35 years ago Megadeth released their classic 3rd record So Far, So Good…So What and introduced guitarist Jeff Young. Young’s tenure in the group was short-lived, but he is back with former bandmate David Ellefson in Kings of Thrash. Jeff recently took some time to talk about Kings of Thrash, Megadeth, and much more!
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Jeff Young –
On how he first joined Megadeth – Oh, it’s a long, sordid story, but Jay Reynolds and I, the guitarist you’re speaking about, was one of my guitar students, I don’t think he ever recorded anything for the record actually, but he did hire me for 50 bucks an hour to help him transcribe Chris Poland’s solos, which I had to do by ear, at that time, there was no YouTube or instructional videos, or tab of any such licks. So, of course, I was a guitar teacher at the time, just graduated GIT Musicians Institute, so I was only too happy to oblige. Just throughout that process, I think it was mostly David Ellefson and the drummer kind of passing through the room at the recording studio, Music Grinder down on Melrose, I’d be teaching Jay in a quiet room and they’d walk through on the way to the studio and raised an eyebrow when they hear it. I think the first thing I was writing for him was “Hook In Mouth”, the solo. I knew he liked Michael Schenker and he had a Flying V, so I wanted some kind of German, Teutonic, repetitive, Randy Rhodes “Over the Mountain” or “Flight of the Bumblebee” thing, It’s really hard to play. To this day, even when I wasn’t in Megadeth, that’s a little solo flight that I would use just as a warm-up or to keep my chops up, so it turned out a little trickier than I intended it. They, I think saw him struggling to play it and they cut out the middle man, so to speak. 1:07
On what he was listening to that allowed him to bring a technical aspect to thrash – I feel as he’s my dear buddy now, Chris Poland also is pretty technical, that’s why I took that gig. I think we had a mutual set of influences, maybe some of mine were more rock influence, but he loves all that stuff too. But sharing the influence of Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck, and John McLaughlin, Mahavishnu Orchestra. These were three bands that I feel if I had not been familiar with those bands and listened and done a lot of… funny Allan Holdsworth played my town at the jazz club the night before I moved to Los Angeles to go to GIT and I took my parents to see him, just because I wanted them to see something miraculous and someone who wasn’t a rocker, and so that they would realize I wasn’t moving out to California to get into the sex drugs and rock and roll that there’s something parallel to that, virtuosic. Allan Holdsworth combining the best of rock and jazz and mesh it all up. I think that made a huge impression on them and me, and that was something that I carried forward with through my GIT tutelage, which was a year long. Then there was another three before I got that gig. But I guess it’s your influences, a lifetime thereof, I started playing violin in first grade when they came around with all the orchestral instruments, but then I was looking across the room listening to that cello and went home to my mom, “I want to switch to cello”. My mom, very astutely realized that she was gonna end up with a first grader becoming the cartage service for said cello. She nixed that idea out of hand and that kind of frustrated me, so I quit the violin, but a couple of years later, they came around with the band instruments, and I took up the saxophone tenor saxophone, which is a beautiful instrument I still love to this day, which I played from third grade to eighth grade, and then in the ninth grade, the baritone sax gal moved out of town and they were stuck with no baritone sax player, so I inherited her saxophone and that role. So I had to, on the fly, learn how to read bass clef, the tenor saxophone is written in treble clef, and then the baritone and bass clef, which was a great learning experience. You’re not even aware as a kid from third to ninth grade, you’re not even aware enough to really realize all the basic rudiments, quarter notes, 16th, 32nd notes, how to play with other people, in a band situation with a conductor, drill sergeant really busting your chops, so to speak. I took Music Theory and all that stuff with the same a-hole of a music theory teacher that eventually told me once I started playing guitar, I was doing both instruments and I think it was ninth grade, so I was by doing the baritone, and right in the middle of class, he embarrassed me in front of my whole band, “Jeff Young”, because I got called out, I was in the talent show to do a piece, and I had just started playing guitar, I was gonna do a guitar thing by myself, and then the band is in the pit between changeovers. The teacher called