This year has certainly not been what any musician was expecting. Touring came to a grinding halt, often causing a delay to album releases and other promotional plans. Many bands have made the most of things, using the internet to promote their music the best they can. None seem to have taken the bull by the horns quite as much as David Ellefson, who may win the award for “Most Productive During Quarantine,” if there was such an award. Ellefson and business partner and bandmate Thom Hazaert have been extremely busy with new music, a new cover album, No Cover, livestreams, fundraisers and more, but somehow Ellefson was even able to squeeze in an interview as well.
The year 2020 started off strong for Ellefson with a Megadeth/Five Finger Death Punch tour in January and February. Next up on the itinerary was to finish an Ellefson solo album and record the new Megadeth record. But as mid-March hit, obviously all tour plans had to be kicked to the curb. But Ellefson didn’t take that news sitting down and one of his projects that has made waves over the last few months was a metal cover of Post Malone’s Over Now. According to Ellefson, “It was Thom’s idea. He brought it up…I think what was really cool about that song is, traditionally, like with the No Cover record for instance, we’re going back into our own childhoods and grabbing these songs and bringing them forward. And modern day fans of music today might be now introduced to some of these songs. With Post Malone, we went the opposite direction. We took a very current song and by making it a metal track, we essentially crossed genres and took a pop song over into the metal genre and introduced our metal fans to an artist and to a song that they may not be familiar with in the current day.”
Although it may seem like a strange mash-up of genres, Ellefson explains that the band has actually been connected with Posty for a while now, both musically and personally. “We’ve gotten to know him over the last couple years. He’s a big Megadeth fan, he’s a big rock and metal fan, he’s a guitar player, so as much as his music that is his sort of professional acumen has a very different sound to it, in his heart he’s very much a heavy rocker and a metal fan. I’ve met a lot of people in my years in Megadeth, where people come up to us, and I’m talking everybody from Post Malone to Christian artists to… I remember the guitar player of Matchbox 20 one time got into the elevator with me and Marty Friedman at a hotel in Cleveland and he was just gushing all over Marty about what a great guitar player he is. And you know he, as far as I know, doesn’t play anything like Marty. And Post Malone, who grew up loving Megadeth and his dad loving Megadeth, his music doesn’t sound anything like Megadeth. I think that’s really cool when people are inspired by something that I do and then they go off and find their own voice and their own path for their own music.”
That song and the fact that his solo tour dates had been pushed back into 2021 led Ellefson and Hazaert to come up with a new idea: a cover album. Ellefson, which in addition to Ellefson and Hazaert also includes Andy Martongelli and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on guitars and Paolo Caridi on drums, will be collaborating with the likes of Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Eddie Ojeda (Twisted Sister), Brandon Yeagley (Crobot), Dirk Verbeuren (Megadeth), Frank Hannon and Troy Lucketta (Tesla), Mark Slaughter, Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys, ex-Watchtower, Evil United), Greg Handevidt (Kublai Khan, Ex-Megadeth), Jimmy DeGrasso (Ex-Megadeth, DLR), Chuck Behler (Ex-Megadeth), Gus G, John Aquilino (Icon), Doro Pesch, Dave McClain (Sacred Reich, Ex-Machine Head), Dave Alvin (White Trash), Todd Kerns (Slash & The Conspirators), Andy Freeman (Last In Line), Jacob Bunton (Mick Mars), Dead By Wednesday, and more TBA.
As Ellefson shared, “When I go out and do Ellefson solo stuff, of course everyone knows me from Megadeth, but essentially I’m out and we’re playing new material and that sometimes is a little hard to digest an entire evening of that. So it is fun to sprinkle a couple of cover tunes in because it just brings familiarity to the audience members. So that was already talked about anyway. But, you know this No Cover record as a whole, it literally is a brand new idea that came about as of mid-June. And we’ve been working super hard at it but it’s so fun because they’re familiar songs. And my band plays so good together and we think good together and we’re just all on the same page as far as energy and productivity and wanting things to be done as good as we can do them and it’s just a great team. We’ve got this really terrific plug and play team that we can be super productive and get things done in such an expedient timeline. Bands usually take all kinds of time to get things done because there’s schedules and arranging budgets and flights and all these things that can be quite cumbersome to be honest with you. And I love my solo band. We just wake up every morning and new ideas come to us and we just move on a dime.”
