David Ellefson

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David Ellefson
Ellefson playing at the Illinois State Fair in August 2019
Ellefson playing at the Illinois State Fair in August 2019
Background information
Birth nameDavid Warren Ellefson
Born (1964-11-12) November 12, 1964 (age 56)
Jackson, Minnesota, U.S.
GenresHeavy metal, thrash metal, speed metal, power metal, hard rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Years active1982–present
LabelsEMP Label Group
Associated actsMegadeth, Soulfly, Avian, Temple of Brutality, F5, Killing Machine, Ministry, Hail!, Altitudes & Attitude, Metal Allegiance, Doll Skin

David Warren Ellefson (born November 12, 1964) is an American musician. He is the bassist, co-founder, and second-longest serving member of heavy metal band Megadeth. In addition to playing bass guitar in Megadeth, Ellefson also has various side projects which include Temple of Brutality, F5, Killing Machine, and Metal Allegiance.


Early life[edit]

Ellefson was born November 12, 1964 in Jackson, Minnesota. He became an accomplished bassist and honed his songwriting skills while leading several of his own bands through the club scene of North America's Midwest region before relocating to Los Angeles.

First stint with Megadeth (1983–2002)[edit]

Other than guitarist, vocalist, and primary lyricist Dave Mustaine, Ellefson was the only constant member of Megadeth from the time of their establishment in 1983 to the group's dissolution in 2002 (Mustaine subsequently reformed Megadeth without Ellefson in 2004). Mustaine referred to Ellefson as "Dave Junior", which was often shortened to "Junior" after he heard somebody call David the nickname at a store. He appeared on every album and tour from 1985's record Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! up until 2002's Rude Awakening. Ellefson's original playing style involved using his fingers; however, as Megadeth progressed and the music became more complex, he tended to prefer playing with a pick/plectrum. Ellefson was credited with some Megadeth songs, including "Family Tree" from 1994's Youthanasia (in the 2004 remastered collection of the CD however, the track is credited to Mustaine, Ellefson, Friedman, Menza, but Mustaine credited the Rust in Peace-era line-up with the entire Youthanasia album as a tribute to the band's success at the time of the record's initial release).[1]

Feud with Mustaine[edit]

Mustaine intended to release a solo album in 2004, which would ultimately become The System Has Failed, although due to contractual obligations, Mustaine ultimately released it under the Megadeth name.[2] Subsequently, Ellefson and Mustaine had a severe legal disagreement over royalties and rights to Megadeth's name and back catalog resulting in Ellefson filing an unsuccessful lawsuit. Though the two once enjoyed a close friendship, considerable animosity developed between Ellefson and Mustaine to the point that on Ellefson's website, Megadeth was not mentioned in his biography, only in the discography.

In a mid-2005 podcast, Ellefson did not mention his past with Megadeth at all, instead concentrating on discussing his current projects. Mustaine felt Ellefson was unfairly using the Megadeth name when advertising an amplifier for Peavey. Mustaine claims to have had dinner with Ellefson around Christmas in 2005 to talk things through; this got them on good terms, as Mustaine has stated that they spoke on the phone numerous times afterward.[3] In 2010 Mustaine and Ellefson agreed to keep any unresolved issues in the past and were working on building and maintaining their friendship again.

Since this time Ellefson has gone on to say that he feels "that having that time away created a realization for both of us that, while we are both productive individually, Megadeth is definitely stronger with both of us in it together."[4]

In late 2018, he confirmed he was considered to be a Metallica bassist twice: in 1986, after Cliff Burton was killed in a bus accident, and in 2002 when bassist Jason Newsted left the band a year earlier.[5] However he was not included in documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and the position was taken by ex-Suicidal Tendencies/Infectious Grooves and Ozzy Osbourne bassist Robert Trujillo. In 2019, Ellefson said since he rejoined Megadeth, he is a salaried member as opposed to being an "equal owner" with Mustaine in order to retain their friendship.[6]

Post Megadeth career and return (2003–present)[edit]

