by Chris A.
– Senior Photojournalist —
Before Megadeth’s recent show in Columbus, November 20 at the L.C. Pavilion, Hardrock Haven’s Chris A. had the opportunity to run a few questions by David Ellefson, Megadeth bass player. Friendly, insightful and a great performer, David talks rock n’ roll and metal fluently!
Hardrock Haven: How cool was it to hear the your iconic bass line from “Peace Sells” being used by MTV back in the day? They must have played that lick two hundred times a day.
David Ellefson: It was quite shocking actually, especially because we were just coming up the ranks and were not the big MTV icons at the time. That bass line has certainly been the subject of many great conversations over the years, that’s for sure!
Hardrock Haven: Tell me how 2012 has been for you and Megadeth. You guys seem to have done tons of stuff this year.
David Ellefson: It was been extremely varied and creative. First with the “Th1rt3en” tour and now 20th anniversary of “Countdown to Extinction” tour, all in 12 months time!
Hardrock Haven: You’ve influenced a lot of metal bass players over the year and as a music writer guy, my readers are guitar nuts and gear heads. Can you give me the rundown on your current on-stage guitars and touring rig? ( Maybe a bit about why you prefer the guitars you use or a specific effect you’re digging. )
David Ellefson: I use the Jackson Concert and Kelly Bird bass guitars for all of my touring, both four and five string models. I have my signature models custom made for me in their Corona, CA custom shop, which feature the EMG pickups, Badass bridges and Hip Shot tuners. They are compound radius necks with no paint on them, only a light oil finish, and heavy nickel frets. All are 34″ scale except the Crimson Red five string Concert Bass, which we did in a 35″ scale. To me, the Jackson’s just have a special affinity to Megadeth music and they play & sound perfectly for my needs in the band. They sound heavy but cut through the mix with the perfect amount of top end and mid range punch. For amplification I use two Hartke LH1000 heads into four Hartke Hydrive 8×10 cabs. I use SIT nickel strings (signature sets.45, .65, .80, .105, .128), Planet Waves straps and cables, Tech 21 and Digitech Stereo Choruses (for “Dawn Patrol” and “Poison Was The Cure” only) and Jim Dunlop .88 Tortex picks.
Hardrock Haven: Thinking back on the Metal Masters shows that you participated in, what was that like, jamming with members of Anthrax, Slayer and Pantera?
David Ellefson: We are all friends from growing up together so that was the easy part. Pantera are the ultimate ‘groove metal’ band so their songs are really fun to play, especially with Phil fronting the band for those events! Slayer songs are actually quite different for how I normally play so those took a bit of getting used to. Anthrax tunes are fun songs and Frank Bello & I have done so many clinics together now that we have a really great working relationship as bassists.
Hardrock Haven: Who would you like to jam with that you’ve not had the opportunity?
David Ellefson: Probably Al DiMeola and Stanley Clarke. I grew up to their records and as a bassist I went out of the rock n roll genre to learn as much as I could about the instrument. I learned a lot about shredding guitar from Al’s records and Stanley actually inspired my tone from his “School Day’s” record. a little known secret!
Hardrock Haven: On this tour, you’ve been playing the entire Countdown to Extinction record. Previously, you’ve played all of Rust in Peace. How has the fan reaction been to these full album performances?
David Ellefson: These are fun years for Megadeth because we have so many opportunities to do exciting things for our fans. In many ways, those records have really come of age now. There are about two to three new generations of fans coming to know Megadeth since those albums released so it is a tremendous juncture that we get to revisit past records and still write and release new albums, too.
Hardrock Haven: I’m going to assume that there are at least a couple songs from Countdown to Extinction that you never played live before. Does it take you and the band much time to relearn a tune you haven’t played in years?
David Ellefson: Yes, “Captive Honor” and “Architecture of Aggression” are a couple, and we haven’t played “High Speed Dirt” or “This Was My Life” in many, many years either. It’s funny how for both Dave and I, the “RIP” and “CTE” songs came back very quickly for us. Of course Chris can play anything and Shawn is such a fan of Megadeth music that the whole thing just clicked into place quite seamlessly for these tours.
Hardrock Haven: You and Shawn Drover define synergy when you perform in Megadeth. Seriously, Drover is incredibly talented, what are your thoughts on Shawn?
David Ellefson: Thank you and agreed! Shawn is a fantastic, if not underrated, drummer and musician. He is a really good guitar player/riff writer and he can sing really well, too. He is a really well-rounded musician and artist in his own right. So, there is a lot going on with him that makes him extremely valuable to Megadeth. Shawn and I hit it off with our groove right away and he plays behind the beat, allowing us to create that powerful synergy you are referring to.
Hardrock Haven: What are your thoughts on digital downloads and on-line media replacing the more traditional physical product like a disc?
David Ellefson: Online distribution is the new norm of record shopping and downloads are here to stay. Personally, as a guy who grew up in record stores as a kid, I’m all about adjusting to change and would rather just go with it than fight it. Plus, I love the computer age and I actually prefer buying my music online so I can take it with me wherever I go. It’s easier and simpler in the end so I’m all good with it.
Hardrock Haven: Any plans in the works for the next Mega-Disc? Perhaps something live?
David Ellefson: Yes, we are composing songs for the next studio album now.
Hardrock Haven: I think you’re a thoughtful, articulate spokesman for metal and I’d like your opinion on the overall “State of Metal.” How’s metal as a genre going? Are we on the right path?
David Ellefson: At it’s best, Metal is a wild animal and shouldn’t be controlled…it’s ferocious and unpredictable and that is what we love about it because it is a lifestyle for those of us who breathe it every day. At its worst, it can become calculated and predictable and that is so not Metal! Personally, I like when bands and musicians push the envelope and create new things even if it takes the listener a while to appreciate them. As artists, if we don’t innovate the genre will become extinct so Metal’s future is really a combination of innovation & tradition and as fans we should always support it because it carries the torch for our lives as metal heads.
Hardrock Haven: What would you like to say to the millions of Megadeth fans?
David Ellefson: Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Hardrock Haven: David, for folks who are interested in learning more about you or Megadeth, what are the best resources or websites to visit?