On a new episode of Doc Coyle’s The Ex-Man podcast, Megadeth bassist David Ellefson detailed a phone call Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich made to ex-bandmate Dave Mustaine in 2001 asking about recruiting Ellefson to replace Jason Newsted, who had just quit the band. Despite the call, Ellefson said he was never asked to join the band or audition.
“I did not. Lars [Ulrich] had contacted Dave [Mustaine] to ask him permission, which I thought was kind of him, to say, ‘Hey, would it be okay if we reach out to Ellefson?’ ‘Cause Dave called me. And he said, ‘Listen, I would hate to lose you, but, as your friend, I certainly couldn’t hold you back from an opportunity like that. So he gave it his blessing. I never did get the call.”
He later said, “I’m a big Metallica fan, starting with [the] ‘No Life ‘Til Leather’ [demo,” he said. “In fact, quite honestly, ‘No Life ‘Til Leather’, that’s my heart of Metallica. I love ‘Kill ‘Em All’. I really love ‘Master Of Puppets’. There’s a different vibe about [‘No Life ‘Til Leather’], ’cause, obviously, Dave played on that. So that’s why I heard it first — because when I met Dave, ‘Kill ‘Em All’ wasn’t even out yet. They had let Dave go, then they recorded ‘Kill ‘Em All’, but that album wasn’t out yet. So this is June of ’83. What I liked was the bass player, Ron McGovney. As much as everybody’s really into Cliff [Burton], my Metallica was with Ron McGovney. And that’s why on ‘Mechanix’, when we put it on ‘Killing Is My Business’, I played Ron’s bassline.”
Ellefson said he did learn Metallica songs in anticipation of an audition.
“I sat down in 2001… I thought, ‘If I do get the call, I should probably be kind of prepared,'” he explained. “So the first time I sat down and I actually played along with something simple, like stuff off the ‘Black’ album — ‘Holier Than Thou’; stuff like that. And that was the first time I realized, man, for as much as Metallica and Megadeth are so similar — seemingly similar — riffs… Dave obviously having been in the band, so there’s a piece of the DNA inside of Megadeth, for sure, the way Dave phrases his vocals over the riffs versus how James [Hetfield] phrases his vocals… Dave’s almost like Geddy Lee does it.”
“What I noticed, sitting down to it, playing bass to it — like playing bass to Jason Newsted’s, on the ‘Black’ album, to how he played over the riffs, okay, musically, I grasped that, but to hear the vocal over it. Because now you’re playing it as an instrumentalist inside the composition, not listening to it as a fan, kind of paying attention to the vocal and the vocal melody. Now all of a sudden, I’m going, ‘Woah! This is so, so different than anything that I’m…’ I mean, forget about thrash metal or us being from the same family tree; it was an entirely different gig.”