me out of the room, I wasn’t playing hooky or asking to go to the bathroom, but the teacher called me to the stage to run my guitar parts and the band teacher, Mr. “Finkem”, and his name is Mr. Freeman, but I changed it over time. “Jeff Young, you’re more in love with that guitar then you are with that saxophone, you don’t even care about your sax, you should just give up the saxophone and go make love to that thing”, that’s a really inappropriate thing for IT contralto say, if you think about it, but let alone embarrassing you in front of all your peers and classmates, so I told him to fuck off out of hand. “Alright, I deserve that. Fair enough, fair enough”. But I did take his advice and put the sax and been making love to guitar ever since. (watch the video for more on Jeff’s influences) 3:41
On Dave Mustaine blaming him for the end of the So Far, So Good tour – That’s what a pathological liar does. Are you talking about the YouTube video where he says I ran out of heroin in Japan and canceled the Australian tour? Yeah, I’ve been owning him in the media ever since he’s done that. If Pinocchio has a brother, you know what I’m saying. I was a straight edge when I went in that band and I never drank, I didn’t smoke pot, to fit in, I kind of tried to hang with those guys a little bit, but he was the one that canceled that tour. That’s why I left the band because early on, being a straight edge and three nights in the guitar tech gets arrested in East LA score and heroin from Mustaine, and he doesn’t show up to the studio that night and the drummer tells you, you realize, “Okay, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore”. I made a pact with myself, I can remember the exact sentence I said in that moment at the Music Grinder studio when I found out the news, I said, the first thing I literally said was, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore”, and the second thing was, “I’m gonna stay in the situation as long as it’s healthy for me”, which you see exactly how long that duration was. 14:40
On how he hooked up with David Ellefson and Chris Poland – I have a radio show, Music Without Boundaries, it’s been on hiatus, but we’re getting ready to come back for another go around. I’ve had Nick Menza, Chris Poland, Kiko Loureiro, James Lomenzo, trying to think if there’s some other Megadeth members, but for sure, those guys I’ve had on my show. So I knew Chris and we met, and he had come backstage when we opened for Dio in LA and complemented, and so we were acquaintances, but we didn’t know each other. David Ellefson and I would run into each other at NAMM a year here and a year there, but never really stayed in touch with any of the guys from the band. Everything was cast in motion by the upcoming Nick Menza documentary that’s in the works. I just saw a trailer. Some trailers out already today in my news feed. I got a call, “Would you like to participate in the documentary?” because I was Nick’s roommate on the road. Because of the drugs and whatnot, I couldn’t be around the band, I just couldn’t. Chuck (Behler, drums) coming in, smoking cigarettes at 3:00 in the morning, cracked out of his head, putting a cigarette out in the ashtray next to me. I hate cigarette smoke, and I had to room with Nick. I’m rooming with a drum tech in a lesser room, but we came great friends over the years, so they wanted me to talk in the movie about our friendship and my perspective on Nick, that led to David and I meeting for dinner at the Rainbow with some friends the night before, the picture is gonna be released on Ellefson Films. This is, I think their second, they have a great kind of found footage or movie “Dwellers” with his guitarist from The Lucid, if you guys have missed that, I highly recommend it. You can get it on most of the streaming services. I was really surprised how good it was when I saw it. Flash forward to this documentary, we were sitting and funny, we’re here at the Days of the Dead Horror Convention, and I’m about to go downstairs here. It starts at five today here in Atlanta. Let me hold up a little flyer. in our room, not only is the entire Terrifier cast with that amazing actor who played the Terrifier. I saw him last night out of make-up, you’d never recognized him in your lifetime, Malcolm McDowell is in our room. That’s all that is in our particular room is the Terrifier cast, Kings of Thrash, and Malcolm McDowell. We had dinner the night before the Nick Menza filming at the American Satan table in the back of the Rainbow, if you’ve seen the movie, you know where I’m going with this. So how fortuitous that he’s gonna be downstairs, will be meeting here shortly, because I love that movie in all the movies he’s done, Cat People, Clockwork Orange, so what an honor. Barbara Eden’s here, I Dream of Jeannie, it’s gonna be quite a show this weekend, we’re really