David: I am in Atlanta today. We have a day off today.
The Gauntlet: Anything exciting planned on your day off aside from talking to me?
David: Today I went to the mall and had to re-up on a few things. That is about it. I am just laying low and going to the gym and get some sleep to just reboot.
The Gauntlet: Stoked about being back?
David: I am. It is a cool time to be back. It is really good timing that is perfect and beyond anything that we could have planned. We have the 'Rust in Peace tour', the 20th anniversary of that album, the big four shows over in Europe and then the tour with Slayer this Fall. There is a whole bunch of stuff going on. The fans are ecstatic that me and Dave [Mustaine] are playing again. It isn't that one person is telling me, but everyone is telling me that this is where I belong.
The Gauntlet: I like how this is you guys getting differences worked out and back together on your own. It wasn't a promoter approaching the band saying they have an idea for a tour but the catch is you need to be back for it to work.
David: Right. You know that is an interesting...I was telling Dave [Mustaine] that but no one else really picked up on it. It wasn't management or anyone orchestrating this reunion at all. It is interesting that you saw that as well. It is not a cash grab at all. In fact, the passed times when it got to money, things didn't work. This time it is just two friends getting together with their guitars and making it work. It sounds good and we really enjoy it. We knew if we could get out there and play together, hi-five each other, all the rest of this stuff will take care of itself anyway.
The Gauntlet: Are you officially in Megadeth again?
David: I am back in Megadeth. I guess I am here as long as Dave wants me.
The Gauntlet: So maybe the 20th anniversary tour for "Endgame" you will have a bus ticket home.
David: [laughs] You know Dave and Shawn [Drover] had the initial conversation about me coming back. Dave has been very gracious. He said he'd love to have me back if I wanted to be back. If I did he wanted me to get my ass out to San Diego to begin rehearsing as a tour was coming up. It was the right spirit for the whole thing. Initially we said this was a good way to get back with a tour. The rehearsals felt good, being on the road was good, we are hanging together. We got out on the road and made sure we could all hang with the road life again. We took baby steps. I think we are now a little older and wiser. We realize nothing is forever; everything comes to an end one day. Rather than it be the whole 'forever and for always' I think that the attitude is to just enjoy everything that comes to us one day at a time and to appreciate it. It will save us from getting nervous about making all the plans. We are living in the moment and just relishing all this.
The Gauntlet: When you first set foot in Vic's Garage to rehearse for this tour, was it like you never left?
David: Honestly, it was better. I think I am a better bass player than I was back then. All these records and bands I have done these last eight years helped. I was the one guy that never did a solo or side project while I was in Megadeth. I never stepped out and said 'this is David Ellefson outside of Megadeth'. That was all I did the last eight years. I was a session guy, I produced metal records, I played on various ones and also played in F5, Hail and Temple of Brutality. I did a lot of things and all those experiences seasoned me in a different way than only being in Megadeth. Musically Megadeth is the beneficiary of all those years away I had.
The Gauntlet: The set looks great on this tour.
David: It is not a replication, but the exact stage set from the Rust in Peace tour twenty years ago. It is the exact backdrop, props and set dressing. Years ago, we sold a bunch of this stuff off. We had a big auction. Dave knew the girl that bought the Rust in Peace set and he contacted her. She was kind enough to let us use it for the tour. I think that makes the story that much better. It is the original one, we didn't have to go out and replicate it or try to make it look better. The fact that a fan is now part of the history is just so Megadeth and fitting. We are like a big family.
The Gauntlet: The stars are aligned for this tour.
David: I get goosebumps when I talk about it. Dave and I have talked openly about our Christian faith and just look at each other and think it is just scary. There have been times where we write something and it is just frightening how it all comes out. What is interesting though is last week I was standing on the stage in Scranton, PA thrashing away and I started thinking. Here we are twenty years later. Twenty years ago it wasn't Chris Broderick it was Marty Friedman and it wasn't Shawn Drover it was Nick Menza but essentially it was the same kind of character dynamics and personality temperaments. Here is me and Dave working together again. I told Dave the other day that it was almost like we joined a new band together and it was a really cool deal. As I was standing on the stage in Scranton, I was thinking that twenty years ago we were young hot shit and full of piss and vinegar being out there doing what we did. The only thing is there is a new perspective between us that gives you new incite and allows you to see things from a different angel and work that much better now. It was almost that we had the cart before the horse back then because we were young and didn't know any better.
The Gauntlet: A lot of bands that get back together really rush things. They go to rehearsal and things go well so they book a few weeks of studio time before the tour and really capitalize on the fact that some classic lineup member has returned. The problem is, the album is rushed, there was no rebuilding of that chemistry that goes into making great albums. Does Megadeth have any studio time booked?
