If you know anything at all about the music industry, you’re probably familiar with the phrase “creative differences.” As a form of doublespeak for “the band is breaking up,” it covers a remarkably wide spectrum of musical disagreements, ranging from amicable separations between musicians wanting to explore new sounds and genres to absurd and insane intra-band fights so heated and violent that sometimes the cops have to get involved.
Since the latter form of creative difference is way more fun to read about than the former, we aim to present you with ten of the angriest, craziest and weirdest intra-band feuds that rock music has ever seen. Strap on your rhinestone codpiece, because this is going to get rough.
METALLICA: LARS ULRICH VS. DAVE MUSTAINE
Booted out of Metallica for excessive drinking and drugging, guitarist Dave Mustaine spent roughly the next twenty years bitching about it, in-between releasing new Megadeth albums and starting up little mini-fights with parts of Slayer and Anthrax.
Drummer Lars Ulrich was typically the focus of Mustaine’s anger, possibly because Ulrich claimed at one point the mostly one-sided feud was just a way of getting publicity for Megadeth albums, but 2004’s “Monster in the Mirror” documentary provided a chance for the two to resolve their differences and bro-hug it out. The reconciliation lasted for maybe a week before Dave complained that the film made him look like a wuss (he had somewhat justifiably claimed that, instead of kicking him to the curb, Metallica should have tried to help him with his addictions) and, as of today, Mustaine’s publicly expressed opinion of Lars varies weekly from (in Ulrich’s own words) “Lars is OK, ha ha, the little Danish guy, we used to dig holes in the earth and smoke bongs” to “Lars is a fuckin’ asshole.”
Leaving aside questions about the traditional Danish customs of hole-in-the-earth-digging and bong-smoking, we still have to wonder: How is it humanly possible to drink so much you get kicked out of Metallica?
BLACK SABBATH: TONY IOMMI VS. OZZY (AND/OR SHARON) OSBOURNE
There’s been a wedge between Black Sabbath’s founding guitarist Tony Iommi (accidental inventor of the heavy metal riff) and frontman Ozzy Osbourne (deliberate eater of bats) ever since the former fired the latter for drug and alcohol abuse beyond the acceptable standards of '70s metal bands and the scientifically established limits of the human body.
Iommi is the only man to have been a continual member of Black Sabbath through years of hirings, firings and hospitalizations, such that the de facto definition of Black Sabbath basically came to mean “Tony Iommi and whoever’s sober enough to play alongside him.” The flip side of this coin was the devaluation of the Black Sabbath name to the point where the Iommi Sabbath was playing nightclubs and Osbourne declared that the brand was “literally in the toilet.”
While Osbourne’s understanding of the word “literally” was a bit shaky, his business acumen (or perhaps that of his wife) was on-point: Iommi was still selling merchandise that featured the “classic” Sabbath lineup (Iommi, Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward) and on those grounds a formidable lawsuit was launched in order to take total control of the Black Sabbath name away from Iommi and split control and profits between the four original members.
The dispute was ultimately settled peacefully by two tragic events — the death of mutual friend Ronnie James Dio (Osbourne’s replacement in the band) and a recent diagnosis of lymphoma for Iommi have led the bandmates to bury any number of hatchets and work towards the release of a new album. The only possible conflict between the two men now boils down to Osbourne’s impassioned declaration, “I told [Iommi] if he dies, I’m gonna kill him.”
DIO: RONNIE JAMES DIO VS. VIVIAN CAMPBELL
As a rule, if someone starts a band named after him, it’s a good bet that he has a bit of an ego problem. This is also a safe assumption to make about someone who changed their last name to “God.” Ronnie James Dio (formerly Padavona) met both these qualifications, so it’s not too surprising that some of his former bandmates have had issues with his personality.
Chief among these is former Dio guitarist and Def Leppard member Vivian Campbell, who, when asked his opinion of R. J. God, replied, “He’s an incredible talent, but he’s an awful businessman and way more importantly, one of the vilest people in the industry.”
God/Dio responded with the wrath typical of a spurned deity, stating, “I hope he fucking dies. He’s a fucking asshole … I went ‘I thought I gave you a chance and made you somebody. And now you’re playing with who? Def fucking who? There’s a fucking rock band for you to fucking have diarrhea with.'”
Dio passed away from stomach cancer in 2009 without a chance to reconcile with Campbell, who says he was unable to properly deal with Dio’s illness and death due to the recent death of his own mother. Campbell regrets his comments and now plans to tour with Dio compatriots Vinny Appice and Claude Schnell in order to “reclaim” the songs from the Dio catalogue that he had a hand in creating.
