made a deal with me once that if we had a record go gold, he would come dive. As you can see in this photo, he is not amused.
This is the four of us in an empty arena after one of the dates on the Clash of the Titans Tour.
David Ellefson goofing around backstage before the set. I think this had something to do with the rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap and the “metal detector” scene.
David Ellefson was always upbeat and happy, and he is a fan favorite. I’m so glad we are still making Megadeth music together. Here is my friend of nearly forty years, laying down the groove.
Marty ripping a solo, probably to “Tornado of Souls.”
We had the ultimate leather jackets made for the Rust in Peace cycle. I don’t know what ever happened to mine.
DAVE MUSTAINE AND ROB HALFORD
Rob and I with our motorcycles for a magazine shoot in Arizona on a day off.
OUR RUST IN PEACE SET
We had attempted stage props at our first shows, but it wasn’t until the RIP album, when this new stage setting and drum rack was made, that we looked as good as we played.
Epic New Year’s Eve show at the Long Beach Arena.
“HANGAR 18” VIDEO SHOOT
Here we are performing at the “Hangar 18” video shoot with some fans underneath us. Look closely and see the barricade that we were up against. It looked out into a massive pit which was at least 60 feet down.
Pamela Anne Casselberry, before we met and I proposed. It wasn’t long after we met that we got married and settled down.
MUSTAINE WEDDING PARTY IN HAWAII
Left to right: Todd Casselberry, Ron Lafitte, David Ellefson, John Bocanerga, Dave and Pam, Julie Foley, Helen Mayhue, Stephanie Hardy.
Randy was David Ellefson’s minder during this album cycle. He’s still a really great friend of the band and has become a successful doctor in the Detroit area.
Marty Friedman warming up before the show. He made playing look effortless.
This is another photo from Gene Kirkland. We were an impenetrable circle. You were either in or you were not. Gene traveled with us a lot, was in the circle, and was the closest thing to “band photographer.”
MEGADETH—END OF SHOW
These are my brothers. We will always have our ups and downs, like brothers do. There is no denying what we did for music and our fans did for us. “You’ve been great, we’ve been Megadeth.”
DAVE AND DAVID
The sole survivors. We kept pushing forward against all odds, again and again, and there were many! Wait ’til you see what’s NEXT!
IN MEMORY OF NICK MENZA (1964–2016)
In loving memory of Nick Menza. He was a beautiful man, an incredibly talented musician, who was my friend and brother. It was an honor to share the stages of the world with you. You made me happy, and you made me mad. We loved, we lived, and we thrashed the planet. I wept when you left us back here above ground. I know I will see you again one day. I love you and I miss you.—Dave Mustaine
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