I’m still pinching myself after my interview with Dave Ellefson at Carolina Rebellion 2016. In case you’re clueless, David is the bassist of one of the most legendary thrash metal bands of all time: MEGADETH.
I got a chance to talk with him about recording in Nashville, his tattoos (or lack thereof), and Megadeth’s new album, Dystopia (which is epic, by the way). Yeah, David is pretty brilliant. He has a Bachelor’s degree in business marketing, has contributed his writing and playing abilities to: Altitudes and Attitude and Metal Allegiance (the supergroup created by Mark Menghi), Alex Skolnick, Soulfly, F5, and Temple of Brutality. But wait, there’s more! David is president of EMP (Ellefson Music Productions) Label Group and even has his own Coffee brand: Ellefson Coffee Co., which features a roast named “Roast In Peace”. Keep reading to learn more about this musical genius!
Rockwell: Hey this is Rockwell Anderson here at Carolina Rebellion 2016, and I am here with?
David: I’m David.
Rockwell: Welcome to Carolina. You came out with a new album, ‘Dystopia’. It’s killer. Tell us all about it. I heard you recorded it in Nashville, how as that?
David: Yeah we’ve made several records in Nashville, ‘Cryptic Writings’ back in ‘96, ‘Risk’, ‘The System Has Failed’, I believe part of ‘United Abominations’.. So we’ve got a long affinity with that. Dave now lives there, and he sort of moved their along with the making of those records and now he’s permanently moved there. They make great records down there. The studios and just the infrastructure of the community is set up for making records. And we like to make really good, high quality, high fidelity metal records. The quality that comes out of Nashville is ironically really well with the style of records that we like to produce.
Rockwell: It is a great music city, it’s not just country. It seems like people are recording a lot in Nashville and Las Vegas, not just LA anymore.
David: Well, we’re Megadeth — we come in and we utilize the tools and studios that we need. You can’t just move to Nashville and suddenly become a studio recorder, or a session writer. They won’t just let you in. It is a tight knit community and they do their thing. We didn’t move there because “Megadeth is going country.” Seems like a lot of managers try to move their artists into that world. I grew up on a farm around country so I know country music. It’s funny though, a lot of these country artists are Megadeth fans because they were young rock and roll guys now playing in these country bands. Today’s country music is more rock than it was before.
Rockwell: You don’t have any tattoos. Why is that?
David: I thought it was a little odd that they asked me to speak with you considering you work with a tattoo company. Well these tattoos [freckles] came from the factory. I got a little more as the sun beamed down on me.
Rockwell: Those are original.
David: The truth of it, for me growing up the only real artist that had tattoos was Bon Scott. He would take his shirt off in AC/DC and it was scary. Dangerous men and sailors had tattoos. Bon came out and he was tough, dangerous and badass. It really wasn’t part of my culture. I remember when Motley Crew got the Girls, Girls, Girls sleeve and then everyone started to follow. I would say Motley was probably the leader of the tattoo generation, and then fast forward into the 90s and it was all of the new metal guys getting tats. Me and Dave are probably the only guys of 70,000 people here that don’t have tattoos.
Rockwell: Thank you for sharing that.
Rockwell: We’re going to be seeing you at upcoming festivals. My favorite track on the new album is ‘The Threat is Real’.
David: We actually play that song live.
Rockwell: How many songs off ‘Dystopia’ are you playing live?
David: Here tonight I think we’re playing an hour set, so probably four. In our headlining set we usually do five. We want an album that we can go five or six songs deep into it live and the fans are stoked. The fans are always asking for the older music, and that’s awesome but it’s nice to have a new record that we can play and fans will really get into it.
Rockwell: I love the fact that you do that, it keeps you relevant and it reaches the younger fans too.
David: We’re lucky that we are a band that’s still very prolific and we continue to always create the next chapter of our lives. Some bands get to that point where they realize that they’re greatest strength is their past. And we went through that a little bit in 2010 when we did Rest In Peace, our 20th anniversary tour. Then we did another tour right after that one. We did a mini version of that with ‘Euthanasia’ in South America. That was the first time that’d be broke into Latin America was with that record, so that kind of holds a special place.
Rockwell: You’re involved with a label called EMP, a few of our friends are involved in that; Skum Love.
David: Maybe it’s because we’re sort of in this phase in our journey. We’ve been through a lot. I was saying how cool it is that Danny Wimmer (The guy that runs the festivals) has brought back all these festivals. We haven’t done these in a long while. These more localized festivals kind of fell away for a couple of years because of all the touring festivals. You have new bands; A Day To Remember, Lamb of God.. Newer groups are coming along and filling the slots in these festivals. It’s really cool that Danny has come along to bring these back. This is what it’s in Europe.
Rockwell: Big, outdoor festivals.
David: They’re very localized and you get the local flavor of the people.
Rockwell: This is one of the wildest. We’ve taken too much of your time. Thank you David.