looking forward to it. We were paying our tab, getting up to leave that night, at the Rainbow, and I reached over into Ellefson’s ear, whispered a couple of sweet nothings and sang a riff or two that he and I had been demoing back in the day for what would have become Rust in Peace, Mustaine was wanting help on songwriting, at least that’s what he was professing. So Dave and I remember demoed two songs, I’d long since lost the cassette tapes with those demos, but I have kind of a photographic memory, so two of the riffs and I guess they’re good because they’ve stuck with me all these years, so I reached over and sung the riff in his ear. He goes, “Dude, we gotta get in a room and work that stuff up”. So that’s how this whole thing was born, not with any intent to ever play a Megadeth to maybe for an encore, let’s do an EP. So we started writing with his drummer from The Lucid, Mike Heller, who’s out to and with Raven, and I think they were just opening for Metallica, he’s a great engineer. I think he engineered and produced The Lucid album. So we’d go over to his house, we had two writing sessions, the first were with two song riffs that I had the skeletons for, and I went in and we’d never written together. We never had that luxury back in the day, other than those songs before were pretty much mine, but I’d forgotten about a bunch of riffs, so let’s collaborate and come up with the new bits to finish the song, it was like we were finishing each other’s sentences. Here’s the riff”, “Okay, now let’s do this”, “Okay, now let’s put your other riff here”, and then if we were stumped, I go, he’d look at me and go, “What would we do here?” And so out of the first writing session, we came up with a demo with guitar, bass, and a click to two songs, and then we met a couple of months later when he was in LA, and he came in with two skeletons and it was the same thing again, I’m finishing his sentences and we got four songs now. The title, the first one starting to leak out, “Bridges Burned” is gonna be the first single we’ve already done, the drums in my first rhythm guitar and a scratch bass to two-inch analog tape. I think this is a huge, huge point to get out there that you’re gonna hear is harping on in every interview, we’re analog creatures are not made to input digital information into our systems, and just maybe that’s why people don’t resonate with music the way they used to back in the day. It’s much more expensive to record the way we are when I saw the price on what a two-inch tape reel is these days, my mouth was on the floor at $400 as opposed to going in and Pro Tools and cutting and pasting and all that bullshit, me and Fred went in one take and throw the thing down, and I highly attribute it to Fred, our drummer because his drum part is beastly, and he got in one take. We’re lucky to be working at a fine studio, in North Hollywood called LAFX, where Eddie Kramer calls home and he’s doing all the posthumous Hendrix stuff there. I highly recommend an album that no one knows by Hendrix called “People, Hell, and Angels” that was mixed at that studio, it’s as good as almost anything he did in his lifetime. The only way I know about is because it was mixed at the studio we’re working. The coolest thing about this little thing is they got the studio 2-inch analog machine, and their house engineer has been Eddie’s protege for, well near a decade, I’ve known about the studio, so without paying the Eddie Kramer rates, you get the Eddie Kramer know-how. On our album and we’re doing it to two inch and I’m getting goosebumps talking about it as you see this shirt. I wanna give a shout-out to Pallbearer Press…We threw the stuff down and we’re working on the lyrics now, Chaz and I are co-writing them together, and so far, who knows, by the time it’s done, other members may get in there. But I kinda came in with the skeleton of the lyrics because lyrics and poetry, and writing for vocal is kind of my wheelhouse, so I kinda came in with that and saying it to Chris Poland and Chaz, for the first time the other night after rehearsal before we came out here and they really loved it. Chris Poland said the chorus is like an earworm, so that’s good.16:23
On if Kings of Thrash received any feedback from the Megadeth camp – We haven’t, nor would we care or concern ourselves with any of that. It’s a win-win for all of us, including him, because on this live Best of the West, Kings of Thrash Best of the West, Live at Whisky a Go-Go, who’s getting the publishing on every one of tunes, not me or David Ellefson or any of the Kings of Trash, so he’s making the money. To answer your question, they don’t play those songs because they can’t play those songs, he can’t play or sing them. I’m not being a dick. It’s just a fact. He can barely play and sing the stuff that they’re doing, the same ten songs every night.
