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

Big Boys

taken from Lords of Judgment Webzine, August 2001
David Lee Wilson talks to David Ellefson


For as much as we, the heavy metal fans of the world, possess an extremely liberal nature we get downright conservative when one of our favorites starts monkeying with their sound. Though we knew guys like Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson spent their down time on the golf course paling with their millionaire neighbors we remained content if the music's sound and spirit stayed on the streets and in the factories with us, the regular Joe's. Alas, Megadeth post '91 came to resemble the corporate ideal of metal music far more than the un-hinged sonic blasters of Killing Is My Business... fame and we revolted. I mean really, could any of us have predicted or even considered buying Risk?

Blind to, in defiance of or completely unconcerned with the defection of the older fans, Megadeth, like Metallica after Load strolled merrily on and why shouldn't they have? They were selling better than ever, getting MTV play like the "M" stood for Megadeth and radio didn't seem to have enough hours in the day to play the band's Cryptic Writings disk. Short story is, it didn't last. Risk got the same reception as an elevator full of broken wind, guitarist Marty Friedman quit mid-tour and Capitol Records advised the band that the option to renew their contract wouldn't be exercised. How's that for a bit of true-metal comeuppance?

Weathering storms is something that Mustaine and Ellefson have enough experience with to justify their being the ship captains that they are. The band regrouped with ace guitarist Al Pitrelli and hit the summer nostalgia circuit with a tour, co-headlined by Motley Crue, while simultaneously contributing a few new tracks to their "Greatest Hits" disk. "Greatest Hits" completed their final commitments to Capitol who had graciously returned a full album of material to the band to shop elsewhere and the Mega-men were free agents for the first time in their careers. Here is where all the deserters come back in.

The World Needs a Hero is a crafty Metal album with fires as hot as anything that Megadeth have ever ignited before only here there is a control and precision that all those early classics lacked. "Moto Psycho," the first single from the disk, isn't getting anywhere near the play on MTV or radio that the last few album's singles did but open an ear in the parking lots of concert venues, high schools and anywhere that the working young go to blow off the days grind and you will hear it plenty loud and often and that is exactly where Megadeth should be. The same can be said for "1000 Times Goodbye," "Recipe for Hate" and "Return to Hangar" which all fly a purer metal flag than anything since Rust in Peace.

Setting aside all of the philosophy for a moment mega-bassist David Ellefson reminded me that, like most bands, Megadeth really just comes down to four guys trying to make a living playing music that excites them and no matter what the Internet or critical intelligencia say, Megadeth will make their own rules. With that in mind and with the prospect that the group's recent partnership with Sanctuary records should yield more honest to their roots Metal I took a call from Ellefson and got a feel for what this "The World Needs a Hero" tour should be like.


David Lee Wilson: Are you enjoying a little down time from this monster of a tour for "The World Needs a Hero"?

David Ellefson: Oh yeah, absolutely! We just did this big ol' tour so it is good not to have to move the fingers for a little bit! [laughs]

DLW: I bet. Well, enjoy it now because I have your itinerary here in front of me and you will be out with a fully plugged in tour of the States for a while.

DE: That's right.

DLW: Why did it take so long after the record's release to make it here? Did you want to hit the European festivals first?

DE: Well, actually the whole European tour really. It was very extensive and it always starts based around festivals but there were also some big stadium shows with AC/DC that we certainly wanted to take advantage of, to play in front of their audience. There were festivals, some of our own headlining shows in-between and you know, it was like one day we were in front of 60,000 people with AC/DC and the next day we would be headlining our own venue and after that playing with God knows who for a lineup at a festival. The nice thing for us this time was that a lot of the festivals over in Europe where actually the Heavy Metal festivals so it was nice to be billed, pretty much, with our own kind. We started in England in June and went all over Europe even into Turkey and Russia and then we went over to Japan and Korea and down the Pacific Rim. We went into Taiwan and Indonesia and ended up in Australia and New Zealand so we tried to cover the globe first before we got back here to America! [laughs]

DLW: The response, at least here in America, has been extremely favorable for this album which is something that you can't really say about the last one, has it been the same in the other territories?

DE: Yeah, well, it is hard to say. You know, after we made the record Rust in Peace we were out with a tour called "Clash of the Titans" with Slayer and Anthrax and Alice in Chains and the music was changing. We were real popular on MTV and all that and our time had arrived basically. We went into the studio and made the Countdown to Extinction record at a time when we just figured, "You know what, we have made four albums of pure, full on thrash/speed-metal and there is so much more to this band than just that so lets exploit it." And that started, from Countdown..., Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings and Risk basically those four albums, through most of the nineties, getting us out of our comfort zone. Risk was probably the development of that to the "Nth" degree and that is why I think that when we went that far out we felt like we were tethered out as far as we should go. We figured that we would pull it back a couple of notches because we didn't want to get too far down the road of experimentation that we forget where we came from because then it just gets too hard to find your way back home again.

