Megadeth: Handful Of Redemption
It’s been eight long and messy years for Megadeth’s original bass player, Dave Ellefson. When Dave Mustaine resurrected his thrash unit in 2004, Ellefson’s relationship with the notoriously mouthy frontman came to a spectacular end, with Ellefson suing over the rights to the band name, royalties and their back catalogue. After years of shit slinging through the press, in 2010 Mustaine announced to the world that Ellefson had rejoined the band and every thing has been just peachy ever since. So peachy, in fact, that they’ve just unharnessed Megadeth’s 13th record into the world, aptly titled TH1RT3EN.
Did you think a couple of years ago you’d be sitting here fielding questions about a new Megadeth album?
Well, let’s just say that I’d always hoped it would happen, I had faith it would happen, but yeah I’m very excited and kinda stunned that it did happen. I’m thrilled that this is the conversation we are having tonight, that’s for sure.
Fans are pretty stoked about the reunion of Dave Mustaine and yourself.
I think it was the right thing at the right time. The fans are certainly ecstatic about it. There’s a chemistry that Dave and I have together that began when we started Megadeth, oh so many years ago. It’s been a great year to come back with the Rust In Peace tour and the Big Four shows.
Speaking of the Big Four, when is it Australia’s turn? We’re feeling pretty left out.
[laughs] Hey, we want the Big Four down there. I think fans around the world want the Big Four. I think if there was ever something created with such impact and interest for our fans, it’s the Big Four. We can just hope and pray that there will be more of them, and for my own selfish reasons of my love of Australia I hope that there’s one for you down there.
You were the catalyst for the reunion between Dave and yourself, is that right?
Well yeah. In our time away, Dave and I didn’t have personal disagreements, there was some business disagreements, and I’m happy to say that those people who were involved in those disagreements aren’t around anymore. I think that allowed me and Dave to really just start connecting together. When we met, it was just me and him. When we started Megadeth and went through all of our formative and starvation years together it was me and him, you know, there were no lawyers, no managers, there wasn’t anybody – there was me and Dave against the world and against all odds for sure. Once matters settled between us, that really opened the doors to Dave and I just reaching out to each other. It was a slow process, but it was a really good one. When the time came for a bass player change, Shawn Drover, the drummer, really pushed the idea. He was like, “Man, there’s only one guy for the band, and that’s David.” That really helped connect me and Dave together and now the rest is history.
How does it feel to be part of the Megadeth line-up again?
Dave and I obviously had many, many years together, and I think what happened is when Megadeth wound down back in 2002, I moved on to some other things at that time because I was still a young man, I had my whole life ahead of me still. Quite honestly, I couldn’t envision a day when I wouldn’t be in Megadeth. In fact, I never envisioned a day when Megadeth didn’t exist, but one day Megadeth came to an end. That period of time was really, as it turns out, a productive season of growth for me, both musically, as a human being and as a young man. It allowed me to see the world through different eyes at that point, and they are all experiences I’m really glad I had because when it came time to come back to Megadeth, I came back a much different David Ellefson than the David Ellefson who had parted out of the band when it came to an end in 2002.
With everything going on with the Big Four, the 25th anniversary of Peace Sells… and constant touring, how did you find the time to punch out TH1RT3EN?
You know, it’s interesting how we didn’t have a lot of time. In fact, we saw this little window during our spring time in April through June to make this album, and we pretty quickly had to start sorting out who our producer was going to be because we knew Andy Sneap was not going to be available (who did the last couple of albums). And sometimes change is good. Megadeth has never had a producer work on more than literally two albums, sometimes that change is invigorating, I think that was part of the excitement. Working with a new producer Johnny K (Disturbed, Sevendust), we didn’t have any time to screw around because we were up against a deadline of getting the album turned in, and I find with Megadeth that usually when we have deadlines we do our best work.
Some of the songs on TH1RT3EN are bonus tracks and demos, why did Megadeth choose to revisit these songs?
Those songs were in the vault, and at one point on the remixes and the remasters for the Capital records catalogue that was done six/seven years ago. A lot of those songs were pulled out of the vault and I’ll reference “New World Order” for example, because quite honestly it was a great song, but it wasn’t the right fit on the Countdown To Extinction album, which is the album we demoed that up for. The same is true for “Black Swan”, which is a song that was done for United Abominations. Since I wasn’t there when that song was written, those are all new ideas to me, and when I heard it I was like, “This is a great song, man, I really like it as a listener.” And as a fan of music, I heard it and went, “Wow, we gotta figure out a way to put this on a new album.” I’m glad that on TH1RT3EN we were able to actually finish those songs up and finish them in a master track record quality version that the fans can finally hear.
Given that this is your 13th album, you’ve been together for 28 years and Dave Mustaine’s recent neck surgery, how much fuel do you think is left in the Megadeth tank?
Well there’s a ton of fuel in it, we’ve just gotta make sure we can keep the car together to get down the road now [laughs]. I say that because we’ve run this thing from the beginning right to the wall, you know what I mean, and we’ve always given very high performance, high energy concerts, high energy recordings, and everything we do is at its maximum potential. With that said, you know, that takes wear and tear on your body. We basically give a professional athlete’s level performance in everything we do, every night, and even professional athletes retire because their bodies just can’t take it anymore.
A lot of fans are concerned that Dave isn’t giving himself enough time to heal before Megadeth hit the road again. How do you feel about him pushing himself to tour so soon?
Ultimately, that’s his decision, and talking to him since his surgery he feels very enthused and very energetic. I feel him being much more positive and optimistic about everything. I think there is a point when you’re injured and you’re sick you tend to get worried, you know, and you start to go, “Oh my God, is this the end? Is this all she wrote?” Obviously I couldn’t blame him if he felt that way, but certainly going through and having the surgery and having his medical treatments and getting to the root of the issue and dealing with it is the right thing to do. Keep Dave in your prayers, we’re all pulling for him. Dave’s our fearless leader, and we want the best for him, and it seems like right now it’s all systems go and everything should be good.
Thirteen is out now on Roadrunner.