MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson last fall became one of 100 students in the distance education program at the Concordia Seminary in Clayton, Missouri. Classes include “Lutheran Distinctions,” “Preaching I & II,” “Introduction to Worship” and “Scripture and Faith.”
Speaking to Darryl Sterdan of the QMI Agency, Ellefon stated about his decision to try to become an ordained Lutheran pastor, “I don’t see me standing up there in a white robe doing sacraments and preaching and all that. I’m doing this distance-education stuff to learn some new things. To open my eyes and ears to some different walks in this life is inspiring to me.
He added, “At 25, I took a different turn in my life and got off all the dope and booze and cleaned my life up. That was almost 22 years ago. I’ve been married almost 18 years. I’ve got teenage kids. My life is pretty wholesome. Which is the funny thing about it. People tend to think heavy metal guys just constantly earn it and burn it. And my experience with the hardest-edge metal guys is that we’re gentle giants when we get off the stage. We leave it all on the stage, which is how it should be.”
It’s coming up on the second anniversary of your return to the fold. Are you still enjoying yourself?
Ellefson: It’s excellent. Having ridden the first wave from the very beginning up through the heights, and then dealing with the ’90s — which were not very favourable for thrash metal music — it’s really cool to see our legacy continue to thrive so well at this point in time.
Thrash seems be gaining steam again. Is it just a cycle, or is there more to it?
Ellefson: In the mid-2000s, there was a series of bands who all grew up on thrash. They spawned the wave of thrash that’s happening now. I credit bands like Lamb of God and Chimera. They were the voice for their generation. And it sparked a whole movement all over again. But everything is cyclical — fashion, styles, music. So here we are on a 20-year cycle, coming back around again.
So when it goes in the dumper again, are you gonna quit and hunker down for the next wave?
Ellefson: (Laughs) Yeah, I’ll come back for the 40th anniversary.
You and Dave Mustaine were estranged for years. How did you get back together?
Ellefson: You just learn how to make things work. When Dave and I met, we had nothing. And from that, we were able to really create something of an enduring legacy. But as things shift, people change. That’s probably the most difficult dynamic of rock ’n’ roll bands. When you are blessed to be able to stay in it as long as we have, you also have to learn how to grow up personally. And the band has to learn how to grow up together. Sometimes those two things don’t always meet at the same time, which is why there are some former members of the group. And sometimes people grow in a direction where they want to go play other music. For me and Dave, there’s at least been a common vision over all the years that binds us together.
Isn’t studying to become a pastor kind of at odds with playing the devil’s music?
Ellefson: Well, the thing of it is, we don’t play the devil’s music. On (1986’s) Peace Sells … but Who’s Buying? there were some songs about seances and things like that. But they weren’t written because we did them.
Certainly I didn’t do them. You can write a song about anything …and those songs weren’t about Satan. They were about questioning things. People that thought it was just about Satan just didn’t want to do any homework and went, ‘If it’s different then it must be wrong and therefore it’s the devil’s work.’ That’s about as closed-minded as you could be.
Do you feel an obligation to intervene when you see other musicians and young people on the wrong path?
Ellefson: My attitude is that you suit up, you show up and you behave accordingly. And you let, for lack of a better term, God’s spirit pass through you. People will see that. If they want to inquire, they know where to go. If someone ain’t asking, you don’t need to be telling.
But if they start asking, that’s an opportunity to share what your life was like. The testimony-based approach comes from a place where it’s genuine. And I think most ears will hear that a lot better than if you’re just standing at the airport beating them over the head with a Bible as they come through the door.
Speaking of that, I have a mental picture of you sitting backstage reading the Bible while everybody parties around you.
Ellefson: Here’s an interesting thing about the Bible. It’s really a book about a lot of heinous stuff; probably the most decrepit human stuff that ever happened. Second Salvation talks more about sex and money than anything else. So if you want to read about a bunch of people doing bad stuff, read the Bible.