By Andrew Bansal
Megadeth bassist David Ellefson will perform at an exclusive, one-off event at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood on Wednesday April 24th. In a rare jam, he’ll be performing with Sal G (Staind), Troy McLawhorn (Evanescence), Neil Godfrey & Pete Murray (Lo-Pro) and the band Eye Empire. This event will benefit the Boot Campaign for the support of military veterans, and will also celebrate the April 24 release of ‘Battlefield Of The Mind’, a documentary based on the same subject. These guys will be playing songs off of the documentary’s soundtrack. In addition to his musical contributions to this project, Ellefson serves as the narrator of the story. To talk more about the event, the documentary and other things, I had a chat yesterday with David Ellefson himself. Read it below, and if you are in the LA area, come and check out the special event next week!
You’re playing this benefit show for the Boot Campaign next Wednesday, and it’s going to be all about the ‘Battlefield Of The Mind’ documentary and the military veterans. How did you actually get involved in this whole thing?
Well, the director Fran Strine has been a good friend of mine for many years. He relocated to San Francisco a couple of years ago, and that’s when he really noticed the homeless veteran issue that was so prevalent up there. He called me and said that he was going to do a documentary film about it and asked me if I would narrate it. So I agreed to do it, and as I was working on the narration, the soundtrack was also coming together and he asked me if I would play on two tracks that Mike Mushok had written and Pete Murray was singing on. So it really became a great collaboration. We did some really good work together even though we come from different genres. I think it was kind of fun when we met up for a collaboration like that and everybody really gelled well. So both the film and soundtrack parts of the project have been a lot of fun.
Right, I was going to ask you about that. These musicians are totally different from the genre that you’re involved in with Megadeth obviously. So, was that the first time ever you worked with or even met these people?
I had not met Pete before, but I’m certainly glad I did! I think he is an amazing talent, just a phenomenal singer and songwriter. And Mike I have known over the years. We’ve done shows together with Staind. But this was the first time I’ve ever worked with him musically, so it was really fun to do the collaboration.
For the show coming up, are you doing rehearsals of any kind or are you just going to get on stage and see what comes out of that jam?
Well, fortunately I’m off the road right now and we don’t start the Megadeth world tour until next month in May over in Europe. So I’ve got some time off before that, and Fran asked me if I could make an appearance at this event, do some Q&A to talk about the film because I narrated it, and just get together and jam with all the guys who’ll be there to play those songs. So I’ll get up there and jam a couple of the tunes that I played on for the soundtrack to show my support for the Boot Campaign, and for Fran’s film.
Talking of the soundtrack, you played two songs on it as you said earlier. Musically what is it like, for people who haven’t heard it?
It’s definitely a bit ‘out of genre’ for me (laughs). It’s not thrash metal. It’s more like a really, really heavy kind of modern metal style that came out of this collaboration. When I first heard the tracks that Mike had written, my first reaction was,’Wow, you can definitely tell that he’s a big part and the heart and soul of Staind, for sure.’ I had never heard him playing away from Aaron and the other guys in the band, so I was excited to work him because he’s a fantastic guitar player and a very good songwriter. One song is kind of a ballad, and the other one is a really heavy riff-based thing.
So, other than the fact that Fran asked you to be involved in this, are you passionate about the subject of military veterans and do you care about it enough to be doing something for it at your own will?
Sure, that’s totally why I’m involved in it. It’s definitely something that .. I mean first of all, the fact you and I are even able to interview today is because someone paid for our freedom. These are freedoms that not everybody in every country has. So first of all, I think for me it’s definitely about showing appreciation for those things. We get to do so many wonderful things in the USA and the great democracy of the Western Civilization but we often don’t keep in mind the contributions of the veterans. When a film like ‘Battlefield Of The Mind’ comes along, it brings forward that aspect and its serious nature. And also in Megadeth we do a lot of meet n greet with wounded warriors and various veterans of wars, and I think because of that we’re close to it. It’s something we’ve faced, so when Fran told me about being involved with this film, I’m really just doing it with a painful heart and a feeling of gratitude.
Is there also going to be a screening of the documentary at the Whisky?
I believe so, yeah. They’re going to do a screening, and a meet n greet and Q & Awith Fran Strine which I’ll also take part in if need be. And then few of us are going to play some songs, and then Eye Empire are going to close the show up that night.
You post all these video clips during Megadeth tours, in which you go around filming stuff. It’s clear to me that you love doing it, so do you see yourself making a documentary of your own at some point in the future?
You know, you’re actually the first one to ever ask me that! I’ve never really know of it. The way this topic compels Fran to do this documentary, and it has to be the same kind of thing for me. If there’s a subject matter that really speaks to you as a filmmaker, making the film is probably the easier part because first and foremost you need to have the concept, specially with a documentary.
Some of those videos that you’ve posted, I’ve seen you interviewing fans. Usually you are the one answering the questions, like you’re doing now. What’s it like for you being on the other side for a change?
(Laughs) I love doing it! For me it’s so much fun. All of us started out as fans. But then I became a musician and worked really hard at it and have had some success at it. But first and foremost I think we all start out as fans, so when I see the fans at the hotel or run into them at the venue or at an autograph thing, all of a sudden the inspiration hits me. In a lot of ways, to be honest with you, those little videos that I filmed around the world, in some ways that’s kind of my documentary right there. It’s sort of like a documentary of a rock band and the fans as we travel around the world and get to share our lives together.
The video I found really funny was the one you posted from India last year. To Indians it looks like a pretty normal cab ride, but for you it seemed like a wild one!
(Laughs) For us it was like life threatening! Never experienced anything like that. That was a pretty interesting trip. I was in Shanghai, China at a trade show and that’s where I started my trip. So I went from Los Angeles USA to China, and from China to India. There we experienced what you saw on the video, and then from India we went over the Dubai. Talk about the haves and have nots! I mean, to go from India which is a very poverty-stricken nation and then to go to Dubai which is just one of the wealthiest places in the entire world, to see that spread of different cultures and how people live, it was really an amazing journey. And then I flew back to Los Angeles. So I literally went all around the world and crossed all 24 time zones in about two weeks on that trip.
That’s amazing, man. So, talking of things you don’t usually do or never do, I actually saw Megadeth at the Jimmy Kimmel show in 2011, for which you guys came out in Halloween costumes. Was that something totally now? Had you ever done that with Megadeth or with any other band?
You know what, we hadn’t done that before! I thought it was great. I was really happy Dave was up for it. Ironically, he just had his neck surgery (laughs). So to be dressed up as Frankenstein and to not really be able to move too much because of the costume and the makeup actually helped him in a lot of ways. But we had a lot of fun. Jimmy Kimmel asked us if we would do it and we said yes. Of course it was Halloween night and the next day was the release of our new record ‘Thirteen’. We were going to South America a couple of days later, so it was really a very, very cool week. Very eventful and a lot of fun. Doing something like that is cool, specially in a rock or metal band. Sometimes metal bands take themselves too seriously, so it’s fun to be having a good sense of humor.
Yeah, that’s true. And it was very well executed. Nobody knew about it until you hit the stage.
Exactly (laughs). And everyone was looking at us and saying, ‘So where’s the real Megadeth? What are these guys doing on stage?’