DAVID ELLEFSON Interview Page 3
By Bob Nalbandian
SW: So you really miss being out on the road...
DE: I love it, man. I've always traveled well, even when I was a kid and we used to go on family vacations I was never one of the kids that got homesick and wanted to go home. I still love being out on the road after all these years.
SW: So let's go way back to early '80s - to the beginning of Megadeth. You came out to LA from a small town in Minnesota, correct?
DE: I'm from a little town called Jackson which is basically a farm outside of a little town.
SW: You come to LA looking to form a rock band and you meet up with Dave Mustaine. As you recall, you and I first met shortly after the original formation of Megadeth during an interview I did with the band back in January of '84 [I had conducted one of the very first interviews of Megadeth for my old 'zine The Headbanger]. I was very fortunate to be there since the very beginning of Megadeth and the beginning of thrash metal here in the US. Megadeth were truly one of the innovators of that genre and probably the most technically proficient thrash band of that era. Obviously Dave, being in Metallica, was experienced playing that style of music but this must have been a whole new thing to you. Take us back to that era...
DE: Well, I gigged around the mid-west when I was a teenager. And five days after I graduated high school when I was 18 my dad gave me a van and I cleaned out my savings account of a few hundred bucks, packed up my bass and amp and off we drove to LA. I had told my parents that I was going to Musicians Institute in Hollywood but my goal was to get in a band. Dave [Mustaine] lived in the apartment right above and I met him about a week or so after I lived there and I just dug the music he was writing. It was different and something totally new. As you remember being part of that scene, there were really only two fashions of music back then...there was the Motley Crue, Ratt, WASP [glam] scene that was going on and there was the jeans, tee-shirt, hi-top tennis shoe fashion which was where I fit in. It was lean and mean and became the beginning of what became thrash and speed metal. I think that scene primarily started in the Bay Area [San Francisco], Metallica of course, and Exodus were really ruling the roost up there and down in LA Slayer had just made their shift to more of a thrash metal sound. From what Kerry told me, they went to see Metallica open for Saxon at the Whisky and that night apparently changed his life. And next thing you know they really became the kings of super fast speed-metal. Dark Angel was another band that was starting to come up the ranks, Hirax as well. And I felt we were really onto to something because it was musically very involved, and we had went through a few musician changes until we got [drummer] Gar Samuelson and [guitarist] Chris Poland. Gar had played with Chris Poland in a jazz group in LA called the New Yorkers, they were both from the Buffalo, NY area. And that really kicked the band in a whole new level because now there was this legitimate, progressive jazz-fusion ability in the band. There was this cool marriage of all different progressive styles of music and to me "thrash" was the playing ability of really good metal combined with the speed and aggro of punk rock. It was the marriage of two very different forms of music, because prior to that punk and metal did not get along. So you had the speed and aggression of punk combined with the riffing and the heaviness, darkness and the ability that came with good metal playing.
SW: I remember back then the LA promoters and club-goers didn't have a clue about the emerging thrash-metal scene at the time [unlike the Bay Area] and Megadeth were often lumped onto punk rock bills. And since many of the known LA venues wouldn't allow this type of music, the shows were usually set up in ghettos around south central LA and North Long Beach [Mike Muir from Suicidal Tendencies had Triple M productions who promoted many of these old punk/thrash shows]. I remember seeing I believe the first Megadeth show in LA, which was at The Waters Club in San Pedro with [the Canadian thrash metal band] Exciter.
DE: Yeah, I remember that show!
DAVID ELLEFSON Interview Page 4