When you think of old school metal, many images come to mind, some good,
some band and some just plain ugly. However, on the heavier side of the
spectrum, if you spoke of the Four Horsemen, you'd obviously be speaking of
Metallica's classic opus, but those close to the scene may also associate the
term with metal's predomiant outfits that came out of the middle 1980's and
continue to churn out albums today; Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth.
Megadeth always were overshadowed by either Dave Mustaine's former band or
huge ego, but they perservered and are still very much alive and judging by
their latest release THE WORLD NEEDS A HERO, are still kicking ass. Speaking
to original bassist and all around nice guy Dave Ellefson, we hit a number of
topics, such as the new album's heavier direction, their upcoming intimate
club tour, the early days of metal and of course, their barn burning VH1
BEHIND THE MUSIC documentary.
The Gauntlet: Hey, Dave, welcome.
Ellefson: Hey, Mike, what's going on?
The Gauntlet: Not much. I'd like to let you know that I've been a fan for a very
long time and I'd love to know what do you guys contribute your longevity to?
Ellefson: Not giving up; as silly as they may sound, that's the thing. You
can't, despite all of the trials and tribulations, throw in the towel. Thing
is that when Dave and I met up, it was the understanding that the band always
comes first. Personal friendships developed after the fact, and I think it's
been like that with everyone who's been in the group. And because that is
always the primary focus, that through all of it, that has always been the
number one priority, the band, with personal stuff coming second.
The Gauntlet: Let's talk about the new tour and its concept. Now , you've decided
to let the fans ultimately choose the set list via the internet and the
venues you're playing are discernibly smaller. How did the whole concept
come to light?
Ellefson: I'm not sure who came up with it, but we've been really tied with
the internet community. At Megadeth.com, which is our official online home,
where you can get all the updates, etc., that's where we're featuring the set
list choosing. We always monitor the site, the band member's post messages,
we schedule chats, we try to make it a fellowship, and we're always watching
for suggestions our fans place on the website. They've been requesting many
of the songs that are currently in the set list, so part of the challenge is
"we're coming to your town, you pick the set". It's your concert,
The Gauntlet: Awesome, that's so nice to give back to the fans.
The Gauntlet: I dig the new album as compared to the previous two releases. I
think it shows a welcomed return to a type of sound your fanbase is
accustomed to. How did this change occur, was it like a revelation or was it
a decision to revisit something?
Ellefson: Well, we had, the whole campaign for CW and Risk, new management,
of which one of the managers worked closely with the band in developing the
songs, and I think he saw that we were capable of doing more than we ever did
before, and I think on CW that we really nailed the best of developing that,
but we also kept a lot of our integrity as well. On Risk, we spent a little
too much time developing the melodic, lyrical side of it and didn't pay
enough attention to giving the long time fans what they've come to expect
from Megadeth. It gave us a lot of flak, but I listen to RISK and think it's
a killer album. I really do, but I can certainly understand where the fans
are coming from, so we were real careful on the new disc to not overlook our
fan's needs. It's kind of like the old adage, once you're pickled, you can't
be a cucumber again, and a lot of people want us to. We can still go back to
PEACE SELLS or RUST IN PEACE, that's still a part of us and not a problem,
but to be just that and only that and deny the past 10 years of development
of Megadeth, that would be a lie to do that. We'd be cheating a lot of fans
if we did that. Now, the challenge is to walk that fine line of giving
everybody something that they look for in a Megadeth album, but also being
able to push the envelope so that we don't get bored and we can get excited
about what we're doing, too.
The Gauntlet: You guys are still one of the premiere bands because of taking risks.
Ellefson: Yea, and with taking chances, the higher the risk, the greater the
reward obviously. Also, the higher the risk, the greater the failure. We've
been on both sides of the fence.
The Gauntlet: Regarding your own music, do you ever see yourself doing a solo
album or something different than Megadeth?
Ellefson: Probably at some point, yea. Certainly with Jimmy DeGrasso and Al
Pitrelli, they've both done a lot of other projects over the years, and Al
especially is probably happy that he's in a band for the solidarity. There's
strength in numbers, and being part of team is probably a nice release for
him now. And same for Jimmy, he;s done session work and bands. Dave has
branched out when he did MD45, and there'll probably be a day for me to do
that as well. I certainly don't want to lead anyone on into thinking that
it's something I'll immediately be working on, because I'm not, but now the
focus is Megadeth. The thing I always go back to is, yea, I write all types
of music, everyone in this band does. But, not all of it belongs in
Megadeth, and that's part of quality control is that we need to be very
selective as to what songs and how we create our songs and what songs we
release to the public. They expect a certain sound from us. There's nothing
wrong with filing away things that doesn't get used. And, just because that
it doesn't belong on a current Megadeth album, it doesn't mean that someday
in the future that it can't be used on a future Megadeth record.
The Gauntlet: The tour takes you through the US through November, then what?
Ellefson: The North American trip is the main focus right now. There's
really nothing more that pertains to what you and I are talking about today
that matters. Especially regarding touring, we'll probably be doing some
overseas stuff in the new year, but that's quite a ways away. We are
releasing the VH1 BEHIND THE MUSIC documentary in long form DVD in October.
