Bassist Dave Ellefson is best known for his work with Megadeth from 1983 to 2002 when there was a somewhat acrimonious parting of the ways. After leaving Megadeth Dave played with a host of different bands and has just announced his return to the Megadeth fold. While preparing to head out on the road with his new/old band he took the time to look back on his musical career with MTUK...
CK: Hi Dave – thanks very much for taking the time to answer these questions, I’m sure it must be a really busy time for you at the moment.
DE: You can say that, yes… ha! ha!
CK: I’d like to start by asking what your earliest musical memory is – what is the first music you can remember listening to or being exposed to?
DE: The first record I recall, at home, is my mother’s Mary Wells (The Supremes) album. From there I heard Neil Diamond and others like that, on local AM radio stations.
CK: Did you grow up in a musical family? Were your parents supportive of your musical ambitions?
DE: My mother was musical, yes. She sang in the church choir, knew how to play piano and was a huge Elvis fan. My father really couldn’t carry a tune at all but he was extremely supportive of me in my teenage years as a musician. He helped me buy basses, PA gear, trailers to haul it around in, etc…, and was really strongly behind me moving to LA back in 1983 after I graduated high school.
CK: I believe the first instruments you played were keyboards and saxophone – what led you to taking up the bass? Was there a particular iconic figure that inspired you to pick up the bass?
DE: I heard the bass in songs on the radio and I thought it sounded cool, really. It was also a cool looking instrument…real long neck with fat strings. I loved how it sounded on KISS’ ‘Shout It Out Loud’ and I was hooked.
CK: Do you remember what the first songs you learned to play on the bass were?
DE: I was largely self taught but took lessons from my band instructors in school too, so I think I probably started playing stuff from my ‘Mel Bay Bass Guitar Volume 1’ book first…. I remember trying to figure out KISS and Bachman Turner Overdrive songs but, at least initially, they were beyond my early skill level…
CK: Did you ever have any formal bass lessons after that or were you completely self-taught? Do you think formal lessons are important for someone setting out on their musical path?
DE: They’re useful but, even though I was primarily self taught and I took lessons on top, it was when I joined the jazz band in my school that I really opened up to new musical experiences. I got to travel out to some regional jazz fests and that opened my eyes and ears to some fantastic players. I think my rock and roll leanings gave my jazz bass chops a really unique and interesting sound… People have always commented on how my abilities grew in those early years and that was wonderfully rewarding for me.
CK: Do you have a favourite bass? What is it about that particular instrument that you like?
DE: A favourite? I have several that I keep around just for recording and then others that I use for touring – they all have their own signature. I have Fenders, Modulus, Spectors and now several Peavey signature models that work really good in many applications.
CK: After the split with Megadeth did you ever consider hanging up your bass, retiring from music? Was it difficult to find the strength to carry on?
DE: No, and I never really considered that at all. I got a few tour offers right away which I admit, I passed on, because it seemed more important to just take that moment in time to develop more as a songwriter and artist, but I’m glad I did, because it made me a much better musician. Music is part of who I am so I will always play.
CK: The latest album release you’ve been involved with is the Kingdom Of Evil record from Angels Of Babylon, with ex-Manowar drummer Rhino. How did you get involved with that band?
DE: Well, Rhino, vocalist Dave Fefolt and I met in Phoenix on a recording session a few years back and got along real well. It was a really strong bond. I didn’t play on that particular session, but we decided there and then, that given time, we should try to create something new, which became AOB!
CK: Can you tell me something about the recording of the Angels Of Babylon album? Did you ever all play together in the studio or was it all done by e-mailing files to each other? Has the band ever played live?
DE: No, not yet but I hope it’ll happen? Rhino is the primary songwriter and Dave wrote all the vocal melodies and most of the lyrics. It was really a matter of sending files back and forth, which is the reality of how we can work together in this modern day and age, isn’t it?
CK: How would you describe the music of Angels Of Babylon for the uninitiated?
DE: Oh, it’s definitely Power Metal. It’s heavy, melodic and very catchy. Check it out!
CK: You’ve just announced your return to Megadeth – many congratulations on that – does that mean that all other projects like Angels Of Babylon and F5 will have to be put on hold? Is there a future for Angels Of Babylon? Will they continue without you?
DE: Thank you very much… My thought at the moment, is that I want to continue a musical life in addition to Megadeth, even though that has a pretty full schedule right now with a lot of touring coming up…I think musicians should always work with other people when and where ever possible! Fundamentally, it makes them better players. F5 has not had any immediate plans for a record and Angels Of Babylon is securing the North American release for “Kingdom Of Evil” right now….. So, if they need another bassist to tour that record in the interim, it has my blessing. If not, then hopefully, we can address that during off time with Megadeth.
CK: What albums that you’ve been involved with outside Megadeth are you most proud of?
DE: Both F5 records are things I’m particularly proud of, as are the TEMPLE OF BRUTALITY, AVIAN and now, Angels Of Babylon records. I also like the Soulfly “Prophecy” album… That was a cool moment in time for all of us.
CK: Which song (or songs) that you’ve written or co-written in your career are you most proud of?
DE: Well, I really like “Dawn Patrol” because it is so quirky, especially for a Thrash Metal record. And, I also like the F5 song “Dissidence” on the first album “A Drug For All Seasons”.
CK: Are there any particular musical ambitions that you’d still like to fulfil in your career?
DE: God, I’m sure there will be many more as time marches on. I never did any side projects or solo records in almost 20 years with Megadeth so I think these past eight years have shown a side of my musical life that people didn’t get to see before. It was a really good exploration and one that I’m looking forward to continuing in the years ahead!
CK: Well, thanks again for your time Dave and all the best for the reunion with Megadeth; I hope it works out well for you.
DE: Thank you very much!
For more on the band check out http://www.davidellefson.com
Interviewed by Chris Kee