MEGADETH leader Dave Mustaine said a dispute over a guitar solo in the song "Breadline" led to lead guitarist Marty Friedman's departure in 1999. "Breadline" appeared on the band's oft-lambasted "Risk" studio album, an effort that saw MEGADETH undergo a heavily criticized change in direction in favor of more commercialized and accessible songwriting, a move which Mustaine previously attributed to the influence of Friedman. The album was a critical and commercial failure and the was the last MEGADETH studio album released by longtime label Capitol Records. Friedman would take part in the initial run of shows in support of "Risk", but was soon replaced by former SAVATAGE guitarist Al Pitrelli.
In a recent interview with Colorado Springs, Colorado radio station KILO 94.3 about MEGADETH's new "Warheads On Foreheads" compilation, Mustaine provided the backstory on "Breadline" and how it ultimately affected Friedman's career in MEGADETH.
"Marty and I were going in different directions," he said. "Of course, we're friends now and I've always loved his playing, but he wanted to do something else. And I should have said, 'Okay, let's stop. I'll get a new guitar player. You go on your way.' But instead, he stayed longer than he wanted and I think I kept him longer than I should have.
"Had 'Risk' maybe not been recorded by Marty and recorded by somebody else, it could have been a different record," he continued. "Probably the definitive straw that broke the camel's back was when Marty had a solo on a song called 'Breadline' and the label and management took it off and put a solo I had on there. And he freaked. That was it… It was sad. I love Marty. I told [the label], I said, 'Look, there's three ways to do this,' because they didn't like his solo on 'Breadline'. I said 'There's three ways to do it: You either mute it, you have him come back, or I do it.' And they said, 'Well, he's not coming back. We're not paying for him to come back. And there needs to be a solo there, so you have to do it.' I said, 'I'll do it, but you have to tell him.'"
He continued: "When we were listening to the final mixes… Everybody flew back out to Nashville. He's sitting there and he's totally excited, ready to listen to his solo on 'Breadline', 'cause he loved that song and he loved the solo he did. It was a really beautiful solo, too, but it wasn't right. And the solo went down, and he heard my solo, and I looked over and he had tears going down his face. And I thought, 'You bastards. You didn't tell him.' And that was it. That was all it took for Marty. He quit. Although he stayed — on the outside, his body was there, but on the inside, his soul was gone."
Last fall, Mustaine said that "Risk" was the result of him "capitulating" to Friedman's "desires to be more of an alternative band." He told SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation LA Invasion: Live From The Rainbow Bar & Grill": "We kept slowing down and slowing down and slowing down. If that record would have been called THE DAVE MUSTAINE PROJECT and not MEGADETH, I think it would have been successful. People wanted a MEGADETH record. They didn't wanna see Dave bending over backwards to keep Marty Friedman happy, 'cause Marty wanted us to sound like fucking DISHWALLA."
In early 2015, Friedman stepped away from a planned reunion of MEGADETH's "Rust In Peace" lineup — also featuring drummer Nick Menza — because he didn't feel inspired to re-team with his one-time bandmates. He later explained: "I think anyone that has something as good as 'Rust In Peace' in their history doesn't want to revisit it unless you are going to top it. I didn't see any reason to mess with that. I didn't see a reunion being what it could be and what the fans deserved. If I were to revisit that, there would have to be a reason for me to do that beyond, 'Let's go back and do it again.' That's not a good enough reason."
"Warheads On Foreheads" was released on March 22. The disc features 35 remastered tracks selected by Mustaine.
Prior to the arrival of "Warheads On Foreheads", MEGADETH reissued two of its iconic records, 2001's "The World Needs A Hero" and 2004's "The System Has Failed", through BMG on February 15.