MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson, who is also a Lutheran pastor, spoke to "Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon" about the sermon he gave last month at the Megadeth Boot Camp fan event that took place on MEGADETH mainman Dave Mustaine's private estate in Fallbrook, California. He said: "When we were putting the Megadeth Boot Camp together that we did a couple of weeks ago, Dave [Mustaine] hit me a few months ago, and he said, 'Hey, would it be cool if we did a 'Megadeth Church' in the morning?' And I said, 'Sure. I'd be happy to do it.' And I said, 'Any ideas on what I should preach on?' It's kind of a sensitive subject. And he just said, he goes, 'How about: you can still listen to heavy metal and not go to hell?' And I was, like, 'Awesome.' So that was the theme of the sermon."
He continued: "It was interesting, because I opened it up with IRON MAIDEN 'The Number Of The Beast', [BLACK] SABBATH 'War Pigs', SLAYER 'South Of Heaven', GHOST 'Absolution' and MEGADETH 'Holy Wars'. That was my worship music for this thing, that I based the theology on. And I called my pastor, and I said, 'Give me some scripture to go to that I can kind of point this to.' And so the beginning of that whole ' Woe to you, Oh Earth and Sea,' the beginning of the IRON MAIDEN tune, is all straight out of Revelation 13:18, and the Book Of Revelation talks all about Satan being a fallen angel and taking a third of the [angels] with him and just kind of being a pain the butt to God and sin and temptation and all this stuff. So that really was kind of the basis of the theology of it."
Ellefson added: "It was interesting doing the sermon at Boot Camp because I am talking to metalheads, of which I am, about, like, 'Look, God's… he's cool with this.' I mean, God's the creator which is how all music is created. The Devil has no creative or redemptive power, so the music didn't come from the Devil, as a lot of people would think. So it's kind of like this sigh of relief — like, 'Hey, we're good. We're cool.' At the same time, if music, or movies, or whatever it is you're into, forces you down roads of temptation, well, then you probably shouldn't be doing it. And I speak from experience with that, for sure."
The MEGADETH bassist went on to defend heavy metal bands who write — and fans who listen to — songs that deal with gloomy subjects.
"In metal, let's face it, most of us, when I was growing up [listening to] SABBATH [with] Ronnie Dio lyrics, then SLAYER, today maybe GHOST, whatever, there's always this fascination with the occult and the dark side and the abyss and 'what if' and all these different things," he said. "It's what we do as a genre — we watch scary movies, we sometimes write scary music. And sometimes just 'cause we write it or we do this doesn't necessarily mean that that's our testimony either — it's not always a personal experience. We've written a lot of MEGADETH songs that are basically fictional accounts. 'Five Magics' [is not] something we did — it's a story. And same with 'Bad Omen' or these kind of things. And that was one of the things I really wanted to make clear — we write sometimes songs… It's like Stephen King writing a fictional novel. It didn't actually happen; it's just a story about it. Just enjoy the story and don't put so much judgment around it."
Asked if there are any songs in the MEGADETH catalog that the band no longer feels comfortable performing because of their lyrical content, Ellefson said: "None of the ones that I wrote are in that category. Dave's [Mustaine] got a couple that he really feels, 'I don't wanna stand up there on that stage and sing that.' And he's been open about it. And, of course, no one asked about it until he said that, and then he said because it was a conviction to him. He was kind of, like, 'Look, I'm not gonna sing those songs. I don't feel comfortable singing… I wrote 'em. I've got the right to play 'em or not, and I don't want to.' So I stand behind him on that. Again, as the author of those tunes, it's kind of his choice, really."
Mustaine said last year that he was reconsidering his decision to never play MEGADETH's 1986 song "The Conjuring" again, explaining that he wouldn't mind reintroducing the track at MEGADETH's live shows "as long as it doesn't hurt anybody."
Mustaine wrote in his autobiography, "Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir", that he practiced black magic as a teenager, and that the experience — which inspired "The Conjuring" — affected his life for years after.
Mustaine previously spoke about his reluctance to perform "The Conjuring" during a 2011 interview with U.K.'s Total Guitar magazine. He stated at the time: "Performance-wise, 'The Conjuring' is one of the heaviest songs on [MEGADETH's 'Peace Sells… But Who's Buying?' album], but, unfortunately, it's got black magic in it and I promised that I wouldn't play it anymore, because there's a lot of instructions for hexes in that song. Although it seems kinda corny, anybody who's a Wiccan or a warlock or anything like that will know that all of that stuff is instrumental."