"Megadeth Gives Fans the Reins"

by MikeSOS
Sponsored In Part By
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When you think of old school metal, many images come to mind, some good, some bad and some just plain ugly.   However, on the heavier side of the spectrum, if you spoke of the Four Horsemen, you'd obviously be speaking of Metallica's classic opus, but those close to the scene may also associate the term with metal's predominant outfits that came out of the middle 1980s and continue to churn out albums today: Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth.  Megadeth always were overshadowed by either Dave Mustaine's former band or huge ego, but they persevered and are still very much alive and judging by their latest release The World Needs a Hero, are still kicking ass.  Speaking to original bassist and all around nice guy Dave Ellefson, we hit a number of topics, such as the new album's heavier direction, their upcoming intimate club tour, the early days of metal and of course, their barn burning VH1 Behind the Music documentary.

SKRATCH: Hey, Dave, welcome.

ELLEFSON: Hey, Mike, what's going on?

SKRATCH: Not much.  I'd like to let you know that I've been a fan for a very long time and I'd love to know, what do you guys contribute your longevity to?

ELLEFSON:  Not giving up; as silly as they may sound, that's the thing.  You can't, despite all of the trials and tribulations, throw in the towel.  Thing is that when Dave and I met up, it was with the understanding that the band always comes first.  Personal friendships developed after the fact, and I think it's been like that with everyone who's been in the group.  And because that is always the primary focus, that through all of it, that has always been the number one priority, the band, with personal stuff coming second.

SKRATCH: Let's talk about the new tour and its concept.  Now , you've decided to let the fans ultimately choose the set list via the Internet and the venues you're playing are discernibly smaller.  How did the whole concept come to light?

ELLEFSON:  I'm not sure who came up with it, but we've been really tied in with the Internet community.  At Megadeth.com, which is our official online home, where you can get all the updates, etc., that's where we're featuring the set list choosing.  We always monitor the site, the band members post messages, we schedule chats, we try to make it a fellowship, and we're always watching for suggestions our fans place on the website.  They've been requesting many of the songs that are currently in the set list, so part of the challenge is "we're coming to your town, you pick the set.  It's your concert."

SKRATCH: Awesome, that's so nice to give back to the fans.

ELLEFSON: Absolutely.

SKRATCH: I dig the new album as compared to the previous two releases.  I think it shows a welcomed return to a type of sound your fan base is accustomed to.  How did this change occur, was it like a revelation or was it a decision to revisit something?

ELLEFSON:  Well, we had, the whole campaign for CW and Risk, new management, of which one of the managers worked closely with the band in developing the songs, and I think he saw that we were capable of doing more than we ever did before, and I think on CW that we really nailed the best of developing that, but we also kept a lot of our integrity as well.  On Risk, we spent a little too much time developing the melodic, lyrical side of it and didn't pay enough attention to giving the long time fans what they've come to expect from Megadeth.  It gave us a lot of flak, but I listen to Risk and think it's a killer album.  I really do, but I can certainly understand where the fans are coming from, so we were real careful on the new disc to not overlook our fans' needs.  It's kind of like the old adage, once you're pickled, you can't be a cucumber again, and a lot of people want us to.  We can still go back to Peace Sells or Rust in Peace, that's still a part of us and not a problem, but to be just that and only that and deny the past 10 years of development of Megadeth, that would be a lie to do that.  We'd be cheating a lot of fans if we did that.  Now, the challenge is to walk that fine line of giving everybody something that they look for in a Megadeth album, but also being able to push the envelope so that we don't get bored and we can get excited about what we're doing, too.

SKRATCH: You guys are still one of the premiere bands because of taking risks.

ELLEFSON: Yeah, and with taking chances, the higher the risk, the greater the reward obviously.  Also, the higher the risk, the greater the failure.  We've been on both sides of the fence.

SKRATCH: Regarding your own music, do you ever see yourself doing a solo album or something different than Megadeth?

ELLEFSON:  Probably at some point, yeah.  Certainly with Jimmy DeGrasso and Al Pitrelli, they've both done a lot of other projects over the years, and Al especially is probably happy that he's in a band for the solidarity.  There's strength in numbers, and being part of team is probably a nice release for him now.  And same for Jimmy, he's done session work and bands.  Dave has branched out when he did MD45, and there'll probably be a day for me to do that as well.  I certainly don't want to lead anyone on into thinking that it's something I'll immediately be working on, because I'm not, but now the focus is Megadeth.  The thing I always go back to is, yeah, I write all types of music, everyone in this band does.  But, not all of it belongs in Megadeth, and that's part of quality control is that we need to be very selective as to what songs and how we create our songs and what songs we release to the public.  They expect a certain sound from us.  There's nothing wrong with filing away things that don't get used.  And, just because that it doesn't belong on a current Megadeth album, it doesn't mean that someday in the future that it can't be used on a future Megadeth record.

SKRATCH: The tour takes you through the US through November, then what?

