MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson spoke to RadioactiveMike Z, host of the 96.7 KCAL-FM radio program "Wired In The Empire", about the progress of the recording sessions for the follow-up to the band's 2016 album "Dystopia". He said (hear audio below): "We shut down pretty much at the end of 2017 — we wrapped up in Argentina — and then from there, we just had the intention, in 2018, to start writing. We went to Europe for a couple of months and did festivals and stuff. And even last year, we had a pretty big year. We were supposed to do the Ozzy [Osbourne] tour, and then Ozzy had to cancel that. And then Dave Mustaine had his throat cancer treatments last year. So our whole calendar was just wiped clean. But we got a couple of months of some really good writing and pre-producton work done last year, so we just carried that into this year. This year was the year to get the record recorded. All of our touring has been pushed back. We just kind of took everything and moved it back 12 months. The middle of 2021 is the intention to start up.
"We should have certainly some new music, if not the whole new record, in place and be ready to drop some new music around the touring," he continued. "And, of course, that just gets everybody excited and kind of keeps the whole train rolling for the next few years."
Speaking about the contributions to the new MEGADETH album by drummer Dirk Verbeuren, who joined the band in 2016, he said: "Dirk's so great. First of all, he's such a sweet, chill guy. His chops are amazing, and he can play anything you throw at him. He's an educated musician, so he can write his charts and write things out. And he takes his time to really learn things properly, so that when you hit the red button and record him, he's kind of a first-take guy. And so is Kiko [Loureiro, guitar]. Kiko is the same guy. As complex as MEGADETH music is, Kiko and Dirk, I think, can play above MEGADETH, which is good. It's kind of like if you wanna be a long-distance runner and you're doing the 10-mile, you should probably be able to run 20. And I feel like that's how everybody in MEGADETH is.
"This new record — let me tell you something — it has got some of the most complex stuff on it. Dave and I were saying, there's stuff on here that's more complex that the MEGADETH stuff of the past, like 'Rust In Peace', which is kind of the benchmark. Those riffs are way harder than 'Rust In Peace' stuff. And, look, at the time, I was 25 recording 'Rust In Peace', so I think at the time, that was at the top level of my capabilities — probably for Dave too. But now we've made a lot more records; we've explored more. But to really step on the gas and push it to the limit and really take it right to the wall, it pushed all of us — all four of us were really at maximum capacity on this record, which, that's what you want. You wanna leave it all on the studio floor and walk out just drained of everything you've got."
Ellefson also talked about the musical chemistry between him and Verbeuren, saying: "I've gotta say, man, there were moments when we were playing together — you can really hear it, because it's just me and Dirk, and you kind of pull the guitars back so you can really feel what Dirk and I are doing. I'm a RUSH fan, of course, and growing up, there were these Geddy Lee/Neil Peart moments that were just insane — I mean, there was nothing that equalled that; that's how great they were. And I feel like on the new MEGADETH record, me and Dirk have those same moments. 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.''"
He continued: "We were in one of the rooms in the studio and sat down and listened to all the tracks before Dirk and I went home and before we started tearing the drum kit and all the bass amps apart and disassembling the recording setup, just to make sure we got it and make sure we had it. And we sat back and listened, and, man, me and Dave and Dirk, we were just, like, going, 'Holy heck, man. That's just scorching.' I mean, you could see the fire burning off the Pro Tools; it was just so good.
"I don't wanna keep boasting about it, 'cause I'd hate to let you down, but in the room, in the moment, it was pretty spectacular, man."
Last month, Mustaine told "The Five Count" radio show that the new MEGADETH LP will "probably" be "one of the most ferocious records we've done since 'Rust In Peace'. David Ellefson, he's a pretty good barometer of things, and when he did his bass parts, he [went], 'Man, my arm is killing me. I can't believe this.'"
In a separate interview with SiriusXM, Mustaine said that the upcoming MEGADETH album will be "up there with 'Countdown [To Extinction]', 'Rust In Peace' and probably 'Peace Sells' and 'Dystopia'."
The early sessions for the LP took place last year with co-producer Chris Rakestraw, who previously worked on "Dystopia".
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.
As previously reported, MEGADETH's North American tour with LAMB OF GOD, TRIVIUM and IN FLAMES has been rescheduled for 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.