MEGADETH Bassist: 'DAVE MUSTAINE's Guitar Playing Was The Invention Of Thrash'

November 8, 2012 recently conducted an interview with MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. Having really driven a whole musical sound, do you feel that there was a pivotal point in your career that really influenced the direction that thrash metal would take?

Ellefson: It could be argued that MOTÖRHEAD were the earliest pioneers to point toward the genre but I think Dave Mustaine's guitar playing (even in METALLICA) was the invention of thrash. Thrash was really invented in the USA because it's the hybrid of punk and metal music. We were the first generation of musicians to like the SEX PISTOLS and BLACK SABBATH so as a result we drew from both punk and metal cultures to create our thrash. That can really be seen in any one of the "Big Four" bands and beyond. This year sees the 20th anniversary of the release of "Countdown to Extinction" and you have a whole tour planned where you will play the album in its entirety. This is the second time you've done this after the 20th anniversary tour for "Rust In Peace". How do you feel the fans react to these whole album sets? Do you play the album in order? Do you bolster the set with other tracks?

Ellefson: I think they like these types of tours because they are different and the fans get to hear deep-cut album tracks instead of just the singles or the more popular songs each time we come through town. We do play the entire albums in order. We usually warm up the set with a few classics to get everyone in the "mood" and then we finish with a couple classics so everyone goes away with the memory of those songs in their heads. We realize that our fans come from such diverse age groups now that we can't just assume they have all heard those albums top to bottom. So having some of the classic hits scattered throughout the set helps those fans feel included in the show, too. Your album "Risk" saw a marked change in musical direction and seems to have made the band — alongside some fans — quite uncomfortable. If you had your time again, what would you change in relation to the creation of that album?

Ellefson: I think it was a great record but because it said "MEGADETH" on it, people did expected a different sound, a sound they were more familiar with from its predecessors. With that said, I think it unwise to go back and change things, it's like you are apologizing for what you did when in fact that was exactly as it was supposed to be at that moment in time. Imagine if we went back and changed "Rust In Peace" because we moved forward to make "Countdown To Exctinction"?!! At some point, you learn something from every record you make and you move on to the next one with those experiences. In 2002, Dave Mustaine experienced an injury to his left arm that left him unable to play and expert prognosis was that he would be unlikely to ever be able to play again. At that point he made the decision to end MEGADETH. This must have been a huge shock and disappointment to you. How did you feel at the time? What were your first thoughts about what to do next? And how do you feel the break away from MEGADETH helped you as a musician and as a person?

Ellefson: At first, I was shocked, but I knew I had two roads ahead of me; either fade away from music or move forward with new endeavours because I was young, ambitious and had many musical statements yet to make. As much as it wasn't expected, my time away from the band really helped me grow as a musician and as a man on my own two feet. Band life is unique because it requires the individuals in it to maintain specific roles in order for the band to operate. However, over time, people change and often grow out of those roles, so those moments can provide opportunities to rediscover your passions. In hindsight, I think the time Dave had by himself to re-align MEGADETH the way he intended it to be was good for him, and for the band. Additionally, my time away from the group allowed me to develop aspects of my life that I couldn't have done while recording and touring like we were doing for so many years. In many ways, those matters were critical for my growth in order to mature and really bring something effective back to the group upon my return in 2010. Looking back on it all now, it all seems to have worked out pretty good for everyone.

Read the entire interviewe from

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