Megadeth’s David Ellefson on Craziest Show, Dream Show and More

David Ellefson, 2019

David Ellefson is a busy man. Not only does he hold down the low end in thrash OGs Megadeth, and play as a member of supergroup duo Altitudes & Attitude with Anthrax’s Frank Bello, but Ellefson also just announced his first-ever solo album, Sleeping Giants, which is due July 5th via Combat Records. The LP will serve as a companion piece to the bass player’s forthcoming memoir, More Life With Deth, and feature an array of new material as well as unreleased tracks and demos from projects including F5, Ellefson’s band with former Megadeth drummer Jimmy DeGrasso. The record also boasts a slew of eclectic guest stars including DMC of Run-DMC, Armored Saint/former Anthrax singer John Bush, Alter Bridge’s Mark Tremonti, ex–Guns N’ Roses guitarist Bumblefoot, and actor and DJ Kristian Nairn, a.k.a. Game of Thrones’ Hodor, who contributed a remix of lead-off track “Vultures.”

On top of this very full slate, Ellefson continues to play shows, of course, and with that in mind, we asked him recently to look back at some of his most memorable gigs, both as a musician and a fan. Check out what he had to say below.

What was the first show you ever saw as a fan?
David Ellefson
KISS, February 1977, Rock and Roll Over tour, Met Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. I was 13 years old and the ticket price was $6 in advance. I unknowingly bought a bootleg concert T-shirt and poster outside the venue after the show and the shirt fell apart after the very first wash. It was my first big rock concert and I couldn’t believe how loud it was! These guys were like superheroes in posters on my bedroom wall and here I was seeing them live in front of me — it was surreal. It was loud, crude and big … I loved every moment of it! Uriah Heep opened the show.

How about the worst show you ever saw?
The Mentors with Megadeth and Motörhead in San Diego circa 1985. They were so bad live, although I loved their albums. I guess that’s what made them The Mentors.

What’s the craziest show you ever played?
I’ve been lucky to be on the stage for the craziest shows of my life, and not in the audience. Our early shows were full of huge pits, but the fans had fun because it was a new scene and had no rules. One of the earliest Megadeth shows that we played at The Stone on Broadway in San Francisco, early 1984, comes to mind. A fan in the front row was thrashing so hard that he just reached up to me and tore the low E string right off my bass!  We were playing “Devil’s Island” and that created a problem — the entire song is played on the E string!

What was the smallest show you ever played with Megadeth?
At Mubuhay Gardens in San Francisco, late 1984, right after Gar Samuelson joined the band. I actually have a bootleg cassette of the show and it’s a total drunken punk-rock show, but we still played pretty good and the fans loved it.

How about your biggest show?
For me, personally: Rock in Rio 1991. We played to over 140,000 people at that event. It’s still my biggest show to date.

As a fan: Guns N’ Roses at Rock in Rio 1991, the same night we performed there. This was around the launch of the Use Your Illusion I and II albums. After our show, I went out to the sound board to watch them perform and they had magically become as big as the Rolling Stones. Even though they opened for us for the Monsters of Rock at Castle Donington, U.K., just a few years earlier, just a few years later at this show, they had suddenly become a bona fide stadium band. The transformation was amazing and they were absolutely incredible that night.

What would be your dream show?
The Big 4. Any and all shows we did were not only cool for the fans, but also something of legend for the four of our bands, too. We had each scaled the summits of success and then we got to celebrate it together with the fans. Those shows were some of the highlight moments of our careers!