In a new interview with “Real Music With Gary Stuckey”, former MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson reflected on the ups and downs of his four-decade music career, including his latest departure from the influential Dave Mustaine-fronted metal band.
“You find out who your friends are and you find out who your friends aren’t pretty fucking quick when the shit hits the fan,” he said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). “‘Cause everybody wants to be around you when you’re picking up your Grammy.
“Look, life is… You’re never on top all the time,” he reasoned. “Your life ebbs and flows, your career ebbs and flows — all of that. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a career musician and I’ve had to go with the ebbs and flows of the good, the bad and the otherwise, sometimes from within, sometimes from without.
“In the early ’90s, just when we thought everything was going awesome, Seattle music showed up,” Ellefson added. “No one saw that coming. So there’s all kinds of internal and external forces at work, and I think the trick is to be galvanized to be able to withstand the storms and come out the other side and still keep rocking.”
Speaking about the importance of getting along with the musicians he is playing with, Ellefson said: “I’ve been in situations with people that were just impossible, and somehow you just learn to make it work. Sometimes the success becomes the golden handcuffs, so you just have to make it work. And unfortunately, in those situations what happens is you often start to compromise your own morality, your own beliefs, your own integrity, because you just go, ‘Well, if we can just get to the other side of the ocean before we sink, we’ll be okay.’ And then you get to the other side and the phone rings and they say, ‘Hey, we’ve got one more ocean for you to cross,’ so you decide to do it again. [Laughs]
“The truth of it is sometimes the reward of the music and being on stage and the success and being able to be comfortable and the livelihood, those are all factors,” he admitted. “You can’t just base it on any one or two things, especially when you’re in the music ‘business.’ If it were just always about having fun, well, there’d be a lot of people working day jobs while having fun. But when you’re in it to win it and make music your business, you also have to put your big-boy pants on and realize it isn’t all gonna go your way. And I think that’s the hardest thing — is learning how to compromise and learning which battles are the ones that you wanna win and which hill it is that you’re willing to die on. And oftentimes most of ’em, they seem like mountains but they’re really just mole hills [laughs]; they’re really not that big of a deal. And maybe that’s just my upbringing in the Midwest as I learned to just kind of maybe be a little more ‘go with the flow’ with that stuff.”
Ellefson left Jackson, Minnesota in the early ’80s to move to Los Angeles, where he met former METALLICA guitarist Dave Mustaine, and the pair co-founded multi-platinum, Grammy-winning hard rock act MEGADETH, going on to become one of the “Big Four” of thrash metal. Ellefson‘s smalltown Jackson roots have been immortalized in MEGADETH lore as the subject of classic songs including the smash hit “Foreclosure Of A Dream” and the underground classic “Mary Jane”.
Ellefson, who has lived in Scottsdale, Arizona since 1994, was fired from MEGADETH in May 2021, just days after sexually tinged messages and explicit video footage involving the bassist were posted on Twitter. At the time, Ellefson released a statement on Instagram denying all social media chatter that he “groomed” an underage fan. He also filed a report with the police department in Scottsdale, Arizona alleging unlawful distribution of sexually explicit images of him by unknown offenders. In the report, Ellefson admitted that he had been exchanging sexual text messages with a Dutch teenager, who captured a video of several of their virtual “masturbating encounters” without his consent and shared them with friends. (According to Ellefson, the woman was 19 at the time of their first virtual sexual encounter.)
David, a Christian who launched the Mega Life Ministries worship group in 2007, studied for a year at Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis a decade ago.
Last October, Ellefson told SiriusXM‘s “Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk” that there is a perception that people of faith must set a higher standard of how they live with and treat others. “It’s almost like you’re this entity that’s floating up toward the heavens: ‘Oh, he’s such a wonderful man. He’s a man of faith. He’s got his family. And then this happens.’ It’s, like, ‘What the hell is this?'” he said.
“I mean, look, admittedly I’ve sort of trained the public to think that I’m one of the more well-behaved rock stars out there, and for the most part I have been,” he continued. “But at the same time, and this isn’t to claim anything other than just, oops, shit happens. That is what it is.”
Ellefson was in MEGADETH from the band’s inception in 1983 to 2002, and again from 2010 until his latest exit.