Dave Ellefson - F5, Megadeth, Soulfly, Temple of Brutality, etc. - Back
Interviewer: Cameron Edney - http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com

I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off 2006 then by starting out the year speaking with one of the greatest metal maniacs that has been pounding out killer speed/thrash metal bass lines for over twenty years, a man who has suffered substance abuse and bounced back better then ever, a man that gave us killer metal opening riffs to songs such as Peace Cells But Who’s Buying. Yes I’m talking about the one & only Dave Ellefson. When I was offered this interview I was over the moon, being a huge Megadeth fan for so many years I could have easily have taken this interview on without writing up a single question. Dave who is probably best known for his work with the legendary Megadeth, has also worked with Temple of Brutality and Soulfly just to name a couple and has got a new band called F5 a band that is more traditional then speed or thrash and rocks quite hard, F5 recently released there debut album ‘A Drug For All Seasons’ which has been getting plenty of airplay in both Europe & the United States. I recently caught up with Dave to ask him how the band got together, we spoke about a few of the tracks from the new album, the recording process, his time in Megadeth, Temple Of Brutality & much more. Kick back with ‘A Drug for All Seasons’ & enjoy the interview.

Metal Fanatix: First of all thank you for putting some time aside to answer the following questions for all of our readers. I would like to talk to you first about one of the latest projects in your life F5, How did the band come together?

Dave Ellefson:
Well, it started really in 2003 that is when the whole thing came together. I knew Steve Conley & Dave Small the drummer they were in another group together & they had sent me a package enquiring about me producing some material for them here in Phoenix. That’s where I met them, they parted ways with the group they were in eventually, same with the singer Dale Steele, he was in a group in Minneapolis & I got connected with them & I went up and produced tracks in 2002 for his band, so by early 2003 Steve was starting to put together something & he was friends with John Davis & John was actually being considered for Halford. It was right around the time that they had split up at that point & had put the band back together for a minute. So John was considered for Halford before Roy Z ended up as the guitar player for the band. Steve, Dave & myself helped John put together an audition reel & that’s how we started working together, Steve wrote this really cool tune, it was the old school metal & led to us getting together to write some more songs. This magic just happened between the three of us & Dale was calling me every week saying “lets put a band together, don’t forget about me” we decided that instead of us all going off & trying to find new bands that it was obvious that there was something brewing right here amongst us & that was the birth of F5 which is kind of a cool thing. It was a very natural thing, it was all about the music, there was no political agenda’s there was no money issues. It was just all for the music which is awesome.

Metal Fanatix: F5 is an interesting band name, who suggested that the band should be called F5?

Dave Ellefson: Actually our drummer Dave Small did, we were thinking about a name & that’s always a horrible thing to have to come up with, there’s so many of them. One day Dave was watching a show on tornados & he was amazed with the immense & overwhelming power from this storm. He came in & said “what do ya think of F5”? I said “well that’s kind of the feeling we get when we play together, there’s a fury to the music when we play together”, so we just rolled with it. Coincidently we were only a four piece at the time, so it didn’t really fit but once Dave brought John in then F5 actually made sense [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: Congratulations on the release of ‘A Drug for All Seasons’. Were the results ultimately what you guys had hoped for?

Dave Ellefson: Yeah, I think so there’s even more to F5 then what really gets played out on this record. There are these old school traditional metal roots within the band predominantly with Steve Conley & myself. Because of Dave Smalls drumming, & the production of Ryan Green & Steve Smith, & the melodies that Dale wrote, these songs have always gravitated more modern dare I say more of a mainstream kind of thing as opposed to a cult metal group.

Metal Fanatix: Its funny you say that, the new album is somewhat different to the material you recorded with Megadeth, by that I mean its more radio friendly I guess, was that a conscious decision?

Dave Ellefson: You know, it wasn’t really. A couple of the first songs we wrote made it to the final cut & they were ‘Faded’ & ‘Bleeding’, even the music for the song that’s now ‘X’d Out’. It’s funny I was just listening to the demo of ‘Bleeding’ today & the demo reminded me of the Black Sabbath album ‘Born Again’, it had that vibe to it. I wrote all the music for ‘X’d Out’ so it has more of a 1991 metal sound to it. Once we all got our hands on the songs, we refined them & went through the production process. Part of that process is to make things cohesive not just individual songs but to make them all fit on the same album.

