MEGADETH Bassist: 'Music Itself Is Sort Of A Reflection Of The Holy Spirit Flowing Through You'

August 27, 2010

Shannon Joy of the LA Music Blog recently conducted an interview with MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

LA Music Blog: Do you find it difficult to maintain sobriety while on the road?

Ellefson: I don't. It was difficult for me to turn the corner and transition. It was really, really hard because I didn't want to be strung out and I didn't want to be a junkie anymore, but I also didn't know that I wanted to live this squeaky-clean, sober life. To me, my vision of what it was was just too wholesome and pure, and when you're coming out of the dark, decadent world of drugs and alcohol, to look at having this happy, clean life doesn't always look so good. [Laughs] But once I finally turned the corner, I like to think of it as I got "struck sober." I got blessed with the gift of it, and once that happened, then I was like, "This is awesome!" And fortunately, I've maintained discipline and diligence in a new life here, and as a result, I have not had the temptations or obsessions or anything to go back to the old way of life. It's interesting, because one of the hardest things for me when we were writing "Rust in Peace" and I was getting clean was that my fingers hurt to even touch the instrument. Especially coming off of narcotics and those kinds of things that I was taking, for my fingers to touch the steel of the string on the neck of my bass β€” it was actually painful. I was thinking, "Oh my God, I don't know if I'm ever going to want to play music again." And that frightened me, the thought that I might not ever play, or even want to play, again. So I held on to a kind of youthful thought from when I started playing bass when I was 11: I didn't play it for the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, I played it strictly because I loved music. It was all pretty innocent and wholesome, and I started playing because I loved rocking and I loved thrashing. So I had to hold on to the dream of an 11-year-old again to get me back to the inspiration and the fun that it was in the beginning. I thought that as long as I held on to that, that really helped me transition through it until I got detoxed and cleaned up. And then I really, truly started to enjoy playing again.

LA Music Blog: How big of a role has your faith played in being able to maintain an alcohol-free lifestyle?

Ellefson: The faith is everything. It's all of it, in fact, that's the entire reason that I've been able to maintain it. I know it might seem kind of weird for this metal guy to be talking about God and the Lord and all that, but the truth of it is that is it: having a strong faith. And of course, I was raised in a good family, in a good, strong faith growing up. And as soon as I started drinking and partying, not only did it take me away from my faith, but ultimately, it destroyed my dreams of playing rock 'n' roll. That's how screwed up it is β€”it's not like it made rock 'n' roll better. It even destroyed that. I really had to get it back to pure innocence, and once again, I think that was the irony: here we are in "Rust in Peace", playing this really ripping, hard thrash and rocking out, and the record was so ferocious. And the whole time, it was like I was developing this whole new faith walk, and in my time away from MEGADETH, I really got heavily involved in that. I started up the Mega Life Ministries out in Scottsdale, and I got involved in a lot of other things. In fact, when we were making the "Risk" album out in Nashville, I had this one worship leader back in Scottsdale ask me if I would sit in with him and play at church one time. So one part of me thought, "Man, that's lame," and the other part went "You know, I could be into sight-reading some charts." [Laughs] So I started doing it, and everything just started taking me down new roads. It's almost like the faith side of my life just kept getting wider and wider, and growing and growing, and getting richer and developing more and more. I realized that I can stand on the stage of rock 'n' roll and thrash with the best of 'em. In fact, my playing gets better the more I spend time developing faith. I realize that the faith has to come first, and the notes seem to naturally follow after.

LA Music Blog: So with that in mind, do you consider your music to now be a direct reflection of your faith?

Ellefson: Music itself is sort of a reflection of the Holy Spirit flowing through you. I hate to sound like a religious geek here, and I don't mean it to sound like that. I know that when I was really whacked and played, there was no music 'cause there was nothing coming out of me, there was nothing coming through me. It's almost like you're a channel for music, so that's why I really admire people who really tap into that. Even Dave [Mustaine] and I over the years β€” Dave will just pick up his guitar and some riff just falls off his fingerboard, and I'm like, "Geez! How did he come up with that?" It sounds so simple, and I think I could've come up with that, but he did! And I've always admired that about him. So whether you're playing metal or you play whatever kind of music, it's just cool when you see people are able to channel music through them. It's an admiration that I have, and obviously when I create things too, I step back and I go, "Wow, I don't even know where that came from. It just sort of flowed right out of me."

Read the entire interview from LA Music Blog.

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