PINK FLOYD: DAVID GILMOUR VS. ROGER WATERS
After the stresses of recording "The Wall," the fights and alienation surrounding the subsequent "The Final Cut" (which reviewer Kurt Loder referred to as “essentially a Roger Waters solo album”), and worries about the increasingly poor mental health of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd was more or less ready to call it quits at the end of the Eighties.
Waters made his solo career official, breaking away from the rest of the band (now headed by David Gilmour), but not before having his lawyer inform that despite consisting of the majority of Pink Floyd, they were legally barred from performing as Pink Floyd, referring to themselves as Pink Floyd, and/or using Waters’ inflatable pig. “That’s my pig. That’s my plane crashing,” Waters complained to Rolling Stone in an interview where he also stated, “If one of us was going to be called Pink Floyd, it’s me.”
Of course, the group under Gilmour was more than one people calling themselves Pink Floyd, and with the weight of numbers on their side they eventually convinced the court the same thing. The surviving members of Pink Floyd are on generally OK terms today and even performed together at a Live 8 show, but given that custody of the pig remains undetermined, a true reunion is probably out of the question.
THE EVERLY BROTHERS: DON EVERLY VS. PHIL EVERLY
A major influence on the pop music of the Sixties with their country-tinged rock and close-paired harmonies (among others, the Beatles were big fans, and based “Please Please Me” on the structure of “Cathy’s Clown”), the Everly Brothers were influential in another way, as well: the creation and nurturing of long-simmering resentments that result in embarrassing, dramatic public outbursts.
Bickering over how much and what kind of speed each other were ingesting (Don was an early adopter of Ritalin, which eventually landed him in a hospital and disrupted a U.K. tour) and the stress of their waning popularity finally reached a crisis point in 1973, while they were performing with similarly fractious duo Simon and Garfunkel as a sort of unofficial “guys who clearly hate each other” tour.
During a performance of “Cathy’s Clown,” Phil abruptly decided he’d had enough, threw his guitar to the ground, and walked off stage. Don, apparently not too surprised, told the shocked audience that the Everly Brothers were officially finished. The brothers have since reconciled and occasionally even perform together, suggesting that in the end, blood is thicker than Ritalin.
OASIS: LIAM VS. NOEL
The brothers Gallagher have fought for so long and so often that Oasis eventually became less of a band and more of a touring squabbling match. The dueling Mancunians (it means “someone from Manchester” and no, I don’t know why) originally played up their brotherly fights as a joke in interviews and articles, even leaking a “bootleg” CD of an argument entitled "Wibbling Rivalry," but the “gag” was already starting to wear thin during their first American tour, when Liam whacked Noel over the head with a tambourine, prompting the first of many occasions where the older brother threatened to quit the band then and there.
Somehow, Noel stayed on for 15 more years, outlasting several drummers, guitarists and wives, and tolerating such Liam-ish “jokes” as begging out of an acoustic performance of "Wonderwall" then heckling the band from the balcony, inviting everyone from the local pub over to the studio while Noel was trying to record "What’s The Story Morning Glory?", and repeatedly implying that Noel’s daughter Anais wasn’t his. For his part, Noel responded to the studio stunt with a legendarily violent cricket-bat assault (the most English form of violence possible).
At any rate, the brothers finally called it quits just before a performance in Paris in August of 2009, with Noel stating that he “simply could not keep working with Liam a day longer.” Reportedly the brothers are making attempts at amends, although Noel’s quip about Liam’s band Beady Eye’s performance at the London Olympics (“Stratford’s finest Oasis tribute band”) means these rumors are probably a bit premature.
THE KINKS: RAY DAVIES VS. DAVE DAVIES
Another brother-fronted pop legend, the Kinks arrived with the rest of the British Invasion fleet with hits like “You Really Got Me” and a fraternal battle that had apparently been brewing since unimaginatively named younger brother Dave Davies was born three years after Ray.
While the Kinks were the darling of the UK music press and were a crucial influence on the '90s Britpop scene, the fundamentally opposed personalities of the two men lead to clashes public and private, including one fight in the Eighties over the mastering of a record that reportedly made their manager cry.
Somehow they managed to perform together until 1996, when according to Dave, Ray interrupted his younger brother's 50th birthday party by jumping on the cake and making a brief speech about how he was a huge and insurmountable genius. The men have barely communicated since, with the exception of business emails and sniping at each other through articles in the Daily Mail.
VAN HALEN: VAN HALEN VS. WHOEVER’S SINGING FOR THEM THIS WEEK
If you happen to have the design for some kind of robot frontman who combines the sort of energy and dynamism vital to rock ‘n’ roll, but can also just be immediately shut down and stored in the back of the truck with the drum kit after a show, please get in touch with Alex and Eddie Van Halen posthaste.