That’s my only criticism on some metal, even years ago when the whole thrash/speed metal thing got rolling twenty something years ago, a lot of the bands that were doin' it back then just weren’t good [laughs]. It was just bad song writing & then of course as things happened those that excelled, like us [Megadeth] stood the test the time & those who didn’t fell by the way side. I guess that’s how I see F5, I have a history on one hand that’s good for F5, on the other hand it’s probably gonna work against us a little bit, people are probably going to think that F5 will be similar to past things & it’s not. I’m very happy about that, it makes me nervous some days, I always want to give my fans exactly what they want, but it’s a new day & a new beginning.

I’ve always invited fans of my past work to come into the future with me, at the same time I just can’t let my past dictate what my future’s going to be. That’s probably been my most bold move I’ve ever had to make as a person & as an artist as well!

Metal Fanatix: How has the response been to it from the media and the fans?

Dave Ellefson: The media has responded great, the reviews have been outstanding. Radio in Europe & America has been overwhelming which is nice. One of the nicest things that I hear is that it sounds unique & it doesn’t sound like my past or like anything that’s out today. Having been a part of an original band & an original movement for the last twenty years it’s also nice to hear that what I’m doin' now even though it’s not like my former, it’s nice to hear that we have something original to offer.

Metal Fanatix: It’s great isn’t it! Most people are lucky if they can do that once & you have the chance to do it for a second time!

Dave Ellefson: Yeah, I’ve gotta tell ya, I find that to be a real blessing. I don’t necessarily take credit for it, I think it’s been a real collective effort on the part of everybody in the band & there is a lot of diversity. As the appointed leader of the group for no reason other then I’m just experienced, I really followed my gut on making the F5 album even though at times it moved away from being a hard metal album. I knew that it was something that was really genuine; it had a voice & a sound of its own. I had to let it unfold for what it really was & not try to make it something other people wanted for me. That’s when you get into second guessing yourself & that will just drive ya nuts [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: When it came time to record the new album did you approach it in a different way to some of the albums you have recorded in the past?

Dave Ellefson: No not really, it was nice to hook up with Ron Green, because Ron is a very experienced producer. Even though Ron hasn’t been making metal records lately he’s more than qualified, he’s a great producer & at the end of the day it was great to turn the ranks over to him & let him have the ultimate decision about the production of the album.

Even though I was very hands on I didn’t want to take a production credit. I wanted everybody in the band to be able to have the experience of not feeling like they were working with me as a band member & also as the producer. I wanted us to be the five guys in the band. When you go into the studio the boss is essentially the producer & I think it was an awesome experience for the band to have. It moves you in a direction not only personally but as a band. Where the bar is raised & everybody gets better.

Metal Fanatix: Having someone from the outside come in to work with the band really pushes you to the limits!

Dave Ellefson: Yeah absolutely, it’s nice to have an outside person doing that. It’s hard for someone inside the band to always be the guy doing that.

Metal Fanatix: In a few words can you tell us the first thing that comes to mind when I mention the following F5 tracks:

Dave Ellefson:

A Drug for All Seasons: Funny thing, Dale called me one day & was talking about not being strung out on drugs saying that the best way to do that is to change your drugs every three months. He goes “what I’m looking for is a drug for all seasons, something I can take all year round”, I said dude you’ve got to remember that line that is an awesome album title”. We kept it around. It just sat out there on its own & didn’t really have any relevance. As it turned out we had this song that we had recorded, this song was just not happening, we re-worked, getting it off the launch pad seemed impossible. One day I walked into the studio where Steve Conley & Ron were working on some parts. They said “it’s not happening” [laughs] I said “I know, what do you suggest, you got any ideas”? Steve started playing this riff, I was like “that works” [laughs]. Basically we wrote ‘A Drug for All Seasons’ the entire song in an hour. Dale said “that’s it, now we have lyrics there is our title track”. It tied the whole thing together!

Defacing: That was one of the last tracks we wrote, ironically Dale was going through a pretty major transition in his life during the making of this record, moving on from a former life that he had up in Minneapolis Minnesota, morphing into this new life that he was creating in Phoenix & essentially rooted in the making of the F5 album. From a musical point of view Ryan Green has produced a lot of pretty cool punk rock records. I picked him up from the airport & we were going over to the studio to start pre-production. I told Ryan “I love punk rock, I’m a big punk rock fan, I love playin' punk bass, please bring that side of your life into F5’. He was able to do that especially on ‘Defacing’ with the grinding punk rock bass line that you hear. He was able to bring those ideas & push F5 over into that style. It added new kick ass energy to the band, I really embraced it, the same thing with John Davis the other guitarist. Unlike Steve Conley, John’s not so much of an old school metal guy, he’s more of a modern rock guy, and he got the whole punk thing.