Ellefson on stage during Sweden Rock Festival 2009

Ellefson formed F5 following Megadeth's 2002 disbandment. The band featured Ellefson on bass, Dale Steele on vocals, Steve Conley on lead guitar, John Davis on rhythm guitar and former Megadeth bandmate Jimmy DeGrasso on drums. Their first album, A Drug for all Seasons, was released in 2005. F5 appeared in support for Disturbed in February 2006 and toured the American Mid-West in the summer of 2006. Ellefson also appeared on the new Killing Machine record Metalmorphosis in 2006 alongside DeGrasso; he has also been working with Temple of Brutality. Ellefson is currently a member of the melodic power metal band Avian which features singer Lance King. He commented in an interview with Alternative-Zine.com that "Megadeth was really just a starting point for me, creatively".[7] Ellefson played five tracks for the Soulfly album Prophecy and also played on one track on Dark Ages. He also worked with underground emcee/Record producer Necro for his album entitled Death Rap.

Ellefson is also a member of a cover band called Hail!. Ellefson, DeGrasso (Mike Portnoy for 2010), Tim "Ripper" Owens and Andreas Kisser formed the band in late 2008. The band was, as of April 2009, touring Europe. Ellefson participated in the Christmas Rock project Northern Light Orchestra, he performed bass on many of the 17 tracks produced by rock drummer Ken Mary and also at the live show Christmas in April Orpheum Theatre, Phoenix, Arizona.

On February 8, 2010, Ellefson received a text message from Megadeth drummer Shawn Drover, saying "if ever there was a time for you and Dave [Mustaine] to talk, now is it".[1] Ellefson was invited to rehearse with the band. After the phone call, the news was released that Ellefson would return to the Megadeth lineup. Ellefson was quoted saying "it felt like I never left" after their first rehearsal together.[8]

In 2013, Ellefson announced that his autobiography, entitled My Life With Deth, would be issued by American publisher Howard Books. The memoir was co-written with author Joel McIver, and features a foreword by Alice Cooper.[9]

Ellefson performing with Megadeth in 2016

In 2018, it was announced that Ellefson had begun work on More Life With Deth, the follow-up to his 2013 memoir My Life With Deth, to be co-written with Ellefson's business partner, and frequent collaborator, Thom Hazaert.[10][11] The book was released on July 16, 2019, by UK based Jawbone Press, and features contributions from Alice Cooper, K.K. Downing of Judas Priest, Dan Donegan of Disturbed, Brian Welch of Korn, Mark Slaughter, Ron Keel, Jason McMaster of Dangerous Toys, Frank Bello of Anthrax, Chris Adler (Lamb of God, ex-Megadeth), Mark Tremonti of Creed and Alter Bridge, Kiko Loureiro and Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth, actor Kristian Nairn (Game of Thrones), and more, plus a foreword by My Life With Deth co-author, and Bass Player Magazine editor Joel McIver.[12]

Ellefson Music Productions – EMP Label Group[edit]

In October 2015 it was announced that Ellefson had launched a record label and production company, Ellefson Music Productions, also known as EMP Label Group, and would release In Your Face, the debut EP from Phoenix-based all-girl pop punk group Doll Skin (which Ellefson also produced), in conjunction with Megaforce Records in North America, and Cargo Records in Europe.[13][14] The EP was released October 30 in North America, and December 18 in Europe, and re-released as an LP titled in Your Face (Again) in March 2016 via eOne Distribution. The singles from the LP received airplay on many prominent stations in the US and Europe, including Rodney Bingenheimer's weekly show on influential LA Rock station KROQ.

Since forming in 2015, EMP Label Group has secured distribution from eOne Distribution in North America, and SPV GMBH in Europe, with the roster spread among several imprints including EMP Label Group (Ellefson Music Productions in Europe), and EMP Underground.[15][16][17] Ellefson also appears on a recurring segment "Mandatory Megadeth" on Hazaert's Dash Radio show.[18] In January 2017, Ellefson opened Ellefson Coffee Co. in his hometown, Jackson, Minn.[19]

Ellefson Films[edit]

In May 2019 Ellefson along with business partner Thom Hazaert formed Ellefson Films and are producing the upcoming found footage horror film Dwellers; written, directed by, and starring Drew Fortier.[20] On top of producing the project, Ellefson and Hazaert will also be appearing in the film as featured cameos.

