North Valley resident David Ellefson has been keeping busy during the quarantine.
On April 17, the Grammy-winning Megadeth bassist released “Simple Truth,” the new single from his eponymous solo band Ellefson. The proceeds are going to Croce Rossa Italiana, the Italian Red Cross, as Ellefson’s guitarist and drummer, Andy Martongelli and Paolo Caridi, respectively, are from Italy.
The song will appear on the follow-up to 2019’s “Sleeping Giants” and will also feature vocalist Thom Hazaert.
“We actually wrote the song in Milan during a tour rehearsal, and a lot of it was recorded there,” Ellefson says. “We’ve gone back and forth with Andy in Italy, from the Platinum Underground in Phoenix, and with our mixer and co-engineer, Alessio Garavello, in London. While we’re all staying positive and just keeping busy, it’s heartbreaking to see what’s going on over there with the death toll climbing every day.
“We played several shows in Italy on our European ‘More Live with Deth’ tour last year, and I was just there with Megadeth back in February (with Five Finger Death Punch and Bad Wolves). It’s absolutely devastating to see what the country is going through right now. The people and its culture have been so welcoming to me over the years. I’m honored to do anything I can to give something back to them during this time of need.”
Ellefson assures his European touring band of Martongelli and Caridi are safe.
“Fortunately, my band is all safe over there, but they were one of the first ones to really take the big hit and we felt it,” Ellefson says. “We felt it was nice to give something back and give some awareness as well. We’re open to any other charities that might want to get on board with us donating to Italy as well.”
The solo album is coming along well. Ellefson was supposed to travel to London in mid-April to record the bass and vocals. Due to the pandemic, the band sends recordings through Dropbox and Google Drive.
“We’re obviously having to work remotely, which is still productive, and we’re still getting a lot done on the record,” Ellefson says.
“It has a nice big sound to it. I think it’s more of a rock record than a thrash metal record, for sure. I think it’s cool because my bass playing style tends to lend itself really well to rock and hard rock sounds, just as much as it does to the thrash metal sound. I think when I play bass, you can always tell it’s me playing.”
When Ellefson writes songs, he does so on the guitar.
“My tendency when I play electric guitar is always to write with a singer in mind and to think about what the vocals are going to sound like over the riffs and the songs that I write. As much as I love to play progressive and complex music, the reality of it is the listener is usually listening to the singer. So, I write with the audience in mind, too.”
Working with Hazaert is great, Ellefson adds.
“Andy is a cowriter on a lot of the material with us,” he says. “With Andy and Thom, we have a team and we can really put these songs together collectively now.
“Sometimes I write something and sometimes I don’t know where the song is going to go, to be honest with you. Then there are other times when I’ll take it over to Thom and Andy and we can start to put this together. Usually, the way it works is I’ll write a riff or a chord progression and I’ll send it to Andy over in Italy. He’s essentially our music director.”
Ellefson has also given during the COVID-19 crisis to kids in need via his David Ellefson Youth Music Foundation and its School’s Out initiative, partnering with the Grammy Music Education Coalition, Dolby, Cisco, Jackson Guitars, Hartke and Samson. They’re gifting displaced students with free instruments and equipment and pairing them with lessons from Rock Star music instructors, including Ellefson and his Megadeth cohorts Dirk Verbeuren and Kiko Loureiro; Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper); Chris Kael (Five Finger Death Punch); Clint Lowery (Sevendust); Bumblefoot (Asia, Sons of Apollo, ex-Guns N’ Roses); Chad Szeliga (Black Star Riders); Chris Poland (Ohm, ex-Megadeth); Jimmy DeGrasso (ex-Alice Cooper, Megadeth); and Marc Rizzo (Soulfly, Cavalera).
“This morning, I was just doing a couple of bass lessons to a student in Russia and a student in the Netherlands,” Ellefson says. “I’ve got a couple more later this week. We’re banging them out now. We have like a thousand applications. Me and my friends have a lot of work to do.”
At the same time, he’s balancing Megadeth, his coffee company and his solo project.
“This is my life and I’m living the life that I’ve always wanted to live ever since I heard rock ’n’ roll on the radio when I was age 10,” Ellefson says with his laugh.
“To be honest with you, I’m just living the life as it was presented to me at age 10. I got excited about it, and I’ve just been following that same enthusiasm ever since.”
David Ellefson, ellefsonyouthmusicfoundation.com, davidellefson.com.