By STEVE MASCORD
DAVE Ellefson hasn’t read The Heroin Diaries by good friend Nikki Sixx. “I kinda have my own heroin diaries,” he deadpans down the line from Arizona.
It doesn’t seem so long ago that thrash musicians were the snotty, discordant, anti-establishment antithesis of the preening rock gods from the mid-eighties. But the more time passes, the less seems to separate them (and, for that matter, either group from grungsters who followed).
Bassist Ellefson is now back in the band that made him famous, Megadeth, and by the time you read this will have kicked off a – wait for it – spoken word tour – of Australia. A member Megadeth on a spoken word tour; would anyone have thought you sane had you predicted it in 1988?
And a big part of what Ellefson, 50, will talk about is those unwritten heroin diaries.
“We were on tour with Motley Crue in 2000 and I spoke to Nikki about that,” the bass maestro says. “I have a bit of history with Nikki. I was there the night that he died in the hotel.
“He was literally in my room five minutes before he overdosed next door.
“And then, nine months later, he made a visit to rehab where I was in rehab suffering from my heroin addiction.
“He and I have had a cool bond over those things over the years. When you meet somebody over life and death matters, that’s a bond that stays with you forever.”
There are those who doubt the veracity of The Heroin Diaries, who are skeptical about the ability of an addict to diarise his increasingly forlorn misadventures while struggling to merely stay alive.
Given that he did so himself, Ellefson dismisses the doubters.
“I have not read The Heroin Diaries. I’ve heard good things about it. I kinda have my own heroin diaries of a sort, which is probably why I didn’t read his. I have my own.
“Heroin is this dark, insular, artistic kind of drug, you know? Whereas cocaine or meth amphetamine get you all fired up and zing you out the door doing things, heroin is a very withdrawn drug.
“It’s the thing I enjoyed about it when I was getting into it. But like all drugs and addictions, they can – and often do – come around like a boomerang and cut you to shreds.
“And heroin is one of the most insidious drugs when it comes to that feature.
“It’s definitely something where I can share my life story with that and it can help a lot of people.”
But helping those struggling with addiction is not the reason behind Ellefson dipping his toe in the spoken word pond for the first time this month and next.
“Last year when Megadeth was scheduled to be on Soundwave , which didn’t happen – literally that exact same weekend, when that was going down, a friend of mine who is a manager in Los Angeles said ‘I just got a call about you going down and doing a spoken word tour,” he explains.
“I said ‘any time I can get to Australia is good by me – I thought I was going next week’.
“At first I thought ‘spoken word? What the Hell am I going to talk about?’ But the book, My Life With Deth, that really lays out the basis (of it).”
Megadeth are working on a new record. It is rumoured guitarist Kiko Loureiro of Angra and drummer Chris Adler of Lamb Of God have joined the band – developments Ellefson would neither confirm nor deny.
“It’s not quite there yet, it’s not something I’m at liberty to talk about,” he answers when quizzed. “We’re just returning to the studio, rehearsals are continuing before the final stages of the pre-production before we get started writing.”
So how is recording going and what does the music sound like?
“The writing is pretty much done – that can always change in the studio. We’ll go into the recording, probably, in early May.
“We had some tour dates in August. Those tour dates got moved, which quite honestly is a good thing because it frees us up and gives us time to make the record with a schedule that’s a little more appropriate for how we want to make a great record.
“So some time within the next year, we will get the Megedeth record out.
“I’d like to think it’s not going to be a stinker! I’d like to think it’s going to be a pretty kick-ass record. There’re a couple of things on there that are very heavy but they’re very forward-thinking for Megadeth.
“…in a good way. Not some sort of pop right turn or anything like that.
“When the record says Megadeth on it, you’re going to get Megadeth inside of it.”
One thing Ellefson would confirm was that the feud between Megadeth principle Dave Mustaine and Australian promoter AJ Maddah – which led to the band pulling out of Soundwave last year – is resolved.
The dispute arose over Megadeth and fellow former Metallica member Jason Newsted being scheduled to play a sideshow together.
“That’s long been over,” says Ellefson.
“We’d been through a couple of internal changes – management and things like that. That was all happening right when this was going on and that was, I think, a bigger part of what it was all about.
“Dave’s very hands on, he’s very passionate about every decision that gets made in Megadeth. I’d like to think that, moving forward, that won’t be an issue anymore.
“The changes that have been made internally from our side, hopefully it will be smooth sailing now. I can’t wait for Megadeth to get back down to Australia and who knows? Maybe even on Soundwave again.
“Hopefully we’ve turned a good corner there.”
Ellefson also promises a full-length record from his HM-approved side project, Altitudes and Attitude – in which he is involved with fellow bassist, Frankie Bello of Anthrax. They have been spending an increasing amount of time together in the studio, he says.
“We’re finalising that in the next two weeks. Me and Frank have this whole other side of us – our spirit soars when the two of us get together.”
A spoken word tour, a return to Megadeth and a searing side project – Ellefson has come a long way since the night Nikki Sixx was legally dead before being revived – December 23, 1987.
He reflects: “Having these experiences, at the time they didn’t seem too important to me but looking back on it, I see that from out of that darkness was born a whole new life.
“You have a second life in one lifetime.”
DAVE ELLEFSON SPOKEN WORD TOUR 2015
March 24: Civic Hotel, Perth
March 26: Factory Theatre, Sydney
March 27: Prince Bandroom, Melbourne
March 28: Hifi, Brisbane
March 29: The Gov, Adelaide.