David Ellefson Recalls One Important Thing Slayer’s Kerry King Told Him About the Music Business

Legendary metal bassist David Ellefson, and former member of Megadeth, recalled one important thing that Slayer guitarist Kerry King told him about the music business.

Back in the early days of Megadeth, Kerry King was even briefly a member of the band back in 1984. However, his status wasn’t that of a full-time member since he was devoted to his own band that was just starting out. But he’s still an interesting part of its history, and Kerry and David have known each other for quite some time now.

While appearing recently at the Disturbing the Priest podcast, Ellefson remembered what the Slayer guitarist told him while discussing the very nature of the business that he’s a part of.

“Says the man with a devil painted on his head”

“It isn’t even just music,” Dave said. “It’s the entertainment business. So when you get on that stage… I remember me and Kerry King talked about this. He said, ‘If you’re not different, you don’t deserve to be on that stage.'”

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

“Says the man with a devil painted on his head,” Ellefson added with a laugh. But jokes aside, we can see the point. It sometimes feel that, if you’re not bringing at least anything new to the table, there’s hardly any reason to be doing it in the first place. He continued:

“And I love that. I mean, me and Kerry grew up in the business together, as friends and our respective bands and stuff. He gets it, you know what I mean? And that is true.”

“It is what it is, man. It isn’t just about the songs, it’s about the stories we tell in the songs.”

Metal in the Midwest

Going more into the matter, Ellefson recalled his beginnings as a young musician. Way back before he even came to the legendary Bay Area, he was growing up as a rock ‘n’ roll fan in the American Midwest.

And back in those days, rock music wasn’t exactly the most popular thing in those areas. But that didn’t stop young David. He recalled:

“I kind of started playing rock and roll at country because I grew up on a farm in Minnesota, and everybody’s listening to country, to western.”

But things changed when that one band appeared:

“And then Kiss showed up, and I’m like, ‘Finally, a path forward!’ And I remember this farmer friend of mine, we were at the Armory in Jackson, and there’s some country band playing, and everybody’s drinking and doing what they do. I was a teenager, and he says to me, ‘You just think you can be down there tonight playing for 50 bucks?'”

“And I say, ‘F*ck that, I’ll play rock and roll for free because I ain’t playing country!'”

“And that was just the reason. It’s funny, because country is what all the parents like, right? So you’re not gonna do what your parents do. Our parents hated Kiss, so I’m gonna go with Kiss.”

Into The Lungs Of Hell / Set The World Afire - Kings Of Thrash - Phoenix 10-13-2022 Megadeth

“That’s the obvious choice. That’s just how we are growing up. And so being a fan of rock and roll, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.”

David Ellefson’s Final Album With Megadeth

In another recent interview, Ellefson looked back on his final record with Megadeth, 2016’s “Dystopia,” and some challenges that came with it.

“I went in the studio in Nashville and recorded ‘Dystopia,’ the Megadeth album,” he offered. “Which was funny because I recorded that album — it was me and Dave — I’ve sat there and basically recorded the bass to a click.”

“I didn’t have any guitars, I didn’t have any drums. We hadn’t rehearsed the song. He was literally showing me the parts. And I was sitting down, just grinding it to the fucking click.”

Kings Of Thrash - Full Show, Live at The Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville Va. 3/10/2023

“I would say [it] is a pretty good testimony not only to my pillar in that band and that sound, but also to me and Dave’s ability to finish each other’s musical sentences.”

“We would play something, and we would stop and go, ‘Fuck, it sounds a lot like something we did on ‘Black Friday.'”

“Because in Megadeth, after a while, you make so many records the real challenge was to not repeat yourself. We don’t want this to sound like something we did in ‘Rust in Peace’ or something. So it’s always challenging.”

Megadeth - Dystopia (Audio)

Fun but Painstaking

But despite everything, he still sees it as a fun process:

“So I recorded that, which was fun, very painstaking, but it was great. I walked out of that going, ‘I can’t believe it. I think this is the first record ever in the history of the world where the bass player cut to a click track.’ And again, I didn’t know the songs, didn’t rehearse them. It’s not like we were a band.”

Ellefson was officially fired from Megadeth in 2021. Since then, he’s been involved in a few projects. The most notable one is Kings of Thrash which also features another former Megadeth member, guitarist Jeff Young.


Photos: Carter Sterling (David Ellefson), Narcoticq (Kerry King Kiev 04)


  • 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.