In a new interview with The Metal Voice conducted at this year’s NAMM convention in Anaheim, California, former MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson was asked if Dave Mustaine has reached out to him since his latest exit from the band. Ellefson said: “No. No, absolutely not. No, he has not reached out.”
As for whether he misses being in MEGADETH, David said: “Of course. I mean, look, it’s my band too. I helped start it. But let me be clear. There are things about it, of course, that I miss — the fans, the performances, the shows. And I enjoy the touring.
“I’m a road warrior, man,” he explained. “I’m a wanderlust guy. My fortune in life is out there, not just sitting at home. I’ve tried that, and I get bored after about a month. I’m a shitty golfer and I can’t surf worth a damn, so I may as well stay on the road and play. Look, of course, there’s things about that and the big gig and everything, but MEGADETH was not always a big gig. We started where everybody else starts; it was small gigs. So I’ve known it from the bottom to the top and everything in between. But, honestly, as the tides turn and as things go, I’m super happy and very content with everything I’m doing now. I always say I’m making music I like with people I like. To me, now, at my age, at this point, I’ve already got the Grammy, I’m good. Those are the things that are more important to me now at this point in my life, is enjoying what I do and who I do it with.”
Ellefson was fired from MEGADETH in May 2021, days after sexually tinged messages and explicit video footage involving the bassist were posted on Twitter.
Shortly before Ellefson was dismissed from MEGADETH, he 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.
Mustaine — who formed MEGADETH with Ellefson in 1983 — released a statement on May 24, 2021 announcing the bassist’s departure from the band. In the statement, Dave said: “We do not take this decision lightly. While we do not know every detail of what occurred, with an already strained relationship, what has already been revealed now is enough to make working together impossible moving forward.”
In April 2023, Ellefson spoke to Spain’s The Metal Circus about the fact that he is constantly being associated with his former band, even as he tries to launch several new musical projects, including KINGS OF THRASH and DIETH. He said: “I’m always gonna be known for my work in MEGADETH. But me not being in MEGADETH is not of my choice. [Laughs] I think people are appreciative that I’m continuing to make music — at least from what I’ve seen. It’s not like I left the band and said, ‘Fuck you. I’m out.’ ‘Cause if I did that, and then if I was trying to start new bands, people would be, like, ‘Fuck you, Ellefson. You left our favorite band. Fuck you. We don’t care.’ People know that that was not my decision; it’s not the way I would have handled that at all.
“Clearly I’m not mad about the past,” he continued. “I’m not disrespectful. I didn’t just close the door on MEGADETH and say ‘fuck you’ and move on to something else; I didn’t do that at all. I will always be an ambassador for that group and for those songs and for that music, because I’m a part of that. So I think that’s the difference. I think I’m being very respectful toward it despite how my dismissal was handled. I think I’ve gone above and beyond being respectful. I can assure you many others would not have [laughs], but I did. At the same time, there’s new music. There’s a forward path. And I’m not just gonna live in my past, my glory days of the past.
“Look, I can just quit and not do any more music — to be honest with you, I could,” Ellefson added. “And there are some days I think about that and go, ‘Yeah, fuck all this shit. Maybe I should just stop and just fucking get rid of all my guitars and just call it a day.’ I mean, there really are days I think about that. But then I turn around and I go, ‘I’m gonna grab an instrument,’ and I start playing. So it’s that natural instinct to want to play. That’s why there is another David Ellefson band. It’s because I’m passionate about it and I’m honest and I’m genuine about it. I’m not forcing something. I’m certainly not doing it for the money. All these bands fucking cost me money. I put my own money back into these things.”
Asked if he thinks he was “a victim of unnecessary criminalization” when he was fired from MEGADETH, Ellefson said: “A hundred percent. Fucking a hundred percent I was. Everything about that was just not okay. [Laughs] But you can spend your life trying to get justice, trying to go down that road, and it’s kind of like it always just follows you. I had some good advisors around me, and at some point, it’s, like, ‘Look, it is what it is. What happened, happened. Just move on.’ Life is lived forward, not backward… Own your shit and move on. Which is what I did. The night that a video was put out of me that I knew nothing about, and there it was. And all of a sudden, it’s, like, hey, own your shit. All right. Whatever. That happened. Move on. And don’t sit there and try to go back and do some spin control or call the publicists. ‘Cause that’s what some people wanted to do. And I was, like, ‘Fuck that.’ It is what it is. Just fucking own it and move on. And I’d like to think there’s more integrity in just ‘own your shit and move on.’ … Let that situation help you get better rather than just sit around and hate on everyone.”
