MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson has sung the praises of JUDAS PRIEST four-stringer Ian Hill, calling him the "most formidable, probably iconic heavy metal bass player."
Currently the longest-tenured member of PRIEST, Hill has long been overshadowed by frontman Rob Halford and the guitar tandem of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, with Hill found permanently planted stage left behind his bandmates. Similarly, Hill is usually not mentioned in the same breath as other legendary heavy metal bass players, notably IRON MAIDEN's Steve Harris, METALLICA's Cliff Burton and BLACK SABBATH's Geezer Butler.
In a recent interview with Metal Underground's Diamond Oz leading up to his November 3 appearance in Wolverhampton, England with Downing and fellow PRIEST alumnus vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens and drummer Les Binks where they were to perform a "full-length set of PRIEST classics," Ellefson spoke about Hill's influence, as well as the similarities between the respective careers of MEGADETH and PRIEST.
"I am Ian Hill's biggest fan," David said (see video below). "I have always admired his bass playing from the minute I heard it. It's clean; it's precise. I've emulated a lot of his style during probably the '90s MEGADETH when our songs got a little bit more mainstream; I emulated what JUDAS PRIEST went through when they had their big '80s MTV years. Ian's bass playing, at times, it was very progressive, almost [in the style of] JETHRO TULL, Jack Bruce [CREAM]. Then there's times he plays real simple to support the song. He has been a number one influence of mine. [Other influences were] Steve Harris [IRON MAIDEN], Geddy Lee [RUSH], and, of course, Gene Simmons [KISS], but Ian doesn't get a lot of the big celebrity credit because he's not down front — he's intentionally in the back — and he really holds down the role. If you think about the most formidable, probably iconic heavy metal bass player, he is it. Now I'm not just listening to these songs in my car as a fan, but to pick up the bass and really study what he's doing, has really been an incredible education."
He continued: "It's funny how JUDAS PRIEST and MEGADETH are so similar in so many ways. Obviously, a lot of what we learned we learned from JUDAS PRIEST. Yet, as K.K. talked about in his book, by the time they did 'Painkiller', they were very aware of this thrash metal genre, which is us coming up behind them. I think it kicked them in the pants and got them to dig deep and come up with records like 'Painkiller', and even the couple of records when Ripper was in the band. There's some pretty deep, pretty intricate stuff — very different JUDAS PRIEST in that era. I can relate to that. MEGADETH has done the same thing. We've had to reinvent and dig deep and to reinvent ourselves throughout the 36 years we've been a band. In a lot of ways, JUDAS PRIEST and MEGADETH have walked a very similar path. I think those are things that probably bond me and K.K. as kind of brothers in arms as professional musicians."
The one-off show at K.K.'s Steel Mill featured a full band set from Ellefson's "Sleeping Giants" band, followed by the PRIEST set with Downing, Binks and Owens. Former IRON MAIDEN vocalist Blaze Bayley was the evening's opening support act. Additionally, the Steel Mill hosted a special pre-show VIP event whereby attendees were treated to a "More Life With Deth" book-signing event and one-on-one question-and-answer session with Ellefson, Downing and Ellefson's "More Life With Deth" co-author Thom Hazaert, moderated by Mark Eglinton, who co-authored Downing's recent memoir "Heavy Duty Days And Nights In Judas Priest".