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Mega-Exclusive! Interview With F5 Bassist Dave Ellefson

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Tuesday, November 16, 2004 @ 0:46 AM

Former Megadeth Bassist Dave E

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Former Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson is a man heavy metal fans are quite familiar with. As Dave Mustaine’s partner in crime for two decades in Megadeth, one of the biggest and baddest metal bands of all time, Ellefson’s fingers are responsible for some truly classic bass lines, including “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying,” which can be heard at the beginning of every MTV News segment.

But times change and bands do too, and Mustaine is out on the road with a revamped lineup of the band, sans his longtime companion, promoting a new album. This has left many fans scratching their heads, wondering where the hell is the other Mega-Dave?

Well, I’m happy to report that Mr. Ellefson is alive, well, and kicking ass in his new band F5 (www.f5theband.com). The unfortunate breakup of one of the most dynamic teams in hard rock history has simply lead to two headbangin’ projects for fans to digest, the new ‘Deth and F5… and Ellefson’s new unit ain’t nothing to scoff at, rockers. A lean, mean, tight as a gnat’s ass five-piece wrecking crew, F5 mix power metal with pop sheen to create a sound all their own.

KNAC.COM had a chance to chat with the four-string slinger about his new outfit, new life and what he does when he ain’t a-rockin’.

KNAC.COM: Where do you live now? Where is your new band based?
DAVE ELLEFSON: I live in Scottsdale, AZ. F5 is based in Phoenix, AZ.

KNAC.COM: What does F5 mean?
ELLEFSON: To us it’s more the force and power of the music rather than some weather terminology. There’s a real bond as a unit together, so it seems to be fitting for us, especially since there just happens to be five us in the band, which is completely unintentional.

KNAC.COM: Who is in the band and how did you hook up with these guys?
ELLEFSON: It’s Steve Conley on lead guitar, John Davis on rhythm guitar, Dave Small on drums, Dale Steele on lead vocals, and me on bass. I had previously worked in the studio with Steve and Dave on other production projects in 2002 and in early 2003 we started jamming together. The magic was instant and songs flowed so fast. There was an undeniable chemistry between us that perpetuated the group’s music. Most importantly, it was a lot of fun.

I had produced some demos for Dale’s band NUMM, up in Minneapolis a couple years ago, too. His group disbanded but Dale kept bugging to work with me again which was good timing because we were auditioning singers for F5. I sent him some of our early F5 demos and he just flat out nailed it with his lyrics and voice! He is such a natural fit.

Then when we started rehearsing the material we had made demos of and it became clear we needed another guitarist. Steve knew John Davis and that his playing style and demeanor would be perfect for us, which they are. John is a great metal player and has a very tight, staccato sound to his playing which I really like. He’s also a good writer.

KNAC.COM: What is the general musical direction of it/who are some influences on your sound?
ELLEFSON: It certainly has its own sound. Obviously I bring the old school metal into it, Steve writes real well and brings great guitar work to it, while John’s rhythm playing is very modern and tight. Dale’s vocals are very powerful with modern melodies. I think Dave’s drumming takes my old school riffs and adds a rhythmic twist to them which gives us a unique and modern sound without being contrived.

KNAC.COM: How would you say this relates, musically, to Megadeth?
ELLEFSON: Musically, everyone in F5 is spot on and plays very well. I like that the F5 songs are pretty structured, concise and to the point, which is comparable to some Megadeth songs, but a bit of a deviation from the earlier material.

The grooves are generally different as well. For instance, when I brought in the riff for “Dissadence” (now available for a free download on www.f5theband.com) I played it very straight with an old school pedaling type right hand picking pattern. Dave Small suggested a more rhythmic break in the pattern and consequently made it sound about 20 years newer! I’d say it’s a culmination of different influences and ways to approach a riff. In other words, it’s genuine.

KNAC.COM: Do you think Megadeth fans will get into this band or is it too big of a departure?
ELLEFSON: I think they’ll like it! F5 kicks ass and is heavy with strong melodies, guitar solos, great drumming, thick bass lines, etc. Basically, it has all the elements we like. Other than that a band’s sound is a collective of the musicians and songwriting. With that said, F5 is a whole new set of faces so by nature it’s going to have a new style and sound to it.

KNAC.COM: Have you grown as a musician or songwriter since your last band?
ELLEFSON: F5 started as a creative burst and got moving so quickly that it took on a life of its own rapidly. I think that passion has to fuel any band or else the rigors of the process can grind you down so much that it sucks the life out of you and your music.

