Each week That Metal Show on VH1 Classic brings you the latest news and interviews with the biggest names in hard rock and heavy metal. This season in addition we’re interviewing some of TMS’ biggest guests and finding out how they got their starts playing their instruments and finding out what they’re playing and what other players got them jazzed to pick them up in the first place. This week we’re catching up with Dave Ellefson, bass player in legendary “Big Four” thrash metal pioneers Megadeth. Some people grow up in cities renowned for their thriving metal scenes but Dave grew up in a farm in Minnesota and had to work a little harder than most to get his start in music and as such has wide ranging tastes in music, from classic hard rockers like Kiss and Thin Lizzy to punk rock and jazz. Find out how he got his start and what gear he uses to get the varied sounds needed when playing live with Megadeth.
VH1: What was your first bass guitar and where did you get it?
Dave Ellefson: It was a Gibson EB-0 bass that I bought out of the newspaper classifieds in a neighboring town about 30 miles away from where I grew up on a farm out in rural Jackson, Minnesota. I wanted a Gibson because I was 11 years old when I got it and was a huge Kiss fan and on the back of their records they always said “Kiss use Gibson guitars and Pearl drums because they want the best.” That was my reference point. if they use it then I’ve got to have it.
Who’s the first bassist that made you want to play the bass guitar?
Probably C.F. Turner from Bachman–Turner Overdrive. I heard them on the radio and then I got a copy of the Not Fragile album and I’d never heard anything like it before. When I went to a friend’s house and he had the 12 inch vinyl copy of that, it opened up, it was a gate-fold cover, and there a live band photo and there was Fred Turner with his black and white Rickenbacker 4001 bass and to me it was just…I was like, that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life.
Is he still an influence for you?
He was in those early years. My mom had Motown records around the house and everything that I saw when we gathered around the TV and watched things like Hee Haw. Things like that out on the farm. It was a lot of female singers, except for country and western singers like Buck Owens and Roy Clark and The Statler Brothers. But when I started hearing hard rock bands like BTO, Kiss, Foreigner, Sweet, things like that, all of a sudden it was like guys singing and it was cool and there were harmonies and there were riffs and there were like these twin guitar lead solos. It just whipped me up. I’d never heard anything like that before and so BTO, that Not Fragile record was probably my very first introduction to hard rock followed by Kiss Destroyer.