Ex-MEGADETH Bassist DAVID ELLEFSON On Tour With JEFF YOUNG And CHRIS POLAND: 'This Is A Celebration, Not A Retaliation'
August 7, 2022
Former MEGADETH members David Ellefson (bass) and Jeff Young (guitar) recently announced the first four shows of the KINGS OF THRASH "The MEGA Years" tour. They will be joined at the dates by another former MEGADETH member, Chris Poland (guitar).
KINGS OF THRASH, which also includes drummer Fred Aching as well as guitarist/vocalist Chaz Leon, will perform MEGADETH's classic albums "Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good!" and "So Far, So Good… So What!" in their entirety.
In a brand new interview with Yes! You CAN Play Guitar!, Ellefson stated about how KINGS OF THRASH came together: "[Jeff] and I got along well. We roomed together a lot, 'cause back on the 'So Far, So Good… So What!' tour, band and crew was always shacking up, sharing rooms together. So he and I had spent a lot of time together. I did a lot of guitar playing with him; I learned a lot of stuff from him, which was fun. So now to connect with him all these years later… We connected through the [making of the upcoming] Nick Menza movie [about the late MEGADETH drummer], quite honestly. And I'd stayed in touched with him. We even jammed together once at a Ronnie Montrose tribute thing at NAMM a few years ago. So we've not been completely estranged from each other."
According to Ellefson, the idea for KINGS OF THRASH materialized after he and Young reunited on stage on May 10 at Ultimate Jam Night, the long-running community-oriented show in residency at the famed Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, California, as part of a special tribute to the so-called "Big Four" of 1980s thrash metal — METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER and ANTHRAX. The event marked the first time David and Jeff had played MEGADETH songs together on stage since the U.K.'s Monsters Of Rock festival on August 20, 1988. "That spawned, basically, the KINGS OF THRASH," he said. "It was, like, 'Wow! That was frickin' cool, and that was a lot of fun.'"
David went on to say that he started thinking about a way to perform some of MEGADETH's classic material last year. "This idea had come to me — and it came to me last fall," he explained. "I was at an autograph show on the East Coast, and people were bringing me 'Killing Is My Business' records left and right. And it just reminded me, this record needs to be played; it needs to be performed. Same as 'So Far, So Good… So What!' To me, those are kind of these two really special records that — they never went unnoticed, but they didn't get the big fanfare like 'Peace Sells' and 'Rust In Peace' and all this stuff. So, to me, I made it my mission. I was, like, 'You know what? Let's unearth these things and let's bring these up on the stage and play them.'
"[Jeff] told me, he said, after MEGADETH, I think he said he intentionally forgot how to play MEGADETH songs; he just wanted to move on," Ellefson continued. "'Cause when you come into the band, it is a deep dive and it is a heavy compression. You really have to live that music in and out, day in, day out, all the time in order to really grasp what it is. And he did that. And then when the gig ended for him, he moved on.
"He has been doing a ton of heavy lifting on [the KINGS OF THRASH]. He is really working with our singer Chaz, the drummer Fred to get through this stuff. Even he and Chris Poland are working on this thing."
David clarified that the intention behind KINGS OF THRASH is not to stick it to his former bandmates.
"This is a celebration, not a retaliation," he explained. "This is a good moment. This is a happy moment, to celebrate these songs and these tracks and these records. So we go at it with just fun… It's, like, 'Wow. Wouldn't it be fun if we went out and played these records?' And we're doing it. So it's meant to be this celebration and bringing people together. And honestly, that was kind of always my role in MEGADETH. Dave [Mustaine, MEGADETH leader] always called me 'The Ambassador', and I was always that guy, and I am that guy. So it's, like, let me just continue that role in our community and have one of good will."
Asked if there are plans for KINGS OF THRASH to play more shows after the already announced dates in October, Ellefson said: "I think so. That was the whole thing — let's pop four of these up, see if anybody cares. And it seems like everybody… The phone's blowing up — people are calling, the promoters are calling, and people wanna see it. It's interesting. It's cool. This is a deep dive into a very particular period of the band's history and catalog that may not get performed elsewhere. So it's, like, 'Hey, we'll do it.' And we're qualified. Certainly our resume and our pedigree and our history with the group — it's legitimate. And I've gotta say — it's fun, man. I think it's fun."
As for KINGS OF THRASH's approach to performing material that was originally written and recorded more than three decades ago, Ellefson said: "I've gotta say, man, 'Killing Is My Business', there is a lot of deep stuff on that record, but because of the tempos and because of the speed, a lot of that kind of gets a bit glossed over, because the production of the record wasn't super great, because we didn't have a lot of money to do it at the time. Now live, going into it, there are some rhythmic figures and some grooves that I think are coming out in a live setting that are so hip. There's this almost funk, kind of R&B vibe to some of the rhythms that are so cool.
"When we wrote those songs, especially 'The Skull Beneath The Skin' and even 'Looking Down The Cross', these songs were written very slow; the original tempos were [much slower]," he revealed. "So they were really cool. So one of the things we're focusing on is bringing out the sleazy, slinky, greasy groove that's in there — because it really is in there. And I think our drummer Fred is helping a lot with that. I think people are gonna really enjoy what they're gonna hear."
KINGS OF THRASH tour dates:
Oct. 12 - San Diego, CA - Brick By Brick Oct. 13 - Phoenix, AZ - Crescent Ballroom Oct. 14 - Las Vegas, NV - The Space Oct. 15 - West Hollywood, CA - Whisky A Go Go
The Whisky A Go Go concert came four months after Ellefson and Young reunited in Los Angeles for interviews to be included in the upcoming feature-length documentary "This Was My Life: The Story Of Nick Menza". Ellefson has signed on as a co-producer of the film, and also will provide narration to guide the viewer through the exploration of the late MEGADETH drummer's life.
In June, Ellefson told The Neurotic Guitarist that he and Young "have been working on a couple of new songs."
Ellefson was fired from MEGADETH more than a year ago after sexually tinged messages and explicit video footage involving the bassist were posted on Twitter.
David was in MEGADETH from the band's inception in 1983 to 2002, and again from 2010 until his latest exit.
In 2004, Ellefson filed an $18.5-million lawsuit against Dave Mustaine, alleging the MEGADETH leader 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.
Young's entire career with MEGADETH was spent recording and touring in support of the band's 1988 platinum-selling album "So Far, So Good...So What!"
Jeff made headlines in December 2009 for accusing Mustaine of, among other things, "dissing, exaggerating and just plain lying on some level about nearly every talented musician that has passed through his dysfunctional little ensemble." He also disputed Mustaine's claim in an interview that Young's drug problem led to MEGADETH's 1988 Australian tour being called off and the group being "banned" from performing in the country.
Poland was a member of MEGADETH from 1984 to 1987, during which time he performed on the band's classic albums "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!" and "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" He is also a featured soloist on the group's 2004 album, "The System Has Failed".
Back in 2004, Poland and/or his management and attorney filed a lawsuit against Mustaine regarding the use of the three "Rust In Peace" demos on the album's reissue without Chris's permission. Chris eventually settled for $9,500 and thereby ended a professional relationship with Dave and MEGADETH.
For the past couple of decades, Poland's main musical focus has been the fusion band OHM:, which has released several full-length studio albums to date.