The NAMM Show 2018 Interviews: Dave Ellefson of Megadeth
The NAMM Show kicked off at the Anaheim Convention Center in late January, featuring an epic display of exhibits that were absolutely wondrous to behold. Among the musical instrument companies scattered throughout this year’s edition of The NAMM Show, one could find legendary bassist Dave Ellefson of Megadeth promoting basses, coffee, documentaries and a whole lot more!
Highwire Daze Online caught up with Dave Ellefson to find out about his particopation with Inside Metal: The Rise Of L.A. Thrash Metal Documentary with director Bob Nalbandian , the creation of The Ellefson Coffee Company, the reemergence of Metal Allegiance, as well as activities with his EMP Label Group, current happenings of the almighty Megadeth, and other thrashing topics of intrigue. Read on as we interview Dave Ellefson on an early NAMM Thursday morning at The Ellefson Coffee Company Booth at Hall D Booth #3905 ...
How did the Inside Metal: The Rise of L.A. Thrash Metal project come about and how did you become involved with it?
Bob Nalbandian has been a dear friend and a faithful supporter of the metal scene – especially the L.A. scene – since as long as I’ve lived in L.A. I moved to L.A. in 1983. When he started doing these films about the L.A. scene – he hit me up and said “Look, I’d love to have you narrate as well as you’ll be interviewed in the Rise Of The L.A. Thrash Scene.” And I said, “No brainer. Done!”
Listening to you – you do have that narration type of voice…
Yeah. I did some voice over work and I put a reel together. It’s funny – narration is kind of the sweet spot for me.
At the time, what did you think about this rivalry between the early L.A. and Bay Area thrash metal scenes?
To be honest with you, we were part of both of the scenes – so it really wasn’t a rivalry for us. When I met Dave (Mustaine) and we started Megadeth, the first thing he said was “we’re not playing any shows in L.A.” – we’re going to go up to San Francisco. He, of course, had just come there with Metallica. Metallica moving there b\put the Bay Area on the map. They had bands there, but the scene took off once they had a champion and a hero with Metallica. And thank god that happened, because then it did create this sort of rivalry. And it was only a rivalry because the thrash fans were very particular – were very specific in our thrash genre – versus what was happening in L.A., which was mostly the more mainstream, glam, hair metal, Sunset Strip stuff. But also the pay to play and all that stuff you hear about in the film really became a challenge to bands who were trying to break here in L.A. And that’s what’s cool with this film – Bob highlights a scene that was happening away from the Sunset Strip – and that was thrash metal.
How did The Ellefson Coffee Company come about?
It started two years ago. I met a friend and he was a roaster. I had an idea for the names and the branding and then it just took off from there.
Tell me a little about the brands and the bands who agreed to have their names on the coffee.
Yeah it’s fun. As a coffee company, we started of course with our flagship roast – Roast In Peace – and that was a dark roast. And then we created our Urban Legend – another dark roast – and that was kind of tied in around the geographic area of Minnesota and Mary Jane Terwillegar – and kind of the folklore around that – there’s sort of a tie in to a paranormal author in the area. Then we had our Kenya Thrash –which is a medium roast. And then our Rock N Rose – which is our light roast. And then as a coffee company, it’s nice to be able to roast and create blends for other people. So we reached into the rock and roll community and said, “Hey, let’s do some coffee together.”
On EMP Label Group, when signing bands, what is it that you look for?
Well, first of all, being able to sell records – by whatever means that is. That is, truth be told, the full focus of record companies – is they sign artists than can sell records. It’s a partnership – today more than ever it’s a partnership! That’s why the groups like Mark Slaughter, Autograph, Doyle – some of our legacy artists – they sell records because they have a built in name recognition. I think we’ve been able to be helpful for them with a lot of our marketing we do. A young band like Doll Skin for instance – that’s one of our start up bands that we put a lot of time, money and effort into. Because I also manage them and I produced their first disc, I really get and I understand them. Every band needs a champion – they need a cheerleader and they need someone who is going to take them under their wing. Megadeth had that in our early days with a few managers and agents – and that’s what I became for Doll Skin. I love the band – I think they’re great. They’re not a metal band, but in a lot of ways, their trajectory and how they’re growing is very similar to how Megadeth did it. They’re young, they’re in the trenches, they’re touring. We started as an independent label and are quickly becoming kind of a major indie. I’m just really happy to be able to help them and be the wind in their sales to get them off the runway. They’re willing to do the work! I think that’s the main thing we look for in a band. The band has to be willing to do the work. They are no free rides and no free lunches in the music business.
What are you looking forward to the most about the upcoming Metal Allegiance show?
This year it’s a little more streamed down with how many people we’re going to have on the stage. – which is okay – it’s perfectly fine. And I think the set list is a very tight, punchy, strictly thrash set. And that’s the beauty of thrash – sometimes you don’t need as many people to get the job done. A lot of times in the past we’ve been very broad – we kind of got back into some vintage classic rock all the way up into the thrash stuff. This year it’s very much a thrash set.
And what’s up in this New Year in the Megadeth calendar?
Man, a big year! We just launched the 35 Years Of Megadeth – which we’re celebrating every one of our records in every month of the calendar this year. In fact with a couple of months we’re doubling them up starting with January with So Far, So Good, So What and Dystopia. We just launched a new video for Lying In State off of Dystopia. And we have a big summer – a lot of touring especially in Europe – it’s going to be great!
And since we’re at NAMM, what is your bass choice and why?
You know, I play the Jacksons – I have a signature model with them. And it’s a signature because I like it. It’s not my bass because my name’s on it – I put my name on it because it’s my bass.
And what advice would you give a musician seeking an endorsement deal?
It’s a lot like the record business – you have to be able to sell products for them. That’s really what this game is about on the endorsement level. Companies are looking for partnerships where they can partner with the artists and between the two of them, be able to help sell product. The company helps with the marketing presence for the artist, so it becomes a real collaboration.
(Interview by Ken Morton – NAMM and Metal Allegiance Photos by Jack Lue)