DAVID ELLEFSON: I Got DAVE MUSTAINE’s ‘Blessing’ In 2001 To Audition For METALLICA

David Ellefson
Photo credit: Mike Savoia

MEGADETH‘s David Ellefson says that says that he got Dave Mustaine‘s “blessing” to audition for the bassist position in METALLICA after Jason Newsted left the band nearly 18 years ago.

In an interview with Doc Coyle‘s “The Ex-Man” podcast, Ellefson was asked if he took part in the METALLICA bassist tryouts once it was announced that Newsted had split with the group.

He said: “I did not. Lars [UlrichMETALLICA drummer] had contacted Dave to ask him permission, which I thought was kind of him, to say, ‘Hey, would it be okay if we reach out to Ellefson?’ ‘Cause Dave called me. And he said, ‘Listen, I would hate to lose you, but, as your friend, I certainly couldn’t hold you back from an opportunity like that. So he gave it his blessing. I never did get the call.”

Ellefson also once again discussed the differences in the musical approach of METALLICA and MEGADETH, especially as the two bands progressed and eventually became two of the biggest metal bands in the world.

“I’m a big METALLICA fan, starting with [the] ‘No Life ‘Til Leather’ [demo,” he said. “In fact, quite honestly, ‘No Life ‘Til Leather’, that’s my heart of METALLICA. I love ‘Kill ‘Em All’. I really love ‘Master Of Puppets’. There’s a different vibe about [‘No Life ‘Til Leather’], ’cause, obviously, Dave played on that. So that’s why I heard it first — because when I met Dave‘Kill ‘Em All’ wasn’t even out yet. They had let Dave go, then they recorded ‘Kill ‘Em All’, but that album wasn’t out yet. So this is June of ’83. What I liked was the bass player, Ron McGovney. As much as everybody’s really into Cliff [Burton], my METALLICA was with Ron McGovney. And that’s why on ‘Mechanix’, when we put it on ‘Killing Is My Business’, I played Ron‘s bassline.”

David went on to say that he learned how to play some of METALLICA‘s songs in preparation for what he thought would be an audition for the bassist position in the band.

“I sat down in 2001… I thought, ‘If I do get the call, I should probably be kind of prepared,'” he explained. “So the first time I sat down and I actually played along with something simple, like stuff off the ‘Black’ album — ‘Holier Than Thou’; stuff like that. And that was the first time I realized, man, for as much as METALLICA and MEGADETH are so similar — seemingly similar — riffs… Dave obviously having been in the band, so there’s a piece of the DNA inside of MEGADETH, for sure, the way Dave phrases his vocals over the riffs versus how James[Hetfield] phrases his vocals… Dave‘s almost like Geddy Lee does it.”

He continued: “What I noticed, sitting down to it, playing bass to it — like playing bass to Jason Newsted‘s, on the ‘Black’ album, to how he played over the riffs, okay, musically, I grasped that, but to hear the vocal over it. Because now you’re playing it as an instrumentalist inside the composition, not listening to it as a fan, kind of paying attention to the vocal and the vocal melody. Now all of a sudden, I’m going, ‘Woah! This is so, so different than anything that I’m…’ I mean, forget about thrash metal or us being from the same family tree; it was an entirely different gig.”