Few bands in heavy metal have been as enduring or as influential as Megadeth. As one of the original “Big Four” heavy metal bands, the group, like their peers in Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax are showing no signs of slowing down despite approaching their 30th anniversary. Their continued relevance in the world of heavy metal and thrash music is indisputable.
Released in November 2011, Th1rt3en is Megadeth’s first record since 2001’s The World Needs A Hero to feature founding member and bassist Dave Ellefson on record. Ellefson and Megadeth leader Dave Mustaine acrimoniously parted ways after the group’s 2001 record however Ellefson rejoined his longtime friend and Megadeth in 2010.
From the band’s Gigantour stop in the Toronto area last week, The MusicNerd Chronicles had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Dave Ellefson in regards to the relaunch of their popular Gigantour tour as well as what was behind his decision to become a pastor.
What was behind the decision to relaunch Gigantour at this point in the band’s career?
Ellefson: The last time that the band undertook Gigantour was 2008, almost four years ago. It just seemed as though the timing in terms of having released Th1rt3en was perfect. The record came out late last year so it had actually helped set the stage rather well for us undertaking a tour in January and February. What is really nice about putting together a package like this, with legacy heavy metal bands like us and Motorhead alongside Lacuna Coil and Volbeat, is the fact they we don’t really have to stay out of the way of other tours.
It seems as though Megadeth is constantly on tour if you’re not in the studio making a record. You also seem to have embraced social media by keeping in close contact with your fans via web diaries and more. Is having a close relationship with your fans and being “approachable” something that you consider to be an important trait?
Ellefson: I think you’re exactly right. As you’re in a band that becomes more and more popular, it is almost as though the cocoon that you live in becomes smaller. And of course, the danger associated with that is that you lose touch with the very core group of fans who put you there to begin with. For heavy metal, our whole scene started with tape trading and an underground sort of culture. These days though, you’d be crazy not to use modern technology and conveniences to your advantage to build a closer relationship with your fans. There was a period in the 90’s where the mainstream was not favourable for those of us in thrash bands and for those of us that survived, we learned a lot. The people that have always been there for us have been our fans and now we are fortunate enough to have a second wave of resurgence behind the band.
Aside from Dave Mustaine, you’re the next most senior Megadeth member. How is the lineup with Chris and Shawn gelling in the studio and on stage?
Ellefson: Honestly, it is working extremely well. It is something that you can only really learn from experience though. Dave and I can look around and rely upon our past experiences to guide us forward. There were times in the past where I think we got going too fast and ended up wiping out. These days though, we have learned how to handle ourselves better.
Tell me a little about what made you decide to undertake studies to become a pastor.
Ellefson: My decision really stemmed from attending the church that I have raised my children in. The pastor of the church is a really cool guy. He’s a musician and a songwriter and knows a lot about rock n roll. When he moved to Scottsdale to become the Senior Pastor at the church we attend, he and I really hit it off and he was the one who actually suggested that he felt I would be a good fit. He told me that the church needs to have more current and relevant people in their ranks. In a way, he felt as though I was the perfect example because there was a time in my life that I had turned away from the church but ultimately returned triumphantly. My story is a believable one and that is something that people look towards when they are deciding whether to trust in you. I believe that playing in Megadeth has been one of my primary purposes in life however I feel as though a lot of people reach a point in their lives where there is a fork in the road and aren’t quite sure where to turn. I’m proud to be taking the seminary training so that one day, I might have a solid answer to give back to them.