MEGADETH's DAVID ELLEFSON: How I Was Reintroduced To The Faith Of My Childhood
December 26, 2018
In a recent interview with MA Entertainment Global, MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson spoke about how he was reintroduced to the faith of his childhood at the age of 25, when the rock-star lifestyle had caught up to him and he entered a 12-step recovery program. After moving to Arizona and starting a family, he began attending church at Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church, a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregation in Scottsdale.
"I always had [faith]," Ellefson said (see video below). "I'm a little different. I'm not this evangelical approach where I need to be… Have you seen the new QUEEN movie? There's a great line Freddie Mercury says toward the end of the movie, and it's sort of this cautionary tale of 'we saved one from rock and roll,' and 'he's now on our side' — us against them. And that's the problem heavy metal people have when someone says, 'Hey, I got clean. I found a new kind of faith journey.' Because it sounds like that — it sounds like, 'Oh, no. Here we go again.' But that's not my story.
"I was a kid who grew up on a farm — Lutheran kid — and I just kind of always had this simple faith," he continued. "It was in my family. It was part of the fabric of the Midwest kind of farming working class. So when I was getting into drugs and drinking and doing all that stuff, I knew I was moving in the wrong direction. So, for me, it was really kind of just sort of of this coming back to… I mean, my prayer was real simple: 'God, I'm completely screwed. Please help.' That was the conversion prayer. It wasn't any big religious thing; it wasn't chariots on the clouds and these other angelic descriptions. It was pretty simple: 'Dude, I'm completely screwed. I need help.' And sometimes, when you talk to God like that, he's always listening. It's just a matter of our conviction… Like the saying, 'There's no atheist in a foxhole.' So when stuff gets tough and times get tough, sometimes that's what kind of drives us to our knees, figuratively speaking. And even in rock and roll, that happens."
Ellefson also talked about how music comes from divine inspiration and how whatever we acquire through art comes from God.
"People come to see us 'cause we're badass on stage — that music, the conviction of how we play — but that conviction, I always say, those notes and those words, they come from above," he said. "And I think people feel that in MEGADETH. I think when fans say, 'Oh my God. Your music meant so much to me. It helped me through a dark time.' Even a song like 'In My Darkest Hour', it surprises me that that song gets people through a dark time, but there's something in that lyric, there's something in the emotion of that music, and that's divinely created stuff. Music is spirit, and it flows through us as we create it into the listener. The same way [IRON] MAIDEN and KISS and everybody that I grew up with, their music inspired me. And you can hear when songs are inspired, and that's why they sell — 'cause they connect. It's not about the money; it's not about the sale; it's about the connection that it has."
Ellefson touched upon the subject of lyrics in heavy metal music and he fact that many bands tend to use dark imagery and demonic references in their music, seemingly putting it at odds with Christian values. Using the IRON MAIDEN song "The Number Of The Beast" as an example, David said: "I called my pastor and said, 'Okay, give me the lowdown on 'the number of the beast.' He went into Revelation 13:9 and talked about how Satan comes through the powers of… to try to bring down the church and try to bring down Christian believers and people of faith through politics. I'm, like, 'Okay, well, that's a no-brainer. You see that happening every day.'"
He went on to say: "[IRON MAIDEN bassist] Steve Harris [was] a wonderful writer — very well read — and he wrote these things. That lyric scared a lot of kids my age when we were teenagers, driving to high school listening to 'The Number Of The Beast'. We were, like, 'Dude, this is rad.' And listening to Ronnie Dio lyrics and stuff like that. But I go back and listen to the theology of Ronnnie Dio, and he was writing stuff that was just very aware… People of my generation — I'm 53 — we listened to those lyrics, and then, of course, MEGADETH, you hear these lyrics, man, and these are things that scared us, they inspired us, they intrigued us. It's sort of that moment when you pull back the curtain and look into the abyss. We're supposed to do that. We're curious. And sometimes, again, the church warns us against getting involved in those things, but we're human, man — that's what we do. We've gotta do it."
Ellefson will release "More Life With Deth", the follow-up to his memoir "My Life With Deth", in 2019 via Ellefson Music Press. The book was co-written by his business partner, radio personality and music journalist Thom Hazaert, and features contributions from Alice Cooper, Brian "Head" Welch (KORN),Dirk Verbeuren (MEGADETH) and many more of David's friends.
"My Life With Deth" chronicled the story of Ellefson's fall into addiction during MEGADETH's early years, followed by his subsequent recovery and the return to faith which championed the band's rise to fame over the past several decades. The book was written with Joel McIver, the bestselling author of more than two dozen books on rock music, and featured a foreword by Cooper.
Ellefson was in MEGADETH from the band's inception in 1983 to 2002, when the group briefly broke up because guitarist/vocalist Dave Mustaine suffered severe nerve damage that left him unable to play. After Mustaine reformed MEGADETH with an all-new lineup in 2004, Ellefson sued his former bandmate for $18.5 million, alleging that Mustaine still owed him substantial merchandise and publishing royalties. In January 2005, the case was dismissed in court, and five years later, Ellefson rejoined MEGADETH.