This has been a great growing process for me to be able to step up and lead the charge but not dictate to everyone how the band is going to run. In F5 it’s the group collaboration that makes it better than the sum of all its parts. That’s what continues to keep everyone bringing their best to the group. Ultimately, there’s a common vision and that’s where the strength resides.

KNAC.COM: Are you guys going to tour?
ELLEFSON: We’re doing some shows now.

KNAC.COM: Will there be an album out in stores soon or are you shopping to get a deal?
ELLEFSON: We did things a bit backwards in that we completed an album first before seeking out a record deal. This helped us define our sound and it certainly takes the guess work out of what the final disc will sound like. With that said we are just now getting it out for labels to hear. At the same time, so many people want to hear what the band sounds like. So, we put a track up on our Website to download and gave a few radio stations, like KNAC.COM, an additional track to put on the airwaves as well.

KNAC.COM: How did your site get started and how closely is the band involved? What can fans get at the site?
ELLEFSON: KUPD in Phoenix spun a demo of one of our tracks back in March and that gave us the initiative to get the site completed as we needed to have a home base for info on the band.

The band contributes ideas to the site but it is run by a webmaster which helps it be its own little entity away from us. It’s really designed more for the fans to interact with each other and a way for them to stay up to date on what we’re doing. Our message boards are up so people can come by and check in.

KNAC.COM: What do you like to do when you’re not rockin’?
ELLEFSON: I like doing sports activities such as soccer, mountain biking, basketball, golf, baseball, writing, reading and still dig traveling. I like being active with my life.

KNAC.COM: You still skydive? How often?
ELLEFSON: No, I’m done with that for now.

KNAC.COM: You’re a dad now, right? How many kids?
ELLEFSON: Yes, I have 2 children. I find having kids keeps me youthful and not take stuff so seriously.

KNAC.COM: Do you do all the dad stuff like school meetings and soccer games or are you too busy workin’ and rockin’?
ELLEFSON: I try to never be too busy for my kids and yes, those events are part of life, too. At first it messed with me a bit because late night gigs are clearly adult entertainment and not something for kids to be exposed to at a young age. However, I’m totally comfortable with it now. It’s sort of like other parents don’t bring their kids to the office everyday so mine don’t come to the shows that often either.

KNAC.COM: Did I hear you were repping a bass company now too?
ELLEFSON: I began doing artist relations a couple years ago for Peavey Electronics which is basically a liaison position to artists. I love having that kind of rapport with other musicians and I like helping everyone promote their stuff as well. It’s sort of like giving back behind the scenes.

I’ve been a Peavey artist myself since we did the Cryptic Writings album in Nashville back in 1996. It’s just another side of life that that’s fun for me right now.

KNAC.COM: Do you ever get your kids friends or their rocker parents recognizing you as “that dude from Megadeth”?
ELLEFSON: A few of them do. However, most parents in that setting aren’t full on head bangers so I’m pretty much under the radar in that setting.

KNAC.COM: What’s the funniest or stupidest thing that ever happened to you on the road? ELLEFSON: I remember Vancouver on Halloween while were out with Judas Priest on the Rust In Peace tour. The crowd was throwing fireworks inside the arena, many of which were hitting the stage and bouncing off our amps and drums. Going onstage was like walking onto a battle field! At some point during the show, I think during “In My Darkest Hour”, I went out on the stage extension but was blinded by the spotlights. Then, without seeing it coming, a fan threw a high top tennis shoe at me that hit me right square in the gut and knocked the wind out of me. I mean, I couldn’t breathe at all and had to run offstage and try to keep playing while gasping for air. I thought I was going to die while trying to play pulverizing speed metal! Funny thing is that most fans seem to throw their left shoes on stage so we had quit a collection of lefty shoes going.

KNAC.COM: What’s the grossest thing you ever ate on the road?
ELLEFSON: I’ve had some pretty strange alley cat “mystery meat” in Chinese food after shows on many occasions.

KNAC.COM: What’s the weirdest drink you ever had on the road?
ELLEFSON: I would drink bottles of Ginseng to get amped up before the show years ago. It tasted horrible!

KNAC.COM: Are you a van guy, a tour bus guy, a drive on your own guy or what?
ELLEFSON: I dig the bus. Once you move in it becomes your home for weeks on end. Because of that the bus is often referred to as the “Tiltin’ Hilton.”

KNAC.COM: Any last words of wisdom or advice for the KNAC.com audience?
ELLEFSON: Thank you for all your support over the years and now with F5. Have fun and enjoy!

Hollywood rockers can catch F5 November 18 at The Gig in Hollywood and Nov. 20 at Brick By Brick in San Diego, CA. Everyone else, head on over to www.f5theband.com.

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