We continue part 2 of my conversation with David Ellefson explaining to me a little more about his start as a professional in the music business.
More On The Beginning
David told the that when he first went to L.A. he actually thought about going to BIT, which is part of the musicians institute, “But I already knew how to play”, continued David. “Now, we can always get better so there’s certainly nothing wrong with going to school, but I realized at 18, man, this was the time to get into the game and get something going. Because the music business is a young mans game, at least to get things started it is”. “I kind of looked at it as a divine meeting of sorts that I would run into Dave. He had done his thing with Metallica and it was really just this moment in time where fait played a part in both of us meeting and we started “the” group. I of course didn’t go to BIT. But, what it did for me was allow me to take the experiences as a young kid that gigged out in the Midwest and realize that now was the time to really get serious about it on a professional level and seek out record deals”.
On the advice of Dave (Mustaine) they would not play the Los Angeles area but would hit the San Francisco scene. “We decided to drive up to San Francisco where he had a big following from Metallica. It was awesome because the scene up there was way different and thrash music was just on fire. We wanted to capitalize on that (thrash music) and I thought it was incredible the vision that Dave had of this. We played an area where our strengths were, it’s definitely better and more fun to play to a full room of people rather than a half empty one”.
Benefits and Drawbacks
I asked David about some of the benefits and drawbacks of getting into the music business professionally. “Obviously some of the struggles for any new band are about the same, you’re trying to keep a roof over your head and you end up living with a lot of different people. I’m sure at some point a lot of people didn’t even know I was living with them but you just kind of assume they know that their address is also mine” (laughter). “I think the most important tool in those days was the telephone so you could set up gigs and I learned that you should get a post office box for mail to come to because of how much you move around. You want to make sure you get your magazines, contracts and personal mail so the post office box is important. Above all the telephone was most important because you need to be in communication with people all the time and I think for all musicians communication is the key. People that want to be a musician think it’s just all about playing their instrument but actually playing your instrument becomes the smallest part of your day because you’re so busy hustling up business”.
What is it Like
David, you have attained a lot of success. What is it like to play in a major band when it is at the peak of its popularity? “I think the thing of it is that you have to remember that it didn’t happen over night, at least it didn’t for me. I knew in the beginning that good things were going to happen; you know I could just feel it. But, any band is a lot of work no matter how you slice it. If it was easy everybody would be doing it. So, I think there are certain situations I have been in, in my career where you can feel there’s a buzz, there’s excitement, people are inquisitive, people want to know about it , it’s attractive and people want to gravitate toward it and those are the situations that are the most fun to be in. There’s always going to be hard work and the fact that fans are always interested and that the industry is interested in what your doing. Those things are what can motivate you through some of the tough times that you are no doubt going to face”. David added, “So I think by the time you attain multi-platinum, Grammy, arena status, you’ve done a lot of foot work to get there. I think that the main thing to remember and I don’t care if you’re in a rock band or if you’re an executive in a corporation or even with your own family, the trick of success is to try and keep the team together. Because the team is obviously what got everyone excited about your group. So I think it’s about keeping everybody focused on what your primary purpose in life is and what your cause is. Because the thing that happens with success that we see over and over with sports, music, actors and all kinds of professionals is that with the lime light comes a lot of distractions and I think the main thing is just to stay focused on what actually put you in the lime light and why people are there to see you in the first place.
Making Music You’re Business
You have such a good understanding of the business David, Which is why I assume you wrote your book “Making Music Your Business”. “I wrote it during the record “Euthanasia” David says, “I had my laptop with me and I would write about the different phases of the album and the tour cycle, it just inspired me you know. I was like here I am all these years later more or less living the dream as most would look at it and I though you know if Steve Ayers or Getty Lee or Gene Simmons or any of my idols that I looked up to as a kid ever wrote a book and said this is what it takes to get there, I would have bought that book in a heart beat. So for me I thought, there’s a lot of our fans and my fans that are also players. A lot of them do it just for fun but there are some that are also inspired to grow up and start their own band so they can have their own shot at it. I thought you know this might kind of be a cool opportunity, even if it just becomes a coffee table book for a past time read. But it’s meant to be thrown in your guitar case and read when you are at the gig kind of thing. I thought I could write something kind of simple but very informative that I could outline and explain what the industry is really about from A to Z.
In part 3 of my conversation with David Ellefson, we will explore how metal music has changed over the years, talk about Rock House method and little bit about what’s in the future for David.
If you missed part 1 you can find it here: David Ellefson Interview - A Rock House Blog Exclusive
http://www.davidellefson.com/ and the F5 site at http://www.myspace.com/f5thebandaz