DLW: It seems that you managed to avoid some of the backlash that the hardcore fans of, sorry but it is the easiest comparison [laughs], Metallica had after they issued Load. Why do you think that is?

DE: Well, one of the things that happens when you get really popular, we experienced this coming off of the Countdown to Extinction record, is that when you sell a lot of records you become very popular and a lot of people whether they are long time fans, part time fans or new fans, you have broadened so much that you can't be all things to all people all the time. When you rise so high there are only two things that can happen, you maintain it or you fall from grace and sometimes just a couple of steps backwards feels like falling from grace but there is a sort of reality mark in there where you can have one or two really big records in your career but those are the exception to the norm and for us the records after Countdown to Extinction were more a leveling out and it was like, "Hey, this is where Megadeth really resides" and we have maintained a good popularity all around the world despite it all and that, to us, is a good place to be. Video networks and new forms of technology are not what made Megadeth so therefore when they side against us they can't break us.

DLW: This record was actually recorded for your old record company...

DE: That's right.

DLW: And you wanted the record back so that you could release it yourselves on an independent label, isn't that really the exact opposite of how it is usually done in this business?

DE: It isn't that we wanted to be on an independent label as much as we had realized that our time with Capitol Records had ended. Capitol went through a lot of changes, especially in the early and mid-nineties. They are trying to get their ship onto a new course and we are obviously trying to maintain ours and we just started to find that it was harder and harder to make that happen within the marriage of Megadeth and Capitol Records. To both of our credits we both honored our recording contract and we finished it which is something that I can't think of too many bands being able to do. [laughs] They either break up or someone dies or something happens, you know. So, the fact that we were able to begin our lives with a contract with Combat Records and complete a multi-album recording deal with a major label and then still have enough life on the back side of that to enter into a new recording contract with a new company and to continue on at the pace that we are, it shocks me even! All the energy that our fans have and that we have and the whole organization, it just shocks me.

DLW: Did you dream that rock 'n' roll dream of having as long a run in the business as you have?

DE: Of course I did. I mean, for me, as soon as I got into music I didn't think about doing anything else. It is the kind of thing where people say "You have to have something to fall back on" and I never did. I never had anything to fall back on and I guess in some ways we are really fortunate in Megadeth to have had the success that we have because it certainly could have gone the way it goes with most bands where you get a little bit of success and then it goes away and you are back in the real world again. I think that we are real lucky but maybe because we have always had our backs against the wall and we have never had an escape hatch it has forced us to dig deep and make sure that this doesn't go away.

DLW: So 7-11 will just have to wait for you to come in and mop up the aisles for 'em? [laughs]

DE: Uh, not yet anyway. [laughs]

DLW: Since you have been there from the beginning you have seen all the guys who have come and gone, some of whom may be working at that 7-11 right now, do you keep much contact with all of the people who have been through the band?

DE: Well, actually we just did a VH1 special on Megadeth and that over the last year has put us back in contact with a lot of the people from our past but that was just scratching the surface of all the people who have been involved with our past, musicians, industry people, friends or you name it. There were a few people who were not in there that we wished could have been...

DLW: I know Nick Menza opted out of participation.

DE: Yeah, but to be honest about it we never heard back from him. We were trying to get a commitment from him to do it but for whatever reason he never came to the table on that one. It would have been nice to hear from Chuck Behler, who is a Detroit native, but we were in contact with him and for whatever reason it just wasn't in the cards for that to happen. Chuck was certainly receptive at least and it was nice to make contact with him and just to keep tabs on what he is doing. I guess I have always been the public relations person on that level [laughs] so I was running around and trying to track down a lot of these people and it was fun to actually get back in touch with them and to see what their comments were about Megadeth and what their experiences were in Megadeth as seen through their eyes.

DLW: The next logical step would be to put the whole story into a book, are you at all interested in that prospect?

DE: Absolutely. Actually what we are going to do is, well there was so much information that was not used in the televised version that we are going to release a long form on DVD that is going to be coming out here in just a couple of months. Everybody should be looking for that, it will be the first DVD that Megadeth has ever released. I think that is a cool way to do it rather than just a compilation of already released stuff. This is going to be a whole bunch of new stuff that wasn't shown in the televised version just because of the program length that they had to conform to for TV.

