Megadeth Interviews


On the Phone with Dave :: Out to Lunch :: So Far, So Good for Megadeth :: Rust in Peace :: Dave the Human, Mustaine the Artist :: A Founding Forefather of Thrash :: The Outside Corner :: Music Is Our Business... And Business Is Good :: Deth Rally :: Trial by Fire :: Megadeth Conquers Globe :: Megadeth: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered :: Shooting from the Hip :: I Made It Home Alive! :: So Far, So Good... Now What? :: Megadeth: Online and Onstage :: Sodom and Gomorra :: Metal Is Still Their Business... But Who's Buying? :: Shooting from the Hip II :: Country and Western :: Metal Church :: Get in the Van :: Foreclosure of a Team :: Last Men Standing :: Without the MTV Support :: Set the World on Fire :: Dave Mustaine University :: Heavy Metal Marines :: The Real Line-up of Megadeth :: Risk Factor :: The World Will End in Megadeth :: Megadeth: Crush'em with Ferocity and Finesse :: An Ugly American :: Try to Sue Capital Records! :: Big Boys :: We're Pissed Off Again :: Dave Mustaine's Symphony of Reconstruction :: It Wasn't Fun Anymore :: Metallidethica :: Answers to the Questions Everyone's Been Asking :: Dave Ellefson: Life After Megadeth :: Die Another Day

Dave Ellefson: Life After Megadeth

taken from guitar.com, 2002
Don Dawson talks to David Ellefson


In 2002, Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson called it quits. After 20 years as a leader and pioneer in the world of speed-metal, Megadeth retired its name and musical legacy. The list of bands with 20 years of success and longevity attached to their name is short and sweet. And through Megadeth's ranks came some of most maniacal ripping, shredding and full-on caustic guitar talent ever: Kerry King, Chris Poland, Jeff Young, Marty Friedman and, most recently, Al Pitrelli.

You would think a band that was "retiring" would fade quietly into the bombast. Not Megadeth. Besides offering news of their retirement, 2002 also saw Megadeth releasing a double-live CD, Rude Awakening, along with a live DVD of the same name. They also bashed us over the head with the re-release of the 1985 CD Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!, now a Megadeth classic.

Bassist Dave Ellefson, now working within the realm of Artist Relations for Peavey, took a few minutes to chat up an old friend, guitar.com's own Don Dawson, who worked with Dave and Megadeth when "D2" was himself working in the world of Artist Relations. So, after 20 years in Megadeth, what will Mr. Ellefson do with all his free time? Well, for starters, he won't have any - he's keeping plenty busy. In this exclusive guitar.com interview, Ellefson reflects on Megadeth's impressive accomplishments, talks about his instruments of choice, and tells us why he took a full-time day-gig in Artist Relations with Peavey.


Don Dawson: It's been 20 years that you and Dave have been together. When you look back over your career, are there highlights that stick out head and shoulders above everything else that's occurred?

David Ellefson: Well, obviously us first meeting out in Hollywood was fate, 'cause here I was this kid from the farm in Minnesota who had been slugging it out in some cover/quasi-original bands in the Midwest, and I up and made the move out to Hollywood. I really didn't know anybody.

DD: Was there any reason that you decided it was time to move to Hollywood?

DE: Yeah, I just decided that I needed to get to where the action was, and that was Hollywood/LA Keep in mind that this is 1983 so all of that - Ratt, Ozzy, Jake E. Lee - that whole movement was big.

DD: Truly the heyday of Hollywood...

DE: Right, Van Halen was big. That whole movement was on fire. Motley Crue - there was just a lot of public focus and attention on the Los Angeles metal scene. So I get out there and I move into this apartment and maybe within a week, I meet Dave and he's talking about this whole other movement up in San Francisco, the whole Euro-Metal thing, which was much more up my alley. When he starting playing songs that would become "Devil's Island" and "Set the World Afire," I just went, "Holy shit!" I never heard anybody play anything like that [laugh]. It was exciting and I could tell that Dave was one of these guys that was - this guy was a rock star. There were a lot of guys who wanted to be a rock star. And in LA, there were a lot of guys who looked like rock stars. But this guy was the real deal.

