Interview by Robert Cavuoto
David Ellefson will be releasing a new book More Life with Deth and a companion CD which is being touted as his first ever solo CD; Sleeping Giants. His book will be out on July 16th and the CD on July 19 th via Combat Record.
Helping David on his business ventures is his trusted manager and friend, Thom Hazaert. Thom is a high energy, multi-talented business partner who not only runs EMP Label Group and Combat Records for David but co-authored the book, as well as produced and sang lead on many of the songs on the Sleeping Giants CD.
I caught up with Thom to talk about his friendship with David, his role in creating the CD and book; More Life with Deth.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about how you became the trusted right-hand man for David’s record labels EMP/Combat, his coffee, and now this newest book?
Thom Hazaert: It’s crazy how it all started. I produced and directed special features for Scream Factory with a company called Red Shirt Pictures. Michael Felsher is the guy who does every horror special edition Blu-ray/DVD. I had worked with him for People Under the Stairs and Army of Darkness. They told me they got commissioned to do Wes Craven’s Shocker, one of my favorite movies, and I told him that you can’t do a special edition Blu-ray without having a section on the soundtrack to the movie and that I wanted to do it. I basically bothered them until they agreed. They gave me $200 and two weeks to get it done [laughing]. I interviewed Desmond Child, Jason McMaster of Dangerous Toys… Bruce Kulick. I hit up Megadeth management who blew me off, so I called David directly as we were connected through social media and from when he worked at Peavey. I asked him about doing an interview, and he was up for it. We had a lot in common as he was managing bands and producing records; I was doing the same for 20 years.
So we started working on some projects together. I was working with the band, Arise in Chaos, and David produced some of their songs, turns out they were the second band to be signed to EMP. EMP was originally just going to be a little imprint label for Megaforce, but after those first couple of signings, we saw it had bigger potential. I said, let me help you run this label and I went out and got a distribution deal. It was a gradual process of gaining trust by working together now. We are best friends now. I’m his manager and run all of his business outside of Megadeth. We have a great working relationship, and our visions are unilateral on everything.
Robert Cavuoto: In the book, David talks about his philosophy of saying “Yes” to all opportunities.
Thom Hazaert: We had to revise that philosophy a little bit, because when I started working with him, he said “Yes” to everything. Now we only “Yes” to things that make sense. He rarely ever says “No” to the ideas I present, as he trusts my instinct. It took me two years to talk him into doing Basstory; he didn’t think it was a viable concept. I told him, let’s do it more like a clinic in a club, and soon it developed into having a full band with him. I really don’t want to bring him stuff that doesn’t make sense. All he has to do is say “Yes” to what I’m proposing as I filter out anything that doesn’t.
Robert Cavuoto: What’s his secret to time management? Does he sleep?
Thom Hazaert: I’m the one who doesn’t sleep! [Laughing] He goes to bed at 8:00 pm and gets up at 4:00 am. The secret to time management is having a guy like me who doesn’t sleep [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: I enjoyed this new book just as much as the last one; tell me about your role with it?
Thom Hazaert: It was something that I bugged him to do. The first book was more broad strokes, and more based around his spirituality and sobriety, but this book is more of a Rock & Roll/Megadeth book. We have so many people’s stories in the book like Mark Tremonti, KK Downing, Brian Slagel, Mark Slaughter, Ron Keel, Alice Cooper, Brian “Head” Welch and Chris Adler to name just a few. They talk about their experiences and friendship with David. We also have some of his friends and former bandmates that give their unique perspective on situations. I really paid attention to fan details in this book. I really paid attention to fan details in this book. It’s written with a fan’s anal-retentive attention to detail.
Robert Cavuoto: I assume you were involved in coordinating all the interviews and finding the rights spots in the book to place them.
