MEGADETH's DAVID ELLEFSON: 'The Day I Stop Learning Is The Day I Stop Growing'

MEGADETH's DAVID ELLEFSON: 'The Day I Stop Learning Is The Day I Stop Growing'

On October 22, prior to the Warsaw stop of his "Basstory" European tour, MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson spoke with Poland's Top Guitar. The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On the motivation behind his "Basstory" tour:

David: "I know a lot of our fans grow up wanting to play. When I was a young kid, KISS made me want to play. They made it attractive. It was larger than life. It was bigger than just me being a student in high school, living on a farm in Minnesota. It was a way to escape. I wasn't into comic books; I wasn't into sports. Music, that was my tribe. To me, I understand these... I don't even want to call them kids. It's important that we keep the music alive."

On the most common questions he receives:

David: "There's some who are just fans who enjoy the music; there's fans who are also wanting to play, and they'll [say], 'Dude, I just got my bass and I'm learning to play 'Peace Sells'.' I always say, 'Please start with a simpler song. Start with 'Symphony Of Destruction'. Even that's complex, but it's easier than 'Peace Sells'.' They're fans, and the music they want to play is MEGADETH and probably PANTERA, METALLICA and IRON MAIDEN. I get it — I was that guy. But for the musicians who maybe want to be performing on the weekends, or maybe they have aspirations to do what I do, that skill set is very different, because you have to study; you need to practice; you should probably take lessons; and being a professional, you are in a constant pursuit to always learn new stuff. I actually took lessons right before we did the 'Cryptic Writings' record right before we went to Nashville in 1996. I hadn't really studied... I studied a little bit in 1989 going into 'Rust In Peace' with a friend of mine, because I was just trying to absorb new things, especially right before going into the studio. 'What are some new things I can learn to just keep my chops fresh?' I find doing 'Basstory' is almost like studying, because as much as I'm brought here as the 'expert', I love asking questions to the audience, because they'll bring up things that make me think. I need to be a student as well. I've been doing 40-something years. I still have to be a student, because the day I stop learning is the day I stop growing."

On the best advice he ever received:

David: "My dad always told me, 'You're not great until someone else says you are.' In your heart, in order to get on a stage and perform, you have to have a confidence. He wasn't talking about that — he was talking about, 'You need to keep absorbing and growing and learning and developing, so that you can continue to grow your craft.' The other person is probably my band teacher in Minnesota. He would say things to me like, 'Broaden your horizons.' I played tenor saxophone in orchestra band, and then I played bass in jazz band. Playing bass is what I really wanted to do, and he knew that, and he knew that I was a rock n' roll musician, and he got that, but he's like, 'Look — you're in jazz band. You need to learn how to play jazz, because this is the band you're in right now. Stop making everything sound like LED ZEPPELIN. Learn how to swing.' It was great for me to study, because when I got out to California, my chops were pretty broad. I had a lot of stuff to choose from — I was not just this single-minded rock n' roll musician. When we started creating the MEGADETH sound, Dave [Mustaine] as the writer knew he could tap me to play things that he was writing, because we were basically creating a new sound. Even him, even though he was in METALLICA just a few weeks earlier, I saw him quickly develop into a much more broad and progressive player than even the stuff he had been doing in METALLICA a couple months before that."

On the advice he gives most frequently:

David: "I always say the two hardest things about a band is forming one and keeping it together... The early '90s, when Seattle music showed up. That's probably the biggest example for metalheads. No one saw that coming, and that really derailed thrash metal for a lot of years. Fortunately, most of us survived it, but there's a lot of bands that went away. The 'Big Four', TESTAMENT, OVERKILL, but there's a lot of other bands that it really took a toll on. As hard as we work to keep a band together inside, there's things that come at you from outside of our band that you could never see coming. To really be a warrior and stay the course regardless of these things, the tenacity to be a musician, I don't know if it's insane, stupid or if it's just who we are. It's probably a little bit of all of it. We're just dumb enough to be crazy enough to keep doing it, and that I think is where the fun of it is."

Ellefson's "Basstory" tour combines solo bass performance with David's celebrated brand of storytelling, as he recounts intimate details of his struggles and triumphs in the name of rock 'n' roll. "Basstory" also includes special VIP meet-and-greets, exclusive merchandise and more.

MEGADETH's latest album, "Dystopia" was released in early 2016. The band's next LP, which is tentatively due in 2019, will be the first to feature new drummer Dirk Verbeuren (ex-SOILWORK).


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