There had been too much of an unfair attack on metal in the past, especially in the ’80s, as far as it being Satanic.
Ellefson: It’s funny. Even when the thrash thing started, with Venom and all that, even if you listen to those things, none of those guys were Satan worshipers. They talked about Satan. Worshiping Satan, it’s like, ‘Is that the best you can do?’ He’s kind of a small fry guy. You’re kind of limiting your resources a little bit there, if you go down that road.
In a recent quote, you encouraged young bands to be more original if they want to be successful. Do you think originality is nearly dead, though?
Ellefson: Here’s the thing. Even in our genre, we drew upon everything from Priest, Maiden, Sabbath, and those that went before us. But we also branched out and listened to other things, and that’s the thing that’s been so unique about Megadeth over the years — that there’s such a broad musical diversity within the band, among the players. It’s helped us not only survive but, more importantly, thrive. Especially twenty years ago when the thrash thing went way back underground. We ended up hanging a left turn into the mainstream, because we had the skills and ability in the band to do that. To me, the most exciting times in this band is when we rise to the occasion and create something new. Of course, a lot of bands have been influenced by Megadeth over the years and that’s great. But I personally respect the ones who go on and do something that does not sound like Megadeth.
I remember one time we were in the elevator of a hotel in Cleveland and the guitarist from the band Matchbox Twenty got in the elevator and he was freaking out that he was standing next to Marty Friedman. He was a big fan. And to me, that was cool. Here’s a guy who was in a very big mainstream pop band who loved the talents of Marty Friedman, who at that time was the shredder of Megadeth. To me, it’s all in what you do with it, to where it goes to your head and to your fingers and comes out something unique and special. That’s why I encourage artists. Record labels are not going to sign an also-ran. They are going to sign things that are unique, ground-breaking, cutting-edge, and are essentially going to change the face of the world. That’s what people get excited about. That’s what stirs the human spirit.
Well, I was impressed to see you wearing an Angel Witch shirt in your first Megadeth promo photo since returning. A nice New Wave of British Heavy Metal plug. Do you think too many metal fans have forgotten about those bands? There were some really good bands back then.
Ellefson: They really were good! We go back and listen to those things, and Dave has never pulled out from those roots. I did a show with another group I have called Hail! and we play cover tunes. And the whole point of that is to go back and relive not just the thrash stuff but the stuff that inspired the thrash stuff. Let’s go be fans again ourselves and go up and play music that inspired us. Going back to play UFO and things. I like the attitude that, if you like, for instance, what Megadeth did, go listen to what influenced the guys in Megadeth. And you’ll understand how they created the Megadeth music. It ‘s a good thing to go back and listen to the inspiration to those who inspired you.
How do you feel about the Rust In Peace tour?
Ellefson: Good. There’s just a great work ethic in the band. It’s a well-oiled machine. I stepped into something that is very together. And a lot of that is based on back when I was in it so I pretty much know the drill. It’s cool to see Shawn and Chris, as the newer guys in Megadeth, to be very seasoned already. They’ve got a great mindset and great spirit. Dave has always been very focused. He gets out of bed and first thing on his mind is ‘How do I improve Megadeth?’ and it’s the last thing we talk about before we go to bed. And it’s cool to see that that hasn’t changed.
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