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megadeath davidellefson2013 01Interview with

David Ellefson (bass) from Megadeth

This year was very productive; MEGADETH reconfirmed them as one of leaders on modern metal scene. In June, the band released their new studio album ‘Super Collider’ which ascended to No. 6 on Billboard 200 Chart and which was followed by very successful tour across United States and South America where they shared the stage with other metal giants as IRON MAIDEN and BLACK SABBATH. In September, they presented the concert CD/DVD ‘Countdown to Extinction: Live’ to the fans. But all this activity is not enough for MEGADETH’s bass player and cofounder David Ellefson and in the beginning of the November he published a new book titled ‘My Life With Deth (Discovering Meaning in a Life of Rock & Roll)’ where he revealed the story of his life. We considered it as good reason to talk with David about all these events.

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: How did you get an idea to write this book?
David: Joel McIver, my co-writer, had really urged me that get start it back in 2010 when I came back to the band. Dave Mustaine was writing his ‘…Memoir’ with ready to come out at that time. And… And a quite Joel push me to do it because a lot of great things developed over the last three now almost four years since I’ve been back in the group. Because it’s a way to let the fans know who I am as a person both on the stage but also after stage. And, you know, heavy metal music is behind it. There are people with a lot of different dynamic lives that create this music. And I think that’s a purpose of writing this book is that it allows your fans to get to know you. And certainly MEGADETH (maybe more than many bands) - we’ve been really open about our personal lives to our fans because it shapes the music that we write and it shapes the decisions we make and I think in a lot of ways it helps us being even more megadeath davidellefson2013 04connected to our fans by not always trying to keep our personal life not so personal way… Heavy metal for us fans – and I say “us” cause I’m also heavy metal fan – heavy metal is a way of life not just a songs we play.

RoD: How was your collaboration with Joel going? Did you tell him your story via Skype sessions and he did all the rest or did you participate in the editorial process?
David: No, I was very much [involved in the process]. I did a lot of the writing. In fact he did… once I told Joel the story and Joel put it on paper and sent it over to me. I did considerable re-writing just because I wanted my words to sound better than I told him over Skype. And I also needed to describe some things chronologically. So I did a lot of the writing and it is not taken in with Joel. He knew his role was to give my story on paper and at some degree he was much like a record producer, his job was kind of to produce my book for me. I’m an artist he is a producer.  So the words are mine, the story is mine but he had great sensibilities with knowing what parts of the book needed to be emphasized which parts we didn’t need to emphasize so much. And, you know, I think ultimately [he] became a good second judge of the character of the story…

RoD: In your book you mentioned that in end of 80’s many musicians became concerned about their sobriety. And the mainstream media suddenly lost the interest to heavy music approximately at the same time. I remember that time very well here in Russia – metal disappeared from the TV, we had here couple of rock radios – they were closed, metal stopped to be fashionable almost in a moment. I don’t think it is just a coincidence. Do you?
David: Well, I think it WAS a coincidence and here is why: I think a lot of the people that let be sobriety movement in showbiz, in Rock’n’Roll world by enlarge people from the 60’s and the 70’s. And people who were very open about it like David Crosby, who is from the sixties, Aerosmith, who are from the seventies, maybe MÖTLEY CRÜE who are from the early eighties – these were people who were all getting sober because they were sick of life depended on.  I mean such access thru the eighties to the drugs and alcohol in the music business, in the entertainment business in large part because cocaine became very popular in the United States. And cocaine is a kind of drug that would bring anybody to its knees quickly. Even if you were not full-blown drug addict people that took cocaine suddenly found their lives paroling out of control. I think that cocaine epidemic borrowing this world turn huge corners. But as much as metal music may disappeared of TV in the United States by the mid of 1990’s what was then in favour was Seattle music which was just short row with a major heroin addiction. And megadeath davidellefson2013 03many of those artists of course come out about it, one of them is no longer with us and so the heroin epidemic of Seattle – you know that it is funny that cocaine filled the 80’s but heroin basically brought music to its knees through addiction from [it].

