DAVID ELLEFSON On Getting Fired From MEGADETH Over Sex Video Scandal: 'I'm Sad That Things Went Down The Way They Did'

August 16, 2022

In a new interview with the "Mike Nelson Show", David Ellefson was asked if it's fair to say that Dave Mustaine ran the show in MEGADETH since the bassist rejoined the band in 2010 and that he and the other members of MEGADETH were treated and paid merely as session members prior to his dismissal from the group more than a year ago. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Pretty much. The tour ended. There was no retainer; there was no salary. We went off and did our own thing. Which is why — look, to be honest with you — it's why… I've always been entrepreneurial. I've always known music to be entrepreneurial. I [started] a coffee company, did a label, had other things, wrote with other people, did other records, wrote books. That's what it is. And I know that's not well liked by some people, because they kind of want it 'all in.' And it's, like, well, royalties buy loyalties. If you want everybody here all the time, you've gotta have them on retainer and salary and you've gotta treat 'em like a staff member so that they're a hundred percent in your team. And it wasn't that. So I think it was pretty clear to me that it's, like, well, when the train stops, we all get off and then we kind of go do our separate thing until it's time to come back together and be MEGADETH again — whether that was recording or touring or otherwise.

"I would say 2018 was… We were off the road. There was an eight-week tour that was booked in Europe. Dave wanted to do some things, and we talked about it," Ellefson recalled. "I just remember, as soon as I started sending ideas over for the new record, he was very resistant to 'em; he didn't wanna use 'em. So I was, like, 'Okay. That's fine. Whatever.'

"This last record [the upcoming 'The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!'] was a bit of a journey. We finally had some collaboration on it, and I was okay with it either way. My mindset was, 'You know what? Just show up and play bass. Be that guy. That seemed to have worked, and just do that.' But there always seemed to kind of be rubs over that kind of stuff. So then I was, like, 'Look, I make other records. I have other creative outlets and things that I do.' So I was okay with that. If I didn't participate on a MEGADETH record, it was okay; I could do other things. And that was kind of how I found my peace with it. But I know that was a bit of rub in certain areas. But you can't have it both ways. You can't date and be married — pick one or the other. Do it that way. Without going into a whole bunch of detail of it, that's kind of what it was. So when things came to an end last year, to be honest with you, maybe things had to happen in a way that they just needed to be sort of split apart. I didn't think they had to be, but that's a decision they made, so it is what it is. I don't hold a grudge and I'm not sitting around with bitter grapes, sour grapes about the thing. I've moved on. I've always had a lot of other things. THE LUCID record was already teed up. This ELLEFSON solo record that I have, we were finishing that up at the time. 'Cause I just knew I needed to find creative outlets in other places, because it really wasn't that well received in the MEGADETH world. So I found it elsewhere… And you know, in some ways I kind of feel like I fell upward. I made some really great friendships, some really great collaborations, doing some new things that I probably wouldn't be doing if things hadn't gone down the way they did. So I'm not sitting around bitter about it at all. I wish them the best. They're doing their thing with their record. I know that record 'cause I already played on it. [Laughs] I know it — I know the songs. I know what it is. I haven't heard most of it with vocals on it, but… So, to me, it's kind of part of the rearview mirror for me. And not disrespectful — just it is what it is. We're a year past it now and things have moved on."

Pressed about what he would say to Mustaine if they came face to face right now, Ellefson responded: "I'm sad that things went down the way they did because I don't think they had to. I knew that everything was fine. And it was a scary moment there for a second, but I knew it was okay. Just over time, our lives just take different directions, and that doesn't mean you can't be in a band together 'cause you've got different lives. But at the same time, again, things just… I guess they just needed to come apart for this next season of life. And we've been here before where things came apart and then they came back together and they came apart. Maybe this is just how it is. Me and Dave are brothers from another mother; I mean, we just are. It's kind of ironic our names are both Dave; brothers aren't usually named the same. But, you know, there is a weird thing.

"It's funny. When I went back to the band in 2010, even my wife, she goes, 'It's okay. You can go back to your first wife' — meaning MEGADETH," he continued. "She knows her place. She knew her place. 'I know that came before me, that you're a musician, that you and Dave have this very karmically strange friendship with each other that's hot and cold and hit and miss. And you guys love each other like brothers. And some days you get along and some days you don't.' And I don't put that all on him; some of that's for sure on me. So, I think it's probably the best way to put it — it's kind of a karmically interesting friendship. [Laughs] So, yeah. So this is where we are."

