In a new interview with the “Classic Metal Show”, MEGADETH‘s David Ellefson spoke about the fact he has pursued a number of business ventures outside of the band, including running a record label, launching a line of coffee, producing a horror film, writing books and releasing his first solo album. Asked if his his decision to expand the Ellefson “brand” was “a reaction to the fallout” that he and MEGADETH leader Dave Mustaine had years ago when the bassist left the band for a little under a decade, Ellefson said: “One hundred percent. Honestly, as the saying goes, ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.’ So if I got caught with my pants down a second time, I’ve got no one to blame but me. And not that I was ever in the blame game, because the truth of it is I knew that back in 2000… I saw problems coming in 2001, and by 2002, MEGADETH was disbanded — Dave had walked away from it, for reasons that he needed to, and I understood. And so for me to sit there and go, ‘Oh my God. How am I gonna pay my mortgage? How am I gonna do this? I’ve got a young family. How am I gonna do all this?’ I’ve got no one to blame but myself for being in that position.
“The good news is, the good Lord provides,” Ellefson continued. “Part of me went, ‘Ah, thank God that’s over.’ And I needed a relief — I neeed to step away from it — for my own personal reasons. And maybe, in some ways, Dave disbanding MEGADETH, he did for me what I couldn’t do for myself, which is take a break from it. I didn’t see it as an end; I saw it as a sort of temporary break, which, obviously, it turned out to be. Even in the years I was away from it, I never felt like it was over. I felt like it was just a season apart that I needed to grow in. I think I came back to MEGADETH in 2010 a much stronger human being, a stronger performer, singer, bass player, writer — all the things I got to do in those, I guess, seven [or] eight years, whatever it was. And keep in mind MEGADETH was non-existent for a couple of those years, so, really, it was only about five years that I wasn’t participating in the band.
“The scariest thing was [thinking], ‘Who am I? What am I gonna do? What’s gonna become of me?'” David added. “Those are kind of the three big questions. And what turned out to happen was, everything was taken care of. I’m not gonna lie, and I don’t mean this to sound like a religious show, but I put G.O.D. — good orderly direction — as number one. Stay tethered to the master, and he will provide all that needs to be provided. And sure enough, my bills were paid. I was making a fraction of the money that I was in MEGADETH, and somehow the bills were paid. It’s kind of like the loaves and fishes — it just sort of appeared. And I got the job with Peavey [in the artist relations department]. I went to college. I got my degree. ‘Cause I noticed now, not being a rock star and working kind of in the corporate world, even though I was working just as a contractor and I was mostly hired because of my phone book and my contacts in the business, I realized if I ever wanted to make any other lateral move here, I’m gonna probably need to check the box, like, yeah, I went to college. And so I did that — I stepped up and I did that. And then, all of a sudden, these music things started happening — F5; I had a little cover band called HAIL! with some other famous dudes. We did all these different things… I kept the faith, and I stayed true to just, provide for my family, take care of first things first, do that, and suddenly all the music stuff started coming back. ‘Cause I was prepared to walk away from it. I didn’t want to, but I was going, ‘Maybe this is this big-boy time. I’m in my late 30s. Maybe I’ve gotta put the guitar down, grow up, cut my hair and be like a real guy now. And the truth of it is, again, somehow the good Lord brought that back to me. And next thing you know, I started playing more and more; I was playing with different people; it broadened my horizons… So when I did come back to MEGADETH, I suddenly was a much better MEGADETH member, because I think in the early days, I only had that one group for 20 years, and I think there was always a part of me that I wanted to step out and try some other things. But it’s funny — here I am in this big, multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated band, insecure that I could go out and play with other people. And so finally one day, sort of like the good Lord took me off the chain and said, ‘Well, I’m taking your house’ — not literally my house away — but ‘I’m sort of taking the house of MEGADETH away from you and I’m gonna force you out, and you’re gonna have to trust me.’ Again, it’s sort of a biblical story.”
Ellefson was in MEGADETH from the band’s inception in 1983 to 2002, when the group briefly broke up because Mustaine suffered severe nerve damage that left him unable to play. After Mustaine reformed MEGADETH with an all-new lineup in 2004, Ellefson sued his former bandmate for $18.5 million, alleging that Mustaine still owed him substantial merchandise and publishing royalties. In January 2005, the case was dismissed in court, and five years later, Ellefson rejoined MEGADETH.
Ellefson has been open about the fact that he became a salaried employee upon his return to MEGADETH in 2010, something he shared with the world in his latest book, “More Life With Deth”.
Six years earlier, Ellefson declined to rejoin MEGADETH upon the band’s reformation, citing concerns with the business structure he had in place with Mustaine.
When Ellefson eventually rejoined MEGADETH, he was no longer as involved in the band’s composing process and business affairs like he was prior to the group’s breakup.