MEGADETH Bassist On 'Dystopia' Album: 'We Had To Get It Back Down To Nothing To Build Something Really Incredible Up'
August 10, 2018
Metal Wani's Chuck Marshall recently conducted an interview with MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson. You can now listen to the chat below. A couple of excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether it's true that MEGADETH is planning on releasing new music in 2019:
Ellefson: "That's the goal. I think we learned with [2016's] 'Dystopia' that we're at a point in our career where we can still make really compelling new music, but it's also important to take our time and really make it as great as we possibly can. And I say that because I came back to the band… I came in [after the] 'Endgame'  album, which was a really strong album, and there was a sense of renewed urgency and passion when we made the 'Thirteen'  album. We were doing the 'Big Four' shows, and we only had about 10 weeks to crank this record out, and it was fun, because it sort of hung our feet to the fire and you could feel there was a really good energy about the album and we were all excited because there was big touring behind that — the 'Mayhem' tour, 'Big Four', all these things. But by the time we got to 'Super Collider' , that was an album that wasn't as focused; it was an album that was done in more of a hurry, there were tour dates booked in the summer. I think we felt boxed in a bit on that album, and suddenly we were making an album on a schedule a second time when we really needed some more time to breathe. There are some great tracks on it — I'm not discounting it as an album; it's got some really cool stuff on it — but I just think, as a group, it took its toll on us. And, obviously, as the group sort of dismantled and remounted again for what became 'Dystopia', there was a process there that, I think, now with MEGADETH… I think we're there now, where we've recalibrated things to really honor and respect our legacy and know what our fans like. And you don't just make records only for your fans; you have to make records also for you as the creator of them. But I think it helped sort of recalibrate to us that which is really at the core and heart of MEGADETH. And there's some things that we all write that are really, really good, but they are just not right for MEGADETH. And that goes for every one of us in the band. And I think, for me, it's been helpful to have things like METAL ALLEGIANCE, to have things like me and Frank Bello's [ANTHRAX] ALTITUDES & ATTITUDE, and there's a few other outlets on the side, that allow me to express this sort of other tones of my voice that are not MEGADETH. And even METAL ALLEGIANCE — as much as it's a metal record, it's not the same. MEGADETH has a very narrow window of what is MEGADETH and what should be MEGADETH, and I think we found the epicenter of that again on 'Dystopia'."
On whether he and MEGADETH leader Dave Mustaine have ever felt musically "boxed in" on some of the previous albums:
Ellefson: "No, I think we've gone pretty wide with it. Certainly the extreme was 'Risk' , I think — admittedly so. And maybe 'Cryptic Writings' . That was a whole different period in time of rock music and metal music, and thrash was really just pushed back down into the extreme underground. And we discovered this whole other melodic musical side of MEGADETH that we felt compelled to really bring up to the surface and really push out there, and it was cool — it was just a different side of us. But then, as time went on, we internally felt like — especially after the 'Risk' album — we felt like, 'Man, we have really ventured off. We've sort of lost the plot and we've gotten way off the course here.' And, of course, a lot of fans were going, 'What the hell?' And we listened; we paid attention. And again, the fans, if nothing else, become a barometer to us internally too. Of course, a concert is always more fun when there's a lot of fans who love what you do — I mean, I'm not gonna lie — but at the same time, you can't just always please them; you have to internally feel like you've made a great record that you feel really good about. And I think every record we have done that, but there was this period in time heading into the 2000s where it was time to really get it back to its core of what it was. And that's hard, man, because, at that point, we were in our 30s, heading into our 40s — we weren't the same young little 21-, 23-year-olds who wrote 'Killing Is My Business'  and 'Peace Sells' ; you're just not that guy anymore. So I think, looking back on it, especially when you look at 'Dystopia', 'Dystopia' was this point where we went back and really honored the truth of what MEGADETH was at its origin yet we made no bones that it was at the time 2016 and it's a new day for MEGADETH too. Part of it, too, is the technology. I go back and I listen to 'Peace Sells' and those records, and they're real raw, because that was the technology in the day. Everything was analog. The quality of our equipment — we were poor and we didn't have great equipment. We hadn't even gotten signed to Capitol yet when we made 'Peace Sells' — we were still on Combat. So we were just flying by the seat of our pants and just scraping by. Yet what you don't hear in the technology, you certainly hear in the angst and the emotion of the album. And it's kind of funny, 'cause 'Dystopia' was a lot like 'Peace Sells' — we were down to nothing. It as me and Dave [Mustaine]. At one point, we didn't even have management; we were in transition. We didn't even have a band; we were in transition. It's ironic that we had to get it back down to nothing to build something really incredible up, just like we did on 'Peace Sells', and even on 'Rust In Peace', quite honestly."
MEGADETH's upcoming effort will mark the group's first release to feature drummer Dirk Verbeuren, who officially joined the band more than two years ago.
In 2018, MEGADETH is celebrating its 35th anniversary all year long, with special releases, exclusive merchandise items, and one-of-a-kind events and opportunities for fans worldwide.
"Dystopia" was MEGADETH's first album with guitarist Kiko Loureiro, who was previously best known for his work with ANGRA.
Ellefson recently added a string of European dates to his "Basstory" tour, a series of limited and exclusive "Storytellers" shows, starting September 21 in Portland, Oregon.
Dubbed "Basstory: An Intimate Evening Of Riffs And Repartee With David Ellefson", the show combines solo bass performance with David's celebrated brand of storytelling, as he recounts intimate details of his struggles and triumphs in the name of rock 'n' roll.