Pressed about whether he looks back on what happened and thinks what he did was “bad”, Ellefson said: “First of all, I’m entitled to a personal life, and I didn’t do anything to anyone — period. And that’s just the bottom line. And some people set out to really hurt me. And I don’t really wanna keep digging this up, because now we’re doing the very thing I’m talking, which is not digging it up. We’ve moved on from it. It is what it is, it was what it was, and I certainly set out to prove what it wasn’t. And that’s the path I took.
“I think the bigger picture here… ‘Cause I think right away… Look, I came forward and [said], ‘It is what it is. Sorry. It’s embarrassing.’ But the fact that I was discounted from my band was clearly… I think people can see, because [the announcement that I was being fired] was personally signed [by MEGADETH leader Dave Mustaine]… There was other resentments and other things behind that. And I think that’s what became clear. And again, I did my best to try to mend that fence and to fix that, but he didn’t wanna know about it. So it is what it is.
“I have not spent the last two years walking around saying ‘fuck you’ and ta-da-da-da-da. If anything, hey, I wish you well. Get on with your life. If that’s what it is, then it’s better to go our separate ways.”
Asked if he is happier now than he was before, Ellefson said: “Very much. And in fact, outside of you and me talking about this, I don’t even think about MEGADETH anymore. I really don’t — I don’t think about it. That whole thing, to me, it’s dead to me, to be honest with you.”
He continued: “I wasn’t unhappy before. I knew what I was walking back into when I came back to MEGADETH. I knew what I was walking back into in 2010, which is why I agreed to only go back for one month and do the ‘Rust In Peace’ [anniversary] tour. And essentially I saved the day, because they didn’t have a bass player, and they were about ready to go play the ‘Rust In Peace’ album. And [then-MEGADETH drummer] Shawn Drover, who recently was under some pretty shitty attack by a certain person we know, Shawn Drover did the right thing bringing me to MEGADETH. It was the right move for the band, for the legacy, for the fans, for the ‘Big Four’, for everything around it. Shawn Drover is a hero to MEGADETH. And he brought me back. I agreed to do it for a month. It went well, so we agreed to go to South America. It went well. We agreed to carry on, and we just kind of took it one tour at a time. And that carried on for another 11 years. So as much as there’s some recent scrutiny about I should have never been brought back… Well, apparently I should have been, and apparently I should have never been out of there in the first place. And the two times that I’ve not been there were not of my doing. The first [exit] was over the change of financial splits, and then the second time was clearly of something much bigger — personal grudges and resentments toward me. But that notwithstanding, I knew what I was walking back into. And we had a lot of good times. There was a lot of fun in the 11 years that I came back. Not so much in the recent years. The last couple of years were pretty shitty and pretty difficult, especially trying to make that record [MEGADETH‘s 2022 album ‘The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!’]. It was very clear I was not invited into it. I was not welcomed. Clearly Dave did not want me to be part of that story, of that album. And I knew it. So, again, I’m a big boy. I get it. I see it. So that’s why when I was dismissed, it was kind of, like, ‘Well, all right. Move on from that.’ That’s why I’m not bitter about this. Now, it didn’t end the way I thought it would, but oh, well. MEGADETH‘s over again. Well, now what? Move on. So I’d already been down this road once before.”
Ellefson added: “I think, for me, I always knew when I came back to the group that don’t look for your happiness here. Enjoy it. Be thankful for it. It’s gonna end. You just don’t know when or how, but it will end one day, and it did. So when it happened, I was able to just kind of move on from it and get away from — again — shitty people that did shitty things to me and just kind of close all that down and move on. So I think now there’s just a lot more joy in my life. I make music I like with people I like. I’m excited about it.”
In 2004, Ellefson filed an $18.5-million lawsuit against Mustaine, alleging the frontman shortchanged him on profits and backed out of a deal to turn Megadeth Inc. over to him when the band broke up in 2002. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed and Ellefson rejoined MEGADETH in 2010.
Ellefson was in MEGADETH from the band’s inception in 1983 to 2002, and again from 2010 until his latest exit.
Photo credit: Maciej Pieloch