To give my opinions some context, a little background is in order.
In 1992, I got a job with a company, as people looking for work often do. The accountant was a woman named Rose Menza. She told me that she heard I was a drummer, and she told me that her son was also a drummer.
Rose looked very young at the time. I didn’t yet put the names together, and had no way of realizing that she had a son who was six months older than me. So I asked if he was in marching band, or what.
She says, in her Long Island accent, “He plays drums in a little band called Megadeth.”
She introduced me to Nick shortly after that, and we became fast friends. I’d always get backstage passes for any performance within a 500-mile radius of Los Angeles, and many after-party was at his house. I’d often wake up on his couch after a wild night of sushi, with too much Sake and Asahi.
I didn’t take many pictures from those times, except for when I went to a few invitation-only Megadeth after-parties or pre-parties. These photos were taken after their concert in Las Vegas to promote their Cryptic Writings release.
Above are pictures I took with Dave Mustaine, Marty Friedman, and of course, Nick Menza. If feels like someone is missing. Who could it be.
Oh yea! DAVID ELLEFSON.
Do you know why I don’t have a photo with David Ellefson? It’s because he consistently told me to “fuck off” every single time I had asked for a picture with him. Truth be told, so far as I was concerned, the Menza/Friedman line-up was THE quintessential Megadeth configuration.
Those were the only two words Ellefson had ever said to me.
To give that more context, one time I had asked for a photo, and two times I just said hello. I attended many more events and hang-outs beyond the three that I mentioned. After a while, I learned my lesson and just stayed away from Ellefson.
At all of these events, everyone was consistent. Mustaine was consistently friendly, yet seemingly on edge. Friedman was consistently chill. Menza was consistently cool and energetic.
And Ellefson was consistently a jerk.
ELLEFSON FIRED FROM MEGADETH
Here’s a video of the news release, from about two days ago:
So far as I’m concerned, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
MY PROBLEMS WITH MEGADETH
When you get close to the sun, you can feel the heat. When you get close to Megadeth, you can taste the dysfunction.
During the Friedman/Menza years, I always got the vibe that both Marty and Nick were treated like second-class citizens, or outsiders. Mustaine presented himself like the boss, and Ellefson [the band’s co-founder] was the guy who acts they way he thinks a boss would act.
Mustaine, to a big degree, has always treated Megadeth like it’s The Dave Mustaine Show, with a constantly revolving door of players. These players have talent, but it’s not the band anymore.
I’m sure there are Megadeth fans who say it’s not the same without Gar Samuelson. Fair enough. It’s all a matter of subjective opinion, and those opinions will differ. They’re all valid opinions, in their own rite. Mine is that the Friedman/Menza era was THE top era for Megadeth writing, recording, and performance.
Yes, I may have some bias. I accept that. Again, it’s subjective.
MUSTAINE BECOMES INSUFFERABLE
Before I met Nick in the early 90s, it is no secret that Mustaine had a serious drug problem. This is a life-long problem for him, so it seems, as addiction is a big and unfortunate part of his human chemistry.
Mustaine fired Nick after Nick had surgery to remove a benign tumor from behind one of his knees. To be more specific, Mustaine called Nick and fired him while Nick was STILL in the hospital recovering from surgery.
Mustaine had his grievances with Nick. He accused Nick of not wanting to be a drummer, just because Nick was playing guitar and had some guitar picks made. Mustaine said, “I want a drummer who is actually interested in playing drums.”
Mustaine also accused Nick of “lying about having cancer.” I never heard Nick say the “c word,” not even once. He always said that it was a “benign tumor.”
This leads me to conclude that Mustaine had other reasons, most likely petty and punitive. All I will say is that I suspect that it came to a head when they were playing in Helsinki. Nick made a minor mistake on stage and Mustaine shot him a look. After the show, Nick said, “Don’t you EVER shoot me a look on stage in front of the fans.”
I think that’s what it was all about. Mustaine took it as a challenge to his power and authority, and he decided to give Nick the boot.
Long after Nick was out of the band, Mustaine became a hard-core Christian. he says that he’s not going to play certain songs anymore. He responds in interviews when asked about gay marriage with, “I said I’m Christian.”
Ellefson became a Christian minister as well, possibly to get on the same page as Mustaine. Who knows, but that’s my suspicion, based on 5 years of a first-hand understanding of personal dynamics.
Mustaine went from being an intolerable junkie on heroin to an intolerable junkie on Jesus. The only difference is that one will kill him, and the other will not, but both make him difficult to be around.
So my hypothesis is that Mustaine fired Ellefson, primarily out of self-righteous disgust. If there is a secondary reason, it’s concern that this will detract and distract from the band’s activities and image.
WHY I AM TELLING THESE STORIES
I do have some good memories from all of those concerts and parties. None of them involve Ellefson. In the past, I’ve written mostly positive stories about my experiences, but would shy away from writing about Ellefson. The way I saw it, he was such a jerk that I didn’t want to waste time writing about him.
When this news hit, I decided that I would write and tell my story about my experiences with Ellefson.
And now he’s facing consequences. If he was engaged in sexual activity with an underaged girl, then the law will deal with that. The rest will be dealt with by his wife of 27 years. That’s all his business, and I don’t really care too much about what happens.
As I say in situations like this, if he really believed all of the religious things he claims to believe, then he never would have stepped out on his wife. Then again, misbehavior like this is easy for people who have a perpetual get-out-of-hell-free card that is eternal forgiveness. Just get forgiven, do it again, and get forgiven again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Those are the concerns for the moralists. I only point at hypocrisy.
I would say the main reason I’m telling this story is to get the past off my chest. The past has been a big topic for me lately, and I am finding that writing about it tends to help me let things go.
IN THE END
Maybe Ellefson is nice to very selective people. I don’t know. I never knew why he was always so negative and stand-offish with me. At this point, I don’t care to know. It was what it was, and that’s how it sits.
When a person carries themselves in this highly negative way, they may end up thinking they’re above others, or better than others. This can lead to poor decisions being made.
I know this first-hand, as there was a time when I believed that I was way too smart to be taken by a scam artist. It took me getting taken by a scam artist to wake up.
What I learned was that when one believes they are above it, they are actually below it and at great risk.
For this reason, I suspect Ellefson saw himself as being a bullet-proof co-founder of a big band, whose position was secure and would never be under threat. He may very well have believed himself to be invincible, flying at 40,000 feet, looking down on the rest of Humanity.
I’m sure there are people reading this who disagree and like him. To that, I would only say that chances are good that you weren’t too close with the band in general. But it’s possible that you were. If that’s the case, then we’re just in the same theater watching two different movies.
All I can write about is my experience. If you had a good experience, then I’m glad that was the case for you, and I’m sure you have a different Ellefson story to tell. Go for it. I won’t say you’re wrong, and I won’t assert it, even if you may assert this of mine.
There really is no good way to end this, so I may as well end it with something funny from that day in Las Vegas 1997.
My now ex-wife was getting kind of cozy with Mustaine during the day. This ended when Mrs. Mustaine showed up. Oops! Of course, she was fine with her own coziness.
But I take just ONE picture [not even hanging out or talking] with the first-ever Miss Megadeth Arizona, and I get the evil eye. This picture is a classic, and tells you everything you need to know about how I was treated in that marriage.
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