Cameron Edney of Inside Out webzine recently conducted an interview with former MEGADETH and current F5 members David Ellefson (bass) and Jimmy DeGrasso (drums). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Inside Out: Jimmy, let's go back to late October 1993 when SUICIDAL TENDENCIES and ALICE IN CHAINS played Australia together. I was fortunate enough to witness both Sydney shows which took place one week apart due to the touring schedule, and two things that come to mind when I think of the second Sydney show are 1. You were filling in on drums for Sean [Kinney, ALICE IN CHAINS] and 2. Layne [Staley, ALICE IN CHAINS singer] jumping into the crowd to belt some guy who was spitting at him! Do you remember that incident?
Jimmy DeGrasso: [Laughs] I totally remember that and I'll tell ya what... I have the only existing video of that show! The soundman for SUICIDAL had this video camera and I taped three of the shows. He set a tripod up at the soundboard and I totally remember that happening! I was sitting up on the drum riser and someone had spat on Layne, then Layne had jumped into the crowd. We only had one security guard and he couldn't get Layne out. I remember stepping off the drums and I couldn't even find Layne in the crowd at one point. We were standing on the edge of the stage looking for him and he wasn't a terribly big guy. I remember standing there with Mike [Inez] and he said, "Well, he's in there somewhere." [laughs] Eventually he will come back out and we can finish the set [laughs]. I remember that like it was yesterday!
Inside Out: [Laughs] I wasn't standing too far away from the guy who was spitting at Layne and I still don't know why the hell he was doing it in the first place! Those ALICE IN CHAINS / SUICIDAL shows were life-changing concert experiences for me.
Jimmy DeGrasso: I'll never understand why people pay money to go and see you, spit at you to then get beat up! I'll also never understand why people come to see you and then throw their shoes onstage! I'll also never understand why you go to a show, you buy a beer then you throw it at the band [laughs]. A couple of years ago I was playing with David Lee Roth, and during the last song, which was "Jump", I got hit in the head with a full beer bottle. It knocked me for a second, but I remember thinking… what was the point of throwing a perfectly good beer on the stage and hoping it would hit someone? If you don't like the song, you don't like the song, but don't throw your friggin beer! It's one of those mysteries that you and I will never understand [laughs].
Inside Out: You both have played with some amazing musicians throughout your careers. Is there any one band you would love to go out on the road with?
David Ellefson: It's pretty wide open. There are a lot of other big tours up here and I think F5 is a band who could play with JUDAS PRIEST and QUEENSRŸCHE or we could hit the road with newer bands like SEVENDUST, DISTURBED or SYMPHONY X. The cool thing with this new record is it has its traditional metal roots because of my background and because the guys in F5 are a little bit younger, it by nature has a fresh feeling about it too.
Inside Out: What have your parents thought about the music you have played?
Jimmy DeGrasso: [Laughs] They never really had an opinion. They were always really supportive when I was a kid of playing drums. They gave me a drum kit when I was two; most parents won't give you a drum kit when you're ten 'cause they don't want to hear it. From that standpoint, they have always been supportive. My dad's no longer with us but my mom is and she has come to SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, ALICE COOPER and MEGADETH shows. You name it, she's been there, and she's always liked it!
David Ellefson: My parents were always supportive of me playing. They never liked the music that I played [laughs]. What parents want their kids getting into heavy metal? Fortunately, I had a good upbringing and I think my father got really excited, that I got passionate about something. I later learned after he died that he was really passionate about architecture, but he took over our family farm and ran the farm operation which he was really good at. He was a business man but I think ideally he had this artistic thing inside of him that he probably was never able to realize to the level that he wanted. I think once he saw me grab on to music he got excited. He saw that I was serious about it, I dedicated my whole life to music, my every waking hour to it and he really got behind it and supported me!
Inside Out: Dave, how old are your kids now?
David Ellefson: Roman is 12 years old and Athena is 9 years old.
Inside Out: As they get ready to enter their teenage years, Roman in particular here, I wanted to ask you... when you look at the lifestyle that comes with being in this industry and being a parent who has done it all and seen it all, how do you plan to tackle the hard topics such as sex and drugs and what's the best piece of advice you think you could give the kids when the time comes?
David Ellefson: I am hoping that because I went out and lived my life and did almost every possible thing there is to do in debauchery that ever happened; I am hoping my kids will do the complete opposite [laughs].
Inside Out: [Laughs] I guess in your case the hardest thing is you can't sit there and say if you do this and that this will happen to you, because let's face it you are one of the fortunate ones who has been able to make a very good living, is looking well and healthy and survived it! If your kids put up that argument down the track where does that leave you?
David Ellefson: You're absolutely right. I'm at the front end of it right now, and I'm not into it yet but one thing I have realized about parenting is that kids teach you how to parent. You can read every book until you're blue in the face but kids basically teach you how to be their parent. In my case, one of the best things that I have on my side is life experience. I'm not saying that the bible says this or that parenting book says that, in my case my experience becomes my greatest asset!
Inside Out: How hard is it to juggle family life when you are so busy with various projects, it must be hard diving your time between both?
David Ellefson: It is a lot, recently I was in Hawaii for the Rock N' Roll Fantasy Camp then I came home then a week later I played an F5 show, then I did THE ALIEN BLAKK. Put it this way, the more I play, even if it's a lot of different varieties of music, the more excited I get, I feel like I'm living life to its fullest. I think sometimes that's the balance with family, music can be very self-consuming and self-absorbed and I think family is a way to pull me out of sucking myself up into my own asshole [laughs]! Having kids has made me stay young and feel youthful, it's kept me in touch with what's going on out there. It also helps me realize that music is an art form that is fun and passionate and entertaining for other people not just you!
Jimmy DeGrasso: Without going into any details, I am involved with some other business ventures, and when you play your whole life you don't wake up one morning and just say that's it, you always play! I don't tour as much as I used to cause I have family commitments now, and it just doesn't work for me, so I tour when I can in certain situations. At this point of my life nine-ten months on the road straight… I don't think I could tour like that anymore; I have other things in my life that takes priority. But I will always play.
Inside Out: Most artists are lucky to survive in the industry for 2-3 years and yet, you have had an amazing journey up to this point. If you had to relive it all again, would you change anything?
Jimmy DeGrasso: That's a great question 'cause one part of me wants to say yes... I wish I had done this or changed that or got out of this one sooner but, I think by letting things take their course, that's what creates the whole journey. If you went back and perhaps changed something then the whole thing would have a different end result and the end result isn't really finished yet! There are certain things I wish I had done differently but it all happened for a reason and they're all learning experiences either musically or in a business sense. I'd hate to say it but it is what it is, and you just have to deal with it the best way you can. There have been plenty of positive experiences and there have been some bumps in the road, but that's what separates the men from the boys.
Read the entire interview from Inside Out.