At the time of this interview the mixing of the album had just begun: “This week we just started mixing, and we’ve got about five of them done–five of what looks to be, about 14, 15 songs…and while the Post Malone song was very much a re-imagined cover, these songs stay pretty true to the original form. While they are certainly updated with tones and some pretty high octane performances on this stuff, it’s fun to go back and now at our age and with our skill level to be able to recreate things that quite honestly seemed impossible to play when we were teenagers. These songs were the backdrop to our life. And I think that’s probably the most fun part of this cover record, [which] is to now be the seasoned professionals that we are and to really properly play these songs. I know in my cover bands when I was teenager that I was struggling to try to play these things at all! So I think it’s fun to see how far we’ve all come as musicians in our own lives as well.”
In addition, over the last several months, Ellefson and Hazaert have put on several livestreams, having previously toyed with the idea of doing a radio show. “With these livesterams that we’ve started doing during the pandemic, we kind of inadvertently have our own little online microphone to the public now and they’re a lot of fun, they’re entertaining, we can bring a lot of guests in,” says Ellefson. “They’re obviously not profit driven at all. They’re just for free and for fun and I think that is always the spirit around everything that we do in my world.” And the David Ellefson Youth Music Foundation launched their School’s Out Initiative, giving free music lessons to students around the world as schools began shutting down and the guys have put on benefits for the foundation through livestream events.
The day this interview took place, Ellefson and Hazaert were about to go live again and talk about a major health issue in the Ellefson camp: “Thom had a major health scare about two weeks ago, and that’s a real wake up call for everybody, because suddenly our operation stopped dead in its tracks. We’re very much a partnership and we’re very collaborative in all that we do and everybody’s a real key to it you know? Thom wears many hats as a record label operations manager, producing, A&R, singing in our band. He’s got a lot of different stuff, so he’s been a real key figure in a lot of these endeavors that I’m involved in now.”
Yet another one of those endeavors is the Ellefson Coffee Company which Ellefson says is still going strong. As he shared, “Right now, through the summer, I’m autographing bags, for everyone that orders one they’re gonna get an autographed bag of coffee as a thank you to everybody that’s been supporting us through the years and I’ve got this little season where I’m off the road obviously so I can do that. The coffee company is really going great. We roast some coffee for a lot of different artists from Skid Row to Eddie Ojeda of Twisted Sister. Altitudes and Attitude (me and Frank Bello’s band), we do some stuff for the MusiCares part of the Grammy Organization. So we do a lot of really fun collaborative stuff with the coffee company.”
And just when you thought that might be enough projects for one man to be working on, Ellefson added, “I do have one other thing. I just finished my first fiction novel. It’s called The Sledge Chronicles: Rock Star Hitman and it’s a story of essentially selling your soul for rock stardom in a sort of thriller setting. I’m a big fan of thriller books, everything from Dean Koontz to Lee Child. Currently I’m a big Jack Reacher novel fan. So I’ve wanted for many years now to write a fiction novel. I’ve got four nonfiction works published right now and I wanted to find a fiction concept and I finally came up with one. Me and Drew Fortier, who was a member of Bang Tango a while back, he is also a part of our Ellefson Films and now also our book publishing company that we have, the Ellefson Book Company. Those are two new ventures, and Drew actually has a film called Dwellers that we’re putting out through the film company and he collaborated with me on this book idea. So that will be coming out probably this fall, maybe around Halloween.”
The current plan for the band is to tour in Japan and Australia in February and March and hopefully heading into Europe in April and they hope to release their original album around that time as well.
Knowing Ellefson, there are plenty more projects and surprises around the corner, as he said, “It’s funny how if you can sort of just roll with things and you’re able to pivot and kind of roll with the changes, my experience is that it kind of continues to open up more and more opportunities for stuff.”
The band currently has an Indiegogo campaign to support their upcoming releases, where fans can get some killer perks for contributing. Check it out here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ellefson-no-cover-and-new-studio-album#/