David Ellefson interview April 4th, 2013 with JapanSmash.com
Can you feel the ground rumbling Japan? No that is not yet another earthquake, it’s a legion of Megadeth fans in the Kanto & Kansai areas. There is an army of Metalheads marching forward to their respective venues to catch some up close and personal time with their heroes because next week Heavy Metal royalty will be in town. Bassist David Ellefson & Guitarist Chris Broderick from Megadeth will be in Japan to promote their new Jackson signature model Guitars. I caught up with the veteran Bassist on the importance of Japan to the band and a sneak preview of what fans can expect from their visit to the land of the rising sun.
Jason McNamara: So back to Japan next week. Do you have any idea how many times you’ve been here now.
David Ellefson: It’s been quite a few times now! We started touring Japan on the “Peace Sells…” album back in 1987 and I remember it like it was yesterday. However, I haven’t been over to Japan since “The World Needs a Hero” tour in 2001 so I’m REALLY looking forward to getting back to see the fans there once again.
Jason McNamara: It’s been well documented that many bands really had the door of success opened to them by visiting Japan back in the 70’s & 80’s. Megadeth has been a main stayer in the music industry for almost 30 years now. What role if any did Japan play in Megadeth’s rise to the top, especially in those early years?
David Ellefson: Fortunately, Megadeth got in during a fantastic period of Japan’s international music interest. More than that, the Japanese fans and music industry have taken such an amazing interest not in our music but our lives as musicians. We enjoyed many years there with our fans, who were instrumental in our success both internationally and throughout the Pacific Rim, too. From Japan’s enthusiasm we have been able to branch out to many of the neighboring Asian countries over the years.
Jason McNamara: Have you ever had time to actually see anything here aside from airports, hotel rooms and the shows?
David Ellefson: Yes, I have. In particular, I went to Japan for a special pre-tour promotion back in 1992 and got to experience some of the nightlife that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to participate in if I was just passing through on a normal tour schedule. Then, we spent almost a month touring Japan back in 1995 on the “Youthanasia” record. That tour saw us go from cities like Sendai all the way down to the South-Western regions with stops in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and the beautiful city of Kobe along the way.
Jason McNamara: These days any person who has Metal on their iPod would most likely have Pop, Jazz, a few movie soundtracks, Hip Hop etc. What do you listen to when it’s not Metal?
David Ellefson: Well, I’m the same way because I listen to all styles of music in my down time, too. I’ve always gone out of genre as a musician and songwriter to investigate other genres for inspiration. As a life long musician, it’s sometimes difficult to just sit back and listen to music without analysing it. I think its just part of how I’m wired.
With that said, my kids listen to pop in the car on the way to school (Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Pink, etc.) while I still trend toward Metal and music I grew up on from the 1970s…everything from Kiss, Montrose & Aerosmith to more mainstream pop stuff like The Eagles.
Jason McNamara: Have you ever been approached to do music outside of the Metal world and if so, why did or didn’t you get involved?
David Ellefson: Yes, all the time. I’ve participated playing and writing on records that covered everything from singer/songwriter coffeehouse type music all the way to Christian and Inspirational music. I guess that is one cool thing about being a bassist is that I can be an artist and create songs or I can simply show up and just play bass lines to other people’s music. It’s nice to have the options.
Jason McNamara: Back to your next visit to Japan. I remember back in the early days you were with BC Rich. For those who may not know you’ve also had a Peavey Signature Series Bass, played some Modulus Basses & have a P-Bass. However, you’ve been with Jackson pretty solidly for the greater part of your career. The obvious question, why Jackson?
David Ellefson: When I picked up my first Jackson bass at the Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood, CA back in 1986 the bass was simply a natural fit for me on every level. It played great, sounded amazing and looked modern and edgy. There is something about a traditional P-bass style body shape that sounds good because of the mass of wood on it. However, because I’m a little bit smaller guy, the standard P-bass is usually too big on me and is somewhat uncomfortable for me to play. But, the Jackson Concert bass has always been a slightly smaller size, which is great for my height and stage performance needs. The necks are slimmer and that helped me really create a uniquely fast Thrash style of bass playing. The tone center is uniquely scooped in the mids but boosts the lows and highs so it cuts through our wall of mid-range power heavy guitars in our band. Although I’ve played many brands over the years, the Jackson’s have really been the anchor sound for me in Megadeth for most of our years.
Jason McNamara: Speaking of Jackson Guitars, what can you tell us about your new David Ellefson signature series Kelly Bass? How did it come about and why the Kelly Bird? By the way, very cool look with the Maple fingerboard and those block inlays. Very reminiscent of a ’76 Jazz Bass.
David Ellefson: Thank you. Back on the “Countdown to Extinction” tour in 1992 I created a similar looking bass, so that was the inspiration for me to create the Kelly Bird. For the KB I incorporated the lower horn of the Jackson Kelly guitar but retained the traditional ‘bird’ look for the rest of the instrument. We brought in the EMG Hz pickups and used a high mass bridge to get a modern sound to the bass. I think we hit the mark as the bass sounds powerful and looks like a true rock n roll axe.
Jason McNamara: What can fans expect from what’s been billed as the MEGACLINIC’s in Tokyo & Osaka?
David Ellefson: We will definitely be doing some playing together but also talking about our instruments and taking questions from the audience during a special Q&A segment of the clinic. In my mind, the fans can see us play songs all the time on the stage so the Q&A portion allows us to really be personal with those in attendance…maybe even learn a few things from them, too. After all, if we quit learning we don’t grow. So, these clinics are about musicians learning from each other…and to me that is the real heart of making music.
You can catch David & Chris at their MEGACLINICS in Tokyo & Osaka
David Ellefson and Chris Broderick (MEGADETH)
Apr 10, 2013 @ Omotesando Ground, Tokyo
Apr 12, 2013 @ Shinsaibashi Club Jungle, Osaka
Info: Kanda Shokai Corporation