Megadeth bassist David Ellefson isn’t one to just sit around. So when his band was taking time between albums, the Scottsdale resident decided to write a book.
“More Life with Deth” is slated to hit stores July 16 via Jawbone Press. A companion LP, “Sleeping Giants,” will be released August 30 on Combat Records.
Co-written with Ellefson’s business partner, Thom Hazaert, “More Life with Deth” is the follow-up to “My Life with Deth” and delves deeper into the later stages of Ellefson’s career, as well as a thorough exploration of the earliest days of Megadeth.
“I literally wrote the whole framework of the book in about a week,” says Ellefson, calling from Nashville where he was working on Megadeth’s new album.
“It took another few months to embellish it. I modeled it after the Kiss book ‘Nothing to Lose,” about the early days of Kiss. It’s about the first three records, about Gene (Simmons) and Paul (Stanley) meeting and the founding of the band.”
Writing “More Life with Deth” brought him back to 1984 when Megadeth was signed, and it started working on “Killing is My Business … And Business is Good!” The Apple commercial featuring animals backed by heavy metal music is Megadeth’s song “Last Rites/Loved to Death.”
“I was surprised they didn’t use something from the last album, which won the Grammy, rather than a song one, side a track on an album that came out in ’85 and the song was written in ’84,” Ellefson says.
“More Life with Deth” covers two of Ellefson’s “sweet spots”—the era of him leaving Minnesota and the early years of Megadeth, and the first three albums to current day. Ellefson says he’s excited about covering the time since he returned to Megadeth in 2010.
“The cool things developed from that season of my life,” he says. “I’ve been doing so much work and planting so many seeds—that analogy comes from growing up on a farm—for the future crop and the crop is just a steady harvest. It’s a really cool cycle to be in.
“It wasn’t always like that. When Megadeth disbanded in 2002, my entire life came crashing to a halt. A lot of years after that, I started working on planting seeds, with not all of them growing. Some of them just don’t come out of the ground. This is a good season of my life.”
Ellefson wrote about his record label—EMP and Combat Records—and his coffee company, Ellefson Coffee Co.
“My voice started to really develop once we really tapped into this Combat Records thing,” Ellefson says. “It pointed back to 1983 and 1984. The New Testament points backward and the New Testament looks forward. We meet in the middle.”
In the Kiss book, there is narrative, and much of the story is told by other people. Ellefson enjoys eyewitness accounts.
“A lot of our versions of our story have been told from the ’90s forward—especially on MTV,” he says. “We were very accessible. What I found about the early days in the ’80s was that story was untold. There was a lot of TV back then.
“It’s a largely untold story—from my friends who moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles with me, our formative days or the harrowing times of the ’80s. We have eyewitness accounts. That got me excited. I’m fortunate to get my childhood friends to be part of it.”
Ellefson was able to get his professional friends to comment. Mark Tremonti of Creed and Alter Bridge, as well as Chris Adler, who played on “Dystopia” grew up in that era. Megadeth to Adler, Ellefson says, was what Kiss was to him.
“Megadeth changed people’s lives, purpose and direction to be a professional musician,” Ellefson adds. “To read the impact our music, our band and me personally had on them was very humbling and a fun story to read.”
It also inspired the companion music, “Sleeping Giants,” which features several new tracks recorded by Ellefson and Hazaert plus a collection of demos and unreleased material from F5 and Ellefson’s other projects. That includes the unreleased demo “If You Were God,” featuring John Bush (Anthrax, Armored Saint), plus several unreleased demos featuring House of Lords/Giuffria vocalist David Glen Eisley. The CD version will also include a second bonus disc, featuring a compilation of EMP and Combat Records artists.
Produced by Ellefson and Hazaert, with additional production from Icon guitarist John Aquilino at the Platinum Underground in Phoenix, “Sleeping Giants” is set to include guests like MC Daryl “DMC” McDaniels, who shares vocals with Hazaert on the title track, Ken Mary (Alice Cooper, Flotsam and Jetsam), Steve Conley (Flotsam and Jetsam, F5), Ethan Brosh, Bumblefoot, Dave Sharpe and Opus Lawrence of Dead By Wednesday, Tremonti, Joey Radziwill (Sacred Reich), Illias Papadakis (Memorain), Dave McClain (Machine Head, Sacred Reich) and a remix by Game of Thrones star Kristian (Hodor) Nairn.
“When we were putting the book together, Tom brought up the idea of a record to go with it,” Ellefson says about Hazaert. “I have songs from as far back as 1983. I never found a home for them. This was the perfect time and place for them.
“The songs play to the story of the book. There are some tracks that Tom and I worked on together. I got some other guests and friends of mine in the book to participate. The book not only has a story narrative, but a musical narrative to it as well.”
Hazaert says it was a great opportunity to write with Ellefson. He, too, is a big Megadeth fan. He even has a Megadeth tattoo on the side of his leg.
“While everyone knows him as a bassist, David is such an incredible guitar player, and songwriter, and I love that we can finally showcase that,” Hazaert says.
“And to have a bunch of our friends who are in the book play on it, and for me and David to collaborate the way we did. I think it’s really special. At first, we really didn’t know what to do with it, or if we would even do anything with it, for that matter. We’d discussed the idea of releasing the new tracks as singles, then an EP, and then we came up with the idea to create a sort of ‘island of misfit toys’ b-sides release, with all this killer stuff David had been involved with over the years, and it really all just kind of fell into place.”