Nick Menza joined Megadeth in 1989, contributing his hard-pounding, quick-as-shit drumming to their landmark albums Rust In Peace (which garnered a Grammy that year) and the double platinum Countdown to Extinction. After 10 years with ‘Deth, Menza was abruptly fired by Dave Mustaine while recovering from minor knee surgery. Since then, Menza has been rocking out solo albums and painting his inner torment onto canvas. He sat down with me to talk about Crybaby Dave and teenage groupies.
Has MENSA ever offered you a free membership? What’s your IQ? Did the rock n roll life and its abuses lower it?
Yeah, but my IQ was too high for them. They tried to give me shit about calling my fan club the Menza Society. I told them if they are smart they would realize I spell my name with a Z. They said I couldn’t use the name, but, fuck! It’s my last name. I can use what I fuckin please!
Last time I checked my IQ, in 12th grade, it was 140. I was intelligent – but not really as smart for daily shit. But, now, it is probably lower due to drugs.
Of your many years of touring and general rockstardom, what’s the most adrenaline-pumping, exciting/scariest experience you had?
I went skydiving and dog sledding in Alaska. Dog sledding is more exciting than scary. I went off by myself with 14 dogs. It was so cool. They send you out with a flare gun in case you go down. It was so bad-ass! I saw bears and shit on the trails! Skydiving is definitely very scary! I would not do it again unless the plane was going down.
So give me the straight dirt. Why the hell did Megadeth fire you? You should’ve sued those morons.
Well, they didn’t fire me. Dave fired me. I went out for routine surgery, and he fired me two days after the surgery. Over the phone. That really put me out. We’ve lived together for 10 years. We didn’t speak again for about 8 months. Really in the end, he had it premeditated and the surgery was The Out. He just said: “I am letting you go.” I wondered how he could be so cold… It’s all good though, if it wasn’t for Dave, I wouldn’t be doing the album now. We’re on speaking terms now.
You’ve been writing music for awhile; why wouldn’t Megadeth use it? And why do you think drummers are discouraged from writing music?
Um…Megadeth did use a lot of my music. Just pieces though. Dave wouldn’t let me ever write a full song or use one of mine. It was about publishing. It was Dave’s band and that’s the way it was. In Rust in Peace, the drums are real prominent, but I didn’t get any publishing. Actually, that probably started the problems with me and Dave. On the next album, I was up his ass about publishing. He wouldn’t give it, so I didn’t have any ideas for it. I thought I was more than a hired gun. But I was wrong. I was an integral part of that whole line up.
Well, it’s hard to write music on drums. We don’t have other instruments usually to write with. It’s good to learn other instruments so you can write – I play guitar as well as bass. It sure helps with writing and doing demos.
Is Mustaine still bitter at Metallica for kicking him out? Did those guys ever make up? Did he ever get drunk and cry over it?
I really can’t answer that question. It would be like asking me if he changed his underwear today. I am sure he did, but I really don’t know. But hey, how does it feel to be fired from your band??
What’s your favorite groupie story?
Favorite?? When we were in Phoenix, the Miss USA Teen pageant was at our hotel and the girls were running up to our door and leaving their portfolios at my door. The den mother showed up and gave me the riot act. There were girls everywhere. I couldn’t walk down the hall without getting my hair pulled.
I heard your new solo album Life After Deth is Rush influenced. Have you ever met Neil Peart?
I wanted to meet Neil Peart. He wouldn’t come off the bus. He was having personal family tragedy stuff….. but he did sign the Modern Drummer we were both in! He signed it “to Nick, happy mega-life, Neil Peart.”
As well as producing great music, you also paint some scary pictures. What’s wrong with happy little trees?
I’m an abstract, scary person. Not in a bad way, but I am on the other side of the fence. I take the weirder version of life. Who wants to paint the normal shit? Sunsets, trees, etc?
It seemed to be going poorly for metal these past ten years, but now it’s making a resurgence back into the mainstream. What do you think about the nu-metal scene?
I totally dig Head-PE. They’re the most real thing I had seen in a long time. It was really refreshing. The guys were really tight. They were fuckin awesome. They were a rare sight…I haven’t seen that for a long time with the new stuff. Then there’s Shrapnel, Die Cast, Aluminum…the new alloys are quite durable and lighter in weight. Ya know what, it’s all music to me. If it’s good, it’s good, if it’s not…it’s not! Rotting Christ is crap…. when I saw their t-shirts…. whatever!
If Megadeth begged you to come back, how loudly would you laugh in their faces?
I wouldn’t laugh in their faces. I probably would tell them… I don’t know. It would have to be the right situation. I’m now on my own gig. Dave was a good teacher on songwriting. Right now, it’s about my band.
For info on Nick Menza, his new album Life After Deth, and his frightening paintings, visit his site at here. If you want the CD right now, send $14.95 to Menzanation Records, 12358 Ventura Blvd.#388 Studio City, CA 91604. Thanks Nick and I hope we both get to meet Neil one day.