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David Ellefson: Making peace for ‘The Soundwave situation’

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By Patrick Emmett

After multiple attempts at calling Megadeth’s David Ellefsonthe band that years ago, made me become obsessed with heavy metal – I almost thought that I wouldn’t get the chance to interview him after I was accidentally given the wrong number. But luckily enough, I finally got a hold of him an hour after my scheduled time.

The 5-string man from one of thrash metal’s Big Four is coming to Australia in March for a spoken word tour, named after his book My Life With ‘Deth. While he has done other solo shows in the past, such as bass performance clinics, these spoken word shows will be a first for him.

“I’m really excited about it, because it’s been four years since I’ve been down to Australia, and people in Australia are so much fun. It’s such a cool kick back and relax environment down there. I just love it as a country! And just to be able to bring this down here, with my book, My Life With Deth getting released, I think it’s a good springboard to be able to start doing spoken word.”

There seems to be a recent trend of musicians doing spoken word tours and performance clinics as of late. When I interviewed Jesse Leach (Killswitch Engage) about it recently, since he was about to do his first ever show of its kind, and it wasn’t his idea to do a spoken word show, he didn’t have a whole lot to say. Ellefson is the same, while he has done performance clinics before, this is his first time doing spoken word. I asked if he saw these shows as an effort to tap into a new stream of income since CD sales have gone dry.

“For me, I guess I’m not looking at it as much as an income opportunity. I think it would be more from a creative standpoint. I love performing. I’ve always loved having the bass in my hand, going on stage and playing. I’ve always felt comfortable in front of an audience, so I’ll feel comfortable standing up there sharing my life, talking about both the good and the bad of my life.”

David continues: “I think in my book was the first time I’ve really been open with my fans about everything in my life, from not only rock ‘n’ roll and successes of show-business, but my personal life, struggles and things that I’ve overcome. So I’m hoping that this will be as much of an inspirational night as it is a night of rock ‘n’ roll.”

It’s no secret that when touring in a band, tensions can grow between certain members, when you’ve been around each other for too long. Does Ellefson see solo tours like this as a more peaceful and easier experience than touring with Megadeth?

“Well I’ve never done a spoken word tour, so I’ll tell you about that once this one is done. As far as doing clinics or things like that, clinics are kind of weird because a lot of the time, you’re performing to an MP3 track. So that’s weird, because normally when you’re playing, you’re used to playing with the band. The thing I probably like the most about the clinics isn’t necessarily the musical part, it’s the Q&A part with the audience.”

“For me, that’s a big part of what I want spoken word to be. I want it to be an interactive experience with me and the audience.”

While Ellefson believes there’s no such thing as a “bad question” or a “dumb question”, if you’re attending the show, here is one thing you might not want to ask.

“Sometimes people will ask about what it’s like to work with certain band members. And it’s like, ‘Really?’ How do you answer that? You’re either in the band with them or you’re not! It’s self-explanatory. If you’re not in the band with them anymore, obviously it wasn’t very good. If you’re still in the band with them, well obviously it works! So sometimes, people will ask you questions that to me, already seem pretty obvious.”

[Obviously those comments were not about Shawn Drover and Chris Broderick not being in the band anymore, so don’t even start!]

Ellefson also mentions that he will probably bring a bass with him to the shows. “I’ll probably bring a bass with me to have there, because I think lots of people will want to hear certain bass lines and things played. Even though it’s a spoken word tour, the bass is still a part of my performance too.”

When Megadeth were meant to play Soundwave Festival in 2014, the band cancelled after an unexplained falling out between Dave Mustaine and Soundwave head-honcho AJ Maddah. I decided to tease Ellefson about this, since I was the winner of a Megadeth competition that should have got me a meet and greet with them, and a vinyl/CD pack. I didn’t end up getting either. We both had a laugh about it.

Ellefson says, “I gotta be honest with you, the original conversation for this spoken word tour started at the exact day that the Soundwave thing was starting to fall apart. Unknowingly, wasn’t even intentional. So when it started happening, I immediately thought ‘Well, you know what? I can’t wait to do this. I don’t even know what it’s going to look like, or what the repertoire is going to be, but if the answer is yes, I want to do it largely because I want to get back to Australia and be with the fans there.’”

He continues, “Now I’m really excited about it because it’s becoming a reality! Australia is a very difficult country to get to because it’s so far away and it’s a big country, so it requires a lot of planning to get there and make it work for everybody. But I hope that for someone exactly like you, that this tour will be a way to amend that situation from Soundwave. You know I’m very aware and conscious of it, so hopefully anybody who didn’t get to see Megadeth at Soundwave, this will be an opportunity for us to hang out and have an evening together until Megadeth can get there again!”

And to me, it definitely is.

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