Megadeth: The Tragic Death of Drummer Nick Menza

The Tragic Death of Megadeth Drummer Nick Menza

Today on Rock N’ Roll True Stories they take a look at former drummer of Megadeth Nick Menza. Check it out below!

Drummer Nick Menza was part of what many considered the golden era, classic lineup of Megadeth from 1990 to 1998 along with frontman Dave Mustaine, bassist David Ellefson and guitarist Marty Freidman. Sidenote guys i’ve done a whole video on Marty Friedman’s career in the band, the link is down below. Menza would be fired from Megadeth but in the years that followed he appeared to have a complicated relationship with his former band. He would die in a truly shocking way long after he left Megadeth.. Today, let’s explore the life of nick menza. 


Born to a musical family, Menza was born in Germany to a jazz saxophonist named Don Menza. His father had a pretty storied career playing with Buddy Richs band starting in 1968 and performed as a member of Johnny Carson’s tonight show band. Don would introduce his son to jazz, a style of music he continue to love during and after his time in Megadeth. Buddy Rich would even give drum lessons to Nick as a child & the aspiring drummer would play in front of his first audience at age 2 when someone placed him on Jack DeJohnette’s (dee-ja-net) drum throne during an intermission at a gig 


His professional music career began at age 18 and he would play in a series of groups including Rhoads who was fronted by Randy Rhoads brother. He would even record with John Fogerty. By the late 80’s he would land a job as the Megadeth’s drum tech for Chuck Behler (Chuck Bayler) . Behler would be fired by mustaine over his drug use leading the frontman to ask Menza to join the group in 1989. He would appear on four megadeth albums with 1997’s cryptic writings being his last. The following year while out on tour to promote the album Menza learned of a tumor in his knee. He required surgery to remove it and thankfully for him it was benign. According to menza while he was in hospital recovering from surgery he would recall Mustaine calling him to let him know he was fired from the band. 


David Ellefson would tell Metal Hammer why Menza was fired saying “It’s funny, Nick has been and still is the most hailed and beloved member of the Megadeth legacy.

“Playing drums is hard, playing drums in Megadeth is even harder, and it beats the out of ya.

“Nick put in a lot of good years with us, but by 1998 [when he got fired], he was struggling to do the gig.

“There was a defining moment in Macer, Arizona, where I looked at him during some breaks in ‘Darkest Hour’ and it was like he was not present. He was beat up, you know?

Following his firing Menza turned his attention to raising his two kids and took up woodworking.

. Menza would recall to Metalholic “I took about 10, 12 years off to raise two boys” It was during this time that Nick made a living through his woodworking selling a perurvian percussion instrument known as a cajons. It was during this time in his life menza famously said “ i don’t want to be nick menza the drummer from megadeth. That chapter of my life is closed.” In addition to raising his kids Menza would still play music on the side putting out a single album under the monicker Menza. And play with the jazz fusion project called Ohm.


In 2004 Menza was thought to be rejoining Megadeth on tour as part of the blackmail the universe tour, but Mustaine revealed to radio station WRIF 101.1 I had Nick Menza come in and play drums [during the rehearsals for the tour], and he just wasn’t prepared. It just didn’t work out. We tried for two weeks to get everything to happen, and it just didn’t click. Five days before the tour started, I had to send him home.


According to Loudwire in 2007 Menza almost lost his arm due to a power saw accident. It would require him to get reconstrutive surgery. The saw responsible for the accident would be auctioned off by Menza years later. The accident didn’t stop menza from jumping back into music as he would continue to play with OHM.


In 2014 it was rumored that the classic lineup of Megadeth would be reuniting following the departure of guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover . Menza was approached by Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson to replace Drover at the end of 2014 and he would in fact begin working on new music with the band, but the reunion fell apart after the topic of money came up. Menza was offered what he referred to as and i quote “an unfair deal.” Menza would reveal in a statement through his management “They didn’t feel I was worth anything to the band. Dave blocked my emails, changed his number and then, apparently, Ron Laffitte was fired as the band’s manager. Here is one of my favorite bands and a huge part of my life achievements and I was shut out for wanting a fair deal.


