During an appearance on the latest episode of SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation L.A. Invasion", MEGADETH mainman Dave Mustaine reflected on the decision to fire bassist David Ellefson last year following a sex video scandal and bring in TESTAMENT's Steve DiGiorgio to re-record Ellefson's bass tracks on the band's upcoming album, "The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!".
"I don't really talking about him anymore," Mustaine said about Ellefson (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). "I like telling the funny stories, but I really don't like talking about that part of things, because the guy that I know and love was a different person.
"Making the change to Steve, we needed to do that; we needed to do that for so many reasons. On the outside looking in, there were a few people that were saying that I did the wrong thing, but I'm sorry — for my personal convictions, I just couldn't have that around us. And even if it wasn't true, I didn't want that in my life.
"When Steve came in, he was a wonderful breath of fresh air because he could play the parts [on the new MEGADETH album]. And the parts that were on the record that were there… I did an interview recently and the girl says, 'Why did you change Dave's parts?' And I thought, 'You can't be that stupid. I have to change the parts.' I didn't say that to her, but I was thinking that.
"First off, the majority of the bass on the record I played," Mustaine explained. "And it's demo tracks — we didn't have all the record recorded yet. When I was in my studio with [engineer] Chris Rakestraw and I'm writing the guitar parts, I picked up the bass and plunked along with it. I mean, it wasn't terrific, but it was the parts. So when anybody came in to record the parts, whether it was Steve or Dave, the parts were already written and recorded.
"The part about DiGiorgio coming in, it was cool because there was just so much bad going on at the time," Mustaine added. "It just seemed like the record was gonna keep getting delayed and delayed and delayed. But I believe there's a spiritual vacuum in my life and that whenever things get really bad, there's a breakthrough ready to happen. And I know that when things get bad like that, it's kind of a challenge for the universe to see if I'm gonna stop living my life on the right side of things, if I'm gonna start trying to force things to happen again. And that's not who I am anymore. I think right now we're sitting on some of the best years ahead of us ever. I feel great. I think I'm playing really well. My relationships with most of the people in my life are really doing good. And I think that the band's trajectory has just continued to go upward."
Ellefson laid down his bass tracks on MEGADETH's sixteenth LP in May 2020 at a studio in Nashville, Tennessee.
In July 2021, Mustaine announced during an episode of his Gimme Radio program "The Dave Mustaine Show" that Ellefson's bass tracks would not be used on the new MEGADETH LP.
Last October, Ellefson told The Metal Voice about MEGADETH's decision to replace his parts on "The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!": "They did what they did. I don't think they had to do that. I asked them not to. But they did what they did. It's the path they chose."
As for whether he would ever return to MEGADETH if he got the call again from Mustaine, Ellefson said: "Look, I don't have — believe it or not; people might find this hard to believe — I don't have any ill will toward him [Mustaine] or them [the rest of MEGADETH]. I really don't."
Ellefson was fired from MEGADETH in May 2021, just days after sexually tinged messages and explicit video footage involving the bassist were posted on Twitter. At the time, Ellefson released a statement on Instagram denying all social media chatter that he "groomed" an underage fan. He also filed a report with the police department in Scottsdale, Arizona alleging unlawful distribution of sexually explicit images of him by unknown offenders. In the report, Ellefson admitted that he had been exchanging sexual text messages with a Dutch teenager, who captured a video of several of their virtual "masturbating encounters" without his consent and shared them with friends. (According to Ellefson, the woman was 19 at the time of their first virtual sexual encounter.) Ellefson, who lives in Scottsdale, first became aware of the video on May 9, 2021, when the claim "David Ellefson of MEGADETH is a pedophile" appeared on Instagram. Ellefson told police he was notified on May 14 by MEGADETH that the band would be parting ways with him. Three days later, he was fired.
