myROCK conducted an interview with MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson before the band’s June 24 concert at the Copenhell festival in Copenhagen, Denmark.
On whether the recent drummer changes have been difficult for him, being one half of MEGADETH‘s rhythm section:
Ellefson: “It can be challenging. Fortunately, the caliber of musicians that we have in MEGADETH — fortunately, that we’ve always had, quite honestly, but now especially in 2016 — it’s at the highest level. I mean, [former MEGADETH touring and recording drummer] Chris Adler [LAMB OF GOD] is the highest caliber of the new school of heavy metal drumming, and then [current MEGADETH touring drummer] Dirk [Verbeuren, ex-SOILWORK] is kind of almost a half generation behind him, you know, coming up with new ideas — this whole grindcore thing that he does and his skill level. So just like with [current MEGADETH guitarist] Kiko [Loureiro], there isn’t a higher level of caliber of musician to have in the band than the guitar position, and it’s the same with the drums. I think if anything, it’s more of a feel. I know when I came back into the group in 2010, one of my first really kind of deciding factors was, ‘What is it gonna be like to play ‘Rust In Peace’ with [former MEGADETH drummer] Shawn Drover?’, having recorded it and played it with Nick Menza. And as soon as I played with Shawn and it was very easy and he had a very comfortable feel, it made the whole experience just really enjoyable. And I think when Dirk came in on this tour, fast forward years later here now, he has a real energy and a sparkle about his… just a real pizzazz in his drumming that we felt immediately. And it’s ironic that it’s from his left hand with the snare drum. He’s got a snare drum sound like some of these iconic drummers, like Alex Van Halen or Kenny Aronoff, a couple of American drummers that had these iconic… you hear ’em on the radio and you know it’s them playing. And Dirk has a real charisma to his playing that I think has really brought a whole new sound even to MEGADETH.”
On whether the new blood in MEGADETH is what is keeping the band alive:
Ellefson: “I mean, I think so. I think with bands, you always have to come up with something interesting and compelling for your fans to wanna keep coming back. The fact that is says ‘MEGADETH’ on it, that’s a lot — I mean, you walk in a store and you see a new MEGADETH record, so you expect a certain sound. And we learned from back in the ’90s that we can’t deviate too much from what that name represents as far as a sound, and that was a lesson we had to learn. But the records, I think, have been really strong that we have been making. To have the musician change was not expected… I mean, Shawn and Chris [Broderick] had departed — it was their choice — so, naturally, if we wanna move forward, we have to get a new lineup. But to have it, I think, be something that was so captivating and so musically invigorating and so exciting for the fans to wanna hear and come and now see live, yah, it added years to our life as a band. So we’re very fortunate, we’re very blessed that we kind of continue to fall up rather than falling down.”
On how MEGADETH‘s latest album, ‘Dystopia’, differs from 2013’s ‘Super Collider’:
Ellefson: “Well, you know, ‘Super Collider’, unfortunately, I think was prejudiced by the very first song that people heard from it. The first song people heard was the track ‘Super Collider’, which is very poppy, very light — still very kind of MEGADETH melody, but it was not what people had expected. Now, had we started the record and the first thing people heard on ‘Super Collider’ was the opening track, “Kingmaker”, with a gnarly bass riff and then straight into a very kind of “Fatal Illusion” kind of riff, I think that whole album would have been perceived very differently. And, in fact, it’s funny, Kiko has a whole other side to his life of marketing expertise and just kind of seeing things… And plus, because he’s from Brazil, he sees things through a very different lens that we do — me and Dave [Mustaine, MEGADETH mainman] — being in America. And I think that’s something that has really helped ‘Dystopia’; I think it’s helped MEGADETH, period. Even when Kiko was in the studio, he did his homework as he was going back through. And he would always bring things like, ‘You know, on ‘So Far, So Good… So What!’, you guys did this.’ You know, me and Dave would maybe just take that for granted, because we were there. But to hear it from an outsider, I think, from both Kiko and Chris Adler really… just those little comments and those little wisdoms really, I think, took the ‘Dystopia’ record to this whole other level. There’s a saying that the difference between ninety percent and a hundred percent, between really good and great, is a very small number, but if you can achieve it, it’s noticeable. It’s the thing that takes you to the World Cup, to the Super Bowl, to chart-topping success as a rock group, and I think Kiko‘s… in addition to his guitar playing, his mental scope of it really was that extra little sauce that made ‘Dystopia’ what you hear it to be right now.”