Alex Haber of Heavy New York conducted an interview with MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson at the 2018 NAMM show, which was held January 25-28, in Anaheim, California. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On wrapping up the “Dystopia” record cycle:
David: “You know, I think it was a success. [Laughs] I think it did well. We took our time making the record and I think that paid off to do that and we got, Jeez, two full years of touring out of it. In fact, really, more like three. We just announced the 35 years of MEGADETH anniversary this year. We’re going to celebrate by each month, celebrating a release of one of our records. Some months we have to double up. Like for instance, in January, both ‘Dystopia’ and in 1988, ‘So Far, So Good…So What!’ came out, so we get to celebrate all these records throughout the year. A whole other year of touring, largely from the wind in the sails from ‘Dystopia’ and now, of course, to celebrate the catalog.”
On whether using LAMB OF GOD drummer Chris Adler for the recording of “Dystopia” and adding SOILWORK drummer Dirk Verbeuren as a full-time member helped add new elements to MEGADETH‘s sound:
David: “I think it always comes down to technical proficiencies, skill level and just fundamentally understanding the music, which Chris is a big fan of MEGADETH and grew up with our music, so he understood it from a fan point of view, so that helps. Of course, he’s got incredible charisma to his playing, so that was important on the record. But, I think at the end of the day, he came in to play MEGADETH songs. He wasn’t ‘Chris Adler of LAMB OF GOD in MEGADETH.’ He was just Chris Adler, the amazing drummer he is, playing in MEGADETH. Same with Dirk. Dirk really is regarded as one of the really hot-shot guys in the whole grindcore movement, really the top of the heap in that scene. For him to come into MEGADETH, it was nice with him, he really gets the Gar Samuelson era of [MEGADETH]. Gar was a very particular drummer. He was not a heavy metal drummer, he was more of a jazz, fusion, rock kind of drummer. That really gave MEGADETH an edge over a lot of other groups because of his technical ability and so Dirk being a real student of all types of music, he can really go back and understand what Gar was playing because he’s an educated player himself.”
On whether MEGADETH likes their albums to lead into one another stylistically, or experiment when they’re in the studio:
David: “I’ve always looked at albums, it’s like a family photo album. It’s a collection of a bunch of snapshots during that period of time that the record is. That’s really what the compositions are. The songs are created in that moment of time. Now when we look back over 35 years, we’re breaking out the full cannon of family photo albums. We’re looking at every song of record. I’ll go back and I’ll look at like, someone had the original vinyl pressing of ‘Killing Is My Business […. And Business Is Good!]’, and I look at the lyrics and it’s kind of funny. There’s a woman, Sarah [Zulauf], her organic gourmet foods that she does, we’ve partnered with her on coffee, it’s funny, Dave [Mustaine] and I were at her apartment, I think the day that the ‘Killing Is My Business’ vinyl showed up and we opened it with complete shock and dismay because… it was horrible. We were, like, ‘What in the hell is this?’ This isn’t at all what we had submitted to the label and then, of course, they come back with all their reasons and justifications to why it is. It’s funny, Sarah, I’m in business with her on the food side of life and here she is, all the years later, we kind of have this 35 years of MEGADETH, she was there in the very beginning as just a friend to me and Dave, but there’s moments like that where, that one is almost like, PTSD going back and remembering that. Then there’s other moments where I’ll go through and look at ‘Peace Sells [But Who’s Buying?]’ and who we listed in the thank-yous and go ‘Oh my gosh. I wonder whatever happened to that person?’ And looking at the gear we used, so I’ve got to be honest with you, for me and I hope certainly for Dave, too, it’s as much fun to go back and look at this stuff because, it’s challenging a lot of us. We were poor, we were broke, we really were a struggling band and I think that’s what makes the success that much sweeter and it certainly makes us appreciate our fans. Without fans to buy your records and listen to your music, you’ve got nothing except for your songs, which is cool, but again, it’s nice to have some people listening to it. When you go back, to me, I think personally, that’s my journey and now the 35 years going back and a historical retrospective of our lives.”
On whether any newer bands inspire him:
David: “Yeah, I think so. We always need new talent, you know? As much as there’s this old-school brigade that, God bless ’em, because they keep us going and they introduce new, young bands, but we need new blood. We have to continue to foster and grow up the new generation. I have this artist [on Ellefson‘s EMP Label Group], DOLL SKIN, young girls, playing kind of hardcore, they’re a great little band. I got their energy and their vibe and they’re focused and they’re in the trenches. I love bands that dedicate their whole life to it. Music is a lot about a bunch of misfits coming together to do something with comradery. Artists and musicians, we beat to a different drum, no pun intended. That’s what I love about when you see great bands come together where musicians think alike, synergistically, it’s like one mind. We try to do that in MEGADETH, we try to be one brain center and be really focused when we’re working together.”
MEGADETH‘s “Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good!” debut was originally released in 1985 by Combat Records. The album was remastered and re-released in 2002 via LOUD Records with the band’s preferred cover art.
In 2018, MEGADETH will celebrate its 35th anniversary all year long, with special releases, exclusive merchandise items, and one-of-a-kind events and opportunities for fans worldwide.