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Dave Ellefson (F5)

Interview with Dave Ellefson from F5
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 03 August 2005, 10:06 PM

Dave Ellefson…ah, a musician/bassist I always wanted to interview (even if that was meant to happen via e-mail) ever since I (personally) first discovered him along with Megadeth back in the 90's. After Ellefson parted ways (inevitably?) with Dave Mustaine's Megadeth I was really curious as to what he'd do, metal-wise. Well, that sure was a dumb thought since Ellefson has been active in more things than I'd ever possibly remember all at once. From guesting on Soulfly's Prophecy (2004) album to his new band, F5, and their fresh release, A Drug For All Seasons, Dave never seems to settle down on just one thing. And why should he? If you enjoy what you do, the outcome is way greater than what you'd initialy expect! Here's what Dave had to say…

First of all, David, I’d like to say hi and welcome to Metal Temple magazine’s featured interviews!  Since we recently reviewed the F5 album, A Drug For All Seasons, I’d like to ask you how you feel about the album. Are you completely satisfied by it?

Yes, very much so.  We wrote about 30 songs by the time we went in the studio to make the album and even re-wrote a couple while we were doing the overdubs. I like that F5 is a heavy band but always has melody and strong choruses.

How long did it take you guys to record A Drug For All Seasons and how easy or hard was it working with Dale Steele (vocals), Steve Conley (guitar), Dave Small (drums) and John Davis (guitar)?

It took about 3 months to record and mix the record. I really enjoyed the process because I’ve made a lot of records before and it was cool to let the other band members go through the record making process because it can be quite painful if you haven’t done it before. At the same time, a good producer has the responsibiliy to push everyone to be their best and that can be trying. The end result is quite good, I believe.

Who was the producer for A Drug For All Seasons?

Ryan Greene \[E.N.: who had previously worked with Ellefson on the demos for Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction in 1991] produced the album.

Who wrote the lyrics to the songs on the album? What things inspired you – if you were involved in the songwriting – to write?

Dale Steele and I write the lyrics with him doing the majority of it. Dale is a great lyricist and has a mystical and poetic style about his work. He’s also a very honest writer with lyrics that are personal to him. I would call him and run ideas past him which is how we came up with things like Dying On The Vine. Other times we would all sit in a room and run music ideas past him which would inspire some great melodies from Dale. One of those examples is the chorus to Fall To Me.

Do you believe that what we need is a drug for all seasons? \[Laughs]

I think music is the drug for all seasons and F5 should be on the prescription list!

How did you get to do the F5 thing? Did you know the other guys a long time already, from when you still were a solid part of Megadeth?

I met everyone in 2002 and 2003. I had produced a band that Steve Conley and Dave Small were in and another one Dale Steele was in, too. As their groups eventually disbanded we all stayed in touch and that led to our working together as F5.

Compared to how you felt when you were in Megadeth, what’s the feeling like now with F5? I mean, it certainly has a slight difference, fame-wise.  

I think in a lot of ways this has allowed me to really become known to the fans and Metal community as David Ellefson the artist and not just the bassist. I have a lot of great fans who have followed my career and I’m thankful that they are sticking with me to check out the new things I’m doing now.  

I read in The Associated Press (!) that Dave Mustaine sued you again for using the name of the group without permission in an advertisement for musical equipment. What exactly happened? Is there any bit of truth people out there aren’t getting about this (since they publicly read about the lawsuit)?  

I’m going to let this one slide for now.

Do you feel the bridges between Mustaine and you have been burned down completely?

It would be nice if we could repair things at some point.

OK, I don’t wanna bug you with any more Mustaine-related questions (and sorry if I did). Tell me about Temple Of Brutality, the new band also featuring W.A.S.P.’s Stet Howland (drums), along with Peter Scheithauer (guitarist), Todd Barnes (vocalist) and you. I read the band got a contract with Demolition/Universal Records.

Yes, the group just got signed to release the debut album which is a great feeling. I’ve worked on so many albums these past couple years and suddenly they’re all coming out around the same time. 2005 is a busy David Ellefson record release year!

As for Temple, it is totally heavy and slammin’ on all levels! We recorded the album in one week’s time back in April and it is really much like the old Thrash Metal albums from the early 80’s, at least in spirit anyway.

Temple of Brutality contributed a track to the soundtrack of a new documentary called Waking Up Dead (starring former Saigon Kick/Skid Row drummer Phil Varone, directed by Fabio Jafet). The documentary will be out in the theatres by the end of August. What song did TOB contribute and are you going to see this first thing when it’s out?

The movie is going to feature the F5 song Dissidence and the Temple songs will be Beating The Man, Already Dead and Interlude. The movie’s a pretty disturbing story of Rock stardom’s cunning allure but I’m glad to be able to contribute so much music to it, especially from 2 different groups of mine.