Last fall, Ellefson spoke to SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk" about the circumstances that led to his exit from MEGADETH. He said: "I ran toward the bullets and dealt with it right away. The night [the messages and video were leaked online], a couple of people said, 'Hey, don't say anything.' In particular, the MEGADETH camp didn't want me to say anything. But my legal [advisers] said, 'Hey, I think you should say something. I think some people have done some really shitty things here and made some false allegations about you, and you have every right to defend yourself.' And I did. Ultimately, that led to my dismissal from MEGADETH. But I have every right, as anyone does, to defend yourself, especially when somebody is making false allegations about you like that. So I dealt with it that night, and quite honestly, that was it — it was over, and it was really kind of done. But then, as the MEGADETH camp in particular jumped in and had addressed it — and not that they shouldn't, but they did. That pretty quickly led to them making the decision to part ways with me and to move away from it.
"We had originally talked about doing a joint statement of sorts, and, of course, that was not what happened," David continued. "So I was disappointed in probably the way it went down.
"Ironically, things are fine between [me and MEGADETH]. We parted ways, and they took their road. And there's not ill will between us, believe it or not. And I think any fights and those things, that was 20 years go — lawsuits and all that crap.
"Look, they moved forward [with 'The Metal Tour Of The Year']," Ellefson added. "I wished them well in my [original] statement to them, and I mean it. It's a group I helped form almost 40 years coming up here for the band. And the songs that are on the radio that I see come up are songs that I had a participation in, and we built a big legacy. I still consider them family, and my DNA is all over that. I don't think you build something of that size together and then suddenly you're just out and that's it."
Ellefson also talked about the statement Mustaine — who formed MEGADETH with Ellefson in 1983 — released on May 24, 2021 announcing the bassist's departure from the band. In the statement, Dave said: "We do not take this decision lightly. While we do not know every detail of what occurred, with an already strained relationship, what has already been revealed now is enough to make working together impossible moving forward." Asked if he was aware of any tension between him and Mustaine and whether he "felt like the ice was getting ready to break again," Ellefson said: "I did not. I think one of the things — and this probably started 20 years ago, when MEGADETH was disbanded in 2002 and then put back together in 2004, it was very clear in 2004 that it was gonna be reframed around Dave unilaterally, one hundred percent being the boss and running the show. Gone were the days of the partnership, the '90s, where it was me, Nick [Menza], Marty [Friedman], Dave — kind of 'the four horsemen ride again' kind of mentality… That day was done; it was not gonna be that anymore. And that's where we fell apart in 2004 and I wasn't with the group through those years. Coming back to it in 2010, now we're a few years older, [with] a little more maturity in the situation, realizing that we're better together, that even though it's not, on paper, a partnership, there's a kind of visual partnership — the optics of it are kind of, like, 'Yeah, this looks better as MEGADETH with me and Dave together. We're one of those bands that, although Dave is the quarterback and the quarterback still plays, the overall feeling and likability and I think everything about it just feels better when it's Dave and Dave together, because we've been together from the beginning for so many years. And I think that worked really well for the last decade. At the same time, Dave and I are grown men, and we have opinions. It's not the thing where it's just Dave and three side guys when it's me and the band. And apparently, they didn't want that anymore — they wanted it to not be that. And I can't speak for them, 'cause I don't know. I'm not trying to put words in anybody's mouth about that. But it just seemed like 'there's just too much history here, and let's just part ways now and let MEGADETH move forward on a new day with kind of a new marching order.' So rather than fight it, which is what happened 20 years ago, 'cause we were dissolving a partnership at that point, we're not dissolving a partnership [this time]. It's, like, 'Hey, we don't want you here. There's the door. Don't come to work on Monday.' So, it's, like, 'Okay. Fine.' And that's just how I viewed it, and that's how I view it today. I don't have any sour grapes over it, and I'm not bitter about it."
Two days after Mustaine announced Ellefson's latest departure from MEGADETH, the bassist released a follow-up statement in which he vowed to file a "defamation lawsuit" against the person who "illegally posted a very private video" of the bassist and made "false allegations" against him. He also said he was working with the police in Scottsdale "in their investigation into charges regarding revenge pornography to be filed against the person who posted the video. This person will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Ellefson wrote. He went on to say that he was "taking this time to be with my family" and wished his "bandmates" the best with their tour.
Ellefson was in MEGADETH from the band's inception in 1983 to 2002, and again from 2010 until his latest exit.
"The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!" will arrive on September 2 via UMe.