In the 90’s and maybe in 2000’s people figured out how hard do all of this. Nobody worry about anymore but now probably more than anything, as we talk about our song from the new album – ‘Kingmaker’ – it’s a pill epidemic! People who luck of life can become basically legal drug addicts thru prescription medication. And that’s almost worse because when the drugs are sold on the street there is certain culture that goes with that. But when all these prescription drugs can just come right to anybody’s home and with the promise of all that my doctor prescribed for me… Kind of like cocaine people who are normally drug addicts can get strong out and certainly depended on pills which is… You know the happy pill generation is now. For me personally I am very thankful that I got out of that lifestyle and had given some tools to help me to navigate through life in a way from addiction at such young age, at age of 25 and that is certainly a big part of the story of my book. I did not write the book to become some sort of the spiritual warrior, to be some sort of the entry drug/ approach sobriety guy – it is not my intention of the book but that is definitely the part of my story and how I went thru those things. I think it carries stronger message when you just share your own life story rather than note with some sort of crusade that tells everybody how they should live their lives.

RoD: This year you had the tour dates with the heroes of your childhood: IRON MAIDEN and BLACK SABBATH. Have you ever shared the stage with these bands before?
David: We played with IRON MAIDEN several times of these years [in] Europe. But we haven’t US dates with IRON MAIDEN for twenty five years. Ironically, 1988 when we released So far… So good… So what... and for them it was ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ tour. And what is funny – we did seven shows with them that year then and issue that we did seven shows with them 25 years later. And they were playing songs from ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ but we didn’t officially do the 25th anniversary of So far… So good… So what… We did start to put of few couple more songs back in the set just because that record has come of age once again… 

As for BLACK SABBATH – we played one show with them when they re-formed. It was called New Year’s Evil in Phoenix, Arizona - my hometown. It was I believe in 1998 going into the New Year of 1999. And that was their official reformation with Ozzy back in SABBATH. Couple of last times that we have played with them – this sure was really fantastic to go down to South America because of everything: BLACK SABBATH had never been down there before and we as MEGADETH are very popular down there. So it was really good bill heavy metal coming together from a couple of different generations and across of many-many years of the genre to put it all together for the people of South America. It was really just a fantastic tour down there.

RoD: Have you ever thought to play some jam with them? I mean that you used to make the cover for Paranoid and maybe it would be interesting to see how both band to perform this song together?
David: You know, a lot of fans have asked us about that …. One wants it on stage at MEGADETH’s show; another one wants it on stage at BLACK SABBATH’s show. And our cover megadeath davidellefson2013 02of ‘Paranoid’ was done as honoraria to BLACK SABBATH on the record ‘Nativity in Black’. It was all about stepping ahead to them. But you know, as much as it is a great idea to do that – I think it takes sometime the reality of doing that it doesn’t really have its place in the real word. When both bands - big, you know, mega stadium acts go on stage to do that – it didn’t happen and quite as I don’t think that this idea had ever brought up.

RoD: What do you think about the future of metal genre? I mean record sales are almost destroyed because albums are leaked thru Internet even before their official release. Income from recording is low and because of that ticket prices are high, and then we all see the packs of the big acts like MEGADETH / BLACK SABBATH, MEGADETH / IRON MAIDEN, SLAYER / IRON MAIDEN to attract enough audience to the large venues. And where it all will go to?
David: You’re right and everything you’ve just said. And it was a trend we started to see it happen. MEGADETH got it into the wire and we got to enjoy it with some of the success of our songs being played on the radio, being played on MTV around the world. You know the video revolution changed music business in the big-big way in the mainstream because all of sudden everybody could turn on the TV and watch music rather than just listen to it on the radio. And of course the next media that came along was Internet which kind of undid all that. And you know the Internet changed how we do everything. In fact you and I are doing this interview from Russia to United States and it is possible because of the Internet…

To me the music business isn’t over but it is definitely in the serious transition and quite honestly: I like that! You know, you and I through Facebook add some correspondents and here we are doing an interview. I think much more like independent, DYI kind of artist. And I guess may be that it is because of those years when I was away from MEGADETH. You know, in 2002 the band ended, the band was over and I was forced to reassess how I am gonna operate as independent musician at that time and even now when as you know I’m back in MEGADETH I still see thru the eyes of as independent musician cause it is quite honestly. When we were starting thrash metal we were all eager for independence: we started on the independent label, there was a passion of our fans, we started the fanzines probably much like you’re doing, much like a lot of the people who have heavy metal Internet web-sites to promote heavy metal - they’re not doing it for sponsorship - they’re doing it for a lot of heavy metal! So I think, what’s happen this – is that pure only in for the money? Yeah, you’re gonna feel the pains big time, it’s gonna be painful. But I think thru those of us who are really in it because we love the music, we love the lifestyle, we are passionate about of being united together as a tribe – for us the changes that come about  because of the Internet have only helped us and they’re actually probably brought us closely together.

