Megadeth Bassist David Ellefson talks with Mayhem Music Magazine about their new cd, rejoining the band, & his YouTube video series
Mayhem Music Magazine: It seems you’ve been pulling triple duty lately doing the Big Four shows, the Mayhem Fest and your Bass Clinics. When do you find time for you?
David Ellefson: I have enough time for me; all those things include me anyway so I’m good to go. My attitude is when you’re on tour and you’re working, man, go out and do all that you can and be thankful you get invited to the party.
Mayhem Music Magazine: You guys flew in from Paris the afternoon of the Shoreline Amphitheatre show. It was great that you guys actually made it.
David Ellefson: Yeah, I wasn’t really stressing on that at all. I know a couple people were stressing. International flights usually run on time and once you’re on American soil and you’re usually 45 minutes away, to me, it seemed like it was not going to be a problem; it was nice to . . . I enjoy that, man. I enjoy that energy when you’re really running and gunning like that. To me, that’s part of rock and roll.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Did you ever think the band you founded back in 1983 would still be at the top of the metal scene after all these years?
David Ellefson: It’s funny. When we started Megadeth I had a feeling that this was going to do well and it was going to be a big band. There are things you get involved in your life and you just sense that they’re going to be successful. Then there are ones that you get involved in, and for whatever reason after a while, you know they’re going to reach a ceiling. For me I always felt Megadeth was one of these bands that truly never had a ceiling on it. It could go, really, it could go as far as we ever wanted to go. Quite honestly, we were going to be its limitation. But it really seems like it got blessed with the magic dust. I think that’s really been a good motivator for us over the years, especially now as we’re ramping up a new album, and there’s a lot of excitement about what’s happening with the band and we’re really hitting this point of critical mass again, which is really, really exciting.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Tell me about the forthcoming CD, “TH1RT3EN.”
David Ellefson: We’re hoping it’s going to be a fall release as best we know. We went in and recorded it pretty quickly. In about ten weeks or so we were in the studio recording and it’s being mixed right now and that included really arranging the songs and recording it. It wasn’t one of these sessions where we came off the road for a year, got in a room, started from scratch and pieced together an album. It was more we had a lot of the ideas already sitting there but they still needed to be arranged. And doing that in between tours, you put pressure on yourself. Sometimes you’d do your best when you’ve got some pressure on you.
Mayhem Music Magazine: So you don’t mind being under the gun on that one?
David Ellefson: No, not at all. I’ve found it really for us that when we’ve had our backs against a wall and when there has been pressure on us, that’s usually when we step up and do our best work. In fact today I was just listening to some new mixes of the new songs and man, the bass tone’s great, just all the tones of the records and I’m just listening to it. It’s one of those things when you’re in the moment, you’re working so hard at writing and recording and now to be able to step back and listen to it as a fan, and not even really listen to it like it’s us playing it, but just listening to it with a forest from trees perspective, it’s really fun to listen to the Megadeth music now. Me and Dave can sit back and be friends and listen to it and high five each other with smiles on our face and really be happy that we have the opportunity to do this again.
Mayhem Music Magazine: It’s great having you back in Megadeth. What brought you back in the first place, if you don’t mind me asking?
David Ellefson: The group ended in ’02 and things were shut down. That was it. It was over. It was done. All of us moved on to do different things, and when Dave started to put it back together again in ’04 and ’05, we were not on the same page. Our time away from each other was good for both of us I think. It gave Dave a chance to reposition Megadeth how he wanted, give him the chance to get the band back to where he always wanted it to be and where it had really, quite honestly, it had gotten a bit off track with various producers and managers that were involved in the late 90’s. For me, it allowed me to continue finishing up some things that I was involved in, some other musical projects. I went to college. I was involved in a lot of other life transitions, which were really beneficial to me. By the time the opportunity came back last year for me to come back to the band, it was perfect because it was for the Rust in Peace Tour and our drummer Shawn Drover, he was like, “Dude, there is no other bass player to have for the Rust in Peace 20th Anniversary Tour than Dave Ellison.” So that door of opportunity for all of us really just opened at precisely the right down.
Mayhem Music Magazine: And that’s perfect. It comes down to it, now that you’re back, what still makes you go out and perform every night?
David Ellefson: Man, I love doing this. That’s why even in my time away I was musically very active. I’m not a guy who’s just going to put the bass down and go do something else. This is what I am put on the planet to do, and it’s part of what I’m meant to do while I’m alive. So doing it back in Megadeth to have something that we founded so many years ago and started and is in such favor with the fans there’s no reason to stop doing it at this point.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Well, over the years you did record with Ripper Owens and some other people, so we definitely know you were out there being active.
David Ellefson: Yeah, again, I play for the fun of it. I play for the joy of it. I never got into this to be a career musician, which is probably why I got to have a career out of it. I learned a lot over the years, and I’ve written a book about the music business, and I started up a little YouTube series called David Ellefson’s Rock Shop. And I talked about a lot of things about being a professional musician and just to give some people who are coming up the ranks give them a heads up about the potential road blocks and some stumbling blocks up ahead. This is one of these businesses where there is no real set career path; you kind of make it up as you go and it’s a very creative journey. For me, being in the moment and just enjoying that creative process, whether it’s song writing, recording or even just the art and the fun and the creative energy that goes into a live show, man, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.
Mayhem Music Magazine: What made you decide to do the Bass clinics? Was that to show where personally where you’ve gone or to inspire other people?
David Ellefson: Well, Harvey had approached me about doing them. I’ve done a lot of clinics over the years past. Yeah, if you want to see me play, you’re probably going to come to the concert and see me on the big stage. But to do it up front and close and personal like I do in the clinics is an opportunity to break down some of the things and demonstrate some of the things of how I got to play how I play. Dig into some of the history and the things have helped me to create the tone and the sound and the approach that I have toward metal bass playing.
Mayhem Music Magazine: One final question. If we got a hold of your iPod what bands, what music, what do we find on there?
David Ellefson: Well, you would definitely hear some Megadeth. It’s funny. I have a lot of the stuff that I grew up listening to. I’ve got Kiss music, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden. Those things rock my world still and at the heart of it all, I’m still a music fan.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Very cool. Well, I do thank you for taking the time, Dave. Any last words?
David Ellefson: We’ll see you all on the tour at some point. Obviously, when “TH1RT3EN” releases later this year, we’re going to be commencing another full world tour, so I look forward to seeing all the fans around the world as we launch the next tour.
We hope you enjoyed this interview with Megadeth’s David Ellefson. Be sure to check back for more music interviews.