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On September 1, concert promoter Live Nation is bringing the “American Carnage” tour to Arco Arena. As reported earlier by The Sacramento Press, Slayer, Megadeth, and Testament will perform live. See: Angels of Death to Descend on Sacramento (May 14, 2010). Fans of the original “Clash of the Titans” tour will note that Anthrax will join replace Testament on the second leg of the tour that begins on September 24.
After finishing up “The Big Four” tour in Europe alongside Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax, and playing to crowds of no fewer than 80,000 people per night, Megadeth flew to Canada, where they reunited with Slayer and met up with Testament in order to kickoff the “American Carnage” tour on July 23 at Pavillon de la Jeunesse in Quebec City, Quebec.
With total global sales of over 25 million albums, 5 consecutive platinum and multi-platinum albums released in the USA, and an incredible 7 consecutive Grammy nominations for Best Metal Performance, Megadeth has documented metal bona fides. The band released their twelfth studio album, “Endgame,” in September 2009. It debuted at #9 on the Billboard 200. Megadeth’s unique style of heavy grinding rhythms interlaced with alternating guitar solos harmoniously accompany the subterranean sonic blast emanating from Dave Ellefson’s bass.
The Sacramento Press caught up with Dave Ellefson, the original bass player and co-founder of Megadeth, by phone shortly before the tour’s stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Sacramento Press: Without getting into the details surrounding your departure from Megadeth in 2002, you recently reunited back in February of this year. What is it like being back together?
Dave Ellefson: It’s great. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. We’re celebrating reuniting and the twentieth anniversary of “Rust in Peace,” so it’s a reunion on many levels.
SP: Inspired by your bass-playing style, I once went out and bought a Spector NS-2 bass. I hear you have lots of instruments including an incredible 12-string bass. What’s that like?
DE: The Spector NS-2 is a great bass. I got one in 1992 and didn’t record with it until Cryptic Underground. I do have a 12-string. It’s a Hamer that I bought in 2004 while with [the band] F5. I was inspired by Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick. He had one too. The 12-string is really not that bad. The strings are close like on a 12-string guitar. You need a pick to play it though because you have to pluck over the two smalls before the main.
Perhaps Ellefson had Marty Friedman's Hawai'i album bassist, Gary St. Pierre, on his mind. "One Nation Underground" is an album released by Marty Friedman's second band in 1983. Megadeth's 1997 album, titled "Cryptic Writings," is most likely what he meant. Deferring to the latter, which was later remixed in 2004, it would seem Ellefson had his Spector for half a decade before recording with it. It would also seem that catching up with him on tour involves going through some of the pre-show motions that get him ready to perform. Some of that involves listening to music. Friedman was one of Megadeth's guitarists from "Rust in Peace" (1990) through "Risk" (1999).
SP: Over the years, a lot has been said about your Christian faith, as well as that of [Megadeth front man] Dave Mustaine. You once told HM Magazine that like Mustaine, you’re a committed Christian. Baptized, confirmed, church on Sundays, it’s not the typical rock star image, was it difficult to maintain that back in the day, and is it any easier now?
DE: I was raised in a Christian home in Minnesota. Rock & roll is about extremes. Being Christian, you push it to the limits. I don’t do it for a sound byte though. I believe in this stuff. Nothing fanatical, but having a wife and kids, you know, it’s about having a good family and the building blocks for a good life. My favorite passage of scripture is Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...” Always aspire to more.
As Ellefson said to HM, “being 25 years old, and playing in a metal band, God was certainly not considered “cool” and is still not something most metal fans want to have their hero’s proclaim in public.” At one point in his career, however, he felt that God was actually calling him back to the church. He said that when he called his wife to tell her she said she was glad because, “…the worship leader was asking if you could come sit in this Sunday because their normal bass player isn’t going to be able to make it this week.”
Ellefson said that was the moment he was clear. He said, “Okay God, I get it”. That launched his entrance into Christian music. See the HM Magazine exclusive.
During his time away from Megadeth, Ellefson not only formed the band F5 in 2002, he also had a tribute band called Hail! that toured internationally. He also began a new MEGA Life Ministries worship service in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2007. In an article about that titled "CODA Ready for a MEGA Life," Ellefson said that “Not only are the parishioners respectful (no bar fights, spilled drinks and foul mouthed hecklers in the crowd like many secular gigs full of rational people) but it’s a musical event my whole family participates in. Plus, I’d finally had been given the venue to put into practical application the very words I’d been trying to live by for many years which is 'Play music for God, not us'."
DE: I was with Megadeth for 20 years the first time around. I had to do some other things. F5 and Hail! were some of those things, and it was healthy. I feel sorry for people who’re only in one band and nothing else. As human beings we need to nurture that creative side or it leads to death – walking around like a living dead man.
SP: The music industry has changed a lot in recent years and over the past decade. What do you make of it all, the internet, satellite radio, stuff like that?
DE: Well, I’m so busy I disconnected my satellite radio. My wife listens to it all the time though. The programming is great. Internet radio is really great too. It puts the creativity back in the hands of the fans.
SP: On this tour you have the opportunity to perform in cities you’ve been to in the past. What’s it like going back to places you’ve been before?
DE: We’ve been to Sacramento many times. I don’t think we stopped there on our first album tour, but after that, yes. We have fans there that have been listening to our music for 20 years or more. The “American Carnage” tour allows young and old fans to experience it new and all over again.
SP: It’s a big show. I know you’ve got a busy tour schedule, so let’s make this the last question. What can fans in Sacramento expect when you perform next week?
DE: We’re going to play the entire “Rust in Peace” album top to bottom, and a few extras.
With Slayer and Testament expected to perform in similar top to bottom fashion, fans in Sacramento are definitely in for a great experience. The show is set for 7pm on Wednesday, September 1 at Arco Arena. Tickets are $39.50 in advance, or $45 day of show, and can be purchased through the Arco Arena Box Office, or through Ticketmaster. Parking costs $12, and the Toll Plazas open at 5:00pm. Arena doors open at 6pm. For more information, call the Arco Arena Box Office at (916)-928-6900.
Note: Photo by Stephanie Cabral courtesy of Roadrunner Records.