July 23, 2024

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ROCKET’s Interview With MEGADETH Co-Founder David Ellefson



Born on November 12, 1964 in Jackson, Minnesota, David Ellefson grew up with a passion for rock ‘n’ roll music that ultimately took him all the way to the top as a founding member of Megadeth in 1986, a pioneer of the American heavy metal thrash movement, most well known for their Grammy nominated, double-platinum Countdown to Extinction album released in 1992. Departing the band after 2002’s Rude Awakening, Ellefson moved on to form the melodic metal act F5. Their first album A Drug for all Seasons was released in 2005 and they are currently at work on their follow-up.



Rocket: What first drew you to playing music?

David: At first it was the usual thing to take up an instrument as a kid. Then, around age 10 I started hearing things on FM radio where I grew up in Minnesota that were rockin’ my world, like “Sweet”, “Styx”, “Aerosmith”, and of course, Kiss changed my life when I saw and heard them. I just thought their whole world was so cool because it was total entertainment.

Rocket: Absolutely. When did you get into playing the bass guitar? And do you remember the first song you learned all the way through?

David: Kiss and Bachman Turner Overdrive were the first bands that got me into bass. I loved the way it looked, sounded and to me the guys who played the instrument were just downright cool! My first song was probably “Not Fragile” by BTO and “Shout It Out Loud” by Kiss.

Rocket: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

David: Kiss, Iron Maiden, Rush and early AC/DC are just a few. I was mostly influenced by bands and songs, rather than only bassists. I really like hearing great guitar players and drummers in rock bands, too, which is why the first Van Halen album hit me so hard, but then again so did Motorhead.

Rocket: You certainly can’t go wrong with those two names. Did you ever take any formal bass guitar lessons?

David: Yes, I did a few weeks after I got my first bass when I was age 11, and I have continued to study with various teachers along the way. I’ve done some jazz studies as well because jazz experts know the bass as well as the ins and outs of really understanding the theory and fundamentals of music. Also, some of my best teachers are the guys I’ve played in bands with as well as the record producers I’ve worked with over the years. Everyone’s experiences can really help your playing, if you let them.

Rocket: What basses are you currently playing live and in the studio?

David: I have a bunch I keep for studio use only such as a Spector NS2, Modulus Quantum 5 strings, about 6 different Fenders Precisions in 4 and 5 string models, as well as my Peavey Zodiac Scorpio DE signature model, a Peavey Millenium and Peavey Cirrus basses. For recording I’m into whatever gets the sound that the session or songs need. For live, lately I’ve been using only my Zodiac Scorpio DE bass as it seems to cover all my needs for any tunings, music styles, etc.

Rocket: What kind of amp rig?

David: In the studio it can be any combination of Peavey’s, Ampegs, Trace Elliots, Sans Amp Pro Tools plug-ins, direct signals, guitar amps, etc. Again, whatever it takes to get the tone for the songs to sound right. Live, the Peavey amps have worked great for me now for about 10 years in all settings.



Rocket: After all these years, Megadeth’s classic “Countdown To Extinction” from 1992, in my opinion, still remains one of the greatest thrash metal albums ever produced. Obviously you were involved with many classic recordings during your time in the lineup. If you could only choose one Megadeth album that is your personal favorite above all of the rest, which one would it be? And why?

David: I’d probably side with you on the “Countdown” album. That was a highlight for me musically and as a band.

Rocket: I like to have fun with this next one. What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you while performing on stage?

David: I tripped and fell down backward while on stage at a small club in Canada , which was very embarrassing and not very rock god-like at all! Fortunately, there weren’t many people there to see it!! Another time at a show a fan threw a plastic cup that hit my hand really hard, smashing it against my fingerboard which was very painful. That one actually really pissed me off because it hurt to play for the rest of the set after that.

Rocket: I bet it did. Ouch! What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to anyone who wants to play bass guitar at pro level?

David: Be prepared to suck it up if you really want to make a go at it because it isn’t as easy as we try to make it look. Obviously, the more success you have the more you can call your own shots but there is fine line between standing your ground for integrity yet being able to get people championed behind your cause. To me, that is the real trick because making it in the music business is about a whole lot more than just making music.

Rocket: I fully agree with you on that statement. Now I know your latest MySpace blog recently talks about your being invited to the ’10th Annual Rock n’ Roll Fantasy Camp’ held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas , Nevada November 7-11. What is that all about?

David: That is a five day camp that has really taken off in Los Angeles, London , New York and now this 10th annual event in Las Vegas . They invite a pretty heavy A-list of talent so I was honored they asked me to participate. It’s my understanding that some of the campers who participate can play instruments and some can’t which should make it fun. Basically, everyone is there to have a good time and jam with the stars.

Rocket: Your current band F5 is starting to record the follow-up to 2005’s debut “A Drug for All Seasons”. Who is producing it and what can we expect?



David: Ryan Greene is producing, who also did the “.Drugs” debut album. I called in my friend Jimmy DeGrasso to play drums on it as our previous drummer Dave Small wanted to move onto some other music projects. So far the new songs have taken a cool new direction, a bit more progressive musically, which is something the band is very excited about. I think the guitar players John and Steve wanted to take this second album up a few more notches and give themselves more room to open up and really sear some kick ass guitar playing. All of us are really going the distance on this album to make a statement that F5 is many layers deep in its musical fabric.

Rocket: You’re involved with teaching music too, correct? Is that mainly through the instructional clinics you do around the country… and how exactly can fans (or students) learn more?

David: It’s not so much teaching as it is demonstrating and sharing my experiences about how I play and the things that helped me over the years as a player. That’s basically what the clinic setting is helpful for because me, the fans and musicians in the audience can get up close and personal which is a cool musical setting.

Rocket: With all the great releases we had in ’07 from names like Throwdown and Chimaira, which one album is your personal favorite?

David: Of course I’m biased, but I like the Temple of Brutality record “Lethal Agenda” that came out in February. That one has a special place in my catalog because it was so much fun to make. I also really like the new Ministry album “The Last Sucker”.

Rocket: Any other musical side projects your working on for ’08 that we failed to cover here?

David: I’ve got a few new things brewing at all times which makes life exciting and keeps me looking forward to the next new thing. Playing, planning, writing or preparing something new is what gets me out of bed everyday.

Rocket: It’s only fair to say that conducting this interview with you is an all-out honor. Thanks very much for all the great music over the years and for taking the time out to do this with me. Best of luck. Go ahead and give a shoutout to your biggest supporters.

David: You’re welcome and music isn’t as much fun without fans around to hear it, see it and enjoy it. Thanks to all of you who continue to check out my new stuff. I appreciate you hanging with me.



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