Thom Hazaert: You’re right, that all fell on me. I interviewed everyone on the phone for an hour or two, transcribed it, then picked out the relevant pieces and where to place them. I think I spent six months interviewing everybody. It was like a big puzzle to find the right story to fit with David’s narrative. It was a daunting project, but as the book was closer to being finished, it was easier to figure where to put the stories. The book really wrote itself as we went along, and were living the events of Basstory, David Ellefson Day, and starting The David Ellefson Youth Music Foundation. We didn’t have an ending when we started the book but discovered it as we were doing all these cool things.
Robert Cavuoto: I noticed that Dave Mustaine doesn’t have a story in the book.
Thom Hazaert: The David Mustaine/David Ellefson story has been told a million times in a million different places, and everyone knows it. They are brothers, and they do their thing together, but we wanted this to be about David and his contributions to Megadeth. We also thought it was more fascinating to hear the perspective of the other guys who were part of Megadeth in the beginning like Greg Handevidt. It’s a pretty deep dive into the early days of Megadeth. We talk about David growing up in Minnesota, through the end of So Far, So Good… So What! David and I think that period is the most fascinating to fans. Those stories really haven’t been told when the band was huge, in their drug phase, and going through that downward punk spiral of piss and venom. To me, that’s the interesting story of Megadeth that I wanted to capture in this book and I think we did it.
You are also the vocalist on many of the Sleeping Giants songs where David plays bass. Tell me more about the release?
hom Hazaert: The CD came about after David and I have been doing the Basstory tour. I would go up with David to sing a song or two, and by the end of the tour, I was singing nine songs. We had Dave Sharpe and Opus Lawrence in the band and we really gelled. At one point, we were all in Tampa, so we decided to go into our studio, Mastersound, and jam, and ended up writing the song “Vultures”, which was actually David playing guitar, and based around a bunch of his riffs. We thought we could use it as a download when someone purchased the book. David had a bunch of other songs like “Sleeping Giants” and “Hammer Comes Down” lying around in various instrumental demos, which David wanted me to rework, and write vocals for. Suddenly it turned into an EP which would be a companion to the book. We took it a step further and decided to do a full-length album using a bunch of the F5 demos and some unreleased demos, including a track called “If You Were God” with John Bush singing. It was a demo from 1993. It ended up being 15 songs, plus a second bonus disc of EMP and COMBAT artists.
It’s called Sleeping Giants, and essentially, it’s a “soundtrack” to the book, and a lot of the guys in the book actually ended up playing on it. It comes out July 19th. There are three new songs “Vultures,” “Sleeping Giants,” with DMC and “Hammer Comes Down,” with Mark Tremonti, Chris Poland, and Dave McClain.” There is the song with John Bush and eight demos from F5 that never were released, a few demos with David Glen Eisley from House of Lords and Giuffria, and a techno remix of “Vultures” by Kristian Nairn, aka Hodor from Game of Thrones. So it’s some old stuff and new stuff all mixed together. It’s a very interesting retrospective of David’s career outside of Megadeth.
Robert Cavuoto: The song “Sleeping Giants” has DMC [from RUN DMC], how did you collaborate on writing that?
Thom Hazaert: I have been buddies with DMC for a while. A few years ago DMC was in a band Fragile Mortal, Bumblefoot was going to produce the band, and it was going to be on his label. We became friends from that. DMC is a big metal guy, so we decided to ask him if he would like to do a song on the CD. He loved the idea. David and I thought he would be great on “Sleeping Giants” because we thought it could have a cool rap in there. I sent DMC some lyric ideas and after some back and forth in writing, we had the song. To work with him was such an honor as I’m huge a fan. I think the song has an old school, New York vibe.
Robert Cavuoto: Mark Tremonti does the lead on “Hammer Comes Down,” he is an awesome guitarist?
Thom Hazaert: Chris Poland is also on that song with Mark! I’m singing with Eric AK from Flotsam, Joey Radziwill from Sacred Reich is on rhythm guitar, David Ellefson on bass and Andrea Martongelli. It an orgy of epic fucking metal. Chris and David are playing on a song for the first time since Peace Sells.