ELLEFSON: The North American trip is the main focus right now.  There's really nothing more that pertains to what you and I are talking about today that matters. Especially regarding touring, we'll probably be doing some overseas stuff in the new year, but that's quite a ways away.  We are releasing the VH1 Behind the Music documentary in long form DVD in October.  That is gonna be something to be looking out for, as we're just putting the finishing touches on the editing as we speak.  I was blown away on what a good job they did on the televised version.  The DVD version we have complete control over because it's our release; now we can really put in all the juicy snippets that didn't appear in the first one.

SKRATCH: I wanted to ask you, as a music fan, as well as now being spotlighted on it,  how do you feel about that show in general?

ELLEFSON: I've always loved it, and once we did it, I, and the rest of us, were pretty blown away and the job they did, the interviews.  It's always interesting to see what other people think about you.  Especially ex-bandmates and stuff like that, because they have no interest in saying anything good about you, so they're going to say whatever they want, good or bad.  We don't work with them anymore, so they don't give a shit, you know.  So that was interesting, but the thing I realized after watching it was it's behind the music.  It's really not about anything we'd speak about in an interview or that we would express in an album.  Its totally like we're letting you into our house and you can check to see if we scrubbed the toilet or not kinda show.  It's down and dirty.  Not all of it's bad or decadent, but in our case there's certainly a lot of it.  The good thing about it is that you can see how we came together, what really provoked the nucleus and the little spark that made Megadeth, what it was all about.  How it developed, what we were thinking about, and what we are and what we think today, and I think that part of it is cool.  But I hope the viewers don't get so caught up in the story that they lose sight of why we're here, to make music and entertain people.  And, a lot of times, the behind the scenes stuff is behind the scenes for a reason, because we don't want that shit out there all the time.  Just like anybody doesn't want personal laundry dragged out there all the time because it is personal.

SKRATCH: I saw that, and it definitely captured the band vividly.  It hit the nail on the head of what you guys are all about.

ELLEFSON: I thought they kicked ass on it

SKRATCH: What are you currently digging music-wise these days?

ELLEFSON: As far as new stuff, the favorite new CD is probably the new Saliva; it's really excellent.

SKRATCH: Cool.  Now, you're going on tour with Endo, a new band.  Have you seen them/know them?

ELLEFSON:  No, not personally.  They came to us and submitted their album and we know people working with them in the industry, which helped bolster confidence in them.  They're a new band and part of what we do is make it a great night out, and part of that for us is reaching out our hands back at the new guys and helping them the same way the bands did for us when we were starting out.

SKRATCH:  Who do you remain friends with from the scene from back in the day?

ELLEFSON: There's a lot of people, Kerry, Tom and Jeff in Slayer.  I haven't seen the Metallica guys in a while, but I was always friendly with Lars.  The guys in Exodus, Scott Ian from Anthrax, as well as Charlie and Frank and John Bush and the Armored Saint guys.  Most of them, really, to be honest with you, and we don't see each other that much, but when we do it's friendly.  But, when we go onstage and get our guitars on, it's like, look out, mothrf*cker, and they probably feel the same way we do.

SKRATCH: That's cool, like a friendly rivalry.

ELLEFSON: Yeah, it's a friendly competitiveness.

SKRATCH: What would be your dream tour, like what bands would you like to play with that you haven't so far?

ELLEFSON:  We just toured with AC/DC in Europe, and that was incredible.  That was cool.  There's a few tours that would've been fun, which will never happen, like the old days of KISS, Led Zeppelin, the old Van Halen, you know the bands from the old days of rock when it was huge, coliseum days of rock and roll.

SKRATCH: You guys are definitely able to be put into that company, that's why it's a surprise to me that you're doing such small venues this time around.  Does that add to the intimacy as the theme of the tour?

ELLEFSON: Yeah.  This whole album, the whole tour, the website, the interaction, everything about this is about getting right back down to the nitty gritty with our fans.  That's what it's about.  We've built up a nice little castle for ourselves here with our catalog and our career, but we also feel that we need to go back to the foundation and pay attention because I think in the last few years, we've gotten away from that and it's important that we don't forget about that.  This whole album cycle is 100% fan driven, and I think the audience that stuck with us for so many years is owed what they want and playing in big places is great and fun, but we've been doing that for a long time now, and I think that playing in smaller places is pretty cool and make it a night out for everyone.

SKRATCH: How's the new label treating you guys as opposed to your previous deal?

ELLEFSON: Well, the whole record industry has changed, and when we signed in 1986, it was a whole different animal than it is now.  Just like I like to vote for the underdog, Sanctuary is an underdog, you know.  They're a major minor or a mini major, but they've got the money, the clout, the credibility and personnel and staff to take a band like Megadeth, used to all of the amenities and levels of a major label, and Sanctuary is able to step up and be able to continue that.  More importantly than that is that they know we're willing to work.  We like to kick ass, make records and tour, and work hard and they like that.  And it's nice to know our label is willing to do the same thing.

SKRATCH: Yeah, you can tell by Sanctuary's roster that's the case.

ELLEFSON: Capitol Records were great years for Megadeth, but now we're on another phase of our career, and it's nice to be spending it at home with Sanctuary.

SKRATCH: Dave, thanks for your time and best of luck.

ELLEFSON: Thanks, man.

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