RoD: Nowadays musicians cannot be unconcerned about money otherwise it will quickly lead them to bankruptcy. But if the band concerns on the business too much – we all know such cases – it will lead to the loss of productivity. MEGADETH managed to find a real balance – families, books, Gigantour fest – and you still release the new album every 2 years. What is the secret?
David: We’d get out better rumouring and this is what we do. We are musicians, we’re artists, we’re recording, we’re touring, we prolific so we write [a lot]. I can just speak from myself… I megadeath davidellefson2013 01think: first of all we have a story to tell, so for me and Dave to write the books – it is a part of just telling the ongoing story of MEGADETH to large degree. But also I kinda look at my life like I’ve rediscovered that recent years I like communicating with people whether it is thru music, thru lyrics, thru songs, thru interviews, thru writing the books. I just like to communicate with our fans and with the world. I’d like to go out and to be a part of the world rather than to go in and to turn into… I think rather than going in and making my world smaller I’d rather go out and make my world bigger. And that is, I think, how would you see all these things: records, books, touring - that is a result of that kind of thinking. The music business that I got involved in many years ago, that I grew up in – that business doesn’t exist like that anymore. The opportunities to start there, the ability to sign a huge record deal, and have lots of money – all these things… It’s always been a Cinderella’s story, now it is a Cinderella’s story more than ever.

But again, I think, that a lot of musicians we’d love nothing more than to be able to just make a living plain on music so we don’t have to be distracted by other things, the things that is goal of any creative person whether you are a chef, you are musical artist or you paint whatever, you write whatever this you do… The goal is to make enough money, this sustains your thoughts, and you control your entire opportunity, your creative endeavours. And that requires – you should always pay attention to the business, I don’t hold with those who think that there are just have someone else handle the business. You should always at least know what’s going on with your money, and your decisions and your contracts, cause at the end of the day it is your name on the bottom line. Someone else may represent you but it is your name and you are the one ultimately responsible. So I think to any creative person – they need to pay attention to that stuff and that doesn’t come easy for a lot of creative people, lot of people use one side of their brand more than the other – that is part of the creative process and that it is important that we also balance that out when we making business decisions.

RoD: Have you ever thought to re-edit and re-issue Making music your business? I mean you’d published it 15 years ago; you became more experienced, the whole situation in showbiz changed totally so maybe it is time to renovate it somehow…
David: Oh, here is what I did. I actually had an offer put to me by my publisher to do the audio-book version of making music your business which I actually just completed prior to this tour. And that should be available… I don’t have the release date on yet but I’m hoping it will be right after the first of the year. However I just know that my publisher of my book is able to release that as audio-book version. So what I did – I actually updated few things: chapter on the video ages, it was a little antiquated so I updated that, I expanded more on the Internet and updated some few other things in this book: essentially the kind of make of audio-book version kinda like Volume 2 of this book. Because you right it came out so many years ago when the business has changed, although something is still the same but there is a lot of that is just updated. So hopefully I’ll be making some announcements about this audio-book shortly.

RoD: Just a question about your unsung book. You offered to use the lyrics from this book under the license to everybody for their own songs. Did anybody use this unique opportunity to get you as song co-author?
David: I did! I have a couple of people who approached me about it. Some person once aback - he is kind of a friend of mine living in Phoenix – who actually used the lyrics of new song called “Contest Money” and he actually wrote some music to it. I think it’s a little bounding, not everybody knows exactly how the process works of using something with license. So those of us who’ve been in the business gone in a while would know how that process works. So I think that a song is not something that they probably feel comfortable to approach me about. And this one is as I just put it out and say: “Hey, this is my lyrics and I don’t currently have the music to some of them”. And actually I’ve now written some music to a few of them so… But I feel it’s kind of put it out because I think they’re really good lyrics – topics are cool – and they’re very metal and hard rock in nature. So somebody wanted to co-write the tunes with me or putting my lyrics to their music – at least I want to offer that and I’m open to the opportunity to be kind of a co-creative endeavour.

RoD: If you should explain with only one song what MEGADETH is to the man who never heard about it – which one would you chose?
David: Because of lyrics or whole package?

RoD: Whole package: both music and lyrics…
David: I think to a large degree ‘Peace Sells But Who Is Buying’ is a quintessential must have MEGADETH song. Especially now more than ever: that song is written in 1986 and here we are in 2013, almost 2014 – and the lyrics of that song still stand adjust a time. And because this song is easy and powerful – you don’t have to be a metal fan to like that song.


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