Dave Mustaine says that the previously announced expanded version of METALLICA‘s 1982 demo tape, “No Life ‘Til Leather” has been indefinitely shelved because he is unwilling to give Lars Ulrich “credit for something that not only” the METALLICA drummer “did not do but he was incapable of doing.”
“No Life ‘Til Leather” was released as a limited-edition cassette for Record Store Day in April 2015, available exclusively in independent record stores. It featured artwork copies from drummer Lars Ulrich‘s own personal copy of the original demo, as well as his handwriting. At the time, the band also promised that expanded editions of the demo, which had never before been commercially available, would arrive on CD, vinyl and in a collector’s set.
The seven-song tape was recorded with the first lineup of the band that appeared live as METALLICA, including Ulrich, frontman James Hetfield, lead guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist Ron McGovney. The original recordings were paid for by High Velocity record label owner Kenny Kane, with a view of making them available as an EP in 1982.
Asked in a new interview with Greece’s Rock Hard magazine about the songwriting dispute that has led to the expanded version of “No Life ‘Til Leather” being apparently scrapped, Mustaine said: “I’m not gonna give [Lars] my credit, so I’m not gonna be part of it. I wrote all of ‘Mechanix’, I wrote all of ‘Jump In The Fire’, so me giving any percentage of that to Lars Ulrich, he can pound sand. And as far as the song ‘Phantom Lord’, I wrote every note of that music, James [Hetfield, METALLICA frontman] wrote all the lyrics. That’s 50/50. If James wants to give his percentage up to Lars because he’s afraid of him, that’s up to him. I’m not afraid of Lars Ulrich, and I’m not giving him my percentage. And the same thing with ‘Metal Militia’; I wrote every single note of that music, James wrote every note of that lyric — that’s 50/50. If James wants to give Lars his percentage, that’s fine if he’s afraid of him. I’m not afraid of him. I’m not giving nothing to Lars Ulrich. Now, they took it in the past [editor’s note: apparently referring to METALLICA‘s ‘Kill ‘Em All’ debut album, which features re-recorded versions of the songs from ‘No Life ‘Til Leather’] — everybody knows that — and the past is the past. But I could not willingly enter into a new agreement with these guys predicated on Lars getting credit for something that not only he did not do but he was incapable of doing — he was incapable of writing songs that good back then.”
Asked if that means that there will never be another concert featuring the so-called “Big Four” of 1980s thrash metal — METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER and ANTHRAX — Mustaine said: “Oh, I don’t know about that. That has nothing to do with the ‘Big Four.’ I think Lars is just afraid to play with MEGADETH.”
Ulrich told Metal Forces in 2016 that “some unexpected difficulties on the legal side… prevented the ‘No Life ‘Til Leather’ box set and our vision for how we were going to kick this whole reissue series off. We spent some time doing that dance, but then James and I decided that it wasn’t worth it getting bogged down in all the unpleasantries, because this was supposed to be a celebration and not end up being a tug of war, so we thought, ‘You know what? Fuck it. We’ll just move on to ‘Kill ‘Em All’,” he said.
Ulrich did not want to get into the details of the exact issues that were preventing the demo tape from being released. “It’s a little more complicated than that,” he said. “There’s no reason to go deeper into it. It was just something that we hadn’t expected.”
Last November, Mustaine tweeted that he was contacted by Hetfield two years earlier about “officially” releasing “No Life Till Leather” with “27 tracks, pics, the whole enchilada,” but, he said, “the talks broke down because Lars wanted credit on two songs I wrote every note and word to. I have the texts. I passed.”
When Ulrich spoke to Metal Forces in 2016, he made it clear that METALLICA was still hopeful that the expanded version “No Life ‘Til Leather” would arrive at a later date. “As you know, I am the eternal optimist, and I am the eternal ‘glass is well fucking half full,’ so who knows?” he said. “I think some of those parties have circled back around now that they’ve seen that this is real and so we’ll have to see. It would be great to share ‘No Life ‘Til Leather’ in a year or two with our fans and with the people that care. We haven’t shut the door on it.”
“No Life ‘Til Leather” was recorded on July 6, 1982 at Chateau East Studio in Tustin, California. All the songs on the tape later appeared on the band’s 1983 debut album, “Kill ‘Em All”, including “Hit The Lights”, “Motorbreath”, “Jump In The Fire”, “Seek And Destroy”, “Metal Militia”, “Phantom Lord” and “The Mechanix”, which was renamed “The Four Horsemen” on the album.
“No Life ‘Til Leather” track listing:
01. Hit The Lights
02. The Mechanix
04. Seek & Destroy
05. Metal Militia
06. Jump In The Fire
07. Phantom Lord
“No Life ‘Til Leather” recording lineup:
James Hetfield – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Lars Ulrich – drums
Dave Mustaine – lead guitar
Ron McGovney – bass
Mustaine was a member of METALLICA for less than two years, from 1981 to 1983, before being dismissed and replaced by Kirk Hammett.
Mustaine was not inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with METALLICA during the April 2009 ceremony at Cleveland, Ohio’s Public Auditorium. Ulrich later explained to The Plain Dealer that Mustaine “never played on any METALLICA records. No disrespect to him. But there [were] half a dozen other people that were in the lineup in the early days. We thought… the fair thing to do would be to include anybody that played on a METALLICA record.” He added: “Dave Mustaine was in the band for eleven months, predominantly in 1982… I’m not trying to play it down. I have nothing but respect and admiration for his accomplishments since.”
Special thanks to Sakis Fragos, publisher/chief editor of Greece’s Rock Hard magazine, for providing BLABBERMOUTH.NET with the original audio recording of the Dave Mustaine interview from which the above comments were lifted.