In a newly published interview for Ultimate Guitar, former Megadeth guitarist Jeff Young discussed his new band with David Ellefson called Kings of Thrash. Apart from playing Megadeth classics live, the group may also release some new original material. Young, who was a member of the legendary thrash metal band in the late 1980s, was asked whether they received any feedback from Dave Mustaine to which he replied:
“Nah, we couldn’t care less… And it’s a win-win for him. Because all the publishing, for example, on the ‘Best Of The West’, he’s getting all that money. We’re making him money and he doesn’t have to do anything.“
“So, we’re performing the songs because they’re part of our history and the fans want to hear them and we will benefit from that, and so will he, so it’s a win-win. How much cooler can anything be than that?“
“So, if he has something to say about it… I wouldn’t imagine it would be very objective… not that anything he’s ever said has been objective.“
During the chat, Young was also asked how this new project came to be and how they decided to get together and play some of these old Megadeth classics. He explained:
“We weren’t in contact. I mean, we bumped into each other at the NAMM show and we played together at the NAMM show for the Ronnie Montrose Remembered – the very first edition of that. Actually, that video of Ellefson and me doing ‘Bad Motor Scooter’, actually with Jimmy DeGrasso from Megadeth on drums, Gilby Clarke, Doug Aldrich, Brad Gillis from Night Ranger…. I forget who all was up there.”
“But we played together at NAMM and we barely got to speak that night. But I was contacted by Nick Menza’s representatives and they invited me to take part in the filming of a documentary on Nick’s life that’s going to be coming out very soon on Ellefson films. That was kind of what led to us reconnecting.
“We were doing some filming out here in Los Angeles. David Ellefson was flying out here for that filming. We all ended up meeting and reconciling after all these years at the Rainbow at the back booth.
“I think that’s Slash’s booth, as they call it these days, or the American Satan booth if you’ve seen that movie, and oddly enough, at the end of the dinner, we were going to be filming the next day and as we were paying the bill, I kind of leaned over and didn’t exactly whisper in his ear.”
“But I said, ‘Hey, remember this riff’ and I kind of sang two riffs that David and I were working on that I had written, and we had demoed on cassette during the ‘Rust In Peace’ writing sessions. I had long since lost these tapes, but I have kind of a photographic memory.”
“So the riffs stuck with me, which I guess is pretty good because you remember these riffs 20-plus years later, I sang the riff to him and he was like, ‘man we got to get in a room and work that stuff out. We got to do something.’ So that’s what led to working together. We’ve got four originals demoed.
“We came in the first day I had two riffs and two sketches. And we went in and then the first day was like, we were finishing each other’s sentences. You know, after all these years, and we’ve never had the opportunity, to even write together back in the day.”
“But we walked out of the studio the first day with two songs demoed. We got together a couple months later, he came in with two riff ideas, sketches, and again, we walked out that day with two more, so we’ve got four.”
“The drummer and I have already been in the studio and threw down one to a two-inch analog tape. It was recorded live in a room, old school, like how people used to do records back in the day. So that started the whole thing.”
“Then just as we’re writing and David’s working on a multitude of projects, meanwhile, in the background, and you may be aware of that every couple of weeks at the Whisky a Go Go, they have this Ultimate Jam event.“
“It’s a free event to the public and up and coming, and seasoned musicians and even some big-name musicians from time to time, all get together. It’s a free admission thing to the public and in one given night, you can see 100 to 150 or more performers on and off that stage. They do a different theme every couple of weeks.
“So I’ve been participating in this for a bit since I’ve been out here and I’ve done the Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Ladies of The 80s, and a bunch of different tributes. Well, I got word they were doing The Big Four as a theme for one night. So they invited me to participate, of course, I said, ‘Well, me and David are working together. Want me to call him and see if he wants to come out?’ so that I did and he flew out just for this gig at the Whisky for the Big Four theme night.“
“When they do these jams, they’ll match you with other musicians and this is what led to the Kings of Thrash. You know, to do Megadeth, you need a singer who can do Mustaine and that ain’t easy to find — it’s a very idiosyncratic character and voice to perform. But the gal that puts the event together does a great job and she matched us up with Chaz Leon, and we went into it unrehearsed…“
“Well, we did rehearse for five minutes in a hallway while the band downstairs was blasting, we ran through ‘My Darkest Hour’, ‘Mary Jane’, which my girlfriend [Dyna Shirasaki] ended up singing. This is all up on YouTube. So we did that unrehearsed and Chaz did so good.“
“It ended up getting picked up by the music media and the management side. All the people working with Ellefson saw it and they said you guys have got to do this.“
“So that’s how the whole concept for Kings of Thrash and doing the Megadeth albums in their entirety, manifested. It wasn’t our intent. We didn’t set out to do a tribute band or even do Megadeth songs, we were already working on brand new originals.“
“An opportunity came and we saw it, and the fans have been asking us for so many years and have been approaching David, you know, when he does his various signings at conventions and events that he does, people asking him about it, it was just a no brainer.“
“Once we performed with Chaz and saw that we had a guy who could pull off the vocals, because he was in a Megadeth tribute. He’s also in a Soundgarden tribute, doing the Chris Cornell part.“
“One review said that what makes this work is Chaz because if you don’t get that guy in the middle that can do this, then you don’t got this to perform these two albums or any Megadeth tunes, and do it justice, the reviewer said, it doesn’t come off as an impression and it doesn’t come off as comical or humorous, it comes off as legit, and that’s what people are resonating with.“
“He’s got a huskier voice, you know, he hits all the notes, some of them even higher. He’s just happy to be there, he loves what we’re doing, he loves being part of this. So once we had that, we knew we had something and the other great thing is, we met Fred Aching the same evening, he was at that Big Four evening at the Whisky – he did a couple of Slayer tunes and he’s an amazing young drummer. He’s only 33. He’s from Peru. And we saw him do those Slayer songs and that’s all we needed to see and hear. Kings of Thrash was born right then and there at the Whisky a Go Go.“
“That was kind of a full circle. We rehearsed and decided we were going to do the two albums in their entirety and even learned a few from ‘Peace Sells’ for Chris [Poland, ex-Megadeth guitarist] and the encores. Then we did the four shows, ending up back at the Whisky, only to sell it out like they haven’t been sold out in years.”
“And I saw Samantha Fish – you know her, she’s an absolutely great guitar player, they played there just a couple weeks later, and I was in the audience, and they said they had sold it out, and I looked around upstairs and it wasn’t even 75% what we had in this place. It’s not bragging but it’s just that it was something that the Whisky hadn’t seen in a while and that’s kind of what led to the whole thing we’re doing now. Life just kind of takes care of itself.”
“Meanwhile in the background, we’re still doing what we originally intended, which is crafting the original stuff, which makes this a great means to an end. Because, you know it’s so hard for any new band in this day and age to break from nothing.”
“But this way we can kind of warm folks up to the Kings of Thrash idea and who we are with how we’re playing these days and then drop the originals in the live set. Then hopefully when we put the original music out, people will give it a chance and maybe take the risk on that new music.“