Megadeth's Dave Ellefson: "All The Best Things In My Life Were Not My Idea"
Since 1983, metal band Megadeth has sold more than 20 million albums, and earned eleven Grammy nominations. The band has built an enduring fanbase around their intelligent take on heavy metal, lyrical themes like religion, politics, and addiction, and densely driven grooves. Most recently the band toured the world with the other three of the Big Four: Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer. They're also in the midst of planning their 15th studio album, and are releasing a live DVD/CD Countdown to Extinction: Live.
Megadeth has had quite the tumultuous ride over the years, dealing with rotating band members and one solid break up, but since 2004 the band has not only toured but continually produced new material. Bassist and founder Dave Ellefson has been a part of the rollercoaster ride from day one.
And more than 20 years ago, he decided to lay off the drugs and alcohol and reintroduced himself to a different kind of reliance--now he's seen as a type of de facto rock and roll chaplain. Within the past 10 years, Ellefson started a contemporary music worship service, MEGA Life!, at Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church in Scottsdale, Arizona (think Old Testament lyrics against melodic rock.) He's also trained to become a pastor, and written Making Music Your Business and two metal bass guitar instructional DVDs.
It's ironic, coming from a band with a name that is defined as an annihilation of power. When Ellefson and I talked a few years back, and he talked about how mistrusting they were of religion, which was why they got into rock and roll to begin with.
Ellefson's memoir, My Life With Deth, comes out October 29 and tells the whole behind-the-scenes story of the band and his personal path from suffering to salvation. The book chronicles Ellefson's Lutheran upbringing as a Minnesota farm boy, his culture shock after arrive in L.A. and meeting Dave Mustaine, and his fall into addiction during the band's early years. It then goes on to detail his recovery and return to faith, which championed the band's rise to fame over the past several decades. Written by bestselling author Joel McIver, whose written 21 books on rock music, and features a foreword by Alice Cooper, and contributions from Kerry King, Scott Ian, Chris Poland and more.
Up On The Sun talked with Ellefson about Megadeth's new DVD, work on an upcoming album, and his new memoir, My Life With Deth.
Ellefson: Hey! We're in Costa Rica, we're headed to Mexico City to do the last show with Black Sabbath on the Latin America Tour. It's a relaxed morning for me.
How's the show with Sabbath?
Oh, awesome! It's awesome down here anyways. Latin America is one of our best territories in the world. Metal's huge, and everyone's excited for Black Sabbath.
I saw them here in Phoenix. It would've been great to see you guys on stage there too.
Everyone said that show was great.
So let's start off with a bit about the band's new CD/DVD, Countdown to Extinction: Live. It seems like a lot of bands are putting out DVDs lately.
These whole themed touring concept for Megadeth came about when we did the Rust In Peace anniversary back in 2010. It was big and exciting because I had just come back to the band. It was the 20th anniversary, and we went into some Big 4 shows with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax. It was really just a culmination of some big, big stuff. Not just for us, but for the thrash metal genre.
So we started to look at it and saw that there were a lot of fan-favorite records hitting the 20th and 25th anniversary marks for the next couple years. And Countdown to Extinction was our biggest selling record--2 to 1, really, against any of the others--mostly because of MTV, and it was a real sweet spot when our genre had come of age in the mainstream back in the early '90s.
We thought that was definitely an album worth celebrating with our fans. So we went to Latin America, Asia, and then to North America with that tour and we captured it live for the DVD and CD. The second to last show we did in December of 2012 at the theater in Pomono, California. It's great because we get to relive the memory and fans get to relive the memories, and also there's a lot of younger fans getting into metal and Megadeth that didn't get to have that experience first time around.