A 50 second teaser trailer for the film was released in August 2019.[21]

Ellefson Films held a Q&A panel at Rue Morgue's annual Frightmare in the Falls horror convention to speak about Dwellers which is intended to be released in 2020 through film festival showings eventually leading to digital and physical distribution.[22] During the panel Ellefson along with Drew Fortier revealed that Dwellers is a gritty found footage horror film with the story being told as a documentary gone severely wrong drawing influences from such films as The Blair Witch Project and C.H.U.D.[23]

In November 2019, the full trailer for Dwellers was released.[24]

The Ellefson Book Co.[edit]

In November 2020 Ellefson announced that he had completed a fiction thriller novel titled Rock Star Hitman co-written with Drew Fortier to be released via his book imprint The Ellefson Book Co in December 2020.[25] It was revealed on the Decibel Geek Podcast in an interview with Ellefson and Fortier that an album very loosely tying into Rock Star Hitman recorded with Vinnie Dombroski from Sponge on vocals, Mike Heller from Fear Factory on drums, Drew Fortier on guitar, and Ellefson on bass would be released in 2021 under the name Lucid.[26]


Ellefson, like his bandmate Dave Mustaine, is a committed Christian. "Well, I was actually brought up in a Christian household, so I have, you know, a pretty broad knowledge of it; and strayed from it for quite a while. And, now that I have children, I actually do go to church, so I've kinda sorta returned to it, you know?"[27] Ellefson further discussed his Christianity in a 2010 interview on The Full Armor of God Broadcast explaining "I've found that when you just suit up and show up and walk your talk instead of talking your talk all the time, that is often the best testimony!"[28][29]

In an article titled CODA – Ready for a MEGA Life, Ellefson indicated that in the fall of 2007 he began the new MEGA Life Ministries worship service in Scottsdale, AZ. "Oddly, the service has become one of my most rewarding and musically invigorating gigs I've ever had...a gig that literally landed in my lap and not something I had to chase down either. Not only are the parishioners respectful (no bar fights, spilled drinks and foul mouthed hecklers in the crowd like many secular gigs) but it's a musical event my whole family participates in. Plus, I was finally given the venue to put into practical application the very words I'd been trying to live by for many years which is 'Play music for God, not us'."[30] Ellefson has recently begun studying for the ministry in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod through an extension program of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.[31][32]


Ellefson performing with Megadeth in Kiev, Ukraine 2011, with his signature series Jackson bass

After rejoining Megadeth in early 2010, Ellefson started using his old Jackson Custom and Concert bass guitars and Hartke amps again.[33] He used an LH1000 with two HX810s on the Rust in Peace 20th Anniversary Tour. He has since moved onto using the Kilo amplifier. In early 2011, Jackson released a Dave Ellefson Concert and Kellybird signature model, both in 4-string and 5-string variants.[34] According to providence website, Ellefson has used or is still using the Dual Bass Station. Ellefson formerly used Peavey amps and his Peavey Zodiac DE Scorpio 4-string signature bass. In the early days of Megadeth, Ellefson, along with Dave Mustaine, primarily used B.C. Rich instruments, most notably Ironbird and Mockingbird basses, the latter of which he has still been known to periodically bring out on occasion.

Ellefson plays exclusively with a guitar pick, necessitated by the fast tempos in many Megadeth songs. Ellefson shifted exclusively to pick playing since Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?, after recording their debut effort with a mix of fingerstyle and playing with a pick.