Hold Me Down: Lyrically, Dale wrote that song about himself, it’s basically him looking in the mirror thinking he’s his own worst enemy. I loved how the whole song was unfolding. To me from an arrangement point of view it is something that I’m really proud of with the band.

Metal Fanatix: Now besides the work you have been doing with F5 you have also been keeping busy working with Killing Machine, Temple of Brutality & Soulfly. Do you get anytime to sleep? [Laughs]

Dave Ellefson: There’s time for that later [laughs]. I love playin' man. Temple of Brutality was kind of the same thing, I’d gotten a call F5 had gone over & played a show in San Diego & the promoter Joe from that show hooked me up with James Rivera who I know from his former band Seven Witches, they covered a song that I wrote called ‘If You Were God’ which appeared on the album ‘Year of The Witch’. I’ve known James for many years. James said “we’ve got this new band Killing Machine”. I said “send me some tracks”, I sat down & played along with them, thought to myself wow this is awesome total up the irons old school. So Peter Scheithauer Who’s the guitar player for both Killing Machine & Temple of Brutality said well “I’ve actually got this other band that I really want to try & get going first”. They had a tentative title of Enemy of God but them the Kreator album came out so he changed it to Temple of Brutality which I think is actually better [laughs]. So we went into a studio down in Ft. Myers Florida back in April 05, & we did the album in a week, four-five days, by the time I got there Stet [Howland] was already half done with the drum tracks. It was awesome the way we did that album. We did drums, then guitar & bass & Todd [Barnes] would sing that afternoon. On the weekend we played solos, done! I mean we were doing a couple of songs in a day finishing them in there entirety then moving on to the next. It was awesome. It was so old school, it was so much fun & the result rocked.

F5 was a twelve week stint, essentially a major label process, pain staking overdubs & every note perfect & in time. With Temple of Brutality it was like, “well that’s close enough, let’s move on to the next one” [laughs]. The one thing that I’m enjoying right now is that I’ve got all this diversity & I’m really able to show a lot of different sides to who I am, how I play & what I like to play. They’re all honest, genuine & real projects, they’re all just really about the vibe & hanging with the people involved in it. I’m lovin' it.

Metal Fanatix: Well that’s right, as you said it’s great to be able to show more of your personality in the various styles you have been playing instead of only being known for playing one style with one band, you can get out there now & work on a ton of projects.

Dave Ellefson: Yeah it was one band for twenty years, now its twenty bands in one year [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Dave I want to talk to you about life on the road; do you do anything specific to warm up & prepare for a show?

Dave Ellefson: It kind of depends on the night, when you’re playing night after night, month after month; you don’t really need to warm up a lot. In fact sometimes in those situations I find not warming up makes the shows better [laughs]. Warming up is important but sometimes it isn’t about looking down at the neck of your guitar all night, cause in a live setting people are gonna come & they want you to kick their ass, they wanna rock. Not being caught up in your own little world makes that happen. Usually I have a stiff cup of Starbucks coffee close to show time & then I’m good to go [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] What’s the most ridiculous thing you have ever asked for on a tour rider?

Dave Ellefson: I remember the riders were always pretty civilized, in fact if anything they were pretty lean [laughs]. I remember one time walking into the Anthrax dressing room. I think it was on the Clash of The Titans tour & they had a pretty nice spread laid out. They had a turkey, the whole thanksgiving dinner going on. I remember thinking, man these guys are living large over here. For us having booze & all that crap was standard issue [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: What was your first experience of playing outside the USA like?

Dave Ellefson: My first experience was in 87 maybe late 86 playing in England at the Hammersmith Odeon & I remember the guitarist didn’t show, the gear didn’t clear customs, I think it did literally minutes before we went onstage. I didn’t have my own bass, (I think I was playing BC Rich basses at the time) I kind of had a specialized speed-metal sound, so we had all this rented gear & major jet lag. I remember trying to get into the English custom of drinking a lot [laughs] it was exciting but man I was so friggin' jet lagged. Then my gear didn’t show up & I remember thinking I’m going to have to go onstage playing this sunburst fender jazz bass [laughs], at the last minute it came off ok.

Metal Fanatix: Do you have any great memories from the last Australian tour you did with Megadeth?

