David Ellefson on Megadeth Firing: I Was Kicked Out of Hell | Revolver

David Ellefson on Megadeth Firing: I Was Kicked Out of Hell

Former bassist opens up about his fraught final decade under the wing of Dave Mustaine
David Ellefson Megadeth Live Dave Kotinsky Getty Images, Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
David Ellefson
photograph by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Megadeth's new album, The Sick, The Dying... And the Dead!, is finally out in the world, but the back and forth between bandleader Dave Mustaine and former bassist David Ellefson — who was fired from Megadeth in 2021 following a sexual misconduct scandal — isn't slowing down.

During an interview on a new episode of the 2020'd podcast, Ellefson opened up about his final decade in the band (he left in 2002 before returning in 2010, staying up until last year's departure) and the fraught relationship he had with Mustaine throughout that time, going so far as to describe his former boss as "abusive" in the way he handled the firing.

"I remember when I first came back to the band in 2010, we'd done a year of [touring in celebration of the 20th anniversary of] Rust in Peace," Ellefson said, as transcribed by Blabbermouth. "We had about 10 weeks to write record that would become Th1rt3en. And I said, 'Well, look, we're all gonna be at NAMM in Anaheim. Why don't we just go down to [Mustaine's then-studio] Vic's Garage?', which was down in kind of by San Diego, Fallbrook area, north of San Diego. I said, 'Why don't we just get in a room and fire some ideas and see where we're at with everything?'

"And I swear to God, the first day we played … It took a couple of days 'cause we were listening to stuff. They wanted to listen to everybody's ideas. And [Dave] acknowledged everybody had a couple of things that he liked. And so we get in a room, guitars on, saddle up, and we started playing on something. And keep in mind, I hadn't been in this environment for almost 10 years now. 'Cause this was 2011, and the last time we worked on a record together was The World Needs a Hero in 2001, so literally 10 years [earlier]. And I'd been working with all kinds of other people where it's, like, 'Hey, killer idea. How about this? How about that?' You know — collaborative; you're having musical conversations in the room.

"And knowing how things had been in the past, Dave will start with something, bring in an idea, and maybe someone says, 'Hey, that's cool. How about we add this little bit here? Or maybe that riff goes with this riff.' And so I said, 'Hey, I've got something that might go with that.' Dave immediately took his guitar off, walked in the office. I looked at [then-Megadeth drummer] Shawn Drover, and Shawn and Chris are just shaking their heads. I said, 'What the hell was that all about?' He goes, 'Dude, trust me. The days of collaborating are long gone. That Megadeth that you were in, that's way over.'

"So [I spoke to Dave] in the office, and Dave, he was furious, but yet we didn't want our newfound friendship to deteriorate, so I said, 'What's the deal?' And he said, 'Don't try to put your ideas into my songs.' I said, 'No problem.' I said, 'All good. Today is day one. No worries.' And that was the last we ever jammed together. Everything after that, on every other Megadeth record after that, it was just Dave writing the songs, doing his thing."

Ellefson then recalled another instance during the initial writing sessions for The Sick, The Dying... And the Dead! when he and his then-bandmates, guitarist Kiko Loureiro and drummer Dirk Verbeuren, worked on some ideas in the studio while Mustaine was out dealing with his cancer treatment. Once the frontman returned, Ellefson said he was furious to see his band had been writing without him present.

"I remember Dave came in [and was] furious that we were working on stuff without him," the bassist said. "And [Chris] Rakestraw [the album's producer] took the bullet and said, 'Hey, it was my idea. These guys are here. Everybody's here to work. We need to get a record done.' And [Dave said], 'I wanna know who wrote what part where.' I could see it coming. I knew he was gonna see what parts I wrote and take 'em out, which he did — he took all my parts off the record, of which there were several, and either re-wrote 'em or changed them, just to make sure that I wouldn't have any writing on the record. And I just saw it coming. I rolled my eyes and [went], 'Whatever.'"

In May of 2021, Ellefson was embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal that involved engaging in explicit conversations with a woman who was not his wife. Eventually, Mustaine chose to fire Ellefson, filling his spot in the band with James Lomenzo, another former Megadeth bassist, who served time in the band in the 2000s. During this interview, Ellefson said that he believes the firing was the result of years-long resentment Mustaine had built up against him.

"I kind of saw the events of last year as just the perfect opportunity to choose box office over brotherhood," Ellefson said of the firing. "I look back at it now and I feel like I got kicked out of hell. So, whatever."

He then characterized the way he was treated by Mustaine at the end of their professional relationship. "It was abusive, for sure. It was just abusive. It was unnecessary. … Dave even said he had a resentment toward me that he couldn't let go, and I didn't know what it was."

Ellefson thinks the way Mustaine is speaking negatively about him in the press mirrors the way the thrash pioneer spoke about Metallica after he was fired from that band in the early Eighties. In fact, Ellefson thinks his former boss is still holding onto some of the resentment about being fired from Metallica nearly 40 years ago.

"He's fighting with himself," Ellefson said. "He's in a game of tug of war with himself. I'm not fighting with him. I've just moved on. I remember we talked about that after he jammed with Metallica and the 'Big 4'. I said, 'How was that last night playing 'Am I Evil?'?' And he said, he goes, 'You know, those guys kicked me out of the band and they just moved on. I held on to the resentment for all these years.' It's like the same thing for me. It's, like, why is he resenting me? He got rid of me. Supposedly the problem should have gone away if he got rid of me. But the problem still seems to be there.

"Look, I think part of it, too, is he's obviously not gotten over this thing about being fired from Metallica, so he wanted to do to somebody else what he felt they did to him, which is kick him out and then someone else play his guitar parts. 'So let's kick Junior out and then have someone else play his bass parts.' And to me, I'm, like, I don't care. I already fucking helped put the record together. I played on the record. I got paid to be on the record. So, hey, if you wanna get someone else to play, whatever."

Listen to the full podcast interview below.