Nick Menza interview
When Megadeth needed a drummer in 1989, Nick Menza was asked by Dave Mustaine to join the band. Menza first played live with Megadeth on May 12, 1988 in Bradford, England. His prior experience and personal relationship led to the invitation to join Megadeth for the 1990, multi-platinum recording Rust in Peace. and for the next ten years Menza became associated with the band’s classic and most profitable era. 1990’s Rust In Peace, 1992’s Countdown to Extinction, 1994’s Youthanasia, and 1997’s Cryptic Writings. What would become Megadeth’s most commercially successful effort, Countdown to Extinction. The album was the first to feature writing contributions from each band member, and was named by drummer Nick Menza. Currently Nick Menza is working on a his new band Atomic Disintegrator, a collaboration with Polish guitarist Widek (Maciej Dawidek) featuring Symphony X bassist Mike LePond and Threat Signal frontman Jon Howard.
Metalholic and Metal Wani recently had a chat with Nick Menza as he discusses his new band Atomic Disintegrator, Metal All Stars Tour, classic Rust In Peace lineup, his autobiography Mega-Life, his view on Megadeth’s music, and his recent incident with Dave Mustaine at NAMM and much more.
Talking about Atomic Disintegrator: You have written all the music yourself, and since this has got something to do with the cartoon, what’s the message you are going to provide through these particular shows you’re doing?
Well, at first I have to say that Atomic Disintegrator is a band that I’m trying to perform together and right now it’s just me. My initial idea was to have a cartoon behind it. I have this comic book character, the Atomic Disintegrator. I have two little boys: I have a 13-year-old and a 7-year-old, so (umm) they’re always fascinated with cartoons and they asked me to make a cartoon, called “The Atomic Disintegrator”. You’ve got a super hero, besides all these villains, you know, that kind of stuff. And I thought it would be cool to have a band, Atomic Disintegrator, and be able to write a song for each episode of the cartoon. And it took a lot of work, man, it’s hard doing that stuff by yourself, it’s crazy to think you’re gonna, like, just do everything and put out a cartoon (laughs) It’s insanity. It’s like “Dude, really, you’re gonna do that, all by yourself? OK, go for it.
So, you know, it’s been tough. It’s been a tough trying to cook stuff together, and I have a bunch of ideas. But now with the all-stars I’m just gonna put the Atomic Disintegrator on hold for a moment, until I make this one and come back and I can start doing, you know, comping up some of my original stuff. I’m working with this other guy from Poland, a buddy of mine called Widek guitar player. He’s awesome, he’s an awesome player, awesome engineer, producer, guy, and I hope that we’re gonna do some more stuff, you know, coming up, because I like his riffs, he’s got some cool riffs.
You, along with Marty Friedman, David Ellefson and Mustaine are considered to be the classic lineup of Megadeth. Did you have a feeling that Rust In Peace would go on to become such a great record during the recording process?
You know, it’s funny because Rust In Peace is a live album, it’s actually analog recording. So, I personally like the sound of RIP because it sounds more (pause) real, raw. You know, not that the other Megadeth records don’t sound good, but from thereon that it’s all digital recording. And I think it just sounds different, RIP to me sounds like the band’s in studio, it sounds like everything’s in the room and they’re playing. Great recording.
Also the three albums that followed it, I mean, slowly but surely moved away from the RIP style. Was it a conscious decision on the band’s part to evolve musically or was it just one of those things that wasn’t pre-planned?
I think it’s just one of those things that just happen. You know, it’s like we try to be rehearsed always when we go for a record, we try to be really tight. We go in, I mean, it took me ten days to do RIP, I did one song a day basically. And that was the process, it was live, and like I said, we just clicked, we didn’t use digital tape. The sounds have matured a little more. It was more clear. Plus we were just new guys coming out in the band so, there’s a lot of energy there, a lot of fire, like angst, just “I wanna be the guy, let’s destroy (laughs)
Do you see the same fire and the same, you know, passion in Megadeth right now?
No, I hate to react those guys and say that they aren’t any good, but they’re just lacking the energy sense of it. They’re lacking that over-the-top pump that they used to have. They’re good, I mean, I’ve seen them play a few times in concert and I was just like “Heh”, whatever. It’s kinda weird when you go see a band you’ve played with in over ten years and then you see somebody else play out there, it’s like watching somebody bang your ex-girlfriend, you know, I mean like “Hey dude, that’s not how you do it” (laughs) “You do it like this, bro”. It’s just not happening.
