When Megadeth's David Ellefson Met Dave Mustaine
Megadeth bassist David Ellefson's autobiography My Life With Deth follows him from battles with drugs during the band's early days through his religious awakening as a soon-to-be-ordained Lutheran pastor. (It's out tomorrow, the same day he reads at Book Soup and Megadeth performs at Shrine Expo Hall.)
Courtesy of Simon and Schuster (L-R) Ellefson's 1983 roommate Brad Schmidt, Megadeth bassist David Ellefson, Megadeth vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine, Ellefson's 1983 roommate Greg Handevidt, Ellefson's childhood friend Jeff Yonker
Many will find most compelling his behind-the-scenes tales over the course of Megadeth's thirty-year career. In our exclusive excerpt below, Ellefson details meeting band frontman Dave Mustaine for the first time in 1983 after he and three friends -- Brad Schmidt, Brent Giese, and Greg Handevidt -- moved to L.A. from Minnesota in pursuit of their rock 'n' roll dreams.
See also: The 20 Greatest Metal Albums in History
From My Life With Deth:
We moved into our apartment around June 1, 1983. We wanted to start meeting some people, and one day Brad said, "I saw this guy walking around. He had long blond hair and he was barefoot, and he looked like a rock 'n' roll guy!" We decided to try and meet this dude: maybe he could become a buddy.
A couple of days later, Greg and I woke up in our little studio apartment and started jamming some tunes. I was playing the introduction to "Running with the Devil" by Van Halen at about nine or ten o'clock in the morning, when all of a sudden we heard this loud "Shut up!" Something came crashing down on our window air conditioner.
We looked out and saw a ceramic flowerpot. We stopped playing. My first thought was, "People in Hollywood aren't very friendly, are they?" Where we grew up on the farm, we left our keys in the car and our houses unlocked, and people would drop by whenever they wanted. Everybody knew each other, and it was very "come as you are." Now I'm in Hollywood--and this is my first introduction to my neighbors.
Within a day or so, Brad confirmed that the blond-haired, barefoot guy he had seen was the dude who lived upstairs from us. So one night, a day or two later, we went upstairs and knocked on the door. We heard some music playing through the door and thought, "That's got to be him."
Dave Mustaine cracked the door open, with the chain still on it, looked out and gave us the infamous Mustaine smirk. He had a glass of wine or cognac in his hand and said, "Who is it?"
I said, "Hey, er, we live downstairs. Do you know where we can buy some cigarettes?" He gave us a snarl and said, "Down the street on the corner," and slammed the door in our faces.
We stood there and Greg said, "That was definitely the guy--but that didn't go very well. Let's try a new approach." So we knocked again.
He cracked open the door again. "What?" Mustaine asked, clearly annoyed.
We were like, "Hey, do you know where to get any beer?"
He paused for a minute. Then, realizing that although we looked like hoodlums, we were pretty harmless guys who just wanted to hang out, he finally unlatched the chain and said, "All right, come on in."
Though at first Dave appeared skeptical, he made us feel at home.
There was a singer there named Lor, a big, tall, black-haired, sunglasses-wearing, Nikki Sixx look-alike--a guy Dave was working with on some new songs. He was dark and menacing in appearance, but he was actually a friendly guy. Dave's roommate, Tracy, was there, too. Music was playing, and it wound up being a very casual, sociable evening.
We decided to go down to the corner liquor store, right on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Sycamore, where Dave--who was the California legal drinking age of twenty-one, while the rest of us were eighteen--picked up a case of Heineken for all of us. I noticed as we walked back to the apartment that with his flip-flops and blond hair, Dave had this typical California surfer look. He had the case of beer up on his shoulder as he was walking, and he told us stories about some band he'd been in called Metallica, which none of us had ever heard of, but he was a good storyteller, and we were wide-eyed with wonder.
Although his tone was angry and resentful when he mentioned Metallica, you could tell he was proud of his achievements with them and that he had been around the block a time or two in show business.
I was intimidated but impressed. Having had my own experiences over the last several years gigging in the Midwest bar and ballroom circuits, I was intrigued to learn how the scene operated on the bigger stages, where I soon learned that Dave was a budding celebrity rock star.