METAL PULP AND PAPER: Hello David. So glad to be catching up with you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us here at MetalPulp And Paper. We appreciate it.
Before we get started, how are you doing?
DAVID ELLEFSON: Doing well, just resting and regrouping for 2019.
MPAP: How was your 2018, and are you ready for 2019?
DAVID: It was a busy year doing a lot of things including BASSTORY around the world, releasing the Metal Allegiance album Vol II. Power Drunk Majesty back in September, and now setting up the Altitudes & Attitude album Get It Out for a January 18 release.
MPAP: We are definitely looking forward to the new release. Between playing bass for the Grammy-winning band Megadeth, and running your businesses, Ellefson Coffee Co, and EMP Label Group, it’s safe to say that you’re keeping yourself plenty busy well into 2019?
DAVID: Yes, for sure. Those things are all up and running now but they are never really on auto-pilot as new opportunities come along all the time.
MPAP: Just with those three things let alone, are you even able to even sit still, because now you’ve added even more into your musical endeavors called Altitudes & Attitudes? A & A is something you and fellow friend and Anthrax bassist Frank Bello are doing together? Tell us a bit more about what A & A is and what it means to you?
DAVID: Yes, we released an EP about four years ago and have been diligently finishing up the LP these last few years when our schedules allowed. It’s been a fun collaboration of us each playing guitar, bass, singing, writing and finding a home for some songs and music we each had that wouldn’t be appropriate inside Megadeth or Anthrax. That’s why the album is titled Get It Out, because we all have this music we need to get out of us. I really love the LP as it’s modern yet you can hear our influences back to our upbringing in things like Kiss and Cheap Trick. I think of it as 'modern classic'.
MPAP: Then also to inform everyone, you have a UK/European tour coming up in early February with A & A?
DAVID: Yes, and it’s great that Slash has added us to some of his shows across Europe as well. The single "Late" is getting some good love at USA rock radio over here right now so it looks to be a fun little endeavor that Frank and I can pull out from time to time now moving forward.
MPAP: That should be fun for both you and Frank to go out and do, right, a break from the Big 4 bands that you’re both in, right?
DAVID: Exactly. It’s meant to be something on the side, but just as much something that is important to us as friends, as artists and a bit of a twist for our fans to enjoy, too.
MPAP: Now, when you go on tour with A & A, or even when you just recently did your solo Basstory tour, has there ever been a moment when you wished you could throw down and use your Megadeth credentials on something you might not get as quickly as being in A & A? For example, with Megadeth, the dressing rooms, venue sizes, or anything else will be a lot larger, but with A & A, things are going to be a lot smaller in the beginning until you start establishing things as a band?
DAVID: I approach each endeavor as it’s own little operation. Of course it’s nice to be comfortable but when starting out these new ventures like A&A, Basstory, etc. it’s important to keep the ego right-sized. I’m there to introduce something new so I stay focused on the enjoyment of the event and the connection to the fans rather than "hey, where’s my limo?".
MPAP: Totally understand. So, in 2017 it was announced that you were going to relaunch Combat Records, a record label that back in 1984 Megadeth signed their first contract with. Then in that following year in 1985 Combat Records released Megadeth’s first album called Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! You are soon going to have to create more hours in the day, or add more days into the calendar with all these business endeavors you take or better yet clone yourself?
DAVID: Well, I’m lucky to have a motivated and motivational partner in Thom Hazaert who is the backbone to really help make so many of these things come to fruition. I’m all about team work and partnership and as our little EMPire is growing, Thom is really good about getting the right teams of people in place to execute the plays. I’m usually up early each day doing logistics of our business, and he’s up all night doing the creative, so between the two of us we are a good partnership and team. It’s kind of like these endeavors help me balance the right and left hemispheres of my brain since I working on music the rest of the hours of my day.
MPAP: So, tell us why you wanted to relaunch Combat Records, which will be an imprint of your EMP Label?
DAVID: Thom rang me one night and told me we could probably secure the trademark and relaunch the label. Although Combat was largely the 'house that Megadeth built' from our early successes, Thom reminded me of what the label meant to so many fans because of the ground breaking Thrash and punk artists who dominated the label over the years. It was important for me to hear that because once Megadeth signed to Capitol Records in 1986 from the 'Peace Sells…' album we recorded for Combat, we never looked back. Thom’s historical reference really helped me rethink and reframe how cool it is to be able to relaunch Combat… my alma mater!
MPAP: Did you ever imagine that you’d end up owning something that gave you and Megadeth your first chance in the music world 36 years ago?
DAVID: Ha… Never!
