That Metal Gear: Megadeth’s Dave Ellefson

by (@BHSmithNYC)


Who was the last bass player that blew you away?

From a metal point of view, Troy Sanders from Mastodon, just because the bass is upfront and he’s a power house player. That to me is great. My daughter listens to Taylor Swift. I realized that her producer actually played bass on a couple of tracks on her latest record and right away the basslines jump out at me. I have to listen to it because I drive her to school every day so I’m subjected to listening to the music of a 15 year old teenager. Sometimes that’s good because even though I’m a metalhead it’s good as a songwriter and a musician to never close your mind. To always have an open mind to hear things. Last night I was watching the Grammys and Stevie Wonder comes on. Stevie Wonder is still probably the greatest bass player who ever lived. Just because of his left hand on the keyboard, some of the funkiest and probably the hardest to replicate base lines because of where Stevie feels the groove. He’s a killer bass player.

Did he actually play bass guitar or do you mean the basslines he played on the keyboards?

I think just keyboards. I don’t know of him ever playing bass but he played these left hand keyboard basslines to his own songs. Again, it’s about keeping an open mind. A pop soul musician playing keyboard with his left hand all of a sudden inspires me as a 4 and 5 string heavy metal rock and roll bass player. Even when we do Megadeth records, there are a lot of real syncopated grooves that go on in the basslines of our songs. You don’t get that from just listening only to things within our genre. You have to go outside of it. I learned that years ago as a kid. I started listening to jazz music, and I’m not really a fan of jazz music quite honestly, but I realized the bass players are phenomenal. I heard Gordon Johnson. I went to go see Maynard Ferguson right when he had written the hit theme song for Rocky. He was on a tour and I went to go see him and his band were just smoking incredible jazz musicians. I’d never seen anything like that. It wasn’t even humanly possible how good these guys were playing. I was listening to Rush and I was listening to some progressive rock that were really flooring me but when I saw those guys playing in Maynard Ferguson’s band I was just completely floored. It drove me to go “I’ve got to learn how their doing that.”

And finally, F**k, Marry, Kill…Don, Jim, or Ed?

Let’s put it this way I’m already married (laughter).