DAVID ELLEFSON On New MEGADETH Album: This Is Next Level, Beyond 'Dystopia'

April 16, 2020

Earlier this week, MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson talked Meltdown of Detroit's WRIF radio station about the progress of the songwriting and recording sessions for the follow-up to 2016's "Dystopia" album. He said: "We were going to start recording the new record here at the end of March. Of course, that's right as everything was shutting down [due to the coronavirus pandemic]. And our drummer Dirk [Verbeuren] lives in Los Angeles, and California was one of the first states to really shut things down.

"As soon as we can, as soon as possible [we will enter the studio]," he continued. "I mean, we're looking at — I don't know — May, something like that. As soon as we can get together and it's safe for us to be. Nashville is where we're based, where our operation [is] now, and where we'll do the recording. And a lot of that, too [depends on other factors] — the studios have to be open. All the studio services, with cartage and technician people. It's, like, where the heck do you get a sandwich if everything is closed? Just all the stuff you take for granted."

He added: "Nashville is a big music city, obviously, [and] there's a lot of services there. We just to make sure everything's up and running; it isn't just us. We're chomping at the bit to get in and record this next record. So we'll do that as soon as we can. Obviously, we have tour dates slated for June and July, and another leg in October and November. And we're taking that a week at a time, just seeing how it goes. Currently, everything is on the calendar as scheduled, but everything is subject to change. And, obviously, if any of that changes, we'll let everybody know via Megadeth.com."

Asked if the new MEGADETH album has already been written, Ellefson said: "Everything is demoed up. That's one thing that's good about this — there have been a couple of little, small tweaks made. Dave [Mustaine, MEGADETH mainman] and I, years ago, we used to say, 'Nothing's final till it's vinyl' — meaning that until it's pressed to a vinyl record, that's when it's done. Up until then, there can always be little updates and changes. The convenience of working in the digital domain is you can go kind of punch in in Pro Tools and, 'Hey, let's tweak that little bridge piece there.' 'Hey, let's add another little turnaround at the end of the verse.' We can do these kind of little tweaks. And the MEGADETH songs are very much that type of song. We're not guys who sit around strumming 'Kumbaya', and three chords later, we have songs. This record's been being written now for over two years.

"The songs go through a lot of little transitions," he continued. "Obviously, we're a very progressive band; there's a lot of detail. And I practice these songs pretty much daily. I sit here at home and I'll rip through a couple of tunes just to kind of keep my head in the game. And because we can work through Dropbox, we can [get] pretty much real-time updates on when little things are being changed. Or Dave and I will talk about lyrics. Hey, does this lyric work there? How's this phrasing to fit over this riff?' and stuff like that. So we're definitely staying productive.

"But, yeah, the songs are in templates — they're ready to go, they're ready to be recorded. We've definitely put the work and the time in them."

According to Ellefson, the extra time away from the studio has given him and his bandmates an opportunity to make a few final adjustments to the new MEGADETH songs before they are recorded.

"Had we gone in at the end of March, I think we would have been fine," he said. "And who knows? Maybe these little tweaks would have happened anyway? But you don't know.

"One of the things Dave said when we started this… We started sending things to each other back in the very beginning of 2018," he continued. "That was when the process started. So we went through that year just kind of compiling stuff. 'Cause [with] 'Dystopia', we really cleaned out the vaults — there really wasn't anything left in the vaults. And sometimes you'll write something, and it's good — it's just not for right now; it just needs to be put back to a later time… We started with a completely clean slate in 2018. We then got together in 2019 — in the summer, we got together for about two months. And we worked together. We lived in a band house next to the farm where Dave lives in Nashville. And it was great. One of the things Dave said, he goes, 'These last bunch of years, it's almost like we get together, we plug in, we record our parts, we all go home and that's it.' So he goes, 'I really wanna spend the time listening. Like, record it, sit back, listen.' And even when he was going through his cancer treatments here at the end of 2019, in an ironic twist of fate, it gave us time to get away from the record, 'cause we worked really hard on it for two months there last summer and essentially pieced it all together. But then, stepping back, getting away from it, fresh ears, coming back to it, one thing that hit us is how good it is. I mean, management was, like, 'Oh my gosh! This is next level, beyond 'Dystopia'. This is absolutely perfect. This is the next-level record for MEGADETH.' And I listened to it and I was, like, 'You know, I think they're right.' 'Cause sometimes you can get so close to the creative process, you're in it and you can't tell. I guess it's like if you keep tasting the soup, you don't really know if you put too much salt in it. So we stepped back a little bit, and when we regrouped and listened to it again, we were just, like, 'Wow!' I think we went past where we thought we were on this and I think we're now into a new era of this new record."

The early sessions for MEGADETH's 16th studio album took place last year in Franklin, Tennessee with co-producer Chris Rakestraw, who previously worked on "Dystopia".

MEGADETH's next LP will be the first to feature Verbeuren (ex-SOILWORK),who joined the band almost four years ago.

Guitarist Kiko Loureiro made his recording debut with MEGADETH on "Dystopia", whose title track was honored in the "Best Metal Performance" category at the 2017 Grammy Awards.

MEGADETH and LAMB OF GOD are scheduled to embark on a 55-date tour this summer.

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