Former Megadeth Drummer Nick Menza Dead at 51 (Updated)

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Nick Menza

Photo source: Nick Menza Official Facebook page

Update (5/23): Dave Mustaine made a fuller statement yesterday (5/22) regarding Menza’s death in an interview with Albany, NY radio station Q103. The fact that the Megadeth leader let Menza go from the band in 1998 and rehired and fired the drummer in 2004 has led some to believe there was bad blood between the two.

“Contrary to popular belief, Nick and I were very, very close. I think when you’re that close with somebody, the temperatures run a lot hotter than in most relationships, so the love is that much more deeper and the anger is so much more hot and the sadness is so much more profound,” he said.

Mustaine elaborated in a later statement, “As a player, Nick had a very powerful jazzy flair, unpredictable and always entertaining, And as great a drummer as he was, the time spent with him as a person, a bandmate, and a friend was even more fun. There were several times we discussed him coming back to the band, but for various reasons it never came together. We’ve been in touch all along, he had come out to our shows recently, and he had remained a great friend, a true professional and a larger than life personality.” Mustaine promises a future benefit/tribute show from “the Megadeth family” to help Menza’s kids.

Munich, Germany-born and Los Angeles-based drummer Nick Menza died Saturday night (5/21) from reported heart failure while playing with the band OHM at the Baked Potato jazz club in Studio City, CA. He collapsed during the group’s third song. An eyewitness report says that two patrons performed CPR on Menza in an attempt to revive him before EMS arrived. He was then given adrenaline shots, shocks and compressions to no avail.

Menza was a member of Megadeth from 1989 to 1998, and drummed on the albums Rust in Peace (1990), Countdown to Extinction (1992), Youthanasia (1994) and Cryptic Writings (1997).

Nick Menza was the son of jazz saxophonist and educator Don Menza, and adept at playing a wide range of styles beyond the thrash rock of Metallica, which made his work with the band crucial to raising the group’s game during a pivotal time in the band’s career. He started on drums at the age of two, and through his father’s associations enjoyed the tutelage of such world-class players as Jack DeJohnette’s drums and he proceeded to play. His influences stem from being nurtured around the tutelage of such notables as Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro (read our story on him here) and Louie Bellson. After playing in the band Rhoads with singer Kelle Rhoads, brother of the late Randy Rhoads, Nick worked as a session player, recording with the likes of John Fogerty before joining Megadeth. In the latter part of his stint with the band he had knee problems that led to surgery to remove a benign tumor, and in 2007 he had an arm accident involving a power saw that led to lengthy rehabilitation to regain his playing ability.

Former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman noted on Facebook how Menza “was also a trustworthy friend, a hilarious bandmate, as well as a very loving dad. I’m beyond sad, did not see this coming at all. RIP Brother.”

We’ll will continue to update this story.

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Best Classic Bands Staff
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  1. BigBronc74
    #1 BigBronc74 22 May, 2016, 13:09

    this is very sad news just goes to show you never know when its your time. loved to hear Nick smashin those percussions with Megadeth he is an awesome drummer him and lars ulrich are 2 of the reasons i picked up playin drums…..R.I.P. Nick your sound will be missed

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