As anyone who has tried to navigate the tab book for Rust In Peace can attest to, playing lead guitar in Megadeth is one tough gig. In the red corner, you’ve got the animalistic style of band leader Dave Mustaine, in the Blue, well, take your pick.
Right now they’ve got the virtuoso Kiko Loureiro playing inside and outside of the metal guitar vocabulary. Back in the ‘80s, it was Chris Poland, the player who could tie you into a knot with his legato.
And then there was Marty Friedman, the Cacophony alumni whose taste for the exotic lit up the Megadeth canon for almost a decade, recording landmark releases such as the aforementioned Rust In Peace and its follow-up, Countdown To Extinction.
But, all good things come to an end, even when you are as extravagantly gifted as Friedman. In 1999, during the sessions for Risk, a mix-up over a solo in Breadline – the third single to be plucked from the album – turned it all sour.
Megadeth guitarists come and go and rarely do we hear Mustaine express too much regret, but in the latest issue of Guitar World, he admitted that what happened over the guitar solo “was not okay”, and that the whole situation could have been handled better.
As Mustaine tells it, Friedman had tracked his solo but management did not like it. That left three options: “I said [to management], ‘Well, you have three choices. Either you mute the solo completely, have Marty come back and redo it, or I do it.’And then I said, ‘If I do it, you’d better tell him.’ Well, I redid it and nobody told Marty.”
It didn’t take long for the fuse to burn out. When the band listened back to the final version, Mustaine said Friedman was distraught.
“So we’re in there listening to the finished album and the solo comes on. It’s my solo, not Marty’s… I looked at him as tears ran down his face and I knew right away that nobody had told him,” Mustaine said. “I knew that was probably going to be the end of Marty Friedman.”
Mustaine has spoken before about Megadeth’s management leaning on the band during the Risk period to write more commercial material. He said Friedman’s departure was ultimately on them.
“Having been a partner with Marty for so many years, as much of an enigma as he was, I could tell he was really upset and he had had enough,” Mustaine said. “What happened to Marty was definitely not okay. Our management was supposed to tell him and, for whatever reason, they didn’t do it. I think that was a terrible thing to do to him.”
Megadeth will release their first studio album since 2016 when The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead! hits record stores on 2 September via UMe.