Bassist David Ellefson (MEGADETH, METAL ALLEGIANCE) was recently interviewed by Australia’s Sticks For Stones. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On writing the new METAL ALLEGIANCE album, “Volume 2 – Power Drunk Majesty”:
David: “These are not ‘Internet records’ that we do. It’s important for us to be together in the room, working on them together. It’s pretty cool how we do that. There were a few sessions — one was with Mark Menghi, Mike [Portnoy] and Alex [Skolnick], and the other one was with me, Mike and Alex. Because there’s two bass players in the band, and because Mark and I are both sort of founders of METAL ALLEGIANCE, we’ve found this really interesting way to split up the bass duties and the composing role between the two of us.”
On the process of “casting” the album’s guest vocalists:
David: “When we write the song, usually the song calls to us as to who we think might be a good candidate for a vocalist. Because we’re all friends — we all tour together; we see each other at festivals; we’re in the same neighborhood, the same community — we then reach out to our friends, and invite them to participate. With very rare exceptions, everybody that we’ve reached out has made themselves available and were very thrilled and happy to participate on the albums. Then from there, usually we write most of the melodies, the lyrics, to give to them to sing. For instance, John Bush [ARMORED SAINT] was happy just to sing what we gave him. Same with Mark Tornillo [ACCEPT]. At the same time, Bobby Blitz [OVERKILL] felt he needed to kind of get into the song a little bit as a composer to sort of feel it himself, so we let him take that liberty. In the case of Max Cavalera [SOULFLY, SEPULTURA] and Johan [Hegg, AMON AMARTH], even Floor [Jansen, NIGHTWISH], we let them really just take full liberty of writing lyrics and melodies — ‘Here’s the music; write your parts.'”
On wanting METAL ALLEGIANCE to tour:
David: “That was really why, quite honestly, we pushed to do album number two. Much as we started as an all-star jam on a boat, and then we put out one record, I think putting out two records really turns this into a real… into an actual, you know, creative original artist.”
On his memories of playing with SOULFLY, and how it compared to MEGADETH:
David: “There’s similarities with the thrash element, yet the approach as far as the casualness of it is very different, because Max is kind of like, ‘Look, I hired you to do you thing. Do your thing. You don’t need me to tell you what to do. Just do your thing.’ That element is very different in how we operate in MEGADETH. It was a really fun experience to have. Also, Max has a lot of these other sort of world music, almost reggae, different elements. It was fun to step out as a bass player. One minute, you’re playing thrashing riffs, and the next minute, you’re playing almost, like, reggae grooves. It was very fun as a bass player.”
On the MEGADETH “Boot Camp” that took place last year:
David: “It was good. I actually preached the Sunday morning church sermon on how you’re probably not going to go to hell if you listen to heavy metal, which I thought was kind of a fun thing to do. I also officiated a wedding for two of the guests that came to the camp. Vic Rattlehead walked the bride down the aisle, Kiko [Loureiro, MEGADETH guitarist] played music and I officiated the wedding. It was really a super-cool event.”
On whether, as a church-goer, he’s ever received any pushback for being a member of MEGADETH:
David: “I never got any grief from the church people, me personally. Did they like some of the early MEGADETH songs — ‘The Conjuring’, ‘Black Friday’, ‘Devil’s Island’, ‘Bad Omen’? Probably not, but they weren’t really invited to the party anyway, so we weren’t really too worried about what they were saying. We weren’t a band who is going out with upside-down crosses and crucifixes and doing repulsive things against religion. We weren’t that band that did that.”
On his spirituality today, and whether he and MEGADETH leader Dave Mustaine share similar Christian beliefs:
David: “To be honest, us having more of an adult understanding of that helped us kind of mend fences and become friends again and eventually [led me to] rejoin MEGADETH in 2010… I’ve learned some of my greatest things about spirituality from Native Americans who I’ve become friends with here in Arizona. I’ve probably learned more from them organically. They pointed out to me that the religion that I was brought up in was one that the Europeans brought over here, when we probably treated them less than fair. I think as a musician, you get to travel the world and you get to be exposed to all kinds of different cultures. In a culture, you can’t separate their politics and their religion — it all comes as a package. One of the things I learned early on was, take the cotton out of your ears and stick it in your mouth. Do more listening and less talking, and get in touch with the culture you get to experience as a musician. It’s really a cool life we get to have if you open your eyes and open your ears.”
On the status of new MEGADETH music:
David: “We’ve been working on new material this whole year. We only did about seven weeks of touring, but that’s now the focus – working on this new album. One thing we learned from ‘Dystopia’ is that the next album will be done when it’s done. Fortunately, we don’t have to be backed into a corner to hurry up and rush it. It will be an album when it’s an album.”
MEGADETH‘s next album — the follow-up to 2016’s Grammy-winning “Dystopia”, the band’s first record featuring Loureiro — is expected to surface at some point in 2019. It will be the group’s first album with drummer Dirk Verbeuren.
“Volume II – Power Drunk Majesty” will be released on September 7 via Nuclear Blast Entertainment. The disc was produced by Menghi and Skolnick while Mark Lewis of MRL Studios handled the mixing and mastering. The cover artwork was created by renowned artist Marcelo Vasco (SLAYER, MACHINE HEAD, SOULFLY, HATEBREED) and Rafael Tavares.