Dave Ellefson: I thought the tour was awesome, I had such a great time we did a twelve week run, we left Phoenix & three months later we were back in Phoenix. It was an around the world ticket, we did all of Europe then Moscow. That was cool going to Moscow for the first time and seeing Russia for the first time. I remember leaving from Heathrow going to Korea & Japan, narrowly avoiding a typhoon in Taiwan, then we played up in Indonesia & then to get to Australia I think we went through Singapore, then down to Sydney. It had been ten years since I was last there so to be back there in 2001 imagine my joy when I seen a Starbucks down the street [laughs]. I remember it being a great experience. The kids were great, the food was awesome over in Manly, I loved Brisbane & Melbourne too. What was interesting about that tour was flying from London to Tokyo, on those international flights they would let you go up into the cockpit of the aeroplane. I remember sitting in the cockpit of this 747 British Airways flight from London to Tokyo thinking damn I’m up in the cockpit of a 747 to the left is the North Pole, to the right is China. I was sitting there thinking what a cool life this is. I have always been fascinated with flying & aeroplanes so that was an awesome experience for me. Unfortunately not too long after that 9/11 happened & that pretty much ended being able to do that. I don’t want to get all morbid, I remember Australia & New Zealand was the final leg of the tour it was a very good fun spirited trip.

Metal Fanatix: Do you have any plans to tour here with F5?

Dave Ellefson: You know, I’ll go anywhere with F5 as long as we can afford to get there. Unfortunately with touring it all comes down to finances, the interest is there, everybody is interested in having the band, it’s a matter of financially being able to make it work. Traveling across the Pacific Ocean is not cheap, at some point it has to make sense. I’ve always told my wife & friends that if I ever have to leave the United States for any reason Australia’s the place I want to go [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: All you guys say that, it must be something to do with the clean air down here [laughs]

Dave Ellefson: Well, you guys say it best, “no worries mate”.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Dave Ellefson: It says it all, it’s just a peaceful, pick your feet up & enjoy yourself attitude that you guys have. That’s rock ‘n’ roll in itself right there. I tell ya, the whole thing is so cool, it’s modernized, the progression of your culture there, to see how your country really developed in the ten years I was away between 91 – 01 was amazing.

Metal Fanatix: Well hopefully mate you won’t have to wait another ten years to see the country’s changes [laughs]. Over the years you have shared the stage with so many great bands. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most & could you share a funny road story with us from the tour?

Dave Ellefson: I always liked playin' with Iron Maiden They’re just awesome, playing Donnington with Kiss, Maiden & David Lee Roth was a dream come true. These were all guys I grew up listening too as a fan, as a kid. It’s nice when you’re able to professionally achieve contemporary status with them bands.

Playing with Metallica was always great. They’re just such a phenomenal band. They’re one of the biggest bands, shows with Metallica were always fun, there are a ton of others. It’s interesting because a lot of bands that we first took out on tour with us then went on to probably become much bigger then us [laughs], groups like Pantera, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Korn. I remember taking Korn out on their very first North American tour & then they essentially started a nu-metal revolution. Same with Godsmack I remember when they were opening for us in London, they are another phenomenal band. It’s always been cool to offer an opening slot to those kinds of bands, to give them a chance to take a swing & go on to great successes, that’s the coolest thing I could offer back to the metal community.

Metal Fanatix: Dave, being a member of one of the most influential thrash metal bands of all time Megadeth, who were you surprised to learn was a fan of the band?

Dave Ellefson: Boy, that’s a tough one, I guess it’s always surprised me that on one of the last tours, when we were playing places like the hard rock cafes there were all these people that had grown up & had become college grads. All these people had gone on to be successful, & even though they were all very straight looking & have these corporate professional jobs, they would all of a sudden whip out all of there CD’s for us to sign [laughs]. I have always found that pretty fascinating that those kinds of people were such big fans & were so into the music even though they didn’t look like they would be. As soon as they took the tie off they could thrash with the best of 'em [laughs]
Metal Fanatix: Going way back to when you recorded the first Megadeth album, if someone had come up to you & told you that you would still be doing this all these years later would you have believed them?

Dave Ellefson: Yeah, I would of, the success I have been able to be apart of is almost unheard of & believe me I am very, very thankful to all the fans & to everybody that gave me the opportunity to do this, but I would say yes. This is the one thing that still gets me out of bed in the morning, playing, recording, doing interviews like we are doing now all this stuff. I still get tickled pink when I get a call telling me that I have an interview today. In this world & certainly in show biz stuff changes on a dime man, we live in a remote controlled, click of a mouse society, where you’re here today & gone later today. It’s awesome that I’m able to still make music & be part of the metal/rock culture. I’m glad that people have an interest in what I do.

Metal Fanatix: In your honest opinion what do you think about the direction that hard rock & heavy metal music has taken over the last few years?