MPAP: Continuing with your busy life, you’ve added ETA- Ellefson Touring Agency to your resume? Tell us about that?
DAVID: One of the things we found when we were signing these bands to EMP, is that if they aren’t on the road touring, then their records just aren’t going to sell. I know it’s true from my own career, as albums set up the tours and tours sell the records. But, as a label owner now, I see it’s even more important today to have artists tour to sell their records as many of the CDs and vinyl are sold at live shows now. Even if they are just a means for a fan to purchase something from the band to get an autograph on it, it’s still a way to get the music out to the fans. But, getting signed to a label is only the first step. Then you have to go out and find a booking agent. So, by creating ETA we built in our own touring mechanism to help our artists stay on the road. In this business, you need cheerleaders every step of the way from the agent, to the label, a manager and so forth. So, at EMP, we are trying to remove all the stumbling blocks to success for our artists.
MPAP: In a way, it’s evident that you are always thinking of your future and what you can do to make it even better? Is it because of your faith in God now and maybe your lack of him back in the early days of Megadeth and you’re trying to make up for things now that you have sobriety on your side?
DAVID: Each of us is blessed with unique skills and abilities and I’m just trying to use mine in whatever way they may help others. Sometimes it’s playing bass, writing, singing, penning manuscripts, speaking engagements, and even just being one of the guys in a band. Certainly being of clear mind has helped me to be more productive all these years. Every morning I wake up and just as the Good Lord, 'lead me where you need me' and then get up and go!
MPAP: But I guess the real question is, do you ever take a break and relax? Or is all that’s been mentioned in this interview just a different form of a break and relaxation to you because you love it all so much?
DAVID: When I was growing up on the farm in Minnesota, there was always work to do. I feel the same way in my own life of music but it is important to have down time to relax, regroup and spend time with family. I seemed to have inherited the Ellefson family entreprenueral spirit handed down over the generations. In many ways, the business of music is much like farming, it’s often 'feast or famine' and it’s important to save up when you’re having a bumper crop, and be prepared for the rainy days, too. And, there are elements you can control, like writing good songs (or in farming, planting the crop and tending the soil) but then there are things out of your control, too. Things like the public’s ever-changing music tastes, or in farming, the weather. But more than anything, I just love what I do and the people I work with. I’m here to be utilized in this lifetime and if my experience can be of value to others, then why not put that to good use?!
MPAP: What about your Ellefson Coffee? Is there anything going on there that you can mention here? Any new flavors brewing soon, or maybe will your Roast In Peace flavored coffee might be available in K Cup pods someday?
DAVID: We just launched the new Altitudes & Attitude 'Get It Out' dark roast, and Eddie Ojeda’s (Twisted Sister) signature roast, too. We’ve found our niche as a rock n roll coffee company and since we have the infrastructure of our core business in place, we’re able to offer quite a few signature roasts to bands now, in addition to expanding our retail accounts. We’ve just begun opening new accounts across Europe and our partner The Motley Brew in the UK, who bring ECC into festivals like Bloodstock and Stone Deaf. You’d be surprised how many rockers love their coffee!
MPAP: Moving forward, let’s talk about something that you took part in called Headbangers Con that was in Portland, Oregon recently. Chris 51, a well-respected tattoo artist had a vision to create something that all metalheads would want to go to and be able to see some of their musical heroes in person all in the same building together. Along with Morgan Rose, from the heavy metal band, Sevendust, ideas were formed, and Headbangers Con came together. What did you think about the convention while you were there for the three days?
DAVID: I thought it was incredible! That was a heck of an undertaking to put that show on. I appear at quite a few conventions these days; Comic Cons, horror Cons, etc. and to now have an official Con just for metal heads is beyond cool. I commend Chris for getting this concept off the ground… I’m looking forward to the next one!
MPAP: What moment stood out the most to you during this event?
DAVID: The Q&A were cool with Jose Mangin as the host. Also the variety of artist attending. Everyone from Derek Riggs, who did so many classic Iron Maiden albums, photographer David Plastik who has tons of great Megadeth and 1980s classic shots the fans have grown up on. Even bringing in the growing popular CDB culture and the evening concerts, too. It was really a great cross section of all things metal.
MPAP: Was there one guest that you were stoked about meeting there that you hadn’t had the chance to ever meet before?
DAVID: Certainly Derek Riggs was one of them.
