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

Set The World on Fire

taken from Rock Online, 1998
Angel C. talks to David Ellefson


David Ellefson: Hi Angel.

Angel C: Hi there David.

DE: How you doing?

AC: Pretty good, how are you?

DE: I'm doing pretty good, thanks. Just working on some music here.

AC: So you ready to do this?

DE: Yeah!

AC: Seeing as how Megadeth has been around for a long time, would you say recording your albums gets easier, or is it more of a challenge?

DE: Yeah, I think it gets to be more of a challenge. We always try to use the most modern technology that's available to us. That poses a challenge. In the case of Cryptic Writings, we worked with a different producer and engineers in a different city, then we ever have in the past. There was kind of a human element of music in a working relationship with new people. I think at this point, the song writing challenge is definitely the biggest challenge that we have right now.

AC: Is it hard to maintain the songs that Megadeth is known for?

DE: I guess with the fact that we've recorded quite a few records, the challenge to not repeat ourselves, for one thing, to come up with fresh new sounding ideas, and also, we're a band that, because we have been around for a while, we also have a history that gives us credibility but doesn't always work that much in your favor especially when you're playing music, when your contemporaries are brand new artists. So we're trying to preserve that which makes us Megadeth, as well as being able to bring something new into the music world.

AC: What is the connection between your music and the meaning of Cryptic Writings. Where did you find that voodoo symbol?

DE: It's funny. We had a different idea for the album cover, and we scratched it at the last minute [laugh]. We decided to use the title Cryptic Writings, which is actually a lyric out of the song "Use the Man". The artist that we used for the record came up with the voodoo sign, it's called a veve, so that was really his creation. It doesn't really have any correlation. To me it's a good title, because its cryptic, meaning mysterious, and that's a lot of what this record, and the music and the lyrics, I think, sounds like, compared to past Megadeth efforts, so it's pretty different sounding.

AC: Is there a meaning behind that symbol?

DE: My understanding of what they use that for, is it's used to put over the doorway of a building to make sure no evil spirits get in.

AC: If Megadeth were to ever have a tribute project, are there any specific bands you like to see do it?

DE: Hard to say. Probably a Led Zeppelin one would be pretty cool to do, then again there are some bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. It'd be pretty hard to do a cover of their song [laugh] because they're part of the thing that makes them so cool, it's the originality of the actual group doing it... It's hard to say. We've been involved in the Black Sabbath tribute, that's really about the only one we've been involved in. At this point, in our interviews we'll definitely mention who our influences were. A lot of those tribute projects never really turn out to be as cool as maybe they could be [laugh]. I think at this point we'd rather just stick to doing Megadeth music.

AC: So you've been through three drummers and guitarist and you've finally settled on Nick Menza and guitarist Marty, for the obvious reasons that they are both extremely talented. But who else did you consider for these positions?

DE: Well, Nick actually had been around the band working with the band in a technician position for a while. He was kind of in hopes that he may actually get the drumming gig [laugh]. So we got to know Nick pretty well as a person, which is a big part of being in a band. When it came time for a change, Nick comfortably slid right into the drum chair, so that worked out really well. We did audition a handful of people to be the guitar player, and none of them were even a consideration. And then came Marty. He came down and auditioned. He seemed to think along the same lines that we did, very mellow. I think we just had a lot of things in common as people and as musicians. That all just really worked out. Once we auditioned Marty it wasn't even a consideration anymore of auditioning anymore people. We were really excited with Marty. It was like "OK, lets get him in the band and let's move forward". We went on and recorded "Rust in Peace" and the rest is history [laugh].

AC: So Marty's the man huh?

DE: Yup! He's the man.

AC: Cryptic Writings has taken quite a turn lyrically, a lot of the songs deal with relationships, like "Trust" and "Almost Honest," but you guys have a few strange subjects songs like "The Disintegrators". Many of your older songs deal with political situations. What was the deal in the shift in subject?

DE: We got this tag as being this political band and I guess it was probably from our second record Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? which I guess was ok to have. It was kind of what we were writing. It wasn't all that we were writing about. I think there's a pretty wide variety of subjects we've written about in our lyrics and I think with Cryptic Writings the music should reflect who you are as people, in order for the lyrics to really be honest and heart felt. I guess at this point in our lives, these lyric topics on Cryptic Writings, a lot of them are about relationships with people. I think that's maybe one of the things that our fans, as well as the new listeners of Megadeth, relate to. You don't have to be into politics, you don't have to be into the imagery of heavy metal in order to relate to Megadeth lyrics. Because they're about relationships about people. It makes it a little bit more universal.