DD: Now this was post-Metallica for Dave, right?

DE: Exactly, and he's talking about this group Metallica. And I'm like, yeah, whoever that is. They hadn't infiltrated into the Midwest or I would have known about them. But they had this huge following on both the West Coast and the East Coast; making a lot of noise in Europe as well. Being on the front end of that whole scene and being with Megadeth, being one of the bands that was pioneering that whole scene - what a cool life-changing event!

DD: And that was in your first week in Hollywood.

DE: Right, in my first week. And I look back on that and I'm sort of the last man standing in Megadeth. I made it through all those years. I don't know if it's testimony to my perseverance or I was just too dumb to quit [laugh]. But at the end of the day, it's like, what an experience that was. Look, I've dedicated my life to music. I felt a calling and in some way, shape or form, that's just what I love. It keeps me excited. Gets me out of bed in the morning.

DD: So all those things that were getting you motivated, that got you out of the Midwest and moved you to Hollywood - were there certain musicians that contributed to that motivation?

DE: You know at that time, some of the guys I was playing with back in the Midwest, we were listening to the first couple of Iron Maiden records, Venom. Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" was coming out. We're hearing about these bands like Tank and Tygers of Pan Tang. And then when I met up with Dave, he knew all about these guys. He had a bunch of these records. Bands like Anthrax and Raven, all these new bands that... we were all growing up at the same time together.

DD: You were all basically cutting your teeth at the same time.

DE: Exactly

DD: It's funny. You mentioned all those different bands and I haven't thought of some of them in ages. I remember being a young pup in the industry and talking to many of those guys.

DE: Remember when Vivian Campbell went over to Dio? He had just left Sweet Savage and he's still at it with Def Leppard. It was just such a cool thing to be in on in the beginning.

DD: And it all seemed to come from the same circle.

DE: Pretty much. I remember hearing these apartment tapes of when Mike Varney first brought Yngwie over.

DD: Yeow - I'd like to hear that.

DE: It was killer. He was playing the Scorpions' "Sails of Charon" (from 1978's Taken by Force), just rippin' through this stuff. Me and Dave used to listen to this stuff. We lived on this block where a bunch of GIT students lived. [Guitar Institute of Technology, a Hollywood-based music school.] We lived on Sycamore, which is right off of Hollywood Blvd by La Brea. And basically everybody in and around there went to GIT, except for us. And they'd come home and if you were into metal, there were three guys: Eddie [Van Halen], Steve Lukather, and if you were into metal, you were into like Uli Roth, and Michael Schenker-ish kind of stuff. But when Yngwie came onto the scene out there, it was him and the guy from Loudness. What's his name?

DD: Oh, Akira Takasaki

DE: Right Akira, you know who I mean. There were all these bands coming in. The cool thing about it was that there was this international influence. And living in Los Angeles at that time, you saw it all through the music community. As much as there was this LA scene going on, Megadeth was never a part of it. In fact, I remember Dave saying right away, "Fuck the LA scene, we're never, ever going to play here." And me being a kid from the Midwest, all I read about was the Roxy, the Starwood, Gazzarri's. You read all about these clubs as a kid and you think, "Well now I'm in Hollywood, I'm going to play all these great clubs." And Dave was like, "Fuck that, we're not playing any of those."

DD: That must have been a crusher [laugh].

DE: Totally [laugh] - I was like, "what??" But we would go up to San Francisco and play and all of a sudden I get what he had been talking about. Dave had already done that scene with Metallica and played all of these clubs and he said we're not playing them. And it's funny, outside of maybe the Country Club in Reseda, I mean, we didn't play any of those clubs - ever. I think it wasn't until '99, when we finally played The Whiskey for some rock 'n' roll convention. So our club days in LA were after we were already well-established and selling records and doing big tours.

DD: Right, now that's a track that not many bands took, I'm sure. That was the objective for a lot of bands. To get into the Whiskey and Gazzarri's and the rest. Certainly, not to avoid them.

DE: If you grow up, actually, in the scene, you either get discovered and move on to big things, real quick or you just become another band that's been passed on. So you're career can go one of two ways pretty quick.