Now, even in 2004, you auditioned for Megadeth’s spot once again, when Mustaine decided to put back the classic lineup. But things didn’t work out – Press says Mustaine said you weren’t ready. Was that the actual reason?
Yup. That’s what he said. But, you know, who’s ready? I’m totally ready. I’m kinda like, for some reason it didn’t work out. He told me “dude you are fired”. He came up three days before the first show, Shawn Drover, and they had like three days before the first gig. C’mon, nobody comes up three days before a show. His brother was already the guitar player playing with us at the time, Glen Drover. So they were the two brothers, and you know, whatever. Shit happens. You know, I always say everything happens the way it’s supposed to and, it’s all good. I don’t have any hard feelings towards Dave or the guys. If something came about, in the future, for a reunion – I’m totally down to do something. Just for the fans.
What happened recently? I mean, I read your Facebook message which you had posted few days back regarding how Dave reacted when you saw him at NAMM. You know, I think it was disappointing.
(Laughs) That was embarrassing. That was embarrassing in front of the fans when you are blown off like that. He didn’t even see me. He was signing when fans requested for an autograph which I totally understand. All I wanted to do is to shake a hand with him and I was like a foot away from him and his security guy was like pushing me away and the fans were like “Dude, (….)” How embarrassing. Certainly embarrassing. But you know what? That’s cool. Like I said, I got no hard feelings and I understand. All these people cramming around him, it’s crazy dude, NAMM show is like crazy. It’s like… maniac people there, Wall to wall, people everywhere, it’s crazy. It’s just too many people.
People keep saying that Nick is gonna be back in the band, you know, something’s gonna happen in the future.
I know, they never stop. Look how many news there’s been, and they’re still saying it.
It’s because, you know, there’s a different vibe when you’re on drums, compared to the other drummers. We have heard it all, we have seen it all, there’s a different vibe so, there are, you know, the bunch of dedicated fans that wanna see you back into Megadeth, especially after the videos that were released and it has certainly pumped up the fans.
Yes, I mean, you know what, I totally agree with the fans. It’s like, I took about ten, twelve years off to raise two boys. And there’s really where I’ve been this whole time, raising two boys. I love them to death, they’re my kids, and it’s a job, man, it’s a 24/7 job with these guys. They’re like black ops leaders. Now, like, I wanna start playing again. Basically, I tell people “Hey, I’m coming out of retirement”. I was retired there for a little while, and I’m coming out. Whatever can happen, it’s good. You know, if I get in another band, it’s already happening, so be it. I’m looking to play, do some things, and put me out there. I can play, still. Yeah, I’m fifty years old. It’s only a number.
There are so many things going on right now, you’re playing in so many things, metal all-stars tour and stuff. Is Nick Menza planning to establish his style little more now, compared to how it was in the 90’s?
You know, I’d like to. Right now, so many people are looking at me from that time, and wanting to see that stuff being played. Fans have been asking me, play this song, play that song. I’ve been basically, since there’s nobody to jam with at the moment, I’ve been just doing these drum play-through videos, you know, of all my favorite songs. I’m gonna do like, the top ten drum-play queue lists on YouTube. All my favorite songs that I jam out to, everyday, to warm up to, you know. Just Opeth, all my favorite bands that I like, I have a song for each one. Just gonna pump them all out and play the drums. If I hear music for the first time and it makes me wanna go get on the drums and play drums to it, then it’s probably pretty good. If I don’t wanna go play drums to it, then chances are, it’s not any good (laughs) It could be any kind of music, it doesn’t just have to be metal, it could be anything, you know. From hip-hop, to jazz, to funk, to R&B, to whatever. I just like to play to whatever’s grooving, whatever’s happening.
I don’t know when that is going to happen but, as a fan, it would be an honor for all the Megadeth fans if we get to see you live with Megadeth in the future.
(Laughs) Yeah, well, like I said, anything could happen.
Right, so Nick Menza is up for it any moment?
(Pause) Any moment.
by: Owais ‘Vitek’ Nabi, Grim Fist & Vania F. Silva