DAVID ELLEFSON Interview Page 4
By Bob Nalbandian
SW: I could see how Megadeth created this whole new musical genre bringing in the jazz/fusion influence to thrash metal. You talk about the big-four thrash metal bands at the time...Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth...those bands got their influence primarily from the New Wave of British Metal. Bands like Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Diamond Head and Venom played a huge influence on their musical style but Megadeth came out of left-field combining that British-style metal with this jazz-fusion meets thrash style...sophisticated thrash metal as they called it.
DE: We used to joke and call it punk/jazz...it was pretty over the top! The initial stuff we were writing was slower, songs like "The Skull Beneath The Skin" and "Devil's Island" and the song that then became "Set The World Afire"...those were all more mid-tempo songs and I remember all the fans up in Bay Area writing letters to Dave saying "man, I hope your stuff is faster than Metallica!" You know, that rivalry was going on at the time...
SW: That was the big thing at the time...who could play the fastest. All the thrash bands were competing for that title! I remember when I was doing my fanzine The Heabanger, after I would write a review on Metallica stating "they are one of the fastest and heaviest bands in the US" Slayer started putting these ads in my 'zine [claiming to be the "Fastest and Heaviest of All US Metal Bands!"] And that created such a controversy! It's hilarious to think about it now but I was literally getting tons of letters from bands from all over the world claiming that they were the fastest and heaviest and fans telling me who were the fastest and who were the poseurs! [One of my favorite letters was from St. Vitus stating, "those bands may be the fastest, but we are by far the heaviest!"]. There was always this fierce competition between metal bands back then but I got to say it was that attitude that really gave those bands that driving force that kept them always thriving to be on top.
DE: You're absolutely right. I remember the next day we went to rehearsal and all the songs became speed metal songs. For us it happened over night. It's amazing how these fans writing letters to the band fueled that whole thing and to a large degree it probably changed the course of our destiny. If the music just had stayed slow and mid-tempo, it would not have had the ferociousness and the furious nature that it eventually developed into.
SW: What was it like having Kerry King playing guitar on the early Megadeth shows in the Bay Area?
DE: Kerry is one of the best rhythm guitarists in metal that I've ever heard. He came in and Dave would show him a lick to a really difficult song like "Killing Is My Business" or "Chosen Ones" and Kerry would stand there and watch Dave play it once and then he would play it note for note perfect. And you know Kerry...he would stand there with no expression on his face almost looking bored. And I would be like; damn this guy is good! So Kerry helped us out on the first few Megadeth shows and I think we did an in-store at the Record Vault in San Francisco and all these kids were coming up to him saying stuff like "Slayer Rules" and they were happy to see him playing with us but I think it really dawned on Kerry the future that Slayer had. So when we went back home to LA it was hard to keep Kerry in.
SW: Now this was just prior to you getting Gar and Chris in the band, wasn't it Lee Rausch who was playing drums at that time?
DE: Yes, Lee Rausch. It was early 1984, those were the first shows we did, and being a kid from the Midwest I grew up hearing about the Starwood and The Whisky and all the LA hotspots and now I'm here in LA and Dave was like "were not playing the clubs in LA" which was a real disappointment for me. But Dave was a visionary, he had a great vision and a lot of experience in the LA and SF area - he knew the way of the land.
DAVID ELLEFSON Interview Page 5