With Megadeth

*For full list, see Megadeth discography

Solo (as David Ellefson)
  • Sleeping Giants (2019)
Other appearances


  1. ^ a b Dome, Malcolm (February 9, 2010). "David Ellefson Exclusive: Why I'm Back In Megadeth". Classic Rock. Archived from the original on November 1, 2013. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
  2. ^ "Dave Mustaine: 'Anyone Who Says That Megadeth Isn't Me Is A Fool'". blabbermouth.net. Roadrunner Records. March 31, 2007. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
  3. ^ "Megadeth's Dave Mustaine: 'I Am Over The Feuds With Metallica And David Ellefson'". Roadrunnerrecords.com. February 4, 2006. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  4. ^ "Interview With Dave Ellefson, Founding Member of Megadeth". The Pogg. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  5. ^ "Megadeth's David Ellefson Almost Joined Metallica… Twice'". Loudwire.com. December 28, 2018. Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  6. ^ Rosenberg, Axl. "Dave Ellefson Is a Salaried Member of Megadeth: "In Order to Have a Friendship, I Had to Give up Some Ownership"". MetalSucks. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  7. ^ "David Ellefson interview with Alternative-Zine.com". idiomag. October 22, 2008. Retrieved October 28, 2008.
  8. ^ Prince, Pat (March 8, 2010). "So Far, So Good With Megadeth Reunion". Goldmine. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
  9. ^ "Megadeth Bassist's Autobiography Due Next Year". blabbermouth.net. December 21, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
  10. ^ "David Ellefson Readies 'More Life With Deth' Memoir Follow-UP". Loudwire. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  11. ^ "David Ellefson's New Megadeth Book Coming in 2019". Loudwire. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  12. ^ "Bassist Dave Ellefson Releases "More Life With Deth" on July19TH". Eddie Trunk. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  13. ^ "Megadeth's David Ellefson Launches Label Imprint, Signs Teenage Female Rock Band Doll Skin". blabbermouth.net. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  14. ^ "David Ellefson Approved Doll Skin Set European Release Date For in Your Face EP". Brave Words. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  15. ^ "EMP Label Group - Roster". EMP Label Group. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  16. ^ "Megadeth Bassist David Ellefson's EMP Label GroupSigns North American Distribution Deal With Entertainment One". blabbermouth.net. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  17. ^ "EMP Label Group Launches Imprint Label for Heavier, Underground Music Artist". Music Connection. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  18. ^ "AMPM with Thom Hazaert". AMPM with Thom Hazaert Official Facebook.
  19. ^ "Megadeth co-founder now selling coffee in Minnesota town – Twin Cities". Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  20. ^ Blabbermouth (May 31, 2019). "Megadeth Bassist David Ellefson To Produce Horror Film 'Dwellers'". blabbermouth.net. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  21. ^ ekm. "ekm Has Seen the First Teaser Trailer for Dweller!". Aint It Cool News. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  22. ^ "See First Trailer For David Ellefson-Produced Horror Film 'Dwellers'". blabbermouth.net. November 15, 2019. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  23. ^ Miska, Brad (November 15, 2019). "Trailer for 'Dwellers', Produced by Megadeth's David Ellefson [Video]". Bloody Disgusting!. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  24. ^ "Megadeth Bassist David Ellefson Posts Trailer From His New Horror Movie Dwellers". Metal Injection. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  25. ^ Blabbermouth (November 13, 2020). "MEGADETH's DAVID ELLEFSON To Release First Fiction Novel". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  26. ^ Czynszak, Chris. "David Ellefson & Drew Fortier on Friday Night Live". The Decibel Geek Podcast. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  27. ^ "HM Magazine". HM Magazine. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
  28. ^ "Full Armor of God Broadcast". Full Armor Radio. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
  29. ^ "HM – Internet Exclusives". Hmmagazine.com. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
  30. ^ "megalifeaz.org" (PDF). Megalifeministries.org. Retrieved July 8, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ Townsend, Tim (January 19, 2012). "Megadeth Bassist Studying For Lutheran Ordination at Concordia". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
  32. ^ "Megadeth's David Ellefson Talks About Christian Rock". blabbermouth.net. February 20, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
  33. ^ "Megadeth's David Ellefson Talks Hartke Bass Amplifiers". Blabbermouth.net. Roadrunnerrecords.com. April 2, 2010. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  34. ^ "Jackson Guitars : The Bloodline". Jacksonguitars.com. January 5, 2011. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved July 8, 2011.

External links[edit]

Megadeth bassist
Succeeded by
James MacDonough
Preceded by
James LoMenzo
Megadeth bassist