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Interview with David Ellefson by HEAVYMETAL.MININGCO.COM Interview with David Ellefson from MB (heavymetal.miningco.com)
June 13th, 1997

MB: How did you first get involved in music?

David Ellefson: Well, I think for me, I actually played music before I had much of an interest in it. Taking organ lessons, playing saxophone in elementary band, and stuff like that. But that was more music education that an interest in it. I think my actual interest started when I was about 10 or 11 years old. My friend had a Bachman Turner Overdrive album called "Not Fragile". They had heavy distorted guitars, cool looking guitars, and long hair. They sounded heavy. That led to KISS, etc...So, I was about 10 or 11 years old when I started to have an interest in it

MB: When did you know that's what you wanted to do with your life? Did you know at that age that you wanted to be a musician?

DE: Yeah, it was one of those things that hit me. This is what I wanted to do, and I've pursed it ever since

MB: Who would you say are your biggest influences musically?

DE: There's a lot of bands I like. I would say KISS was definately an influence. Not just musically, but also from a performance point of view. Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, from the 70's were cool. Then came NewWave of British Heavy Metal came through. Bands like UFO, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden. Early Rush records. Things like that were very influential to me

MB: Are there any bands that you like, right now?

DE: I'm not a big fan of any new bands the way I was when when I was growing up. That's probably because I work as a professional musician, now. Most of my attention is put into Megadeth

MB: You and Dave have been together for almost 15 years and 7 albums

DE: Yeah, for a while

MB: What do you credit your longevity to?

DE: Probably to being too stubborn to quit. We definitely have had the opportunity to throw in the towel and say "To hell with it. Let's do something else." I think we have a common vision, just wanting to keep at it. It seems like the people that are successful in anything they do, whether it's music or being a plumber or anything, the only way you really stand to have any success, is if you stick with it. If you quit, you definately won't have any success

MB: That's true. In my opinion, it seems like this album is your most adventerous yet. It seems that you tried a lot of things you haven't done before. How do you keep coming up with new ideas?

DE: I think that the ideas are always tehre. Countdown To Extinction was probably the first record that we started to venture out. Not leaving behind our thrash metal and heavy metal roots, but really trying to broaden the horizons. It happened even more in Youthanasia. I think having a couple experiences under our belts, we were really ready to go all out on Cryptic Writings

MB: The sound on this album, to me, doesn't sound like anything else out there. It sounds very unique to Megadeth

DE: I think that Megadeth has always had a unique sound in the music field anyway. If we would have gone from Rust In Peace to this record, people would say "What the hell are you doing?" But like I say, it took a few records. If you listen to each Megadeth album in succession, you hear a natural progression. But if you put this one back to back with Rust In Peace or Killing Is My Business..., you'd be like "Oh my God! What did these guys do now?" I think it's all about opening the doors and broadening the horizons a little with each record

MB: So it's something that evolves?

DE: Yeah, exactly

MB: The songs on this album seem so diverse from one to the next. To me, not even one sounds familiar to another. Do the songs come together that way naturally? Or do you work hard to create a variety on each album?

DE: We work hard on it. There are several different phases to writing. The first phase is coming up with ideas. Then, when we have a bunch of ideas, some of which are complete from the start and others that kind of linger and hang there, we work on them to get them to really come together. One thing is for sure, If there's a riff or a melody or even a lyric that even remotely sounds like anything we've done before, we either change it or throw it out. Cryptic Writings is our seventh album, and we don't want it to sound like anything we've already done

MB: How could you compare Cryptic Writings to your other albums?

DE: I don't know. It's kind of hard to say. There's always the Megadeth sound, which is Dave's rythm guitar playing, the bass, and the drums. That's always pretty consistent on every record. We've been venturing out a little with each one, probably with Rust In Peace, and this one is really just more of that. We didn't have any deadlines. Our backs we're against the wall to hve to put something out. So we really had a lot of liberty to make sure that it was done the way that it should be done, before we ever released it

MB: All of your albums have been successful, but this one seems like it's your most solid from start to finish. Do you feel that this is the album that is going to catapult you to the next level of recognition?

DE: It's to hard to tell what's going to happen, because there's so many things that are contingent to the success of a record. Most importantly, record company people, radio, and video, have to believe in it. And even if all those people believe in it, and you make the best album since sliced bread, the public may not like it. At this point, we are getting a great response from everybody. Especially the people that are listening to it, seem to really like it. So, it looks good. But now, it's pretty much out of our hands. As we were writing it and recording it, everything was under our control. Now it's not

MB: Do you feel it's any harder to get your music to where it can be exposed to people today, than it was in the past?: Or has it always been pretty much the same?

DE: I think there's avenues of getting it exposed to more people, today. Like, for example, radio and especially video that weren't available 20 years ago. But, at the same time, there's more competition now, more bands, and the people that buy records and go to concerts only have so much money, their choices as to what to buy and who to see, have to be a little bit more selective

MB: What do you think of the Internet as a medium? I know Capitol Records has a website for you guys

DE: The Internet is fantastic if it's used properly. With anything, there will be some bozos that are going to take advantage of it, and use it as a way to exploit negative things. But I think when it's used properly, especially for music, to promote the events that are happening with your band and things like that, it's great

MB: For this album, you switched to Dan Huff for producer. What effect did he have on the album?

