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22nd February 2010
METAL DISCOVERY: You’ve kind of ventured into journalism as well with your Rock Shop series of videos on You Tube - what was your motivation for getting out there interviewing bands, and all the instructional clips that you do?
DAVID ELLEFSON: People started asking, the last two years especially, people started coming to me going “man, when you gonna write a follow-up to your book?” That book took me like a year to write the thing! [laughs] I sit there and I go “yeah, it certainly could use some updating!” Where it ended, one of the last chapters I wrote was about the internet which, at that time, was 1994 and when I authored the book 1994/95, and Capitol Records had just done the Megadeth website - we were really the first band to have a website. People got behind it and it was huge for us; we got a huge internet presence right out of the gate. But, obviously, since that time and since I wrote the book - I think it actually hit the streets in 1997 by the time I got it published and released - obviously, since that time, just what we’ve been talking about, the internet has essentially changed the course and direction of humankind to a large degree. So I could write a whole other book about that but what I realised is that the thought of sitting down and actually physically typing out a book, part of me just went - I enjoyed the topics and I enjoyed teaching…I never wrote the book to make any money off it, and probably if I did it right and I did it in a different way I could probably financially benefit from that, but I was like, in the spirit of most of the stuff I do I just like doing it. I never got into the music business to make money; I never looked at it as a way to just try to make money and, as a result, I’ve kinda been taken care of through it all, so my mindset was well, you know, it’s easier just to get a video camera out, and video tape this stuff and just in the spirit of trying to help musicians. So as far as the Rock Shop thing goes it seemed to me it was just easier to have a camera handy and, as ideas present themselves to me - backstage, on the road or wherever, just film ‘em and pop ‘em up on YouTube. I enjoyed hanging with people, and talking to ‘em, and interviewing people, and all that kinda stuff. It gives me a chance to let them talk about them rather than just me talking about me!
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(David Ellefson on rehearsing the 'Rust In Peace' songs for Megadeth's forthcoming "Rust In Peace Twentieth Anniversary Tour")
"...the ‘Rust in Peace’ record falls in that same category, I think. It’s one of these records that...was just way, way out in front of what everything else was at that time. There’s an energy about it and it was just ferocious, you know. So to go back and play it is a lot of fun. It’s like running a friggin’ ten mile race, man!"
David Ellefson - uncredited promo shot, 2010
Photograph supplied by, and used with permission from, Mike Exley at M.E.P.R.
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official Angels of Babylon MySpace:
Official David Ellefson MySpace:
Albums & EPs
Thanks to Mike Exley at M.E.P.R. for arranging the interview
Kingdom of Evil (2010)
MD: Yeah, and a lot of them are your mates I gather too, like Mike Portnoy I noticed you interviewed recently…
DE: Yeah, exactly, and I just did one with Michael Anthony. Actually, I just did one yesterday, a brand new one, with Rudy Sarzo, so a couple of cool ones. Yeah, and there’s an independent artist guy that I interviewed that I’m gonna unlock and, just like my book, I wanna be informative and helpful for musicians and artists of all kinds.
MD: Definitely, yeah, and a wide medium to reach a lot of people in using the internet. So how much busier has your life become since rejoining Megadeth, and was there any part of you that was maybe apprehensive about rejoining for that reason?
DE: Well, yeah, but look, almost on every level we were thrilled and we’re all very excited. Dave and I instantly just reconnected again and musically we reconnected very quickly so, on those levels, it’s really been fantastic. But yeah, we did talk about that, and I said “look, I’m obviously turning a pretty big corner here from the things that I have been doing so there’s gonna be a little bit of a transition, naturally, to get into this again fulltime.” But it’s been good; everybody’s been very accommodating and, again, I think we’re just letting the enthusiasm lead us and kinda just taking it a day at a time, and really just having fun with it, and enjoying the process right now.
MD: I’ve read that Megadeth will be playing ‘Rust In Peace’ in its entirety at live dates this year - how have rehearsals been, and has it felt quite natural and nostalgic to be playing all those songs again?
DE: Yeah, you’re right, that is what we’re doing, and it felt very natural. It’s been really, really cool actually. I’ve stayed up on a lot of those tunes over the years and for me, and Dave as well, some songs we’ve never played again since we left the studio! [laughs]
MD: What ones have you never played live?
DE: Things like ‘…Polaris’ and ‘Poison Was The Cure’. Well, maybe we tried them once at sound check but they never made it into the show so never played them. After a while, twenty years goes by and you go - “holy cow, we haven’t even played that song since we recorded it!” So that’s been fun for us to go back and listen to the record and, you know, kinda look at each other…what the hell were we thinking when we wrote that?! [laughs] It was very, very difficult, very progressive music yet, at the same time, it’s cool to go back and really look at it through the eyes of the fans again too and just go - “wow, okay, I get why they like this record!”
MD: How do you actually regard the album yourself now, twenty years on, because personally, and I’m sure I speak for hundreds of thousands of fans, it’s one of the top ten metal records ever?…and like you say progressive, I think it was way ahead of its time as well in 1990.
