MEGADETH's DAVID ELLEFSON On METALLICA: 'It's Unbelievable That A Metal Band Could Be As Big As U2'
March 30, 2019
MEGADETH's David Ellefson says that he never got the call to audition for the bassist position in METALLICA after Jason Newsted left the band over 18 years ago.
Newsted exited METALLICA in January 2001, after he clashed with James Hetfield over the release of an album by ECHOBRAIN, Jason's side project. He was replaced by producer Bob Rock in the studio, for the recording of 2003's "St. Anger" album, and then permanently by former OZZY OSBOURNE bassist Robert Trujillo.
In a new interview with Italy's Linea Rock, Ellefson was asked if it's true that he was considered for the METALLICA bassist position once it was announced that Newsted had split with the group.
"When Jason had left, there was a phone call made over to our side about… I was, I guess, on a short list," Dave said. "I never did get a call. It's funny — I actually sat down for the first time and learned… kind of dug deep, as a musician, into some METALLICA songs. 'Cause I'm a METALLICA fan, especially the early records — I love them. And they're our friends.
"I was always go back to my METALLICA, that I was introduced to, [which] was pre-'Kill 'Em All', the 'No Life 'Til Leather' METALLICA, which is what Dave [Mustaine, MEGADETH leader] had played me when I first met him. 'Cause I met him in June '83, and I don't think 'Kill 'Em All' came out till, what, maybe August or something. I just remember listening to 'Mechanix' and 'Phantom Lord' and 'Hit The Lights', all that stuff off that 'No Life 'Til Leather' demo — which had a different bass player, Ron McGovney, who I love. He's a great bass player. He played with a pick. I play his bass line on 'Mechanix'. I play it the way he played it on the 'No Life 'Til Leather' demo. So I have kind of even a different experience with METALLICA. But as we've gotten to know them… I love their band. And I just look at them, too, even just as a musician — man, the doors they broke down and the things they accomplished, with not only great songs, but just as a team and their organization. It's unbelievable that a metal band could be as big as U2. 'Cause that's how big they are — they are that massive.
"As brothers in our genre, and I guess by default playing with Dave [Mustaine], I'm now a branch off that family tree," Ellefson continued. "I mean, what an honor — to be even part of that, and to be part of the genre and everything that we've done. The 'Big Four' [shows in 2010 and 2011], I think, was the big celebration of that.
"I look at it kind of like we were all fighting our way up the hill in our early career, and then we all got to the top of the hill and we got to enjoy the view and have our success, and now, all these years later, we can come together as the 'Big Four,' as brothers, and share war stories," he added.
"The truth of it is inside all of our bands, we're all just the same — I mean, we really are. Despite the platinum records and accolades and that stuff, the truth of it is inside every band, we're all just the same — we really are. There's so many similarities between all of us."
Back in 2011, Mustaine said that he was relieved that Ellefson wasn't invited to join METALLICA after the tragic death of Cliff Burton.
Burton died on tour in 1986 in a tour bus crash, three years after Mustaine was kicked out of METALLICA and went on to form MEGADETH.
Mustaine told CBS: "When Cliff died, there was a moment where Dave's name had come up [as Burton's possible replacement in METALLICA] and I was a little concerned. I didn't want to lose my bassist and I certainly didn't want to have another reason to be upset. God knows I had my reasons, even though they weren't all real. A lot of them were caused by myself."
He admitted: "I just don't think I would have done well if I'd have known that had happened. Fortunately for me, I think those guys took that into account and just said, 'Let's find someone else.'"