DAVID ELLEFSON Says He's Been Back In MEGADETH For Almost A Decade Under A 'Gentlemen's Agreement'
December 15, 2019
In a brand new interview with Brazil's Lokaos Rock Show, MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson was asked if he ever imagined, when he "left" the band in 2002, that he would one day return to the group that he launched more than 35 years ago with MEGADETH leader Dave Mustaine.
"Technically, MEGADETH ended," Ellefson replied (see video below). "Dave called me and he needed to step away from MEGADETH in 2002. So we disbanded. He and I left our business matters intact. But a couple of years later, when he was ready to work, he wanted to do a solo album. And I think he's talked about this in his memoir and stuff. But the record companies and people, they really pushed him to, 'No, we need it to be MEGADETH.' So that started the calls to all of us about, 'Hey, okay, I've got an album written. I wanna make an album.' And the trick was just kind of how to try to put it all back together again, because Al Pitrelli had gone back to work with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA; Jimmy DeGrasso was available, but doing some other stuff. I think the first attempt was to try to put together the 'Rust In Peace' lineup, with Nick [Menza] and Marty [Friedman]. And that just — it didn't connect. It was just a weird moment, and it just didn't come together. So, quite honestly, in my heart, was more, like, 'You know what? Let Dave just go do what he needs to do.' I was doing some other business things at the time. I was toying around, playing with… I had a little group called F5. And I was very realistic about the success of that — it was more just kind of a fun thing for me to do to write and explore some other things. But when it didn't work for us to connect, in my heart, I just said, 'You can never go back, but sometimes things come around the front again.' Which is exactly what happened."
He continued: "Dave and I had been in touch — we had been talking and we met a couple of times and talked about what it would be for me to come back and stuff. And there again, it just kind of took what it took. And then finally in 2010, Tom Araya from SLAYER had gone in to have a neck surgery. SLAYER and MEGADETH were scheduled to do a tour. And that really created this opening. And we were gonna go do the 20th-anniversary 'Rust In Peace' tour, and that was really the moment for me to come back. And honestly, I've been back for 10 years just on a handshake, as a friend, [with] just kind of a gentlemen's agreement. And it's really been great. It's been a lot of fun.
"To me, making music should always be about fun," Ellefson added. "There will always be money — there will always be enough money. And that's one of the lessons I learned — arguing about finances and business and stuff, sometimes it's, like, you know what? Just trust the good Lord's gonna provide, and play the songs, have fun with the fans and always be a friend to the band, be a friend to the organization, to the fans, to everything. And somehow, all the rest of it works itself out. David Lee Roth had a great quote. He said, 'Don't sweat the small stuff. And it's all small stuff.'"
Ellefson has been open about the fact that he became a salaried employee upon his return to MEGADETH in 2010, something he shared with the world in his latest book, "More Life With Deth".
Six years earlier, Ellefson declined to rejoin MEGADETH upon the band's reformation, citing concerns with the business structure he had in place with Mustaine.
When Ellefson eventually rejoined MEGADETH nine years ago, he was no longer as involved in the band's composing process and business affairs like he was prior to the group's breakup.
Ellefson was in MEGADETH from the band's inception in 1983 to 2002, when the group briefly broke up because Mustaine suffered severe nerve damage that left him unable to play. After Mustaine reformed MEGADETH with an all-new lineup in 2004, Ellefson sued his former bandmate for $18.5 million, alleging that Mustaine still owed him substantial merchandise and publishing royalties. In January 2005, the case was dismissed in court, and five years later, Ellefson rejoined MEGADETH.