Dave Ellefson: I think it’s pretty cool, I think nu-metal came in & kicked everyone’s ass in a way that it needed, the hair metal thing was becoming dead. Like all things after a while it all sounds the same. Now it’s cool that some of the thrash stuff is coming back in the form of bands like Lamb of God. They are taking the torch & running with it, in general hard rock & metal is seeing resurgence again & some people can’t let go of the past. I don’t think it should come back the way that it was & it never will. It’s a younger set of people doing it, they’re putting their stamp on it & it’s being influenced by hip hop & by grunge. I think that’s what makes it cool & gives it a future.

Metal Fanatix:
There has been so many highlights in your career, what would you say have been your greatest achievements to date?

Dave Ellefson: Going backwards I think the F5 album that we were talking about earlier ‘A Drug for all Seasons’ is a true highlight. People seem to think there is something new & fresh, if we sell two hundred records or two million it doesn’t really matter. To physically create something new & fresh it’s a nice highlight.

I also think to be a part of one thing for twenty years like I was that in it self is another highlight. Along the way there have been some awesome shows, the Monsters of Rock shows & being able to tour the world.

Some people look at touring the world like it’s a bad thing, for me it’s like “wow I get to go on tour” for me its all about feeling like I’m twelve years old again & looking at the world with eyes of wonder, almost bewilderment & I never wanna lose sight of that!

Metal Fanatix: What advice do you have for up and coming rock/metal bands?

Dave Ellefson: Just always try to feel like your twelve years old [laughs]. No matter what you do, if you’re not into it & you don’t love it then don’t do it, we certainly don’t need a bunch of negative shit heads comin' at us anymore. Its rock ‘n’ roll, it’s supposed to be fun, kick some ass & have fun regardless of what kind of music you’re playin' Be honest about it & be true to yourself, the honesty will come through in your music & the fans will believe in ya!

Metal Fanatix: Now I’m sure you are sick of being asked about the lawsuit with Dave Mustaine so I won’t ask you about that [laughs]. What I do want to know though is do you see yourself working with Dave again in the future?

Dave Ellefson: Well everything is all settled & water under the bridge at this point which is nice. I don’t know, there’s a part of me that thinks there’s probably a bond there that will always be there on some level & I think that’s a good thing, kind of a brother to brother situation. I don’t really want to create a whole dialogue about it quite honestly but I appreciate you asking & I know you folks wanna know. I think it’s hard to do something for that long with somebody for so long & not have it come back around full circle at some point & reconnect. I wish him the best, as long as I think the two of us are moving forward, if our paths come to intercept again I would hope for good will & for positive things to happen.

Metal Fanatix: Dave I only have a couple more questions for you, what would you like to see happen with F5 in the next couple of years, what can we expect from you guys?

Dave Ellefson: I’m just trying to keep it in the moment, lets have fun with it as long as everyone’s into it we’ll do it if it comes to a point where we are not into it we won’t. I think at this time we’re all at a point in our lives that you don’t have to continually try to put a square piece into a round hole. At the end of the day its only rock ‘n’ roll, were not out here curing cancer, if you can’t have fun playing music then it’s probably time to walk away.

Metal Fanatix: If you could put a band together consisting of musicians passed and/or present who would they be and what would you call the band?

Dave Ellefson: Well, if you look at the way F5 formed I would have to say that F5 would be one of those bands [laughs]. Only because I worked with them in their settings, I went into their environments to produce & when their environments fell apart that’s how this formed. All the guys in F5 were all like kindred spirits that came together. I have been asked to be part of some of these supergroups & it doesn’t appeal to me for a couple of reasons. You can like someone & hang out with someone, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re goin' to play music with them, at the same time you can have a good vibe playin' music with one person, as I bass player I can play awesome with this one drummer, or that awesome guitarist but you put it all together & it doesn’t work. I'm not trying to avoid your question [laughs] it’s just hard to pick random names out of a hat & go “wow wouldn’t this be cool” [laughs]. I’ve always had fun jamming with Slash over the years & my buddy Jimmy DeGrasso. From a vocalist point of view Layne Staley but obviously that’s not gonna happen, one of them is no longer around.

Metal Fanatix: Any last words you want to share with our readers?

Dave Ellefson: I just wanna thank everybody for hanging with me over the years. I love your country, I’ve had awesome experiences down there, hopefully there will be a lot more in the future!

‘A Drug For All Seasons’ is out now You can purchase it where all rockin' albums are sold!

To keep up with all the latest news on Dave & F5 check out the following websites:

http://www.F5TheBand.com - Official F5 website
http://www.davidellefson.com - Official David Ellefson website
http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com - Dedicated to 40 years of pure hard rock & metal music

© Cameron Edney January 2006 Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.