David: I think it is one of the best things that can happen and I totally agree with you. But 'Endgame' came out not too long ago and we have all these tours booked so there is no time. You are right though. Right now we are just living in the moment and savoring this for ourselves and the fans. A lot of people are asking about a new album. Fortunately there are seven months of touring on the calendar right now. That will help direct and dictate what Megadeth does next. Not just from a calendar point of view but also creatively. It will help determine where we go next and what we do and what we sound like next. Musically people want us to write another 'Rust in Peace', we did one better and are playing the original. For any naysayers that thought we couldn't do it, well we can. It is in our heart and soul to do it. It is just all lining up right now and falling into place the way it should be. It is a very humbing thing to have in front of you. It makes me think back to when I first met Dave 27 years ago. I drove my van out to Hollywood and moved into an apartment below Dave who was just kicked out of Metallica. What are the chances we'd have all this centrifugal force all these years later. That was the way all this should have been. Here is the interesting thing. Dave had a song that he had already written when I came over to rehearse. After we played he said he wanted me to play bass on a song. The song was already written, it was basically just plug-n-play. We didn't sit around and co-compose anything. I just played on a tune that was already sitting there. That song will be announced soon. It sounds great though. So there is a new piece of Megadeth material that will be released but it written and composed before I was there. The creative energy that went into it wasn't a spill-off of the tour rehearsal's that went on next door. It is a much different dynamic. It is more of a celebration track that a re-define ourselves one.
The Gauntlet: Being an original member of the band and then to leave for eight years, and then return, you now are playing someone else's bass parts for many songs. After this tour it will be even more. There has to be some different feelings playing this than material you wrote.
David: This is interesting. I like 'Endgame'. It is the best of the ones that have come out. I hear bits and pieces of things we have been writing over the years. I'll hear a riff here or a melodic hook there. That is not unlike a Megadeth song that is germinated several years before making it to a record. I'll hear something that we might have been working on with "Risk" or "Cryptic Writings" and it is no wonder it made it on "Endgame". It is a perfect fit on this particular record. I think musically the "Endgame" stuff is really strong and good riffing. It is what Dave does best, just crunch out some really cool riffs.
The Gauntlet: I agree. It might be the best sense "Rust in Peace".
David: That is the general consensus. If you look at it from a creative point of view, it has some of the most potent Megadeth sounding music on the record since the early 90's for sure.
The Gauntlet: The bar has been raised for the next album.
David: I think if you take that attitude...two things: with me playing in the band, there is a different musical chemistry I think. Maybe in some ways a different inspiration for Dave. Anytime he writes he'll turn to you and have me play something on bass. Then the next day it be a drum solo and he wants to hear how it sounds with the bass. It is never about the personalities and who is playing. He is a composer and composes the song. I think with me there, Dave realizes that we can go back and revisit approaches that he did in the early days like the bass intros on "Peace Sells [But Who's Buying]" and other intricate types of things. I really get how Dave plays and the nuances on how he plays the guitar.
The Gauntlet: If the next album isn't as good as "Endgame" I am blaming you.
David: [laughs] I'll be the fall guy. I guess on some level I put my head in the guillotine.
The Gauntlet: That is usually what happens. A bad album comes out and then there is a lineup change and bring back some old blood to keep the old fans from jumping ship.
David: Right. It is cool coming in on a good album. That is what is so cool. The focus isn't on what our new creation is going to be but we are out on the road playing one of the greatest albums ever. When we were writing it, we didn't think that of it, but low and behold for some reason it became one of the crowning jewels of the metal genre. It is cool to enter back in at that high note. Here is the thing. New Megadeth records will always be well received but at this point there is such a huge body of past work that people want to go back and hear that. That to them is important to them. They want to hear "Peace Sells...but who's buying?" and "So far, So Good, So What" and even into some of the more mainstream stuff like "Countdown [to Extinction]" and "Youthanasia". There are fans that have come into the Megadeth fold at different points. I have met a lot of people in recent years that love "Risk". That was an album that wasn't received well by critics and hardcore fans but to these fans, that is when they became fans and that is there album.
The Gauntlet: I wasn't a fan of "Risk" but when it was re-done for the Remasters it was greatly improved which led me to think it was the producer or engineer at the time.
David: I would agree. I think they did a fantastic job producing "Cryptic Writings". It is probably my favorite Megadeth album. It isn't "Rust in Peace" rip your head off thrash but what it was at that particular time and the corners we turned in our careers made it a really great record. Then we went in and did the "Risk" record and that team of producer, management, band, etc did not work. There was a lineup change with Nick Menza leaving. It was a bummer as Jimmy DeGrasso is a fantastic drummer and did a lot of hard work and touring with Megadeth but the records we did with his tenure are the ones that were not very well received. A lot of fans might not have embraced Jimmy as well as they could have if the records he played on had different material on them.
The Gauntlet: What is next?
David: We have another tour that will begin shortly and Mexico City is the start of it. Right after that, we head to Europe and spend several weeks there. From there we come back and do the American Carnage tour with Slayer and Testament. We are also filming the Hollywood, CA show for a DVD next week I think.
The Gauntlet: With this Megadeth revival so to speak, are there plans for Gigantour?
David: Not at this point. Megadeth is in a cool position. Now that we have done the "Rust in Peace" shows, it is something we can do at anytime now. Dave has the Gigantour thing so that is something that can start at anythime now. Nothing gets taken away, just things get added.