DE: I would agree. In fact, a lot of things with Megadeth is I go back and I listen to ‘em, and sometimes you need to hear it through the eyes of the listener because, again, we were in the room writing it, recording it, so our frame of reference is different. You know, I could tell over the years as we were making some of these records, even as we were making ‘Peace Sells…’…I spoke to Chris Poland a few weeks ago too and he even said, he goes “yeah, even the ‘Peace Sells…’ record, man, when we were making that, that was so just out there and ahead of its time in so many ways.” And the ‘Rust In Peace’ record falls in that same category, I think. It’s one of these records that so just, for whatever reason man, it was just way, way out in front of what everything else was at that time. There’s an energy about it and it was just ferocious, you know. So to go back and play it is a lot of fun. It’s like running a friggin’ ten mile race, man!
MD: Were there any bass parts you had to really refresh your memory or did it all come back very naturally?
DE: It all came back pretty quickly. Even when I sat down and just listened to it again to play it I was like, wow. To a large degree it’s like riding a bike, some of that stuff. And again, that record in particular, and quite honestly a lot like the ‘Peace Sells…’ record, we didn’t write that in the studio; it wasn’t some Pro Tools record. ‘Rust In Peace’ took about a year and a half to write it; we demoed it once; we wrote some more; we demoed it again and then we went in and finally recorded it. Most of it we wrote as a three-piece - some of it we wrote with Chuck Behler, then he was replaced by Nick Menza so we wrote the remainder of it with Nick. Then we had a month of rehearsals with Marty and next thing is we’re in the studio recording it. So a lot of that stuff really gets ingrained into your DNA!
MD: It’s still all in the head somewhere!
DE: Yeah, exactly. So even though it’s been a lot of years since we played a lot of that stuff, it comes back pretty naturally.
MD: Have you actually listened to the album much in the last twenty years, in its entirety?
DE: You know, from top to bottom, no. I mean, look, you hear ‘Holy Wars…’, yeah. Even back in my Megadeth days before, we always played ‘Holy Wars…’ and ‘Hangar 18’, but that was about it, so now to dig in and play ‘Take No Prisoners’, and ‘Five Magics’, and those songs, it’s really, really cool.
MD: The media seem to be touting your return to Megadeth as just for the twentieth anniversary tour of ‘Rust In Peace’, but I’ve also read it’s more of a permanent arrangement. Have there been any talks within the band as to the future?
DE: Yeah, well, kinda like what we just spoke about earlier, is obviously this is a pretty huge transition for me to turn this new corner back into the band fulltime! [laughs] So we just said, look, obviously in the big picture of a fulltime thing, basically that’s the goal, is that we ramp this up, we hit it, we go and then off we are. Obviously I’m excited about it - I mean, there’s a lot of other cool tours behind this: the Big Four shows in Europe; the Slayer/Megadeth co-headlining run through the US and Canada. So, I mean, there’s a lot of great stuff and the vibes are good, we’re having a lot of fun with it, and I think a lot of it was…it’s like musically we got in a room and we knew by the time we got to the first chorus of ‘Symphony of Destruction’, I think we went “okay, this is definitely gonna work!” So there’s a lot of things but I think our mindset with it is like let’s just…we’re all adults now; we’re not just like a bunch of eighteen year old kids looking to just get out and drink some beers and get some blow jobs. So I think our mindset with it is like, man, let’s just make sure that this is really cool for everybody on every level, and especially the fans. You know what I mean? That was a big thing for me when this opportunity came back over to me I’m like, man, if there’s ever a time that the fans would absolutely love to see this whole thing back together it is right now. I mean, this is really a time, and none of us could have really planned or orchestrated this any better.
MD: Yeah, definitely, and purely about the music now.
DE: It really is, and I think that’s what’s cool about this is that this wasn’t a bunch of money guys sitting down and thinking about how can we pump some life back into everybody’s career again. This is something that just…you know, I’ve been happy doing what I’ve been doing and Dave has certainly done a fine job carrying on with Megadeth, so this whole thing in coming back together is really…I think we’re all just so happy about it because the timing of these tours; knowing that the fans… I don’t know, it’s just a cool comfort level! [laughs] It just feels good on a lot of levels and let’s just roll with that.
MD: Yeah, there seems to be a great sincerity to it, I think. Finally, getting back to Angels of Babylon, what closing words would you like to say to fans who will be reading this as to why they should rush out and immediately buy the album?
DE: Well, I think, as we talked about, the things that I’ve done in the past and even Rhino, quite honestly…Rhino coming from his Manowar background, his fans will absolutely love it because it’s Rhino really stepping up in showing a side of him that I don’t think the fans have seen before. And I think Dave Fefolt is a phenomenal singer; a great singer - I think the fans are gonna love his voice, and Ethan’s a great guitar player. It’s like a lot of things, it’s just a great moment in time where four guys were able to be together on a record and I just think, as a metal fan, it’s a good record for people to have in their collection.
MD: Definitely. Good closing words! Right, thank you so much for your time.
DE: You bet, and good to talk to ya.
MD: And best of luck for the Angels of Babylon album; I hope it does really good things.
DE: Good, good, good, I’m happy to hear you like it. The buzz seems to be good on it, so it’s awesome.