DE: Quite a bit, really. We've used Max Norman for a lot of the production in the recent years, and he has done a fine job for us. The thing that we didn't want to happen, was to get to where we couldn't make records if Max wasn't there. The producer is another creative member of the group, you know. I think it's good to use different people for the different insights and different inputs that you get. Dan is a musician. He has had extensive experience not only as a studio musician, but also having had his own band. So he brings a writer, singer, performer perspective. He has a similar background to us. A lot more so, in the way of working in the studio. Which was really good. Dan's a rare talent. He's blessed with a good ear for music and he has really good ideas

MB: Besides Dan, was there anything you did differently for this album that you hadn't done before?

DE: There was a lot of stuff, actually. The way we were writing songs was different. There was a time when it seemed like Dave was writing most of the material. I think at that point, it was really a matter of, "It doesn't matter who writes it. Let's just use the best stuff that's there." As it turned out, Dave did write most of the material. Also, we ended up going to Nashville to record it. Not that Nashville had much to do with it, I think that it was that we were leaving our hometown. Getting away from our home life and going into work mode. I think it was a good thing, a good change of pace. I try to do some music work in the house, and it's hard. The phone's ringing, this and that is going on, and you just get distracted. So, I think leaving the town was good. You don't get caught up with distractions of the day to day life

MB: What impression would you like people to have after they listen to the album for the first time?

DE: The impression we would like people to have is "This album is awesome!" Whether or not they're going to feel that way, I don't know. At this point, it's totally out of our hands

MB: You can only create it. You can't tell people what to think about it

DE: Exactly. So at this point, it's up to the listeners. My dad used to have this saying. He would tell me, "You may be good, but you're never great until someone else thinks you are." I guess if we are going to be great now, it'll be up to the people who buy the records to determine that

MB: Where do you see Megadeth going in the next couple of years? Are you guys going to keep up this pace?

DE: Yeah. We've got dates booked and we're about to start up another world wide tour. In the process, we are always writing new songs. We always have new material and new ideas. It seems like these days, the way the record industry works, with long tours and the extensive amount of set up time record companies need to get an album out, and the time required to record it, it just takes so much more time in between records. If we can do anything to shorten that time, we are definately going to do that

MB: So, it's not like you see an end in sight? You are going to keep on?

DE: Yeah. For us, it's that old slogan you've heard a million times. It's about the journey, not the destination. With Megadeth, we are trying to stay on top of what's happening as it's happening. We're not running the race to get to the end. At this point, it's not so much about the race, it's about, "Let's just have a good time while we're doing it." If there's a good fortune, let's enjoy it. If any obstacles come along, let's just deal with them. We've come up against so many obstacles over the years, I can't think of too much that's going to rock our world

MB: You were talking about your tour. When is that starting?

DE: The first show is going to be in Phoenix in the middle of June. Then we go to Europe for a few weeks and do some festivals. After that, we're back in the States. I think in the middle of July, we will be doing a North American tour

MB: Is there anything that you haven't accomplished as a musician that you would really like to before you're done?

DE: Well, it would be nice to be headlining stadiums. We've done a few shows like that, but it would be to be a bonafide headliner all the time. As an artist, and as a musician, I think we are pretty much right on the money with what we're doing. Opportunities come along as you're going. You always have to weigh them out, to see whether they're the right ones to take advantage of or something you should pass on. Being in a band is like one great big chess board. You have to pick your moves carefully, because one move is going to lead to another. It's sort of a domino effect. You have to take it as it comes, really

MB: How much time do you guys put in to preparing for a show? I saw you on your last tour, and it would seem to me like it's a big production to get it all together

DE: Yeah, it is. Our first show is here in the middle of June, and we started rehearsals about two weeks ago, if that's any indication. I would say it takes about four or five weeks to get the music together, the production, the personnel, and make all the arrangements that are neccessary. It does take a while

MB: If there was one thing that you could take back in your music career, and make it as if it never happened, is there anything you would take back?

DE: I've kind of gotten to the point where I don't really regret anything that has happened. Like I say, everything has the domino effect. Even if you did something that appeared to be the wrong decision at the time, it usually ends up leading to something else. If nothing else, you've learned a lesson. "I'll never do that again." Sometimes, I think life is about knowing what's going on and knowing what not to do

MB: So, even the things that seem to go wrong at the time, turn out for the best down the road?

DE: I think everything happens like it's supposed to. Even when you're like "Oh God. Why did this happen?" You learn something from everything. Megadeth being together as long as we have, we've encountered and experienced quite a bit. So if anything bizarre happens, it's almost like we roll our eyes "Here we go again." It's a much more casual approach to any sort of catastrophe than in the early days. In the early days, anything that happens is either really good or really bad, and anything that's really bad threatens your entire existance. You freak out. But with age comes maturity. The more experience you have, the more you learn to cope with things and deal with them. You go on with it instead of whining and freaking out about it

MB: When you're done, and look back at your career, how would you like poeple to remember you as a musician

DE: I thikn when I was younger, I was torn between. I always liked playing in bands. And ultimately, in my heart, that's what I really like. I like to be a band bass player. As I've studied music, and sit around practising, I sort of go off on these virtuoso trips, doing solo bass. Probably, what I would like to be remembered as, is a team player. If specific musical things that I've done really stand out on there own, then that's fine. Overall, I'd like to be known as part of a group

MB: Someone contributing to a bigger effort

DE: Exactly. To me, the common welfare of the group is more important then any self-seeking, self-promoting sort of stuff that could happen. There's strength in numbers, and as the team succeeds, so do the individuals. At this point, if I show up on have the attitude, "How can I make Dave, Marty, and Nick look better and more successful?", it works out for all of us