Van Halen has always benefited from their larger-than-life frontmen — David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, and, uh, that other guy — while suffering the many annoying side effects of having a permanently “on” speed-addled rock ’n’ roll clown picking fights, demanding more money, and shooting his mouth off to the press.
Roth, their initial and (surprisingly) current singer, is sort of the ultimate example of this, leaving and rejoining the band in loud and messy fashion several times, including a one-night “reunion” for the MTV VMAs in ’96 that nearly ended in a fight backstage.
After giving Hagar another shot (bad idea) and bassist Michael Anthony finally getting fed up with the whole thing and checking out, Van Halen invited a somewhat mellower Roth back on board and toured successfully … up until recently, when several tour dates disappeared from the Van Halen website amid rumors that the fighting has started yet again.
GUNS N’ ROSES: AXL VS. EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING HE HAS EVER WORKED WITH
One of America’s most popular and talented rock vocalists, Axl Rose may also be one of the most irritating human beings alive. Fourteen different performers — among them some of the most respected and capable names in metal — have been fired, forced out or grew sick of the Guns n’ Roses experience, which devolved from awesome rock 'n' roll hijinks to dealing with Rose’s chronic tardiness (he has been known to show up hours after the scheduled beginning of the set), profoundly bitchy stage presence (he has frequently stopped singing in order to yell instructions to the security staff or even leap off stage to deal with fans) and mercurial temper (childhood friend and original rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin described the role of Guns n’ Roses manager as “the guy who gets to go over to Axl's at six in the morning after he's smashed his $60,000 grand piano out of the picture window”).
While Axl was in no way easy to deal with at the beginning of his career, it was after the release of 1993’s weird cover album “The Spaghetti Incident?” (which was itself a reference to the torturous legal mess created by firing drummer Steven Adler) that he really kicked the assholishness into high gear.
For the next fifteen years, Rose became a weird, obsessive recluse, cycling through various performers and producers in the creation of the album "Chinese Democracy." During this period he would occasionally show up to perform single songs with whatever version of Guns n’ Roses he had assembled that week, put in odd guest performances for friends such as Sebastian Bach (whom he had yet to piss off), and publicly called former guitarist Slash a “cancer” — not the classiest move considering that the man’s mother had recently died of the disease.
Rose’s hatred for Slash and fellow guitarist Buckethead (a GnR guitarist from 2000 to 2004, much to his sorrow) was so legendary that when Dr. Pepper launched its infamous and disastrous PR campaign to distribute a free soda to every American should Chinese Democracy actually launch in 2008 — which it did, contrary to almost universal expectation — the promotion explicitly promised that the two rockers would not receive their free can of Dr. Pepper. Axl, to his small credit, ended up offering to share his can with Buckethead since his guitar work found its way onto the final version of the album; there’s no word as to whether the masked metal mastermind agreed to the offer.
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MAYHEM: VARG VIKERNES VS. EURONYMOUS
If you ask a hundred hardcore metalheads what genre of metal is the heaviest/hardest/metalest of all, you’re likely to receive a hundred different answers — metal has speciated into a zillion different obscure sub-genres, based on criteria as varied as tempo, meter, structure, timbre, and how much and what kind of makeup the band is wearing.
If you ask the same people which band or which people or even which event was the darkest in all of metal history, they’re almost certain to have an answer that includes tragically legendary Norwegian black metal pioneers Mayhem and that band’s history of arson, suicide and murder.
Formed in 1984 by Øystein Aarseth (eventually “Euronymous”), Mayhem took a full ten years to release its first album despite significant enthusiasm and interest in the Norwegian metal scene; this was in part due to the band’s habit of burning down historic Norwegian churches and generally being composed of insane people.
Worse (well, more disruptive, at least) was the suicide of vocalist Per Ohlin (who performed under the unfortunately apt stage name “Dead”) who slit his wrists and neck before putting a shotgun to his head, leaving only a note apologizing for the mess. The band broke up for a time, but tensions between bassist Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes and Euronymous over whether Nidaros Cathedral should be blown up, whether it was appropriate for Euronymous to have made a necklace out of Dead’s skull fragments, and whether or not Euronymous was planning to torture Vikernes to death on film, resulted in a 1993 fight where Varg stabbed his former frontman twenty-three times.
While the album was still released the following year, Vikernes wasn’t released until 2009 (early, for good behavior) and sources now say he has capped off a long career of being weird and crazy by deciding that he is now French.