Aside from Dave Mustaine, the most recognizable member of Megadeth is David Ellefson. You may recall, after the band broke up in 2002, and then returned in 2004 – Ellefson was not a part of the reunion.
The reason was that Ellefson and Mustaine had disagreements about Ellefson's stake in the band, so Mustaine just went on without him. Bygones be bygones – and in 2010, the two Daves settled their differences and Ellefson rejoined the band.
Turns out what had to happen was Ellefson had to give up a stake of ownership in Megadeth and become a salaried employee. Ellefson goes into detail about it in his new memoir, More Life with Deth, and in a recent interview with Metal-Rules.com, he explained why he chose to make the decision to return to Megadeth:
“Yeah, from the beginning, I was always an equal owner. When Dave broke the group up in 2002, we left our business matters intact. When we reformed in 2004, our disagreements were very much about participation in ownership of the group. Relationships are not static. People have these views of bands — I know I do as well — that when I get into a band, we will be a family, a team, and a gang. That is definitely true as a group of musicians in a community. But you find that every band is its own business with personalities and hierarchies in collaborations and contributions. It is different inside each one of them. I’m not going to lie; going from being a co-founding owner to just a sideman musician was initially why I didn’t come back in 2004. I was not happy with the participations that were presented to me. In recent times, coming back, I found great joy in doing music with a lot of other people in other settings that helped me fall back in love with playing music. Now I can come back into or go into musical situations and be able to be there for a purpose and level of pay. Being a sideman absolves you from being involved in all the other stuff. At this point in my life I would rather leave that stuff on the sidelines. Like American Express says, ‘Membership Has Its Privileges.’ Being a sideman has its benefits. In my case, it helps retain a friendship, too. In order to have a friendship, I had to give up some ownership.”
I give credit to David for putting a positive spin on the situation. There is something to be said about just showing up and playing music and knowing you would be paid without having to deal with all the dramas of being a business owner.
And ultimately, it's their business – if it works for them, and they put out great music, everybody wins.
Megadeth are currently in the studio working on their sixteenth studio album.