Mark Holmes of the Metal Discovery webzine conducted an interview with MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson on February 22. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metal Discovery: I've read that MEGADETH will be playing "Rust In Peace" in its entirety at live dates this year. How have rehearsals been, and has it felt quite natural and nostalgic to be playing all those songs again?
Ellefson: Yeah, you're right, that is what we're doing, and it felt very natural. It's been really, really cool actually. I've stayed up on a lot of those tunes over the years and for me, and Dave as well, some songs we've never played again since we left the studio! [laughs]
Metal Discovery: What ones have you never played live?
Ellefson: Things like "…Polaris" and "Poison Was The Cure". Well, maybe we tried them once at sound check but they never made it into the show so never played them. After a while, twenty years goes by and you go, "Holy cow, we haven't even played that song since we recorded it!" So that's been fun for us to go back and listen to the record and, you know, kinda look at each other… What the hell were we thinking when we wrote that?! [laughs] It was very, very difficult, very progressive music yet, at the same time, it's cool to go back and really look at it through the eyes of the fans again too and just go, "Wow, okay, I get why they like this record!"
Metal Discovery: How do you actually regard the album yourself now, twenty years on, because personally, and I'm sure I speak for hundreds of thousands of fans, it's one of the top ten metal records ever? And, like you say, progressive. I think it was way ahead of its time as well in 1990.
Ellefson: I would agree. In fact, a lot of things with MEGADETH is I go back and I listen to 'em, and sometimes you need to hear it through the eyes of the listener because, again, we were in the room writing it, recording it, so our frame of reference is different. You know, I could tell over the years as we were making some of these records, even as we were making "Peace Sells…"… I spoke to Chris Poland a few weeks ago too and he even said, he goes, "Yeah, even the 'Peace Sells…' record, man, when we were making that, that was so just out there and ahead of its time in so many ways." And the "Rust In Peace" record falls in that same category, I think. It's one of these records that so just, for whatever reason man, it was just way, way out in front of what everything else was at that time. There's an energy about it and it was just ferocious, you know. So to go back and play it is a lot of fun. It's like running a friggin' ten-mile race, man!
Metal Discovery: Were there any bass parts you had to really refresh your memory or did it all come back very naturally?
Ellefson: It all came back pretty quickly. Even when I sat down and just listened to it again to play it I was like, wow. To a large degree, it's like riding a bike, some of that stuff. And again, that record in particular, and quite honestly a lot like the "Peace Sells…" record, we didn't write that in the studio; it wasn't some Pro Tools record. "Rust In Peace" took about a year and a half to write it; we demoed it once; we wrote some more; we demoed it again and then we went in and finally recorded it. Most of it we wrote as a three-piece — some of it we wrote with Chuck Behler, then he was replaced by Nick Menza so we wrote the remainder of it with Nick. Then we had a month of rehearsals with Marty and next thing is we're in the studio recording it. So a lot of that stuff really gets ingrained into your DNA!
Metal Discovery: Have you actually listened to the album much in the last twenty years, in its entirety?
Ellefson: You know, from top to bottom, no. I mean, look, you hear "Holy Wars…", yeah. Even back in my MEGADETH days before, we always played "Holy Wars…" and "Hangar 18", but that was about it, so now to dig in and play "Take No Prisoners" and "Five Magics", and those songs; it's really, really cool.
Metal Discovery: The media seem to be touting your return to MEGADETH as just for the twentieth anniversary tour of "Rust In Peace", but I've also read it's more of a permanent arrangement. Have there been any talks within the band as to the future?
Ellefson: Yeah, well, kinda like what we just spoke about earlier, obviously this is a pretty huge transition for me to turn this new corner back into the band full-time! [laughs] So we just said, look, obviously in the big picture of a full-time thing, basically that's the goal, is that we ramp this up, we hit it, we go and then off we are. Obviously I'm excited about it — I mean, there's a lot of other cool tours behind this: the "Big Four" shows in Europe; the SLAYER/MEGADETH co-headlining run through the U.S. and Canada. So, I mean, there's a lot of great stuff and the vibes are good, we're having a lot of fun with it, and I think a lot of it was… it's like musically we got in a room and we knew by the time we got to the first chorus of "Symphony of Destruction", I think we went. "Okay, this is definitely gonna work!" So there's a lot of things but I think our mindset with it is like let's just… we're all adults now; we're not just like a bunch of eighteen-year-old kids looking to just get out and drink some beers and get some blowjobs. So I think our mindset with it is like, man, let's just make sure that this is really cool for everybody on every level, and especially the fans. You know what I mean? That was a big thing for me when this opportunity came back over to me I'm like, man, if there's ever a time that the fans would absolutely love to see this whole thing back together it is right now. I mean, this is really a time, and none of us could have really planned or orchestrated this any better.
Metal Discovery: Yeah, definitely, and purely about the music now.
Ellefson: It really is, and I think that's what's cool about this is that this wasn't a bunch of money guys sitting down and thinking about how can we pump some life back into everybody's career again. This is something that just…you know, I've been happy doing what I've been doing and Dave has certainly done a fine job carrying on with MEGADETH, so this whole thing in coming back together is really…I think we're all just so happy about it because the timing of these tours; knowing that the fans… I don't know, it's just a cool comfort level! [laughs] It just feels good on a lot of levels and let's just roll with that.
Read the entire interview from Metal Discovery.