DD: Well then, since you had more of these Euro-metal influences, you must have gotten the chance to tour with many of your "heroes." I think many people forget that even though you're a musician, you were a fan first. And you get that chance in a lifetime to tour alongside with many of the name acts that motivated or inspired you to play. What were some of the bigger thrills?

DE: Playing with Black Sabbath. We played with a couple versions of the band. We did the one in Italy in '92 when Dio was onboard. We did New Years Eve here in Phoenix, the big reunion with Ozzy.

DD: That must have been amazing.

DE: Yeah. Oh, and playing with Maiden. Even doing Ozzfest. And we did Castle Donnington with David Lee Roth. KISS was on it. Guns 'n' Roses opened for us. That was before they took off and had gotten real big. Yeah, they played before us. So yeah, there were so many great times. Another highlight: I remember one-time doing an in-store autograph session at Tower Records in Picadilly Circus, in London. And I look over and there's the sea of headbangers, right? I look over and Johnny Cash is over at the cash register buying some albums. I'm like, "Stop the line! We've gotta have Johnny over for some pictures!"

DD: Did you go get him?

DE: Oh absolutely. I mean here was Johnny Cash - he's legendary. None of our fans knew who he was.

DD: Right: "Who's the old guy, dressed in black?"

DE: Yeah, ya know, I mean how freakin' cool is that? Sometimes it's like those per chance type of things that really stand out. If nothing else, you'd be like, "My mom would be really proud of me right now." [laugh]

DD: Too true. [laugh]

DE: I had my picture taken with Johnny Cash!

DD: But you know that's the thing that people forget. Like I was saying before, you're a fan first and it doesn't matter how far you go up the eco-food chain.

DE: You gotta always be a fan. That's part of the reason you play music. And after a while, you realize you've become their contemporaries and you're their peers and you operate on that level. And that's also a cool place to be but it's always to get that feeling of being 13-years old again. Just that "wow!' how did they do that.

DD: It's funny you should say that. At this past NAMM show, I got to go see Cheap Trick and it was just like that. I was 15 again, pumping my fist, dancing. I think you can become a little jaded by being so close to the source, whether you're playing or in the industry. You go to the shows, you meet all the players, you sometimes lose perspective. It's good that every now and then you can be humbled by it.

DE: Right. I think that's important. I mean, it's not rocket science, nor is it brain surgery. It's show biz. Whoever coined "There's no biz like show biz" was spot on. But at the same time, that's what's fun about it. You can be a fan and you can lose your mind with it or you can be the consummate pro or the wacky artist. You can do all of it.

DD: I agree and you've been fortunate in your career that you've had the longevity, and now you get to see the music industry from a whole another side... [laugh]

DE: Yes, this is a new world for me.


On the Phone with Dave :: Out to Lunch :: So Far, So Good for Megadeth :: Rust in Peace :: Dave the Human, Mustaine the Artist :: A Founding Forefather of Thrash :: The Outside Corner :: Music Is Our Business... And Business Is Good :: Deth Rally :: Trial by Fire :: Megadeth Conquers Globe :: Megadeth: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered :: Shooting from the Hip :: I Made It Home Alive! :: So Far, So Good... Now What? :: Megadeth: Online and Onstage :: Sodom and Gomorra :: Metal Is Still Their Business... But Who's Buying? :: Shooting from the Hip II :: Country and Western :: Metal Church :: Get in the Van :: Foreclosure of a Team :: Last Men Standing :: Without the MTV Support :: Set the World on Fire :: Dave Mustaine University :: Heavy Metal Marines :: The Real Line-up of Megadeth :: Risk Factor :: The World Will End in Megadeth :: Megadeth: Crush'em with Ferocity and Finesse :: An Ugly American :: Try to Sue Capital Records! :: Big Boys :: We're Pissed Off Again :: Dave Mustaine's Symphony of Reconstruction :: It Wasn't Fun Anymore :: Metallidethica :: Answers to the Questions Everyone's Been Asking :: Dave Ellefson: Life After Megadeth :: Die Another Day

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