Dave Mustaine says he forgives David Ellefson but firing him from Megadeth was “a hard decision that had to be made”

Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson
(Image credit: Per Ole Hagen / Mike Lewis Photography / / Getty)

Dave Mustaine has discussed the sacking of longtime Megadeth bassist David Ellefson, telling Metal Hammer, “I had to make a decision… when you’re the leader, you’re the one that has to suck it up and face the music.”

The frontman was talking to the UK publication ahead of the release of new album, The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!, due out September.

Mustaine was pressed on the removal of Ellefson from the lineup last year, following the leaking of graphic images of “adult interactions” between the bassist and a fan. At the time, Ellefson stated on his Instagram page, that the materials had been “taken out of context and manipulated to inflict maximum damage to my reputation, my career and family.” 

But Mustaine says that he felt it necessary to make a decision for the security of the band and the wider Megadeth operation.

“I have made mistakes myself and so I know what it feels like to have people gunning for you,” said Mustaine. “But what we had to remember is that Megadeth has a lot of moving parts to it. There are four band members, you’ve got their families, their management companies, the agencies, all of their technicians and on and on and on.”

Mustaine described the firing as “a hard decision that had to be made” but hoped that acting decisively would be best for all parties. 

“All I wanted to do was make a clean break, and not hurt anyone, not hurt the fans and not hurt him,” Mustaine continued. “I just wanted to move on, and I hope the gentleman concerned is doing okay. I imagine there was some adjustment that had to take place when it happened.”

Up until his dismissal, Ellefson was one of a few constants in the Megadeth lineup. He joined the band in its earliest incarnation in 1983 and played consistently up until the group’s 2002 hiatus. He fell out with Mustaine and sued the frontman in 2004 over allocation of band royalties and rights to the name Megadeth, but they eventually resolved the issues and Ellefson rejoined in 2010. 

“It was hard for me when I lost my job,” reflects Mustaine. “But I’ve forgiven him before when he sued me and I’ll forgive him a thousand times. I just won’t play music with him anymore.”

Mustaine has plenty to keep him occupied for now, though. Yesterday he revealed Megadeth’s first new song in six years, the unrelenting thrasher We’ll Be Back. Steve Di Giorgio of Testament fame is playing bass on the record, and rerecorded the parts Ellefson had already tracked. James LoMenzo is the touring bassist.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.