Interview: Megadeth's David Ellefson Discusses His New Book, 'Unsung: Words & Images'
Lately, a musician releasing a book is nothing unusual, and Megadeth bassist David Ellefson has joined the fray, releasing Unsung: Words & Images, a self-published book of his lyrics and photograph.
Guitar World caught up with Ellefson, who offered some insight into the book.
GUITAR WORLD: You recently released a self-published book, Unsung: Words & Images. Can you tell us what inspired the project and how it got started?
I have a lot of lyrics from just the past few months, ideas that were really good, but I wasn't necessarily inspired to go through the process of writing music around them all. Setting the lyrics to photo images opened up a whole new realm of creativity with these words and didn't confine me to having to edit ideas to fit into a specific musical genre, either.
Were the works in the book written specifically for the book?
Much like when you compile a musical album, the lyrics started to shape the book very naturally. Once I realized the potential, I had to not be locked into writing only genre-specific lyrics, other ideas started to flow effortlessly. Pieces like "Sweet Affections," "Goddess Divine" and even "The Cycle" really helped round out the book and give it some unique emotion and variety that I may not have been able to put on a musical album with many of the same lyrics.
The photos used in with each piece -- were they take with a piece in mind or did you look through photos to find what fit your vision?
I was really blessed to find a fantastic creative team to help me put this book together. Raffaella is a photographic artist and, as a result, she has so many great photos we were able to utilize. Her specialty is taking random, thought-provoking photos of various subjects, much the same way I create thought through lyric ideas. Bringing our creative works together with mine was a really unique way to co-create with our respective mediums.
When you write a lyric, you will typically have a melody and form in mind. Was it liberating to be able to just let the lyrics flow naturally?
Sometimes I will have a melody, or even start with a riff and then put lyrics over the song. But when starting with a lyric, I usually just let an idea flow in order to convey the story I have in mind. The trick in putting lyrics to music is that you are often then required to edit your words to fit into the music, either because of space, rhyme or even the simplicity the words require for the listener to grasp the story. That is really the difference between story telling versus lyric writing. Lyrics have to be musical!
This book didn't confine me to have to edit lyrics to fit musical nuances. In fact, I found it really became much more open, like poetry or even spoken word, because the music wasn't dictating to me how I should edit my words to convey my thoughts. That is why the photos are so important, because they reinforce the words to the reader to really go in depth with the thoughts I'm conveying. The photos are visually doing what the music would be audibly doing if these were songs.
What drew you to go the self-published route with the book?
The book publishing business has evolved much like the record business. Today, artists and writers don't have to toil in vain over their creations, only to have some corporate giant reject their work because it may not fit their sales objectives. More and more in recent years, I have really embraced the DIY work ethic because I'm not profit driven but rather creative driven. I really subscribe to the belief that when you can create at your best, all the perks of that will flow naturally anyway and that's the freedom self-publishing now affords writers.
Do you have aspirations to do more publishing beyond Unsung?
Yes, for sure. I'm definitely a communication kind of guy! I like to put thoughts down on paper, audio, video, etc. It's just how I'm wired. So this whole process has really opened up my sphere of creating more in a literary sense, and even being available to help others publish and release their own books, too.
I think at this point the actual physical printing of books is shrinking because of the new formats for digital distribution, like Apple's iBooks, Kindle, etc. Unsung was specifically created to be a high-gloss print book, but I must say that the iBooks version looks fantastic and it is a fraction of the price because there is no printing and shipping involved. It creates a very high-quality version for another kind of book buyer now. It's following the same road as the physical manufacture of CDs vs. a purchase from iTunes.
Can you give us an update on your "David Ellefson Rocks Shop" iPhone app?
Yes! We are finishing the feature set on it as we speak and we are aiming for a launch first week of April. It will be available in the App store from there. It's a fun app, but it's really become a new type of digital work station for musicians to practice and create with. More info available at pocketlabworks.com and davidellefson.com in the coming days.
Ellefson will be touring in the spring with Megadeth as they co-headline a tour with Rob Zombie and special guests Lacuna Coil. Unsung: Words & Images can be found at blurb.com.
Photo: Aaron Griffith