Since his firing from Megadeth, bassist David Ellefson has kept busy, hitting the road with also-former Megadeth member Jeff Young in Kings of Thrash and by starting death-thrashers Dieth with guitarist/vocalist Guilherme Miranda (ex-Entombed A.D.) and drummer Michał Łysejko (ex-Decapitated). Ellefson spoke to Decibel about the new band, turning over a new leaf and what his future holds.
This is your debut album, To Hell and Back, but you and every member of Dieth have long musical histories. Do you feel like you have to make some extra strong statement with this record?
Honestly, we had no preconceived notion of anything. This literally fell in our laps. I was introduced to Guilherme from my friend Opus who plays in the band Dead by Wednesday and all I knew was that he had been in Entombed A.D., he was looking to start something new and he thought I should play on this track with him.
That was what became “In the Hall of the Hanging Serpents” and I liked the guitar patterns, I dug the drumming—as different as our three backgrounds were, we’d somehow made some pretty cool music together. Guilherme said “Hey, I think this came out really well, let’s do some more.”
This thing formed very unpretentiously, it’s not a supergroup. It was about as unassuming as you can get.
You can hear all of your backgrounds on the record at once.
It was fun for me. I’ve been doing a lot of this stuff, starting with working with Max Cavalera 20 years ago, F5, being part of Metal Allegiance. I’ve never done this as a sort of marketing attempt or some supergroup mentality. The people in my phone book happen to be famous too because we’ve all had careers.
There was a heartfelt authenticity that all 3 of us were moving past prior groups. We’d gone through transitions in our life and I think there’s something very honest about that. The way we collaborate is fun and it’s got a lightheartedness about it.
You would say you had the creativity to do what felt right for the project? There wasn’t one person who oversees the overall direction of the thing and it moves in that direction, like some of your projects in the past.
100%. Out of respect, I defer to Guilherme because he brought the first song in. He and Michał were sort of the original collaborators, so out of respect you don’t walk in and take over. I was quickly invited right to the front lines.
I could sense that Guilherme found the key to unlock the door to his next chapter and there’s a part of me that’s always liked championing the underdog. You see it for the last 40 years, be the wind in people’s sails, whether it’s a “Fuck you or a fuck yeah,” get behind that. To me, that’s the rock ‘n’ roll rebellious spirit and we’re going to do it through our songs.
It sounds like you’re learning new ways to interact with the music you’re writing. It’s easy to give up after 40 years and say “I played in Megadeth and I played on these records, I don’t need to change.”
I think singing is the next frontier, even as I’m learning the songs to take them into rehearsal and onto the stage. When I was first starting playing bass, in all my bands I was one of the singers. Then it became this thing where we identified a singer in a band and we went through the lead singer mentality, and then I sang less and less. I’d jump in and do the harmony, background stuff but it’s funny how that’s the new frontier for me now, is singing. Really taking care of my voice and learning new things. What a fun thing to do at my age and at this point in my career.
What better time, though? You have nothing to lose and nothing left to prove.
That is what it is. It’s “Let’s come together and not just have to recreate our past. Let’s do something of a new path.” You can tell if you’re in the room—the smiles, the high-fives and the “Fuck yeahs.”
There are things that sound very Decapitated or death-thrash or what I would have expected in Megadeth, but there are psychedelic parts, some stoner grooves, some Sabbath-influenced stuff.
One of my favorite records is that Temple of the Dog record. I remember when it came out because it was the best of the best of these guys. It’s sort of a hidden gem record of mine because I love Soundgarden, first Pearl Jam record’s great… and then this record came along and I was like “I wish there would be another one.”
I think a lot of it was just the unexpected nature of it and how clever things come together. I’m glad this is continuing in the motion that it has. And also, for us to enjoy doing it. Fuck, I’ve never been to Poland so many times in my life as I have this last year. I’m going to Europe every couple months. I’m flying across the ocean and I look forward to it, there’s always a history lesson in it for me.
That history has made those people who they are. That history comes into the music. You really feel it because I think Dieth is a cultural event as much as it is a music event.
Cultural event in what sense? That it’s the combination of different people doing something steeped in different histories?
Guilherme is from Brazil, lives in Portugal, but played in Entombed A.D. out of Sweden. He really understands the pipeline of that culture, same with Michał with Decapitated being based out of Poland. We were in Krakow when we were shooting the “To Hell and Back” and “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even” videos. We were in Katowice, that was the first town I ever went to when Megadeth played Katowice with Bruce Dickinson opening for us. There’s an understanding the history, that Auschwitz is just 30 minutes from there. You can see the body language in the people. In America, it was all Bud Lite and babes on the beach, California girls, and then you go over there and you understand this deep history and the suffering that has happened there.
Maybe it’s that suffering that brings about a sort of new release. “Free Us All,” I mean, fuck, there it is. Watching personally ??? and Guilherme and myself being freed from past situations that we’re now free to move on and get on with our lives.
You sound more like things are in the past than in previous interviews. With this new album, it feels like you’re turning over a new leaf. You sound more free than in past interviews.
I appreciate that, and for sure. I do. That was then, this is now. I just went out and I celebrated the earliest days with Kings of Thrash, which I think was, for me, the ultimate getting over the hurdle. No hard feelings, no looking back. Even high fives on that front. Fuckin’ A, can you believe all the shit we did over there?
Dieth’s To Hell and Back is out on June 2 via Napalm.
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