Considering this is a Megadeth tour with Motörhead, how many people will leave the venue with ear damage?
Ellefson: It’s pretty loud. After all, it is a metal show.
Have you toured with Motörhead before?
Ellefson: Yes, we have, back in ’86. We did a tour with them and we have done festival shows with them.
You turned 47 last November. What’s the secret to having the stamina to make it through another long tour?
Ellefson: You have to keep in shape and eat good. Basically, you have to take care of yourself. Fortunately, I laid off all the other goodies years ago, so my stamina is pretty good these days. I am a big proponent of Starbucks and the occasional Red Bull helps if you’re in a funk.
Megadeth started out in 1983 and helped usher in a revitalized metal scene. Why was that such a pivotal time for the genre?
Ellefson: Our whole generation of thrash metal, we were the first kids who grew up with both heavy metal and punk rock records in our record collections. We listened to Black Sabbath and The Sex Pistols and The Ramones. Never before had that happened. The two camps had been totally divided. Punks didn’t hang with metal guys and metal guys didn’t hang with punks. Then, all of a sudden, the two came together. That convergence happened because of our influences. We helped create thrash metal. To me, that was just a moment in time that was bound to happen.
Do you still listen to a lot of punk?
Ellefson: Every once in a while I do. We have this band Volbeat out with us on this tour. They are from Denmark and they have done a really good job of doing what we did. It’s cool to see a new band come on the scene and combine elements of metal and punk. They sound like a cross between Metallica and Fear.
What do you think about the current state of the metal genre? It seems like a lot of bands care more about the stage show and their costumes and hair than the music.
Ellefson: This is entertainment so there is always going to be fashion. I don’t have a problem with that kind of stuff myself. People make fun of Lady Gaga, but I think she is awesome. It’s show business and I don’t mind that. But with metal, first it has to rock and then it has to roll.
Megadeth has done some cool covers in the past. Would you cover Lady Gaga?
Ellefson: We cover things that influenced us, not things that came after us.
You did that great version of “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” but then got sued by Lee Hazlewood 10 years after the fact, even though he had been receiving royalties. That was fairly hypocritical.
Ellefson: Yes, I would say so. I am sure he saw it on his royalty statement, saw a nice little bump in pay. But he wrote the tune, so he was in a position to say whatever he wanted to about it.
Both you and Dave Mustaine are Christians. One wouldn’t think too many of your fans are living a Christian lifestyle.
Ellefson: They are probably a lot like me. I grew up a confirmed Lutheran, but when I didn’t have to go to church anymore, I didn’t go. I was into playing rock and roll, but I had a good upbringing that steered me in the right direction at the times when I needed to be redirected. Rock and roll is about rocking out against the system and rocking out against the things that have authority over you. And years ago, the church had a very authoritative position over me. It’s not so much like that anymore. A lot of corrupt people in the church got called out on it. It’s a different time now. Those same rules don’t apply today.
There are people, both back then and today, who don’t think the words Christian and metal can go together.
Ellefson: There are a lot of artists who are very open about their faith. This has happened over the last 10 years. Nearly everyone comes from some sort of faith background, even if you don’t have any faith at all. If someone wants to ask me about my personal life, I don’t mind talking to them, but I am there to play a Megadeth show. I am not out on a crusade.
Dave Mustaine has said there are certain songs that, as a Christian, he no longer feels are appropriate to play. Do you feel the same way?
Ellefson: Well, those are songs he wrote. Those lyrics were close to him and he decided he didn’t want to play those for those reasons. I definitely stand by him.
When talks began between Dave and yourself about you getting back in the band, were you anxious or excited or both?
Ellefson: I was excited. It wasn’t like one phone call. It was something that actually happened over the course of several years, starting in 2004 until I came back in 2010. We had both gotten to a certain point where it just made sense to do it. Dave and I are like brothers. We’ve celebrated together and we have also experienced setbacks, both personally and professionally, at every level. When you spend 30 years of your lifetime standing five feet from someone, you get to know each other pretty good. When it finally did happen, I was pretty excited to come back full circle. I don’t think anyone is as happy as our fans.