ANTHRAX guitarist Scott Ian has confirmed long-running rumors that METALLICA planned to fire Lars Ulrich back in the mid-'80s, but believes that James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Cliff Burton would have changed their minds before dismissing their Danish-born drummer.
The story of METALLICA's alleged dissatisfaction with Ulrich gained credence back in 2009 when former METALLICA guitarist and current MEGADETH frontman Dave Mustaine revealed to Rolling Stone magazine that he was told by Ian that on the last METALLICA tour Cliff Burton was on before the bassist died, METALLICA was planning on kicking Ulrich out at the trek's end. Mustaine said, "That's what Scott told me. He said that when METALLICA got home, that James, Cliff and Kirk were going to fire Lars."
For his part, Ian never denied telling Mustaine about METALLICA's alleged plans to replace Ulrich and has gone on to recount the story in his autobiography, "I'm The Man: The Story Of That Guy From Anthrax", which was released on October 14 via Da Capo Press.
Speaking to Sid Black of the 94.3 KILO radio station in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Ian says about the incident (hear audio below): "A lot of people have been asking me about this, and that story's actually been out there for a long time.
"I'm not outing this; that would never be my intention. My book's not like an exposé; it's not that kind of a book.
"But yeah, the story was that they had made a plan that they were gonna make a change and get a new drummer. We were all kind of blown away by that, because it was the four of them. It was just, like, 'Wow! Really?' And they were, like, 'Yeah. When we finish this tour, we're gonna find a new drummer.'
"What could I do? Just as a guy who was friends with all of them, you feel, 'That's a bummer for Lars. That sucks.' And at the same time, you hope that your friends can continue on and do what they wanna do with themselves.
"Obviously, history turned out differently for METALLICA and they went on to become, arguably, one of the biggest bands on the planet. So I'm just glad it all… obviously it all worked out for my friends. [It was a] horrible tragedy that Cliff was killed in that bus accident."
He added: "All I could say about that whole thing was we were a bunch of kids, man… We were a bunch of kids that met very early on in our careers, and a couple of years later, we were out together in Europe on tour. We were all in our early 20s and just really celebrating life and the fact that things were actually happening for our bands. And there was a bus accident. And it really put things in their proper place after that. The priorities quickly fell into place. It was just a thing I still can't really wrap my head around."
Despite the fact that Hetfield, Hammett and Burton appeared determined to get a new drummer, Ian says that "I honestly think it wouldn't have happened. 'Cause, believe me, I've thought about it quite a bit over the years. I honestly think that the tour would have finished and I think cooler heads would have prevailed, maybe, and I don't think the change would have taken place. That's what I believe."
Speaking to Classic Rock magazine back in 2009, Mustaine was asked if he regretted breaking the story about METALLICA's alleged proposed sacking of Lars Ulrich. "No," Mustaine replied. "It was something Scott told me. I was trying to help him promote his autobiography. I love Scott and would never do anything to hurt him — never. But it's what he told me and I know other people who've heard it, too."
He continued: "With all the things that are out there on the Net, I know that Scott's having a bad time. People are starting to say, 'We believe Dave and Scott's a liar. He lied about the thing with Dan [Nelson, the singer who controversially parted company with ANTHRAX].' That's the last thing I wanted. I love Scott. I wish I could just make this thing go away. But I didn't say it, he did."
Mustaine himself was a member of METALLICA for less than two years, from 1981 to 1983, before being dismissed and replaced by Hammett. He did not play on any METALLICA albums and did not attend their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.
Mustaine went on to form MEGADETH. The band's 14th studio album, "Super Collider", came out last year.
Scott Ian interview (audio):