DLW: The producers of the Behind the Music show did get into some things that were not altogether pleasant which makes me wonder what they didn't get into, are there skeletons still buried that will be exhumed by this DVD?

DE: No, not really. I think that when you agree to do a Behind the Music that is exactly what you need to do, you need to get behind, in our case underneath, the music. [laughs] It is not so much talking about the songs because that is what we do when we do interviews like this one and that is what we do when we write a biography for a new album or go out on promotional tours, we talk about he latest release and get into any new or current news and we do it through our Internet site, megadeth.com, we keep everybody up to speed there but the cool thing about doing a Behind the Music is that we were really able to get back into some of the nitty-gritty. It wasn't so much about dirt diggin' and mud throwin' it was more about "this is the way that this band came about." If you have been along for the ride with the band then this is the "fill in the blanks" for any questions you may have had. If you are a new fan of Megadeth by watching Behind the Music you really get a full history of what makes this band tick.

DLW: When they were interviewing him Al [Pitrelli] said that he had to be clean shaven to get the gig, is he still minding his razor daily? [laughs]

DE: Oh yeah! [laughs] You know it is weird, for someone like Al Pitrelli or even Jimmy Degrasso to come in and knowing that they have been real successful in their own bands and as session artists, to take a guy like that and to try and have them become what we feel is necessary to be a member of Megadeth is a pretty tall order. After a while of having their own success and having done their own thing they could be like, "Well, why should I have to be part of that?" So, I give those guys a lot of credit for wanting to hunker down and really dig deep to be a part of a team.

DLW: Are there fines assessed should Al show up with a five o'clock shadow or something? [laughs]

DE: No, no, shit, we are all big boys you know. It is like, "If you don't want to show up or you don't want to be here then just get out of here." There is no such thing as "the metal police" you know! [laughs] It was the same way when I met Dave Mustaine, he had a very clear vision of what he wanted Megadeth to be and fortunately I was real young and real agreeable to pretty much everything that he was talking about. I loved the style of music and I loved the whole movement of the European style or New Wave Of British Heavy Metal that was the original influence for Megadeth and so that is why I think that it worked out real good for Dave and I.

DLW: The last time we got to see you here was on one of those promotional tours you did an acoustic set after letting the audience listen to the full The World Needs a Hero disk, are you happy with the way those things all turned out?

DE: Yeah, absolutely. We started that over in Japan. One day we were driving to a venue for a concert in Yokohama and our drummer at the time, Nick Menza, he was always wanting to do an MTV Unplugged and the timing just never worked out for Megadeth and he said "We should at least try do an acoustic song" so we broke out the stools and the acoustics and banged out a song and the Japanese just loved it, I mean, they just went nuts. Then we tried it again in South America and started dabbling with it on specialty shows on the radio so to set up The World Needs a Hero it seemed like, you know you always want to do something special for the radio stations and for your real die-hard fans and rather than just playing another version of the songs again we thought that we could do this. It was new and unique and a way to really wet everybody's appetites for the new record and the new tour. The acoustic thing is probably the most intimate that you can get with Megadeth musically so we did that.

DLW: I saw the one show and it went OK but did it always go over well?

DE: Yeah. I think that a lot of people were blown away that it would sound as good as it does. It goes back to the old adage that "If you can play your song acoustically and have it still sound good then you are probably on to a good song."

DLW: You are on a label now, Sanctuary, that is for all intents and purposes a business venture of some of your own heroes that you just spoke of from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, Steve Harris and the rest of the Iron Maiden guys for instance. How does it feel to be working for and with people who have been through all the stuff you have as artists?

DE: It is funny because Bruce Dickinson came to the show in London that we did a couple of months back and we have seen him playing with Maiden and as a solo artist where he supported us in Poland and in Greece a few years back. It is always good to see him and he is a real cool hang but the thought did cross my mind, "Check this shit out, he can come and hang out at a Megadeth gig and actually feel like he is an owner of Megadeth!" [laughs] You know, it probably feels pretty good for him! It is great to be affiliated with Sanctuary but we didn't sign the deal based on any musical past as much as it was that Sanctuary laid out what they thought that they could offer Megadeth and that was impressive. Their thinking was more street and down in the trenches and more about what heavy metal is all about. There is nothing wrong with stratospheric-upper level marketing but you can never forget about your foundation because if you do you are really building a house on sand and it is all going to crumble away. So, it was mostly about the marriage of what Sanctuary was offering and what Megadeth was capable of delivering and the icing on the cake was our dealing with the Sanctuary management division over the years when we have dealt with Iron Maiden.


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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