MPAP: Your EMP Label is continuously growing, and you just recently you just added LA hard rockers Sunflower Dead who features Christian Olde Wolbers (Ex-Fear Factory, Powerflo) and former Startset drummer Brian 'Brett' Weir and their third album COMA hit the stores October 19th. I reached out to Michael Del Pizzo, who is the lead singer for the band, and he had this to say about you. "I would just like to thank him and Thom Hazaert for being so kind as to work with us and help us reintroduce SunflowerDead to everyone in 2018!" They are going to be going somewhere fast, and everyone needs to check them out? What do you think about this band?
DAVID: Well, that’s certainly great to hear. I’ve known Christian for yeas with Fear Factory and one big facet of EMP is to help legacy artists continue to get their new music heard by the fans. Sunflower Dead are a hard working band, and those who are willing to work, usually find success. We are happy for them!
MPAP: Before we let you go, just a few more questions to ask. One-word, Megacruise. This isn’t some row, row, row your boat headline, this is bigger than that. Give us some more details about this excursion out on the open sea?
DAVID: It’s quite unique in that most cruises sail the Caribbean routes and this one goes out of LA. Also, the lineup is super heavy and all things metal. I think we will be thrashing the high seas on this one, for sure!
MPAP: That is killer! Everyone definitely needs to get there tickets soon. Now, let’s talk about Slayer for a just moment. You’ve been playing bass for Megadeth for just about as long as Slayer has. Both bands are considered the giants in the metal music industry. How do you feel about Slayer deciding to hang up their reign and retire?
DAVID: I respect their decision. They’ve been on a long hard road and have pretty much defined their own genre within Trash, called 'SLAYER'. They’ve given a lot to the community, I personally wish them well as they wind it down.
MPAP: Being in a massive band for over 35 years can take a toll on a musician’s family life? So, I’m sure you must have understood in a way why lead singer Tom Araya wanted to spend more time with his wife and kids, and grandchild, right?
DAVID: Yes, it’s a peculiar way of life and one most would never be able to handle. As much as we rockers get all the fame, our families certainly deserve all the glory. Maybe one day there will be an award dedicated just for them for all their support to us!
MPAP: With you still going at it headstrong with Megadeth, and all your other musical endeavors, is it hard for you to be away from your wife and kids as well?
DAVID: I guess since I was doing this line of work before my wife and I met, there was a bit of a precedence in place as to how it would have to work. My wife worked for a large artist management firm for 10 years in the 80s and early 90s before she retired out of that industry to become a full-time mother raising our kids. She’s pretty much lived two very different lives in one lifetime herself. Certainly raising the kids is the most noble of all careers. She’s a strong woman and we are blessed with two really great kids as a result of her being able to be home with them full time all these years. Now, our kids are grown and finding their own interests in life, which is the fun next frontier for them and our family.
MPAP: Before we bring this interview to a close, we have just one more question. On June 12th, 2018, fans at the Home Monitoring Aréna in Plzeň, Czech Republic got quite the surprise. Megadeth played the song, "The Conjuring" live for the first time in 17 years. Some might not know this, but Dave Mustaine in 2011 spoke about his decision why not to include the song in the Megadeth setlist anymore because of the central theme of the song dealt with the occult, something he was not into anymore for a very long time. In his 2010 autobiography, Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir, he wrote that he practiced black magic as a teenager and that the experience, which inspired the song, affected his life for many years after. So, what was the experience like playing that song again, which was to some, one of the heaviest songs off the 1986 album Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?
DAVID: That song, despite any lyrical content, has some amazing riffs and groove to it. In many ways it encapsulates Megadeth from the 1980s very well. It seems the fans love it, too! It’s a fun song to play, always has been.
MPAP: The crowd went wild when they heard the beginning of the song start to play, I’m sure?
DAVID: Probably because the fans thought they’d never hear it again. And, it’s one of those very recognizable intro riffs, coupled with the quarter note bass drum intro, which works really well in an arena setting. Even if you’ve never heard the song before, those compositional elements help create excitement in a big concert hall.
MPAP: What do you remember the most that stands out from the very first time you played the song live in 1986, and then in 2018?
DAVID: We actually performed it on our very first debut shows in San Francisco back in 1984, when Kerry King was in the band. Dave recited the intro lyrics, and then we played the song. At some point when we performed it, those lyrics were laid over the music to create the haunting crescendo, which is how you hear it now on the "Peace Sells…" album. Fun fact: many of the "Peace Sells…" and 'KIMB' songs were all written in the same period of time, from 1983-84. They were split up to make the two albums, and of course more songs were composed to create the entire "Peace Sells…" album.
MPAP: On behalf of myself, and Metal Pulp And Paper, I’d like to thank you, David, for doing this interview. It honestly has been a pleasure and an honor to be speaking with you. We look forward to what you do in 2019 and beyond. Will there be another Basstory part two by any chance?