DAVID ELLEFSON: METALLICA 'Broke All The Doors Down To Every Obstacle In The Way Of Heavy Metal'
March 4, 2023
In a new interview with "I Ask No One With Kevin Re LoVullo", former MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson was asked if the multi-platinum success of METALLICA's 1991 self-titled album helped or hurt the metal community. Ellefson responded in part (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Ah, it frickin' broke the doors down. METALLICA were always the leader. They broke all the doors down to every obstacle in the way of heavy metal. To some degree, IRON MAIDEN, before them, had superseded and became an arena act and done this stuff too, so certainly you've gotta give credit to MAIDEN. And even DEF LEPPARD, to some degree, because they started out as just kind of a grungy little heavy metal band out of Sheffield, and then they [went] on to become essentially almost like a pop act, on some level; I mean, they became that big. Those guys — certainly DEF LEPPARD and MAIDEN — deserve credit for sort of carving the initial path to sort of the big-time mainstream path for heavy metal. But then METALLICA came in, and they just fucking [said], 'We're here. We're coming in.' They really broke through every obstacle with MTV and daytime rotation with their videos and just became a household name. And it's cool, because they have 'metal' in their name, so it's not like there's any 'what is this?' It's, like, come on. It says 'metal' right in it. You know what it is. And they didn't clean it up and pretty it up; they just kept it raw and frickin' grungy and in your face, and it was, again, authentic. So, again, the likes of Lemmy [of MOTÖRHEAD], who influenced Lars [Ulrich, METALLICA drummer] and the guys, that inspiration that stayed true, that, 'We don't have to…' I remember with METALLICA, it was always the thing: 'We do our own thing. We don't play by the rules.' And to a large degree, they didn't. And that's, I think, what made it appealing to the fans, because, let's face it, heavy metal is kind of working man's music, and that's why we look to our heroes, because they're, like, 'God, I wish I could my boss to fuck off and just go do that, 'cause these guys can do whatever they want.' That's the message, right?"
Dave Mustaine, who was the original lead guitarist of METALLICA, was dismissed from the band by drummer Lars Ulrich in 1983. He was replaced by Kirk Hammett and went on to form MEGADETH and achieve worldwide success on his own.
Back in September 2020, Ellefson told Detroit's WRIF radio station that he and Mustaine paid close attention to what METALLICA was doing in the early years of MEGADETH's existence. "I mean, look, we are all just a branch off the METALLICA family tree," he explained at the time. "I mean, let's face it. Especially MEGADETH, with Dave being there, and then me being a branch off of Dave with MEGADETH. So, I mean, look, we owe everything to METALLICA. Those guys broke down the doors for every one of us — ANTHRAX, SLAYER. Bands today — LAMB OF GOD, PANTERA — none of this would have happened without METALLICA being up there as the 800-pound gorilla just carving the path through the jungle that would have never let heavy metal in. The stuff that they able to do and the size and the scope of which they were able to break those doors down, it changed all of our lives — as musicians, as fans, as everything. That's why I think when they did the 'Big Four' [shows] with us in 2010 and '11, that was just such a great olive branch."
The former MEGADETH bassist continued: "As Scott Ian [ANTHRAX] said, it's like we're all brothers of the same family, it's just that one of our brothers went off and became Microsoft [laughs], and that was METALLICA. It's, like, how the hell did you do that? That's amazing. You changed the world. But the fact that they came back and, again, offered that olive branch to us and just said, 'Hey, we were all in this together. Let's celebrate what we did together so many years ago.' And I think that speaks volumes to just how cool METALLICA is."
In 2019, Ellefson said that he got Mustaine's "blessing" to audition for the bassist position in METALLICA after Jason Newsted left the band more than two decades ago. David went on to say that he learned how to play some of METALLICA's songs in preparation for what he thought would be an audition with the group but that the opportunity never materialized.
Back in 2011, Mustaine said that he was relieved that Ellefson wasn't invited to join METALLICA after the tragic death of Cliff Burton.
Burton died on tour in 1986 in a tour bus crash, three years after Mustaine was kicked out of METALLICA and went on to form MEGADETH.
The so-called "Big Four" of 1980s thrash metal — METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER and ANTHRAX — played together for the first time in history on June 16, 2010 in front of 81,000 fans at the Sonisphere festival at Bemowo Airport in Warsaw, Poland and shared a bill again for six more shows as part of the Sonisphere series that same year. They reunited again for several dates in 2011, including the last "Big Four" concert, which was held on September 14, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in New York City. Since then, METALLICA, SLAYER and ANTHRAX have played a number of shows together, including the 2013 Soundwave festival in Australia. They also performed at the 2014 Heavy MTL festival in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
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