MEGADETH's DAVID ELLEFSON: 'It's Great That The Young People Are Wearing Our Shirts And Listening To Our Songs'
December 2, 2018
Sofa King Cool recently conducted an interview with MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the "intimacy" of his current "Basstory" tour:
David: "That seems to be the comment we get — it's such a different concept, it's such a different thing. In this day and age where, as we get bigger, our bands — thank goodness — in popularity, you can't help but sometimes just lose the grassroots thing. And I think we do pretty good with that. We do the meet-and-greets; we try to do as many fan experiences as we can. But I thought doing this right now in the season when MEGADETH is off the road and come in and really get back to the… Really, this is the level of 'Killing Is My Business […Business Is Good]' tour and 'Peace Sells [... But Who's Buying?]' tour, so to really come back at this level… I mean, that's what I feel like. I go, 'Oh my gosh.' I remember playing 'Peace Sells' in a room about this big in 1985 and 1986. So it's fun for me and fans seem to be digging it."
On his upcoming plans, including his ATTITUDES & ALTITUDES side project that also features ANTHRAX bassist Frank Bello:
David: "[We have] a whole run. In fact, in January, Frank and I will do a quick little stop at NAMM, and then we go to ShipRocked. We're actually gonna do a 'Basstory' on ShipRocked with me and Frank. 'Cause one of the things I'm now doing is expanding this out to bring other musicians in. I brought in my friend Felix Robinson, who was the bass player in ANGEL; ANGEL and KISS grew up together on Casablanca Records. [I'm] doing stuff with Frank. Like today, I went over to Johny Chow's restaurant from STONE SOUR. And there's another bass player — when I worked at Peavey, he was an artist of mine that I was working with, and I saw him in his very early days. And him going through all the struggles with all these different gigs and finally with STONE SOUR just doing so well, to me, that's a 'bass story.' And now he's got a restaurant with his wife. And he literally came home from Russia, right in, and he's slinging dishes and serving food. That's kind of what I do with coffee. I come off tour with MEGADETH and bang, I'm on the phone or we're doing coffee or we're setting up 'Basstory' and putting out records with [Ellefson's label] EMP. Like the saying goes: 'If you do something you like, you never have to work a day in your life.' And that, to me, is the goal: do things you're passionate about, and that kind of keeps it all moving."
On MEGADETH's 2019 plans, including the summer North American tour in support of Ozzy Osbourne:
David: "Yeah, it's kind of a busy couple of months in Europe. [From] ShipRocked, [we go] straight over to Europe. We have some U.K. dates, some Europe dates. Then Slash was kind enough to put us [ATTITUDES & ALTITUDES] on some dates. He and I have been friends for many, many years, and he's one of the good guys of our business, and obviously, just a fantastic guitar player. And then, from there, I'm actually gonna stay in Europe and do another run of 'Basstory' across Europe. I did about 10 days and kind of skimmed the surface a little bit. And it's a little different over there. That's what's fun about this — every territory, and even in Europe, every country has its own sort of temperament. So I'm gonna go down to Turkey, I'm gonna go to Italy, Spain, France, over to the Czech Republic, even up to Denmark, Germany. So I'll be hitting a lot of different countries over there. And from there, we'll start ramping up for the Ozzy tour. Which is great. As we're doing 'Basstory', everybody comes [and goes], 'Man, I just bought my tickets yesterday.' So, yeah, that's gonna be one of the big tours of the summer."
On the status of the next MEGADETH studio album:
David: "We're doing it now. We've been working on it, compiling riffs and putting things together. It's just kind of the process of the nature of how our songs work. We've never been a band where we get in the room and [we say] 'Hey, bro, let's jam.' It's never been that. It's kind of creating a riff and an idea, and we sort of start piecing them together. We had, really, two or three years of [touring in support of] 'Dystopia', which is a lot for an album. So we're at this interesting moment in the band where, obviously, people wanna hear new music, because we continue to make good records, so they wanna hear them. And, yet, they still… Like tonight, I've noticed on 'Basstory', I'll throw out some stories and it's almost like a lot of people weren't born before 1985 or 1990, and I'll tell [them] about, 'Hey, did anybody see the 'Peace Sells' tour?' and it's like crickets. And I'm, like, 'Oh my God! This is a really young audience.' We're really blessed. 35 years of MEGADETH — we're in our fourth decade — so four generations of MEGADETH fans. So we've got really young kids. And it's funny — the young kids are going back and getting into the earlier stuff; they're the ones that are digging into the '80s and the early '90s. And then we've got fans probably our age, who have grown up with the band. I mean, there was a day when I was 'Junior.' At 18, starting MEGADETH with Dave [Mustaine, vocals/guitar], I was like one of the young, young guys on the campus, and now I'm one of the elder statesmen of the genre. But it's so cool to just have a whole world, kind of just a global tribe, that we've all grown up together. And it's great that the young people are growing up and wearing our shirts and listening to our songs. They're hearing it on Spotify — they're not buying albums. Young people don't buy albums — they buy one song or a couple of songs. And hey, that's how they buy music. It's all right."
On choosing a MEGADETH setlist:
David: "it's funny. there's probably 18 to 20 just kind of go-to songs; there's certainly a dozen of them for sure: 'Symphony [Of Destruction]', 'Peace Sells', 'Holy Wars […And The Punishment Due]', 'Hanger 18', 'Trust' — the ones that have been just the staples in the set — and you almost can't play a show without 'em. I mean, it just doesn't feel right. And I noticed when Dave was rebuilding MEGADETH with 'The System Has Failed' and 'United Abominations', I saw him really being forward. Because we have done so many of these… even through 'Cryptic Writings'. 'Cryptic Writings' was kind of a big turn, because we started headlining a lot of big radio festivals. But by 'Risk', it turned again. Heavier bands like DISTURBED and GODSMACK and COAL CHAMBER and younger bands were coming up. There was always a struggle to stay out of the clubs and stay out of the theaters and really keep it up in the arena level. And I think Gigantour is probably a really good effort to, 'Okay, how do we do what did with 'Clash Of The Titans'?' We're greater than the sum of our parts — two plus two equals five. How do we make that happen? And I think that's what we've been really trying to do with MEGADETH — always keep it up at that level, cause I think it deserves to be at that level. When it's that level, not only do more people get to enjoy it, but we get to enjoy it. It's a much more professional setting. You're not dealing with kind of the late-night bar/club environment and setting. 'Cause that burns you out, man. That's one way to send you to early retirement. 'Cause you go, 'Screw this. I don't wanna do this anymore.' But I think when you can keep it up at a big, arena, stadium level, it makes the whole experiences just so much more enjoyable. And, obviously, there's enough fans who support it. And if that means putting together package things, where we can go out and team up with several other big groups and make it even bigger than any one of us can do on our own… Again, what METALLICA did, that was very wise of them with the 'Big Four.' I mean, METALLICA can play stadiums [on its own], but it was a different experience when it was all four of us together. It really was. It was a super-cool moment. So I think just for all of us, we're always thinking about what that sort of connection is to our audience. And that connection is always changing because, again, the more years we're around, there's always a new group of fans that come in. And so we're always conscious about how to connect with them."
Ellefson's "Basstory" tour 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. "Basstory" also includes special VIP meet-and-greets, exclusive merchandise, and more.
"Dystopia" was released in early 2016. The band's next LP, which is tentatively due in 2019, will be the first to feature new drummer Dirk Verbeuren (ex-SOILWORK).