That is gonna be something to be looking out for, as we're just putting the
finishing touches on the editing as we speak. I was blown away on what a
good job they did on the televised version. The DVD version we have complete
control over because it's our release, now we can really put all the juicy
snippets that didn't appear in the first one.
The Gauntlet: I wanted to ask you, as a music fan, as well as now being
spotlighted on it, how do you feel about that show in general?
Ellefson: I've always loved it, and once we did it, I, and the rest of us,
were pretty blown away and the job they did, the interviews. It's always
interesting to see what other people think about you. Especially
ex-bandmates and stuff like that, because they have no interest in saying
anything good about you, so they're going to say whatever they want, good or
bad. We don't work with them anymore, so they don't give a shit, you know.
So that was interesting, but the thing I realized after watching it was it's
behind the music. It's really not about anything we'd speak about in an
interview or that we would express in an album. Its totally like we're
letting you into our house and you can check to see if we scrubbed the toilet
or not kinda show. It's down and dirty. Not all of it's bad or decadent,
but in our case there's certainly a lot of it. The good thing about it is
that you can see how we came together, what really provoked the nucleus and
the little spark that made Megadeth, what it was all about. How it
developed, what we were thinking about, and what we are and what we think
today, and I think that part of it is cool. But I hope the viewers don't get
so caught up in the story that they lose sight of why we're here, to make
music and entertain people. And, a lot of times, the behind the scenes stuff
is behind the scenes for a reason, because we don't want that shit out there
all the time. Just like anybody doesn't want personal laundry dragged out
there all the time because it is personal.
The Gauntlet: I saw that and it definitely captured the band vividly. It hit the
nail on the head of what you guys are all about.
Ellefson: I thought they kicked ass on it
The Gauntlet: What are you currently digging music wise these days?
Ellefson: As far as new stuff, the favorite new CD is probably the new
Saliva, it's really excellent.
The Gauntlet: Cool. Now, you're going on tour with Endo, a new band. Have you
seen them/know them?
Ellefson: No, not personally. They came to us and submitted their album and
we know people working with them in the industry, which helped bolster
confidence in them. They're a new band and part of what we do is make it a
great night out, and part of that for us is reaching out our hands back at
the new guys and helping us the same way the bands did for us when we were
The Gauntlet: Who do you remain friends with from the scene from back in the day?
Ellefson: There's a lot of people, Kerry, Tom and Jeff in Slayer. I haven't
seen the Metallica guys in a while, but I was always friendly with Lars. The
guys in Exodus, Scott Ian from Anthrax, as well as Charlie and Frank and John
Bush and the Armored Saint guys. Most of them, really, to be honest with
you, and we don't see each other that much, but when we do it's friendly.
But, when we go onstage and get our guitars on, it's like, look out,
mothrfucker, and they probably feel the same way we do.
The Gauntlet: That's cool, like a friendly rivalry.
Ellefson: Yea, it's a friendly competitiveness.
The Gauntlet: What would be your dream tour, like what bands would you like to
play with that you haven't so far?
Ellefson: We just toured with AC/DC in Europe, and that was incredible.
That was cool. There's a few tours that would've been fun, which will never
happen, like the old days of KISS, Led Zeppelin, the old Van Halen, you know
the bands from the old days of rock when it was huge, coliseum days of rock
The Gauntlet: You guys are definitely able to be put into that company, that's why
it's a surprise to me that you're doing such small venues this time around.
Does that add to the intimacy as the theme of the tour?
Ellefson: Yea. This whole album, the whole tour, the website, the
interaction, everything about this is about getting right back down to the
nitty gritty with our fans. That's what it's about. We've built up a nice
little castle for ourselves here with our catalog and our career but we also
feel that we need to go back to the foundation and pay attention because I
think in the last few years, we've gotten away from that and it's important
that we don't forget about that. This whole album cycle is 100% fan driven,
and I think the audience that stuck with us for so many years is owed what
they want and playing in big places is great and fun, but we've been doing
that for a long time now, and I think that playing in smaller places is
pretty cool and make it a night out for everyone.
The Gauntlet: How's the new label treating you guys as opposed to your previous
Ellefson: Well, the whole record industry has changed, and when we signed in
1986, it was a whole different animal than it is now. Just like I like to
vote for the underdog, Sanctuary is an underdog, you know. Their a major
minor or a mini major, but they've got the money, the clout, the credibiltiy
and personnel and staff to take a band like Megadeth, used to all of the
anemities and levels of a major label and Sanctuary is able to step up and be
able to continue that. More importantly than that is that they know we're
willing to work. We like to kick ass, make records and tour, and work hard
and they like that. And it's nice to know our label is willing to do the
The Gauntlet: Yea, you can tell by Sanctuary's roster that's the case.
Ellefson: Capitol Records were great years for Megadeth, but now we're on
another phase of our career and it's nice to be spending it at home with
The Gauntlet: Dave, thanks for your time and best of luck.
Ellefson: Thanks man.