AC: Out of the four band members, is there any one of you who can't read music or do you just memorize your songs, or write them down?

DE: Well, we memorize them in Megadeth. I think to a certain degree all of us can read music a little bit. I can speak personally for myself. I can read pretty well, and it's because I've had some history with it over the years. As a kid that's how I learned how to play music, was reading music. I was always involved in music throughout my school years. Just recently I've studied music theory, actually putting pencil to paper type writing music, I've studied that over the past couple of years. Do I need it to play in Megadeth? [laugh] no, not really. We pretty much learn, rehearse and perform our songs as a band. It's really playing by ear.

AC: Do you still play any songs from your first three albums or do you usually play just the newer ones at concerts?

DE: Sometimes we don't always play stuff off of Killing Is My Business, but lately we've been throwing in a song off of Killing Is My Business... and off of Peace Sells..., So Far So Good... So What. We try to play some songs off of every record. Really Killing Is My Business..., is kind of optional whether we play songs off of it or not.

AC: That's good, I know a lot of other bands, lately they just play the newer stuff, and most of the fans want to come and see some of the old stuff combined.

DE: Yeah, we get a lot of radio play from our newer material. So that's what a lot of other newer listeners know us for. We're out there promoting a recent record Cryptic Writings so we play a lot of songs off that record. We try to play some songs off all of them cause we know we have a pretty wide variety of fans.

AC: Your music has become less complex since Countdown to Extinction, which had layers of harmonic sections. What's the reason for this?

DE: Well, I think it's become less complex in the guitar riffs. We've sort of simplified some of the music. We've done that so we can let some of the vocals come out more. If everything is intense all the time, everything is fighting each other for space in the mix. By simplifying the music, it's giving us the opportunity to let the vocals come out better. At the same time, on Cryptic Writings, we have a song like "Vortex" [laugh]. That song is every bit as hard to play as Rust in Peace, which is very musically progressive. Even on the songs that are simpler, maybe the arrangement is more of a verse, chorus, verse, chorus. There's a lot of others that are more difficult to perform well, then to just all guns blazing everybody's riffing constantly. It's just a different approach really.

AC: Which album do you think has been the most successful?

DE: I think, commercially, Countdown to Extinction, and maybe, in a lot of other ways, as opening a lot of new doors. That one was really a turning point record for us. At the same time, we have pretty much reinvented and re - established ourselves as a band in the 90's with Cryptic Writings to a large degree. A lot of songs are getting played on the radio, which is kind of unheard of for a band like us.

AC: The Megadeth Arizona website is supposedly one of the best out there, which I'd have to agree. But do you think it makes much of an impact?

DE: It does... Thank you, by the way [laugh]. It's funny cause we've won some awards for it. It's been voted by various people as this outstanding website. Actually it was Capitol Records' idea to promote our record Youthanasia. When Cryptic Writings came out it was reformed and updated. We kinda now have a reputation to live up to [laugh].

AC: Yeah, you've got quite a following on the Internet.

DE: The credit really goes to Capitol Records, and the people they hired to construct it. I guess one of the coolest things is that it was one of the first band websites available back in the end of 1994 when there really weren't any websites up there. It was really the beginning of the World Wide Web, kind of a commercial appeal. Yeah, it's a good way to keep people up to date on what we're doing. We try to have a lot of links, like to the Cyber Army, our official fan club. We try to just link to as many Megadeth related sites as possible.

AC: That's good cause that always urges people to get right out there and support Megadeth on the Internet.

DE: Yeah, exactly.

AC: A lot of bands have been experimenting with a rave and a techno edge. Have you guys ever considered doing a remix track?

DE: Probably about the closest we got to that was "Mastermind," on Cryptic Writings. It had sort of an industrial edge to it. There was some of the tones and the vocals were recorded and mixed. We're gonna be starting writing some new material in a couple of months. We've really, over the past few records, tried to throw away any preconceived ideas of what we're supposed to do. We've really tried to liberate ourselves from what people expect of us. The good thing about that is that it frees us up to try a lot of new things so, [laugh] we'll see what happens.