Asked if he would ever play with Mustaine again, Ellefson said: "I never say never to anything. And in fact, I've learned in life. [Producer] Max Norman taught me this, by the way, on [MEGADETH's] 'Youthanasia' record. We were doing some lyrics, and he goes, 'Man, don't ever fucking use words like 'never' and 'forever.' They're fucking bullshit words, man. They don't mean anything. They're not sincere. They're not true.' And I've come to think about that over the years, and it is true. Is love forever? Well, I don't know. 'Well, I'll never play with that guy again.' I mean, didn't we see that in 'Spinal Tap'. 'Nigel and I shall never work together again.' I mean, c'mon — it's silly.

"We have these moments in our lives," he continued. "They are what they are. Hopefully we grow from 'em, we get better from them. I certainly feel like I have. And you move on. And like I said the first time with the MEGADETH reunion. At some point, it was a rearview-mirror item, and then one day it came around in the front window again. There it was in the next intersection of life in front of me, and probably for Dave too. It was, like, 'All right. Saddle up. Let's do this.'

"Look, they're doing their thing. They've got their own band now, and they're a unit. They're out rocking. And I think it's great. Look, they're playing songs that I helped write. I'm playing songs Dave wrote. We should all be happy. Everybody wins. Everybody's making money. Everybody's songs are being played. Between the two of us, all of 'em are getting played, or most of 'em. So I don't see any downside to any of it. I think we're honoring the legacy. It's bigger than any one of us."

Ellefson went on to say that the narrative that one person was solely responsible for the creative vision in MEGADETH with very little input from anyone else is "not true." He added: "It's not any one of us. And I'm not going out claiming that it's all about me 'cause it's not — I know my place in it; I know my place in the pecking order and the hierarchy of the legacy. But I'm very much a part of it. So is Chris Poland; so is Jeff Young; so is Gar Samuelson; so is Nick Menza. And I think it's important that those people be honored — especially the fallen ones, like Gar and Nick. Sometimes those are easier to honor because they're gone and we can't ever get any more from them. So I think sometimes honoring the living members is just as important because… Honor them while they're here; let them know how valuable they are to this. And I think that's one of the things the fans really like — is to see that all of it can be honored: the new music that they're writing and putting out as well as the past stuff that really were the building blocks of this enormous beast."

Ellefson left Jackson, Minnesota in the early '80s to move to Los Angeles, where he met former METALLICA guitarist Mustaine, and the pair co-founded multi-platinum, Grammy-winning hard rock act MEGADETH, going on to become one of the "Big Four" of thrash metal. Ellefson's smalltown Jackson roots have been immortalized in MEGADETH lore as the subject of classic songs including the smash hit "Foreclosure Of A Dream" and the underground classic "Mary Jane".

Ellefson, who has lived in Scottsdale, Arizona since 1994, 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.)

David, a Christian who launched the Mega Life Ministries worship group in 2007, studied for a year at Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis a decade ago.

"The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!" will be released on September 2 via UMe. Just months after TESTAMENT bassist Steve DiGiorgio recorded his parts for the effort, former MEGADETH bassist James LoMenzo rejoined the band in time for the summer 2021 leg of "The Metal Tour Of The Year".

LoMenzo joined MEGADETH in 2006 and appeared on two of the group's studio albums, 2007's "United Abominations" and 2009's "Endgame". He was fired from the band in 2010 and replaced with Ellefson, who was in MEGADETH from the band's inception in 1983 to 2002, and again from 2010 until his latest departure.

Ellefson laid down his bass tracks on MEGADETH's sixteenth LP in May 2020 at a studio in Nashville, Tennessee. A short time later, he raved about his performance on the record, telling the 96.7 KCAL-FM radio program "Wired In The Empire" that his musical chemistry with MEGADETH drummer Dirk Verbeuren was comparable to the interplay between Geddy Lee and Neil Peart on classic RUSH albums. "I feel like on the new MEGADETH record, me and Dirk have those same moments," he said. "It's MEGADETH — it's not RUSH, obviously — but in the field of what we do, there were these moments that I was just going, 'Oh, my God.' This is me as a kid going, 'This is my Geddy/Neil moment right here.'"

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.

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