DAVID ELLEFSON On His Time With MEGADETH: 'I'm Lucky That I Had That Experience'

May 28, 2024

In a new interview with Peru's Zona Franca, former MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson spoke about how the music industry has changed in the four decades since the band's inception. He said:  "Here's the thing. Back in the old days of the record business — '60s, '70s, '80s; for me, it's '70s and '80s. '70s is when I was a fan, but the '80s is when I got [into it] professionally. And there was maybe — I don't know — 12 record companies. They each had a rock album, an R&B album, a pop album. So every month there would be a rock record coming out. BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE, UFO, KISS, whoever. There was one from every label. So there was, like, 12 rock albums a year. So the quality had to be amazing. 'Cause there was no room for any other ones. And the record companies put a lot of money, a lot of time. The songs had to be great for the radio. Once the Internet came and made it available, everybody [could release their music online]. And, look, creatively, why not? Let people have the experience. But that doesn't mean that everybody gets to go to the top."

He continued: "Take football. There's a reason there's the greats, the GOATs, people that are at the top, because they put in the time, they've got a special gift, they've got some talent, they blend well with the other team members. And it's entertaining. At the end of the day, sports is entertaining too; people wanna go see it. So there's all these sort of — they call it 'it' factors that go into all this stuff. And I'm lucky that I got to be in a band — MEGADETH — that had the 'it' factor. It was dynamic, it was compelling, attractive. People wanted to tune in tomorrow to see what happens next. It was like a TV show. And the songs are great and they've stood the test of time. I'm lucky that I had that experience. I got to be a better musician, a better performer, all the rest of it."

Ellefson was fired from MEGADETH three years ago, just days after sexually tinged messages and explicit video footage involving the bassist were posted on Twitter.

Last June, Ellefson told Andrew McKaysmith of the "Scars And Guitars" podcast that he was prepared for his latest exit from MEGADETH.

"When my departure from MEGADETH happened, a lot of people were hitting me [up and saying], 'Oh my God. It's so terrible. It's so terrible,'" he recalled. "[And I said], 'Yeah, believe me, it's not.' [Laughs] It really isn't. I was ready for it. I didn't think it was gonna go down that way; I didn't see that coming. But the fact that it happened, I was not sad about it. I was okay with it. Because I knew there's another journey ahead, and that journey wasn't gonna start until I was out of the old one.

"When you're in a group, you're in a setting, you've gotta play company man and you kind of go along with the narrative that's been set forth.

"There was a lot of things, a lot of the narrative in that band that I never agreed with," Ellefson admitted. "A lot of that band was started on a grudge and a hardship of the firing [of MEGADETH leader Dave Mustaine] from METALLICA. That was never my story. I was always a METALLICA fan and I became friends with those guys. I have nothing but gratitude for that group and those gentlemen for what they've done for all of us, and I think they deserve the biggest applause. So it was hard to be in a band that always had this saltiness around that whole narrative, because it was never my narrative. So I went along to get along, but now I don't have to do that. And now I can be on my own path. These are my words; it's my story now. And maybe the events that happened a couple of years ago, I needed to have my own story to tell. 'Cause when you quit a band, everyone's pissed at you; they hate you: 'Oh, fuck you. You quit. You quit my favorite band.' But when you get tossed out… And I'm not looking for the sympathy card. You don't have to feel sorry for me; you don't have to do any of that. But it's interesting that, I guess the way it happened… it went down in a way that it was certainly visible enough and on a level that… It was sort of, like, okay, well, what's gonna happen next? And I just tried to be faithful to just following my heart, following the path."

In 2004, Ellefson filed an $18.5-million lawsuit against Mustaine, alleging the frontman shortchanged him on profits and backed out of a deal to turn Megadeth Inc. over to him when the band broke up in 2002. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed and Ellefson rejoined MEGADETH in 2010.

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