In a recent interview with Niclas Muller-Hansen from Rock Sverige, Megadeth’s legendary bass guitarist David Ellefson talked about the money issues of the band in their early years.
“How long did it take for Megadeth before you started making real money?”
Here’s the statement:
“We, like every band… you would invest everything you made back into the band. We started in a van on the [1985’s] ‘Killing Is My Business’ tour and the van broke down and we ended up in a Chevy Caprice which Gar [Samuelson] drove off the road in 80 mph and almost killed us one night, so then we were back in a van.
Then on the [1986’s] ‘Peace Sells,’ tour it was a motor-home and then when we went out with Alice Cooper we had to get a bus, but by [1988’s] ‘So Far, So Good, So What,’ it became a bus with a truck. I remember walking outside one day out of a hotel and going, ‘Fuck, we’ve got two trucks!’
There was, like, two trucks and a bus because now we had sound and lights and playing theatres and halls, but our guitar techs were making more money than we were.
If our salary was $500 a week, they were making $750 a week, but we were the owners. It’s just is what it is. We had drug issues so whatever money we probably could’ve lived somewhat comfortably on…
I can say [that] when I got sober – which is 29 years tomorrow, I got sober March 1st, 1990 – and I remember when I got sober I went to the accountant and I owed the government, like, $70,000 in back taxes. And I said, ‘It’s not that I made that much money, it’s just that I never paid my taxes because I snorted it all.’ I remember at the beginning of ‘Rust in Peace’  just going, ‘Oh my god, there’s no fucking way I’ll ever pay that back!’
I was literally – on the ‘Rust in Peace’ tour – on a $20 a day per diem. No credit cards, I had terrible credit and eating whatever was in the dressing room and by the time we came off that tour a year and a half later… We did two ‘Clash of the Titans’ and Judas Priest and all this stuff and I remember sitting in the accountant’s office and we split up a $45,000 net profit from our merchandising and all my bills were paid.
One day, we were so broke, and we’d go to the mailbox and a Metallica publishing check showed up for Dave [Mustaine] and it was maybe five grand or something. And it may as well have been 50 grand. It was, like, ‘Oh my god, we’re rich!’ He loaned me some money so I paid back [my debts] and I was, like, ‘Oh my god, all my debts are paid!’ It was just amazing.
By the time we turned the corner into [1992’s] ‘Countdown to Extinction,’ that was when I really made some money and I could buy a house, buy a car, support my girlfriend and we got married and she was able to quit her job.
She worked for a management country for Motley Crue, and it was right around the period when Vince [Neil] and Nikki [Sixx] had their falling out. So my wife was just, like, “You know, I’m done with this now.’ She said, ‘If I’m going to wipe asses I’ll have my own kids. I don’t need to wipe asses of grown-ups.’ [Laughs] Most people just got to go, ‘Ok, that was a fun time in the entertainment business, but now I’m ready to move on to something else.’ We relocated out of LA to Arizona where we live now and raised a family.”
Click here for the entire interview.