In a new interview with Metal Asylum, MEGADETH‘s David Ellefson was asked if he ever “got crap” from other bassists for playing with a pick/plectrum instead of his fingers. He said (see video below): “Weekend-warrior and, in my opinion, not professional bass players give me shit about it all the time. And I say that because if you were a professional player, you would realize that, while you don’t maybe always have to use the plectrum, it is a desired tone, especially in the studio.
“Sting, Phil Lynott, Paul McCartney, Gene Simmons… What I find is most of those bass players, like myself, also play guitar, and they probably write most of their things on guitar and they move ’em over to bass so they can easily go back and forth between bass and guitar. I’m the same way.
“At that point, I stop thinking about, ‘Oh, I’ve gotta be this bass player.’ Fuck that,” he continued. “You’re just being a musician playing the parts to write the tune — you’re a composer. So you just grab anything and you write the part. So, for me, I’m way less of a bass snob. And I’m really not into that whole thing, quite honestly — the bass snob thing. I’m really more of a composer, a player and a performer.
“I’ve been in the studio many times, and even recently, I was playing with my fingers, and the engineer looks over and goes, ‘What’d you change?’ And I said, ‘I’m playing with my fingers.’ He goes, ‘Don’t do that. Get the pick. It sounds better.’ I mean, like that. It’s noticeable.”
Ellefson‘s latest comments echo those he made in October 2018 at the Bristol, England stop of the European leg of his “Basstory” tour. At the time, he said: “For me, I ended up picking up a plectrum, a pick, mostly because you guitar players are always too loud. And I was in bands where I could afford amps about that size [points to a small amp], as a kid, and I couldn’t afford big Ampeg SVTs and big stuff like that. And guitar players would get 50-, 100-watt Marshall half stacks and we would have to turn them against the wall, ’cause they were so loud. Because the sound man, when he does this [lifts arms above his head an shakes his head], that means the P.A. is off, you’re not in it and you’re too loud. And most guitar players go, ‘Fuck that, dude! I’m gonna fucking play loud.’ Pardon my language, but that’s just kind of how guitar players are. So in order to compete with that, I picked up the plectrum, because when I got in a band, all of a sudden, that got in the mix; now I was in the room finally and got inside the kick drum. I learned that later making records about how to get my bass kind of right inside that kick drum, so as the drummer… as that beater hit the skin, that was the cannon and I was the cannonball right behind it. But that really is my philosophy.”
Back in 2015, Ellefson told EMG that he “chose a pick ’cause as a young teenager I was always playing in bands with very loud rock ‘n’ roll guitarists, and in order to compete with them — I had my little 2×12 cabinet and a 100-watt head — I found that with a pick I was able to get a tone and dig into the notes. It was the attack. It cuts right through,” he added, explaining that pick playing was of great importance for acquiring the desired sound for MEGADETH, allowing him to “pick up the guitar lines,” as well as just groove the root note.
David‘s solo band, ELLEFSON, will release its covers album, “No Cover”, on November 20 via earMUSIC (Europe) and Ward Records (Japan). The effort will be made available in conjunction with Ellefson‘s revived Combat Records, which will issue the album in North America via Amped.