Mustaine defended his behavior while promoting the book Rust in Peace the inside story of the megadeth masterpiece inrurevealing 

Nick said some things about me at the end, especially to Blabbermouth, where he would just wail on me,” “And I would think, ‘Nick, why are you doing this? I never did anything to you. I’m always fighting for you. When I would read the stuff that he would [say about me], I would just be so hurt. ‘Cause when we went to do the reunion, you see Ellefson tell the story, I wasn’t the one that said Nick wasn’t ready — Dave said that. I wanted things to work out with Nick. And then in fact, I even said, ‘You know what? If it’s not gonna work with him playing in the studio, let’s have somebody else go into the studio and play, and then we can have Nick play live.’ I was bending over backwards to get a place for Nick. And then he said he wanted this exorbitant amount of cash to work for us and to be able to sell all kinds of merchandise that he had.”


In may of 2016 Menza’s latest band, Ohm, was three songs into a semi-regular set at the Baked Potato in Studio City on Saturday night when the drummer collapsed, Friend and author of Menza J. Marshall Craig told the Associated Press. Friends and audience members rendered aid while paramedics were called. He would be pronounced dead upon his arrival at the hospital. He was 51 years old. 

It was initially speculated that at the time that Menza’s death may have been drug related but it would be confirmed by an autopsy his death was due to a massive heart attack. It was reported at the time of his death that he had been sober for 8 years.

 Two weeks before his death Menza appeared on the metal podcast The Wave Northwest where he talked about his time in megadeth admitting he did miss playing in front of large audiences revealing“I miss the playing part of it, very much so, rocking people and having people come up afterwards. That’s the only part of it I miss.”

Following his death Dave Mustaine would pay his respects to Menza at a gig that Megadeth happened the day after his death dedciating the song trust to him and asking the audience to take a moment of silence for the drummer. Mustaine would also publish an online post praising menza and reveal that the band was possibly going to do a benefit show with past and present members invited to take part.

Bassist David Ellefson would reveal how the record label stopped the tribute show from happening revealing to loudersound we even talked to Universal and Capitol Records about doing something, and we got some pushback from them because we’re in the middle of Dystopia. We’re on a new album, they’re putting a lot of money and attention behind it, and they don’t want another bunch of product and stuff out there. 

“If they need our help they know where we’re at. We love them, and want the best for them.” The GoFundMe page would raise money for Menza’s family, but former Megadeth guitarist Jeff Young would play two benefit shows for the departed drummer.

In the years that followed Menza’s death, the relationship between his estate and Mustaine appeared to be strained. Mustaine would claim that he was very close with Menza even after the 2014 reunion attempt, but that was something Rose Menza, Nick’s mother disputed. According to Rose she never received a call or letter from Dave concerning her son’s death saying in a statement “He never called, “I am really upset at him (Mustaine). They were NOT good friends, no matter what he says now that Nick’s not here to answer what’s being said about him.”

Before his death Nick was working with an author named J. Marshall Craig on a book called  MegaLife: Nick Menza – The Book.Craig would reveal in a statement “ Dave knows exactly why there was no reunion, since he pulled the plug – again – as can be clearly seen in mail exchanges between him and Nick, which Nick gave me complete access to. I’ve put the conversations in the book, unabridged. Dave’s at once friendly and encouraging and then, in an instant, childish and rude; Nick comes across like, well Nick: Polite, agreeable and accommodating, trying his best to get along and make it work.

Ellefson for his part would claim he has a good relationship with menza’s family reaching out to them following menza’s death. In an interview with Loudersound Ellefson would reveal the silver ilver lining in Menza’s death saying. “I think Nick died happy onstage playing his drums. He used to say ‘When I die, I hope I die onstage playing drums.’ He used to joke about that, that’s so Nick Menza, and he did. When I heard it, as sad and shocking as it was, I went ‘That son-of-a-bitch got to go out the way he wanted.’”