Dave, it seems during the last few years that apart from F5 (and Temple of Brutality now), you’ve been appearing as guest musician on lots of various other releases. From Soulfly’s Prophecy to Canadian metallers Warmachine’s The Beginning Of The End. Do you really have the time to be so active as a musician? Do bands just come up and ask you? Feel free to comment on any of your latest guest appearances with various bands; a little inside information maybe…

Yes, I have been busy lately! It’s always an honor when someone asks you to play or work on their records and something I will do whenever I can if I have the time and it feels right for me to do. I like being in the studio and I work pretty regularly on many albums of all musical styles, many of which are not ever heard of in the Metal world because I’m essentially hired in as a session player, which I enjoy, too.

The Warmachine guys are one of the first bands I seriously connected with for producing back in 2001 and ended up guesting as a bassit on a few tracks when they finally got the album near completion last year. That led to the formation of my Ellefson Music Production company back in 2002. From there I did many other artist development projects, including the ones where I met the F5 members.  

As for Soulfly, I really dug working on the Prophecy album as that was a transitional period for Max \[Cavalera]. I think that album really moved him away from the Nu-metal tendancies that early Soulfly records had and firmly planted him back into the Thrash/Hardcore movement where he came from with Sepultura. I just played on a song called Riot Starter  on the new Dark Ages album, too.

Who drew the cover artwork for A Drug For All Seasons?

Fabio Jafet turned me onto a great young graphic artist in Dallas, Texas named Nel Santiago. I’ve hired him to do a lot of album graphic layouts for me because I think his work is incredible!

It’s cool because I have a great team of people in place for Ellefson Music Production which include Web teams, graphic layouts, mastering, studios, video production, label partnereships, producers and engineers. It’s really become a strong network of great people. To me that teamwork is where greatness comes from and how I like bands and everything to operate. I think you can build stronger momentum that way and it’s a lot more fun knowing you’re creating something together as a team.

What are F5’s plans as far as concerts go?

Now that the album is coming out, we are looking to get out and do some shows again.

Your opinion on Mascot Records (F5’s label).

I dig Mascot. They’ve done a great job with the F5 record. They’ve also been home to some of my other friends’ records like Marty Friedman and Chris Poland.

What’s your take on the current status of our world, with new terrorist attacks in the U.K., Turkey and in Egypt? Where is this world leading us to?…

Well, that whole thing is just plain tragic on all levels. Unfortunately, we seem to be getting divided as a world right now. I think much of it is a rebellion against the U.S.A.’s current political regime. This is something we talk about in Temple of Brutality’s lyrics and I’m glad to have a political artistic outlet with that band.

Who was your favorite bassist when you were a kid?

I thought the God of Thunder Gene Simmons  \[Kiss] was awesome! So was Steve Harris \[Iron Maiden] and Geddy Lee \[Rush].

What stuff does Dave Ellefson listen to when he goes home or on his Discman while traveling, apart from the bands he works with?

If I’m not listening to the exact thing I’m going into work on in the studio that day I will listen to various radio stations, sometimes to chill out, other times to research what’s going on in the music business.  

For fun, lately I’ve been really into Therion.

Do you enjoy being on the road or are you more of a stay put kind of person?

I love the road. I’ve spent a lot of time in the studios lately but even that has required a lot of traveling. Playing live is always great because that’s where my type of music really comes to life. You can’t beat performing.

Who taught you how to play the bass? Or did you learn on your own?

I’ve had formal music training as I was learning how to play the organ and saxophone as a kid. That taught me about music, how to read it and how to play with other musicians. I carried that experience into my bass playing, too.  

When I was begging my parents to get a bass at age 11 all these local guitar teachers in my area kept telling my mom and dad that I should learn how to play guitar first but I wanted to be a bass player! I’m not a guitar player reject who HAD to play bass, but rather a ground up bassist. That’s why I’m so passionate about the instrument.

I finally found a few people to teach me some things on the instrument formally but I really just dug in and started putting bands together and picking up songs by ear from my favorite albums. I’ve actually been a professional player (meaning someone  has actually paid me money to play the bass!) since I was 13 years old.

Over the years I’ve studied the instrument formally off and on, even in my teen years when I would play in my High School’s jazz band. I’m pretty well rounded as a player which helps my Metal bass playing be more versatile.

Who’s the funniest person you know?

A rock photographer in Los Angelse named Neil Zlozower always cracks me up.

Do you remember anything really obscure a fan has ever done in front of your eyes?

Running along side fast moving vehicles begging for autographs while not getting run over is always fun to watch! I also recall me, Marty Friedman and Nick Menza getting stuck in a huge autograph signing line outside a record store the first time we played in Athens which was very frightening because we thought we were going to get crushed to death at our own in store!  I don’t know how those punters do it at the big gigs.

Finally I’d like to thank you for your time in answering these questions, as there’s a few things I always wanted to ask you from when I got into Megadeth’s stuff in the 90’s and it’s always interesting interviewing so active musicians like you. The final words of this interview are yours. Send your message to everyone reading this interview from all corners of the world! Take care, man.

Thank you to everyone in Greece for sticking with me throughout my music career. I’ve been very blessed to have the opportunities that I’ve been given and you have helped make them possible for me. I love the country of Greece and even named by daughter Athena after your fine city. Keep the Metal alive and I hope to see you soon!

PHOTO CREDITS (Starting from the top): 1st & 3rd by Fran Strine - 2nd by Alex Solca.


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