Interview with DAVID ELLEFSON of Megadeth, Metal Allegiance & Ellefson Coffee Co

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So many artists are finding ways to expand their careers beyond music. For bassist and coffee aficionado , coffee sounded like the perfect way to go. From Megadeth, Metal Allegiance, record label owner, music producer and now Ellefson Coffee Co. it is safe to say that there is nothing that Ellefson can’t do. During The NAMM Show in Anaheim last month, Ellefson had his own booth where coffee samples were flowing and it quickly became a well-known hot spot for hanging out. With the appearances of artists like Mike Portnoy, Mark Menghi from Metal Allegiance, Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro from Italian Goth Metal group Lacuna Coil, Daeg Faerch who is best known for his role as Michael Myers In Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake of Halloween, and Ellefson himself. NAMM attendees were flocking like a moth to a flame to try out Ellefson’s coffee and most agreed it could put Starbucks to shame.

Photo Credit: Matt Quina

Still coming off a musical high from the Metal Allegiance show at the Anaheim House Of Blues, Ellefson took some time out to chat with Screamer Magazine. Ellefson Coffee Co. began with his love for coffee and has always gone hand and hand with the rock n’ roll business, so when we asked Ellefson to fill us in on his brand he told us “my favorite is a dark roast called Rest in Peace. It was the first one we came out with” Ellefson says. After that, we came up with a medium roast called Kenya Thrash and also have a light roast called Rock n’ Rose in which a portion of the proceeds go to charity for breast cancer ( which is cool.” Ellefson Coffee Co. caters to many artists and bands such as Queensryche, Skid Row and Autograph. Available online via a subscription or one time order, Ellefson Coffee Co. is also beginning to partner with retail companies and even offers coffee edibles branded as Atomic Rocks. Ellefson has conquered everything he has ever put his heart and mind to and it seems there is no limit to what he wants to do next.

Posing for the camera during our interview, Ellefson moved us around so we could get the best shots showing what a keen eye he has and his respect for the media. It was a comforting moment amidst the chaos of NAMM and a perfect place for Ellefson to display his creations to the music world in a way that is personal and allows consumers to try out the product. “We are a rock n’ roll coffee company and we appeal to the people right here” Ellefson confesses. Hopefully he will decide to have a booth again next year and in that case a bigger space would be ideal since so many people were crowding around and taking over the area in front of the neighboring vendor.

Metal Allegiance, Photo Credit: Matt Quina

Metal Allegiance had previously graced the stage of the Anaheim House Of Blues just a stone’s throw away from the Convention Center where NAMM was being held and according to Ellefson the show was unbelievable. “It’s the best. It just feels like great friends making music together and the best part is people dropping by to perform with us. It was just a great show.” With such an already star studded line-up of Metal Allegiance founder Mark Menghi along with Ellefson, Mike Portnoy and Alex Skolnick who describe their relationship as a brotherhood, there was infinite talent who also showed up to celebrate all things metal. With Mark Ocegueda (Death Angel), Gary Holt (Slayer, Exodus), Chuck Billy (Testament), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and Andrea Kisser (Sepultra) joining them on stage this year, the night was electric and has become an annual tradition that is best described as an experience rather than just a typical concert. Metal Allegiance is a lifestyle. We asked who Ellefson he has enjoyed working with the most during the course of the project. “John Bush (Armored Saint, Anthrax) made a demo for me in 1993 and it was clear that no one can scream like him. He is on the new record and it will be coming out this summer. But, to play alongside him was a real game changer for us. And of course there was Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) who had not performed with us before but was featured on our EP in 2015 with Mark Ocegueda (Death Angel) on the song Scars. To have her go out there last night was incredible along with Bobby Blitz (Overkill) it was remarkable to play with all of them.”

Ellefson has mastered the art of upholding a long, steady career while many fall off the map or have gotten lost along the way. There is a secret recipe to upholding longevity in the music business and Ellefson credits his motto “say no to drugs and say yes to everything else” and says “keeping a clear head and clear conscience, it is good to say ‘yes’ to those emails and answer the phone when it rings and agree to the new opportunities because you never know where they will lead you. I mean, you could wake up one day and have a coffee company and your own booth in the middle of NAMM. You just never know what can happen. This has gotten me through 35 years with Megadeth and now Metal Allegiance.”

Frank Bello (Anthrax) and Ellefson’s project Altitudes and Attitude combines two of the most legendary bassists in the industry. They have been quietly working on a full length album and will be released in October according to Ellefson. “A lot is going on right now with the project and I think people will be happy once they hear the new music. I am also working on some new stuff with Megadeth so we will be putting out a new album sometime in 2019. There’s a lot going on but it’s great and I am enjoying it.”

Frank Bello, Photo Credit: Matt Quina

Farewell tours seem to be a theme these days with bands most of us grew up with but Megadeth just keeps pressing on. More than likely they will be one of the last ones standing at this rate. Ellefson assures that they plan to keep on going as long as people want to listen. “We just do our best to stay in shape and stay healthy and fresh and come up with new ideas and as long as we can continue to deliver a quality record and performance to the fans there is no end in sight.” With the music industry having changed so much since they debuted in 1983, Ellefson confesses that they are really lucky with Megadeth. “We built something so cool and so powerful so it’s cohesive with our fans and now it’s become something much greater than we are. The fans will outlast us probably and that’s a beautiful thing to have. It’s nice when something you created becomes the wind in your own sail.” Ellefson had some more advice for newcomers who come into it just for the money. “You have to build something properly and not base it on cash. The music, the record label and the coffee are what we do out of passion and we do whatever we can to keep moving forward. If you are in it just for sex, drugs and rock n’ roll then good luck with that. It’s all about the hard work and focus and dedication. If you are doing it for the love of music and the love of playing which is what we do in Metal Allegiance. We just do it when we can do it and it reminds me of why I started doing this. It’s a lot of hard work and it can be discouraging at times so you always need to find a way to yourself from falling into that.”

EMP Label Group is a record label started by Ellefson in 2015, who had no initial intention of having his own label in the beginning. “I never had a plan to start a record company or manage a band but I spotted Doll Skin and thought to myself ‘these girls have some real talent.’ I decided to sign them to a label and brought them into the studio and we recorded an EP. Then, I became their manager to make sure they were taken care of. I had to teach them about the business and that is how we started EMP. It formed a bigger outlet and next thing we knew it became this gigantic platform and more artists and bands were signed and it is what it is now and has helped a lot of them to begin or maintain a career.”

Dave Ellefson has set the bar to a high standard when it comes to devotion and the desire to expand in his career. Yesterday and today he perseveres in the music industry and from the looks of it he is making history in the coffee world too. Just goes to show that anything is possible when you put thoughts into action. Rock n’ roll and coffee….life doesn’t get any better.

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