Whoever was in New York in 1983 when Metallica fired fiery guitarist Dave Mustaine, drove him to the bus station, and sent him back to California without a handshake could not have imagined that Mustaine would soon form Megadeth. Along with Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, Exodus’ Bonded by Blood, and Slayer’s Show No Mercy, he would release one of the greatest thrash debuts of all time. The 12-June-1985 release Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! is fast and raw, with a jazzy swing that complements Mustaine and Chris Poland’s angular guitar riffs and blazing leads. Mustaine’s efforts to prove that Megadeth would not play second fiddle to Metallica or anyone else contributed to the album’s intensity. The living conditions the band members endured while working on the songs merely added salt to Mustaine’s perpetually open wound. If the band sounds distressed, it is because they were physically and emotionally afflicted. They were homeless for the majority of the time and often slept in their studio, which lacked ventilation, a bathroom, and running water. On occasion, they slept in cars parked on the street.
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In 1999, Mustaine told me, “The only time we were permitted to shower was when a supervisor took us to the gym.” But regardless of the circumstances, we refused to quit or yield. Drugs were another obstacle for the band. While Mustaine was able to write while under the influence, his habit and that of his bandmates had a negative impact on their earnings. As soon as Combat Records gave Megadeth $8,000 to record an album, the musicians wasted the money on drugs. When they informed the record label that they would need an additional $4,000 to record a quality album, the company gave them more money, which also quickly vanished. “It was absurd,” Mustaine said. Chris and [drummer] Gar Samuelson would pawn our equipment for heroin every time we turned around.
Megadeth still managed to rehearse and record an exceptionally tight collection of songs, including a thrash version of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots” with modified lyrics and “The Mechanix,” a Mustaine song that first appeared on Metallica’s legendary “No Life ‘Til Leather” demo. Metallica, on the other hand, slowed the song down and used it as the basis for their “Kill ‘Em All” song “The Four Horsemen.” “I composed all the music for ‘The Four Horsemen,'” Mustaine explained. “James [Hetfield] wrote the lyrics, although a portion of them were based on an idea I had. I cannot say how they felt about it, but I can tell you how I felt because when I was asked to leave, I said, “Don’t use any of my belongings!” Then Kill ‘Em All was released.” Mustaine has always had a grudge against his former bandmates. As he rapidly alters chord progressions and meter from one song to the next, you can almost hear him think, “Let’s see if those s—-heads can do anything as good as this!”
Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian said in interviews for his autobiography I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax that Dave attended the band’s first Country Club show with Raven in Los Angeles. ” He had only recently left Metallica, but he already had demos for ‘The Skull Beneath the Skin,’ the album’s title track, and ‘Last Rites/Loved to Deth.’ I exclaimed, “Man, this is incredible!” and he jokingly replied, “Right, right, I f—-ing rule! These men expelled me from the band. I will demonstrate!” Due to the fact that Megadeth spent nearly their entire budget, they were unable to pay a producer, so they collaborated with their friend Karat Faye, who had produced the demo that got them signed. They recorded Killing Is My Business… in a month at Indigo Ranch Studios in Malibu, California, between December 1984 and January 1985. Killing Is My Business… was hampered by mediocre production, which is unfortunate because the songs were as solid as steel.
“Last Rites/Loved to Deth” is a galloping double-bass thrasher with an unconventional, acrobatic main riff, whereas the title track is a straightforward scream-along anthem that paved the way for “Peace Sells.” The song “Rattlehead” features a serpentine passage that circles the main riff and a mosh section in the middle. “The Skull Beneath The Skin” features guitar work that is the aural equivalent of a rapidly woven spider web, whereas “Looking Down the Cross” opens with dissonant minor key harmonics and a flashy lead pattern that sounds like video game effects before building into a doomy mid-tempo thrasher. In addition to having inferior sound quality, Killing Is My Business… was hindered by its ridiculous cover art: a plastic skull with tin foil shades and metal hooks securing its jaw. Initially, Mustaine provided the label with sketches of a much sleeker skull bound in chains and surrounded by crossbones and blades, but the company misplaced the drawings and attempted to replicate the theme using found objects. The entire band despised it. (Killing Is My Business… was re-released in 2002 with new artwork based on Mustaine’s original design.) That was not the only change made.
When Lee Hazelwood, the author of the original “These Boots” lyrics, took offense to Mustaine’s raunchy revisions, he threatened to sue. Therefore, the group removed the track from all copies printed after 1995. The reissue re-added “These Boots” to the track listing, but with bleeps over the rewritten lyrics. Due to limited distribution, Killing Is My Businesss… didn’t make the Billboard album chart, but it was still one of Combat’s biggest sellers and helped Capitol Records sign Megadeth to a long-term deal that included their second album Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? is the first platinum record for the band. It would take the band members some time to overcome their drug and alcohol addictions, but at least they no longer had to live on the streets.
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