MEGADETH's David Ellefson says that he was considered for the bassist position in METALLICA after Jason Newsted left the band nearly 18 years ago.
Newsted exited METALLICA in January 2001, after he clashed with James Hetfield over the release of an album by ECHOBRAIN, Jason's side project. He was replaced by producer Bob Rock in the studio, for the recording of 2003's "St. Anger" album, and then permanently by former OZZY OSBOURNE bassist Robert Trujillo.
In a new interview with The Metal Voice, Ellefson was asked if there was any talk about him playing with METALLICA once it was announced that Newsted had split with the group. "They didn't call me," David said (hear audio below). "I know that there was a conversation about considering me. I know Lars [Ulrich, METALLICA drummer] and Dave [Mustaine, MEGADETH mainman] had chatted, 'cause [METALLICA] were putting their short list together. And, to be honest with you… I mean, look, METALLICA are great, and I'm a fan of theirs and friends with them, and I would be there to be of service with them in whatever way, but they, I think, made their decision right around the time when MEGADETH had disbanded in 2002."
Ellefson also discussed the differences in the musical approach of METALLICA and MEGADETH, especially as the two bands progressed and eventually became two of the biggest metal bands in the world.
"It's very interesting," he said. "[METALLICA's] music, as much as we come from the same family tree, their songs, as they developed over the years, are very different than MEGADETH stuff. I actually sat down for the first time… 'Cause I never sat down with a bass and played along to METALLICA songs. As much as I've been a fan of theirs, especially kind of up through the 'Black' album, I never sat down and really dug into their songs as a player. And I did one day, and I was, like, 'Oh my gosh!' These songs are so different than MEGADETH. Their riffs and where James puts the phrasing of his vocals over top of his riffs is so different from how we do it in MEGADETH. And I found it kind of fascinating, because, here we are, the two bands, and, obviously, Dave [Mustaine] having played in METALLICA in their early years, how their sound really developed and transitioned over the years and how MEGADETH's sound largely, obviously, developed, but there was a thing about it… Like when I go back and I listen to… maybe not 'Mechanix' and 'Jump In The Fire', but maybe things like… I don't know… 'Metal Militia', or other things that Dave had written on the 'Kill 'Em All' era, now I hear it. I go back and I hear things… Like the other day, I heard 'The Call Of Ktulu' [from METALLICA's 'Ride The Lightning' album] playing in the background somewhere, and as soon as I heard it, I went, 'God, that sounds like Dave.' And it's a song that he wrote that they ended up using on 'Ride The Lightning'. Obviously, Dave didn't play on it, but I could just hear the picking pattern of how Dave plays. Even in the distance, barely audible, I could hear that it was a Dave composition as played by METALLICA."
Back in 2011, Mustaine said that he was relieved that Ellefson wasn't invited to join METALLICA after the tragic death of Cliff Burton.
Burton died on tour in 1986 in a tour bus crash, three years after Mustaine was kicked out of METALLICA and went on to form MEGADETH.
Mustaine told CBS: "When Cliff died, there was a moment where Dave's name had come up [as Burton's possible replacement in METALLICA] and I was a little concerned. I didn't want to lose my bassist and I certainly didn't want to have another reason to be upset. God knows I had my reasons, even though they weren't all real. A lot of them were caused by myself."
He admitted: "I just don't think I would have done well if I'd have known that had happened. Fortunately for me, I think those guys took that into account and just said, 'Let's find someone else.'"
Ellefson was in MEGADETH from the band's inception in 1983 to 2002, when the group briefly broke up because Mustaine suffered severe nerve damage that left him unable to play. After Mustaine reformed MEGADETH with an all-new lineup in 2004, Ellefson sued his former bandmate for $18.5 million, alleging that Mustaine still owed him substantial merchandise and publishing royalties. In January 2005, the case was dismissed in court, and five years later, Ellefson rejoined MEGADETH.
Photo credit: Mike Savoia