Megadeth’s David Ellefson Plays His Favorite Bass Riffs
Did you know you have Vinnie Paul to thank for Megadeth's frequent usage of "Hangar 18" as a show opener? Bassist David Ellefson reflects on how that decision came to be in this edition of Loudwire's Gear Factor.
"We started opening the show with 'Hangar 18' and that was actually Vinnie Paul’s idea," recalls Ellefson. "We were on a Gigantour, and we’d been opening the set with 'Trust,' which had a great dynamic build up and it works perfectly fine in some settings depending on the building, but this one Gigantour from around 2013, I think, we had Black Label Society and Hellyeah, so it was a pretty heavy bill. But Vinnie came in one day and was like, ‘Man, y’all’s light show is amazing. Y’all’s stage looks great, but man, y’all need to be opening with ‘Hangar 18.’”
Just for the hell of it, the band took Paul's suggestion and it's stuck as their opener for a good while. “He was right, it just blows the lid off the place. There’s an excitement about it,” says the bassist. Ellefson revisits a big of "Hangar 18" while using a replica of the original Jackson 5-string bass he had created so that he could play the song on tour. The bassist recalls it being a fun song to lay down, but realizing he needed a specialized instrument to play it live. “We took this four-string, widened the neck a little bit and added the fifth string on it,” says Ellefson.
In this edition of Gear Factor, Ellefson reflects on first finding his love of music, crediting a school bus driver who turned him on to Chicago's WLS-AM as he'd head off to school each day. "I heard things like early Styx. “Shout It Out Loud” by KISS was on the radio, early Foreigner, Bachman Turner Overdrive, all that kind of stuff," recalls Ellefson. "It was kind of when I was first introduced to American hard rock."
From there, the bassist picked up Bachman Turner Overdrive's Not Fragile album, immediately being drawn to the black and white Rickenbacker that C.F. Turner was playing that was one of the images on the inside of the gatefold album.
Another early influence was KISS. "I saw Gene Simmons, and I’m a big KISS fan, but I saw Gene playing and spitting blood and breathing fire and just looking all bad ass, so it was like, ‘Now I really wanna do that,’" says Ellefson, rocking a bit of "Firehouse." "KISS Alive came out and I just remember the bass line. Gene’s lines are so incredible. They’re so inventive, especially in the way that they don’t often mimic the guitar parts. They’re very different. Gene always had these pulsating lines and you watch these videos of him [head bobbing] doing the monster thing."
Ellefson also credits Geezer Butler as one of his favorites, admiring the "greasy thing" in how Butler plays. "Paranoid" eventually became a cover selection for Megadeth, a track that Ellefson loves to this day and displayed for us in the episode below.
The bassist also spoke of his development, learning walking bass lines and how much that factored into the composition of a lot of music from his youth, but then Iron Maiden's Steve Harris changed the game. "Steve Harris blew the roof off all that because he’s the leader, he’s the writer and every song is driven by the bass," said Ellefson, displaying a bit of "Killers."
Digging into some of his own work, Ellefson shows off some of the complexity and the necessity for playing relaxed on the popular Megadeth song "Holy Wars." He also discusses how people approach him about learning to play "Peace Sells," which he admits is not an easy line to play. "There's a lot of notes, a lot of movement," says Ellefson. "There's that thing where you've gotta use all four fingers to play it," and he discusses palm muting on the track as well.
Ellefson also digs into some of his recent solo work, admiring the punk feel of "Vultures" as well as speaking about the development of the song "Simple Truth" from his solo band.
Megadeth are currently working on the follow-up to their Grammy-winning Dystopia album. Meanwhile, Ellefson has his Sleeping Giants solo album currently available, which you can pick up here.
Check out the full episode of David Ellefson's Gear Factor below.
Megadeth's David Ellefson Plays His Favorite Bass Riffs
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