David Ellefson Names One Thing He ’Always Liked About Metallica Records,’ Recalls Hearing Them for the First Time

Metal bass legend and former member of Megadeth, David Ellefson, recalled the early thrash metal scene and hearing Metallica for the first time.

In the early 1980s, this new “thrash metal” movement was not yet defined. However, in a few years, Metallica slowly conquered the world, all the way up to achieving mainstream success in the 1990s. But no one should overlook the entire thrash scene, which brought us great bands such as Megadeth, Exodus, Anthrax, Testament, and many others.

As David was looking back on these days during his visit to the Disturbing the Priest podcast, he explained how the whole term was initially coined by the journalists, particularly Malcolm Dome of Kerrang!, who came up with it.

“I think it was maybe Malcolm Dome — I think he’s in the ‘Murder in the Front Row’ movie,” Ellefson explained (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs). “I think in the film some journalists dubbed Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Overkill, Exodus, Testament — this new scene — they call it ‘thrash metal.'”

David Ellefson of DIETH and ex-Megadeth Full Interview - EP#071

“And thrash was like the skaters in Venice Beach, and skating was a big part of that scene, and that’s Suicidal Tendencies and all that stuff, so there’s kind of this punk… The ‘Thrashers’ were the skaters. So this got dubbed to be our music by a journalist, not by us. We musicians didn’t come up with that name.”

Going more into it, Ellefson then looked back on his earliest days in Megadeth and how the band’s frontman Dave Mustaine played him Metallica’s early demo. This was not long after Mustaine was fired from Metallica and just when the great rivalry between two thrash titans began.

“My first introduction to Metallica was Dave playing the ‘No Life ’til Leather’ demo,” Ellefson recalled, “which I thought was f***ing awesome, man. I mean, it was dark. It was fast. It was unhinged. [Laughs]”

As they were trying to find their unique style back then, Ellefson also recalled the other music that they were listening to, a lot of which came from across the pond and that still wasn’t all that present in the United States at the time. He continued:

“We’d sit around, and Dave had some Diamond Head records. Of course, I knew Motörhead, I knew Saxon. I had not heard Accept, so like ‘Restless and Wild,’ ‘Fast as a Shark,’ this kind of stuff, which was great.”

“Accept record sounded so good. They had a great production to them, and to me stood a little above the rest of them.”

Speaking of production and sound quality, David Ellefson admits that this is one thing that he always loved about Metallica, singling out Lars Ulrich’s drum sound on the band’s albums.

“And that’s one thing I always liked about Metallica records, they always sounded good,” he said. “Lars always took the time to get a great drum tone. And I guess when you’re the boss and the leader, you can do that. [Laughs]”

Metallica - No Life 'til Leather (1982) Full Demo + Bonus Track

Metallica’s early music was directly inspired by legendary European bands. And, as Ellefson remembers, that’s what Ulrich was aiming for in the band’s early days, wanting to bring this darker and heavier aspect of hard rock and heavy metal into the United States. David added:

“And of course, we all knew Maiden and this kind of stuff. But Motörhead were kind of the next ones coming up. And I remember Dave telling me Lars wanted to be America’s Motörhead. That was kind of the initial vision. And it was! ‘Motorbreath’, ‘Whiplash.'”

In 2021, David Ellefson was fired from Megadeth due to a scandal concerning a leaked intimate video exchange with a fan. Although this wasn’t the first time that the two parted ways since Megadeth’s beginning, it seems that it was for good this time around.

Megadeth - Dystopia (Audio)

“I got one call: ‘You’re fired,’” recalled Ellefson with a laugh during last year’s interview.  “And I said, ‘What the f***, man?’ I said, ‘Some sh*tty f***ing people just dropped a bomb on my house. And that’s it? It’s not even true. It’s fucking bullsh*t. And this is how you treat me?’”

“It was non-negotiable. I mean, I asked. I said, ‘I’m gonna take care of it. Let me just deal with it. And it will fucking be done. We’ll be ready to go on the road in two months, and everything will be fine.’ And it was. Because it was just false allegations and bullsh*t.”

“But [Dave] didn’t wanna know about it. I think he was getting pressure from some other people around him. And it’s too bad it went that way. Because it was really nothing. I took care of it.”

Megadeth - David Ellefson Bass Solo (1995)

“And then once the word came out that I was fired, then it turned into this big f***ing thing, which, quite honestly, was very damaging and very hurtful and not fair. I’m glad I don’t have that fucking amends on my shoulder because that was f***ed up.”

Photos: Carter Sterling (David Ellefson), Ralph Arvesen (Lars Ulrich 2017)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.