AC: What feature of your music, such as the percussion or the guitar riffs, do you aim to make the main elements of your albums?

DE: Most of the songs we write start with the guitar riff and usually Dave Mustaine comes up with a guitar riff or two. We kind of arrange them together in a way to make choruses and verses. Then, generally, the vocal melody will come after that. Sometimes there's a lyric written and it just needs to be fit in with some music. It comes together in bunch of different ways. I'd say the main element that we're probably the most conscious of is melody, and generally that means the vocal melody. That's usually the thing that a listener will grasp onto.

AC: Defiantly, the melody is like the building block to the whole song.

DE: Yeah right, and as opposed to trying to write all this music and then "Oh ya by the way, we need to put a melody on it." [laugh] We've got, "Well, let's think about the music first, and then have the music support the melody."

AC: How many of your songs are based on personal experience? I know one song "Family Tree" is quite a touchy subject.

DE: Well, "Family Tree" is just about the subject of incest. A lot of people automatically assume that, because we wrote that, it's like a real personal experience. Well it's not. [laugh] We try to write about a lot of different things. Some of them are personal. Some of them maybe influenced from a person or a situation. We try to write about the feeling or the thought of the idea around it, in a way that maybe it isn't exactly about this particular situation. Because we're not usually writing about fictional ideas, they can a lot of times be influenced by things that happen in our lives.

AC: What songs would you say were written purely for interest in the subject?

DE: I would say "Mastermind" and "Psychotron". Most of those songs were written out of fascination. Maybe some of them out of morbid fascination [laugh].

AC: Have you had a personal dislike to any of the video's that have been produced, or is there one that was just never shown?

DE: I wasn't too fond of the video we did for "No More Mr. Nice Guy". It wasn't so much the video as much. It was kind of at that reforming point of the band. There were a lot of things going on at that time. Marty wasn't even in the band yet. As it turned out, it was a good thing that we did the video and the song but it was a lot of work [laugh] getting that one done.

AC: Do you feel you have to explain your lyrics and your music, or do you think it's more of an open thing for people to interpret in their own way?

DE: Personally, I hate explaining them. I think that, when we explain them, it really takes away any imagination that the listener can have, to sort of decipher them or to go "Wow, that line in that song, I totally relate to that." We might explain it and it may be something completely different and shatter your illusion. I mean, we record them so hopefully you can understand them. We always put the lyrics in the sleeve of the CD. I don't know how much more clear we could possibly be. Lots of times I hear an artist that I may like, and they'll explain what happened with the influence for the song. Sometimes it's interesting. Other times it's like "Really, that's what it's about?" I personally have been disappointed as a fan. That's why I hate going into the details on all of it myself.

AC: What songs would you say you enjoy playing the most?

DE: One of the songs I really like playing now is "I'll Get Even" off of Cryptic Writings. Probably, because we've only played it a few times live. There's sorta that element of the unknown [laugh]. It's also a very moody song. We have a point where it drops the whole dynamic of the show down. That's one of the things I like about our set list, we have such a good variety of material. It's not just constant in your face head banging the whole night. It's good to have that but then the listener would never get to have a breather.

AC: Where do you think Megadeth is heading next?

DE: It's hard to say. In a couple months we're going to be coming off the road for a month to write songs. We're going back on the road again after that. It will be interesting to see what we come up with. There is much more open mindedness among the group now, which I find very personally exciting.

AC: Do you remember specific concerts, or is it all, you just go play, and have a good time, and then you go to sleep.

DE: We all remember specific things about a show. There's hardly a Megadeth show that's uneventful [laugh]. They've all got something about them, whether it was some kid jumping on stage or the food was horrible [laugh]. There's always something.

AC: Do you help out with the lyrics or is that just Mustaine's department?

DE: Yeah, I've actually written quite a few lyrics. Dave writes most of them. I've been working on some stuff even recently. Only I've just been composing music more then lyrics actually.

AC: You've been with the band since it's creation. How did you come about the name for the band?

DE: Megadeth was a song title that Dave had and it was the title of the song "Set the World on Fire" on So Far So Good So What. We were sitting around one day trying to decide on the name of the band. There were a couple other guys in the band. I think that one of them said "Hey, why don't we call it Megadeth?" That became the name, we changed the title of that song and here we are.

AC: Ok, it's time to close this up.

DE: OK Angel, it was great talking to you.


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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