Again, I wanna say a little bit as I lead up to that, so there we were writing our originals, and there’s a thing happens at the Whisky, a bi-weekly since the Covid thing, it was every week, but they cut it down, the Ultimate Jam Night, a lot of people may be seen past things on the music, Blabbermouth, and elsewhere, where they cover events, I’ve done the Eddie Van Halen tribute, the Randy Rhoads, they have different themes every two weeks. But when the whole Ukraine thing happened, I didn’t play that night, but we took some friends to see it, and a band came up and did a System of a Down song and a moshpit out at the Whiskey. There’s a sign on the beam right next to the stage that says, “If you stage dive, you’re gonna be ousted from the venue”. A mosh pit broke out, I know the Ultimate Jam had never seen anything like that. I don’t know how long I’d been since the Whisky had seen anything, but it was no surprise, and I got a chuckle when I saw the theme for the next Ultimate Jam two weeks later, which was the Big 4. So of course, they asked me to play and I said, “Well, I’m writing with Ellefson now, you want me to call him an Arizona and see if he’ll fly out to do this?” And of course, he did that gave us another chance to go in and demo, work on the originals, sculpt a little more, and the cool thing, because this leads directly how we found Chaz and Fred, they both played that night. Chaz played with us, the Ultimate Jam people, a lovely lady named Jessica she’s the lady of Ira Black, who’s the guitarist in Bullet Boys, our drummer also doubles with the Bullet Boys, he’s in their new video for “Fuck Yeah”, whatever it’s called. She’s kind of like the matchmaker, so if you imagine you have a theme night, it could be 75, over 100 musicians from every instrument taking the stage for two songs, three songs, and it’s fast changes and everything, and she’s got to match, make like, “Okay, here’s Jeff Young and David Ellefson, who’s the rest of the band?” Well, we said, “Okay, let’s bring Heller to play drums”, so Mike Heller played that night. These videos are on my YouTube and what you’ve seen is totally unrehearsed, and the first night we met Chez. She paired us up with Chaz only because he was in a Megadeth tribute, and I think he’d done a jam somewhere in San Diego with Ellefson at a book signing, David did. So David kind of knew him, but we’ve never heard him, we didn’t know how it was gonna go. We rehearsed a hallway upstairs while the band was downstairs on stage, blasting, you can hardly hear no amps, and we’re like trying to run through “Mary Jane” and all these difficult changes, but we went down. As you can see from my YouTube videos for an unrehearsed jam as songs that are pretty tricky to play, I think we did okay. My gal actually sang “Mary Jane”, which was really cool, kinda blew up the internet, got picked up by David Ellefson’s manager now our manager in Kings, of Thrash, saw it and booking agency, and of course said, “You guys gotta take this on the road”, so we were kind of cornered into this. We’ve been asked so many years, you can imagine, David, it shows just like where we are, the fans coming up, “Sign this Killing is my Business, and why aren’t you guys playing this? I would love to hear some stuff on this or So Far“, for him. So he already kinda had the seed in his head, so it wasn’t a big leap that, Okay, while we’re writing the original is why we’re recording this album, let’s just go out and get tight and have fun, you give the fans what they want. Because it’s so hard to break a new band and if Kings of Thrash today dropped an album of 12 astounding originals, it would fall on deaf ears. They’re checked out of the music industry, they’re checked out of music there too into other distractions, as we’ll say, and again, maybe it’s because of what we talked about earlier with the analog versus digital. We’re gonna go that distance and we’re going to that extra effort and that expense, maybe as an experiment or maybe because we care about the fans and the listeners that much that in our own music that we wanted to be documented in a sonically superior manner. So the whole thing is just kind of organically, magically unfolded, and Fred played some Slayer that night with other musicians, and we could have missed him and never known, But we heard the Slayer, I peaked my head out, “Who’s that kid behind the drums plan like that?” A 33-year-old kid from Peru, amazing player. So now we got two guys half our age, which is great because they bring a freshness and they’re kind of in their own age, so it’s cool for them, and you got the OGs on the outside. It’s a great thing, because David and I have our influences that we came up with, Fred is a Nick Menza aficionado, he loved him, he sent me a picture when he first got in the group of him in Nick at NAMM and they’ve all loved Megadeth. And of course, Chaz in a Megadeth tribute, he also fronts Soundgarden tributes as Chris Cornell, maybe his look, you can see why, and he’s got that vibe in his voice, so when he does Mustaine as one critic says, it doesn’t come off like an impression or something comical. It’s huskier, it’s cool, it’s really cool. He’s just growing every gig, and these are hard-working, really mature young men for their age, and we’re just really blessed how that whole thing just happened out of an Ultimate Jam. We were just getting up to play three tunes and have some fun, and here we are. 25:18
On the upcoming love record – I just wanna make one note. Pre-order the DVD CD. It’s a DVD, a double CD. Just because of the delay with vinyl, with this conversation, you knew we were gonna put it out on the vinyl, and that’s a big part of the reason we went with Cleopatra records. The head guy, Brian is just. the coolest. We call them the anti-Clive Davis. He looks like Tommy Bolin. He’s just so cool, he’s into vinyl into analog everything we’re talking about. So he wants to put it on vinyl, so coming summer, you’ll get it on vinyl, double CD, Best of the West Live at the Whiskey a-Go Go. And it’s on sale at the Cleopatra website today. So you can pre-order it and it’ll be out March 24th and shipping to your humble abodes around the planet. It came out really, really good. I think people are gonna be surprised for a thrash based on how musical it is, and there’s everything in their blues, jazz, rock, metal, classical, flamenco, all those influences come out through the night with everything. We kinda do the songs, we do them exactly, but we it’s like the Kings of Thrash playing it, it’s how we do it. 32:14