by Pat Prince
It was hard to imagine that bassist and co-founder David Ellefson had ever left the band Megadeth. It seemed certain that after Ellefson’s departure in 2002, the band would no longer function as a working unit. Many were convinced that vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine would focus on a solo project instead.
In what speaks volumes about the man’s perseverance and passion, Dave Mustaine not only kept Megadeth going but continued to energize its brand. Yet, it still felt like something needed to find its way back, and that “something” was certainly David Ellefson. After all, even the lukewarm fan will associate Ellefson’s opening bass riff in “Peace Sells” to one of the main things that defines the Megadeth sound. Now, after all the disagreements and the lawsuits, Ellefson is back where he belongs. Earlier this year, the band announced the return of Ellefson to coincide with its 20th anniversary of Rust in Peace on tour. During the March tour, David Ellefson spoke to Goldmine about the historical reunion.
It’s been weird not seeing you in Megadeth all these years. You kind of feel the same way?
David Ellefson: A little bit, yeah. I think the weirdest thing was when the group wound down in 2002, it was weird to not be in Megadeth at that point. It was weird to think, ‘Wow, this can’t be, that this isn’t going to exist anymore.’ But through that transition I moved on to a lot of new things. So I was pretty comfortable with it, actually.
And it’s weird that now at this point in time when I saw the press release for the Rust in Peace 20th anniversary, that was the time when I first went, ‘You know, I should be there now.’ That was when it really hit me. And it’s ironic that a week later I get a message (from the band).
And when you got back together, did it feel like you never left?
Ellefson: It totally did. Me and Dave playing together, it just fit right together. Shawn (Drover) has got a great groove to how he plays. He’s definitely done his homework and paid his dues in being in the band, so he knows what being in Megadeth is all about. Chris Broderick is a fantastic player. He really pays all respect to the older members, if there is any older material that we play, and with the record (Endgame) he’s made a pretty ferocious statement of his own creativity as well. So it really is a good fit now. It’s very odd and coincidental and everything at the same time, but it all seems to be clicking together and working very effortlessly, which it should be.
Did you begin writing with Mustaine again?
Ellefson: You know, we haven’t started to write anything yet. There is a brand new track that was already in the works that he [Mustaine] had me play on. It was actually the second day we got back together. So that was pretty cool. We still have music and riffs from years ago that we haven’t used that Shawn was going, “I can’t believe we never used these things. These are fantastic.’ It’s cool to have someone like Shawn around because he gives a different ear and a different perspective to things and that probably has helped Megadeth in recent years in getting back to its roots and plug back into the energy that made the band viable in the first place.
You once said that you wrote songs according to your mood. Do you still feel the same way?
Ellefson: Yeah, I think so. And I think it’s like that for all songwriters, quite honestly. Different moods inspire different things.
Does your songwriting still match with Dave (Mustaine) nowadays?
Ellefson: We’ll tell, I guess, as we move forward. Sometimes I pick up a bass but right now I’m in performance mode when I pick the instrument up. The other day I was at my house and some ideas fell out. I was in Megadeth but not around Megadeth, so a certain kind of thing came out and it made me go ‘Wow, this would probably work well on a future Megadeth record.’
Are you still interested in the same subjects? I mean, are you a fellow Christian?
Ellefson: I am.
Oh, okay, so you can still relate to each other as songwriters.
Ellefson: Absolutely. And you know it’s funny with Megadeth, because even years ago Dave would draw from scripture to come up with ideas and they would be very inspirational. It’s interesting. The whole Book of Isaiah, you could write an entire Iron Maiden album out of that, you know. It’s definitely a good source for inspiration. The history books are just ripe soil for writing metal records.