MEGADETH's DAVID ELLEFSON: Fans Respect DAVE MUSTAINE's 'Authenticity And Uncompromising Methods'
December 21, 2020
In a new interview with Spain's Metal Journal, MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson spoke about how his relationship with the band's leader, Dave Mustaine, has evolved in the four decades since the group was first formed. He said: "Well, it's changed. When we first started, Dave wrote everything. We sat in a room, we all kind of spitballed and talked about things, especially when [guitarist] Greg Handevidt was [in the band]. But Dave very much wanted to be in charge, and you could tell a lot of that was based on what happened with METALLICA. Even in his book, he talked about that. He said he realized his name wasn't on the METALLICA contract, and then they booted him out of the band, and he said, 'Never again would I not pay attention.' So, to his credit, he's definitely paid attention, and I've gotta give him credit for that. I do the same thing in the ELLEFSON band — it's my name on the door, [and] I've gotta really pay attention. And the buck stops with me. And I think Dave feels that way with MEGADETH — the buck stops with him.
"Look, the '90s was obviously a very collaborative period, with that lineup," Ellefson continued. "We were very prolific. We wrote some of the fan-favorite records. And then we had to go through a lot of other stuff. A lot of times, when heavy metal wasn't en vogue, it wasn't in fashion, Seattle music, nu metal and all kinds of other things came in that were kind of the flavor of that day, [and] MEGADETH and METALLICA stood through that. Really, the 'Big Four', quite honestly — SLAYER as well, and ANTHRAX. Those things require flexibility in a relationship.
"One of the things I've always admired about Dave is he's a fighter, man — he will really fight for what he believes in," David added. "And I realized right away, get behind him or stand next to him; don't get in front of him. That's kind of, I think, why our friendship and why our band relationship has worked — just get behind his vision.
"Vision is kind of like you see something that others can't. And with MEGADETH, Dave has been great with that — he really has," Ellefson said. "And when managers and people have tried to sway him, he's kind of gone down that road a little bit, 'cause he knows, 'I hired a manager. I should take their direction.' But he knows right away when it's not right, and he will pull back [and say], 'I'm not doing that. It's not right. I can't do it.' And I think that's the thing that fans respect about Dave — they respect his authenticity and his uncompromising methods. And that's a hallmark of MEGADETH, and Dave certainly gets the credit for that."
Ellefson was in MEGADETH from the band's inception in 1983 to 2002, when the group briefly broke up because Mustaine suffered severe nerve damage that left him unable to play.
Mustaine reformed MEGADETH 16 years ago. Originally setting out to record a solo album, Mustaine enlisted studio musicians to play on what ultimately became MEGADETH's 2004 "The System Has Failed" comeback album, subsequently recruiting former ICED EARTH bassist James MacDonough to take Ellefeson's place for the album's touring cycle.
In 2004, Ellefson filed an $18.5-million lawsuit against Mustaine, alleging the frontman 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.
In his first memoir, "My Life With Deth", Ellefson admitted that he became a salaried employee upon his return to MEGADETH 10 years ago.
In addition to Mustaine and Ellefson, MEGADETH's current lineup includes former SOILWORK drummer Dirk Verbeuren and Brazilian guitarist Kiko Loureiro, who was previously best known for his work with ANGRA.
MEGADETH's latest album, "Dystopia", was released in January 2016.