Interview With Megadeth's David Ellefson June 14th, 2020 • Interview #165
Metal Pulp And Paper: Hello David. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us here at Metal Pulp And Paper. We appreciate it. Before we talk about Megadeth's new music, the coronavirus pandemic, and Black Sabbath, first, how are you?
David Ellefson: I am well, thank you. At home in Arizona and relaxing now after a busy few months…
MPAP: That's good to hear. So, let us dive right in headfirst into new music that's on the horizon. Recent music news website headlines are that Megadeth are already recording their 16th studio album. We know it's still in the early stages, but what can you tell us about it, and when do you think it might hit everyone's eardrums?
David: There’s not much I can really tell about the new album yet, other than it’s underway. The release date is TBD.
MPAP: Whenever the release date is, we are looking forward to it. So, if there were no COVID-19 pandemic, you obviously wouldn't be working on new material; you would be out on tour, with Lamb Of God and In Flames, which would have started this June 12th in Bristow, Virginia. Do you feel the new music might be forced since everyone has been quarantined, and this wasn't in the plans at the beginning of the year?
David: Yes, but forced in a good way. Crisis can create some new opportunity to think outside the box. You either adapt, or you lose your mind. Honestly, that’s been my credo and modus operandi for my whole life. I’m just not one to sit by and mope about things, but rather get into action and adapt. We’ve done it with the writing of our new Ellefson solo material, the David Ellefson Youth Music Foundation, signing new releases to Combat Records and so forth. It’s like investing; you don’t sell when the market’s down… that’s when you invest!
MPAP: That is a good point. So, when you start to come up with some bass riffs for a new album, and since you have a long career in Megadeth, have you ever gotten to a point where you start to play a few notes, and then you have to stop and say, 'Nope, did that one already in Youthanasia, or nope, that sounds like something I did from Rust In Peace? You've been doing this since 1983, have you ever run out of ideas and had to stop for a while just to reset your mind?
David: I don’t ever run out of ideas per se. When I start creating, I just go with it. I don’t try to edit the riffs, melodies or lyrics. I just get the idea out of me and record or write it down so I can listen back to it later. If the idea is good when I hear it back later, then I work with it. If not, I move on. If I’m not inspired to create, I don’t force it. When the flood gates open, I go with it, but I can’t force it.
MPAP: What about guest vocals on this new record? It's been since 2013s Supercollider that featured David Drainman from Disturbed, any chance there could be some guest vocals on this new Megadeth release?
David: Again, I can’t really say much about the new album as it’s a work in progress.
MPAP: Now let's talk more in-depth about the coronavirus. The numbers are saddening hands down. Worldwide there are over 7 million confirmed cases, and over 400,000 have lost their lives to the deadly virus. Our thoughts and prayers go out to each one. The virus has affected everyone, including the music industry as well. Tours and music festivals are being canceled or postponed left and right. Seeing a live show, safely, more than likely won't happen until the summer of 2021, especially if it's a huge gathering. And like mentioned, Megadeth recently had to postpone a tour with Lamb Of God, Trivium, and In Flames. By mid-March, the coronavirus pandemic had brought the multibillion-dollar concert industry to a screeching halt. Now two months later, Sammy Hagar, from The Circle, ex Van Halen, says concerts can't wait for a COVID-19 vaccine. Of course, every band wants their fans to be safe, but when your only source of a significant income is concerts, it hurts when you have to postpone or cancel a tour. A vaccine could take 12 to 18 months. Do you think he's right for saying concerts can't wait any longer?
David: I understand we all want to get out and rock out, but we are still in a touring 'time out'. All I know is our summer tour has been postponed by the powers that be, in particular to protect our fans and the bands and crew of the tour. It’s more than just the artists and promoters who make these decisions now. The state governors and even local mayors and authorities are part of the decision-making process in times like these.
MPAP: And finally, let us finish this interview with this; it's been half a century since Ozzy Osbourne first bellowed, "What is this that stands before me?" The song "Black Sabbath" would end up serving as the prototype for a genre of music that would captivate, and engulf countless kids, adults, and musicians from around the world. Without Black Sabbath, Judas Priest might not ever have broken the law. Iron Maiden wouldn't have run to the hills. Slayer might not have reigned in blood, and even Megadeth might not have had a good business in killing. What are your thoughts on 50 years of heavy metal and Megadeth being a part of it all?
David: I grew up a fan of the heaviest music I could find, and when I discovered Judas Priest, it was the happiest day of my teenage life! Their music was so brutal and heavy it actually scared me. I had never heard anything like it! The Unleashed In The East album was my first Priest album and a total game changer for me. It really opened my eyes to a whole new sound of music from England and Europe, a real departure from the American hard rock I was listening to as a teenager. Because I was a teenager when Heaven And Hell was released, that was the album that really spoke to me as my first Black Sabbath experience. The sound was thick, lush, and well-produced; and Ronnie Dio just came roaring out of the speakers. Although I did play "Paranoid" in one of my teenage cover bands, I was really young when the original Sabbath came out, and I didn’t have a radio station or friends near me who played their music so I could become familiar with it. Ironically, once Ozzy’s Speak Of The Devil album came out, with Brad Gillis/Tommy Aldridge/Rudy Sarzo, it introduced me to a sort of 'greatest hits' of the early Sabbath songs. From there I really dove into the Ozzy years Sabbath catalog and a full study of Geezer’s playing.
MPAP: Thank you, David. Any last words for all your fans out there reading this?
David: Thanks for your support. Stay safe and healthy, and we’ll see you on the road as soon as possible!