DAVID ELLEFSON: Bands Like LAMB OF GOD 'Really Helped Reset Thrash Metal'

February 20, 2023

In a new interview with Tony Webster of Metal Command, former MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson was asked about the fact that a lot of the classic thrash metal bands — particularly those from the San Francisco Bay Area — are putting out great new studio albums decades into their careers. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "That is a really good point, and I've thought the same thing. Okay, so, like EXODUS 'Bonded By Blood', certainly that was their 'Kill 'Em All', it was their 'Killing Is My Business', it was them sort of grabbing the reins of that mountain. Because the truth of it is, look, METALLICA moving up to San Francisco to get Cliff Burton in the band. Obviously, once they put roots down there, that's when that thing really grew. But there first, before anybody, was EXODUS. They were really the kings of that. And as much as they were kind of in the background to the quick advancement of METALLICA, EXODUS is — I mean, that's the seed from which it all germinated in a lot of ways.

"I think EXODUS, TESTAMENTTESTAMENT's made some of their better records in the last decade, I think. And I love 'Souls Of Black'. I love the early stuff; they're cool. I love listening to 'em. They're very ambient. Cool sounds. But, yeah, I think some of the more vicious and ferocious music from all those bands, I think they've all come recently… I saw, even in the 2000s… Look, LAMB OF GOD, for sure, was one of the big leaders. And look, part of it was because we no more had a PANTERA, and LAMB OF GOD kind of came in and took the throne. But they always pointed toward MEGADETH in particular, and, of course, METALLICA and the 'Big Four'.

"The '90s were not easy on thrash metal," Ellefson continued. "TESTAMENT [and some of the other bands], they didn't fall off the grid, but they went very underground as a way to survive. MEGADETH and METALLICA, because of our size, we were able to maintain a little bit better. But by the 2000s, man, it was the younger bands, like LAMB OF GOD in particular, those guys really helped reset thrash metal.

"Music is always driven by the younger generation; they are the ones who are always creating the new stuff. And in metal, what we always find is… Even the shredder generation, of which Mark Tremonti [CREED, ALTER BRIDGE] would be a good example. As famous as he is, and he was in a big kind of modern rock band, in his heart he's a frickin' shredder. 'So Far, So Good… So What!' is his favorite album. But these guys took what we were doing and then advanced it. So by the time their bands became popular, suddenly shredding was cool, because this new generation of guitar players loves these techniques that… They took the stuff from what we were doing and then they just advanced it and made it even more complex and jaw-dropping. And we need that, man — we need the next generation behind us to keep reinventing this stuff. 'Cause otherwise — we're not gonna go on forever; the train runs out of track and then it's over.

"I personally love when new people are coming up the ranks," David added. "We've got a great band out with us on this KINGS OF THRASH tour, HATRIOT, and they're the sons of Steve Souza, the singer of EXODUS. And they're a great band. And the first night I heard 'em, I went, 'Oh, shit, man. These kids are fucking bringing it, man.' 'Kids' — they're young men — but they're bringing the fury, man. And I love it, because it gets the fans excited for us, which forces us to keep our game up here, not get lazy and go, 'Well, we can just phone it in.' 'Cause you don't wanna do that. And the road takes its toll on you; the road is a challenge in itself. So I love that we've got a kick-ass package and a great band. That's one of the things we always did with MEGADETH — we always took out cool new opening bands. And sometimes they weren't metal — ALICE IN CHAINS, STONE TEMPLE PILOTS, KORN. KORN was so bizarre that it's just, like, 'This is either gonna fall apart tomorrow or it's gonna change the world.' And it did the latter. And that's why great new music is usually very polarizing — people either love it or they hate it — and sometimes the stuff that's hated the most becomes some of the greatest stuff because the early adapters who go, 'Oh my God. I totally get this'… And it's usually a younger generation who understand it versus sometimes the old guard — yeah, we don't get it; we don't understand it. It's not the song of our generation, but we need people to continue to write the song for the next generation to keep it all going."

Ellefson is currently on the road with KINGS OF THRASH, which also features fellow former MEGADETH member, Jeff Young (guitar).

As previously reported, KINGS OF THRASH will release a live CD/DVD package called "Best Of The West…Live At The Whisky A Go Go" on March 24 via Cleopatra Records. The 17-song set, featuring performances of MEGADETH's classic albums "Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good!" and "So Far, So Good… So What!", was recorded and filmed live at the legendary Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, California on October 15, 2022 and includes an appearance by another former MEGADETH member, Chris Poland (guitar). The DVD was directed by Michael Sarna for Inmotion Entertainment.

KINGS OF THRASH' "Thrashin' USA" will cross the Midwest, East Coast, and southeastern part of the USA through March 15. As with the band's 2022 warm-up shows, the group, which also includes drummer Fred Aching as well as guitarist/vocalist Chaz Leon, will be performing "Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good!" and "So Far, So Good… So What!" in their entirety. Support on all shows will come from HATRIOT.

Ellefson was fired from MEGADETH nearly two years ago after sexually tinged messages and explicit video footage involving the bassist were posted on Twitter.

David was in MEGADETH from the band's inception in 1983 to 2002, and again from 2010 until his latest exit.

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