As most have heard by now, drummer Nick Menza passed away on Saturday May 21st during the third song of his set with OHM, at the famous L.A venue, The Baked Potato. Nick had just spent two weeks touring the Pacific Northwest, and was gearing up for a June 2016 comic-version release of his book Nick Menza Megalife: Countdown To Resurrection', by J. Marshall Craig.
Most of us know Nick through his early work on Megadeth’s - Rust In Peace album, or perhaps due to knowing of his father, Don Menza, a jazz saxophone legend who played and composed with drummers like Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones and Louie Bellson. Regardless of how you knew him or didn’t know him, he was a great drummer, a great man, and will be sorely missed by his family, friends and the global drumming community.
SDM’s Andon Guenther visited Nick at his L.A home last year and ran a photo-shoot for what was to be an upcoming cover feature. Life happened and the feature never ran, but we wanted to share these never before seen photographs, and this interview conducted by our own Noel Smart.
In April of 2014 Nick was part of our Isolating The Throne feature, and sent us the original isolated drum tracks from Megadeth’s - Holy Wars. You can watch the video and read more information on the gear he used on that recording here, as well as learn about some of his favorite old-school raw drum sounds/albums.
Thanks for the music, and the memories Nick… and Rest In Power.
SDM: How do you prepare yourself before a show and recording?
Nick: I get lots of sleep, eat lots of carbs, ride my bike, go swimming etc.
SDM: What kind of practice routines do you perform when you practice by yourself?
Nick: I play everyday, so I don’t really have time to sit and just practice.
SDM: Did you ever take drum lessons?
Nick: Not really, I learned to play by listening and playing along to my favorite records.
SDM: Do you play any other instruments?
Nick: Yes. I play guitar, bass, keys and sing.
SDM: What kind of gear do you use?
Nick: I use DW 5ooo pedals, RegalTip 2B sticks, Soultone cymbals, Aquarian heads, Remo black suede and Evans e-mads heads.
SDM: How do you set the tension on your 5000’s?
Nick: I get bigger, heavier springs for maximum tension.
SDM: Tell us about the Soultone Handmade Turkish cymbals bearing the Nick Menza stamp of approval. Do you have your own line of cymbals through them?
Nick: Soultone are the best I’ve played, and yes, I’m coming out with my own line through Soultone.
SDM: What size are your snares, and how is the tension?
Nick: I use a 16” x 6.5” Mahogany 8-ply. And a 14” x 8” Brass-Hammered, and both are very tight.
SDM: What kind of kit did you use to record Rust in Peace, and how long did it take?
Nick: I used a Gretsch Rosewood set on that album. It took me 10 days to finish tracking drums on Rust.
SDM: Do you use triggers in the studio or live?
Nick: Only live.
SDM: What’s your opinion on triggers and drum modules?
Nick: A must have for live metal drums.
SDM: Who are some of your main drumming influences?
Nick: John Bonham, Neil Peart, Buddy Rich and Steve Gadd.
SDM: Do you listen to different styles of music outside of the metal realm?
Nick: Of course… I listen to everything.
SDM: Do you always record to a click track? Do you find playing to a click track challenging?
Nick: Not always. But it’s better to play with a click, and it’s very easy for me to play along to one.
SDM: What kind of double bass technique do you use?
Nick: I play on balls of my feet, heel up always.
SDM: How do you advise young drummers build up their endurance and speed?
Nick: Play hard and practice harder.
SDM: What’s your opinion on extreme metal bands out there that play at 300BPM?
Nick: It’s all drumming… For me it’s harder to play slow. Playing fast is easier. I feel it takes more discipline and accuracy to play slower and be solid.
SDM: What sort of gripping technique do you use?
Nick: I grip sticks like a club, so I can smash hard and hold on to them!
SDM: When you discovered a tumor on your knee and were forced to leave to undergo surgery, how did the surgery go?
Nick: They wanted to take a biopsy of it, but I said just take it all out. The surgery went great, no problems at all.
SDM: How did you feel about Megadeth hiring Jimmy DeGrasso temporarily, rather than cancel any dates and wait for you?
Nick: It was fine, they didn’t need to lose out on the gigs, but I was sad.
SDM: What was it like getting that phone call in the hospital from Mustaine saying your services were not going to be needed for the next record?
Nick: I was very hurt by it. I was fired literally 2 days after my surgery.
SDM: Do you still have the custom Megadeth drum rack you used on Rust In Peace?
Nick: No, but I’m in process of designing a new one as we speak. It’s gonna crush my old setup :)
SDM: What's your opinion on Drover and DeGrasso playing your material?
Nick: They are both good drummers, but not as good as me.. lol. When I watch Megadeth live in concert with another drummer, it’s like watching someone having sex with your ex, and that’s not how you used to do it. Lol
SDM: Did you need to get Dave Mustaine's blessing on your book, to avoid any potential future issues?
Nick: No. My book is about my Megalife, and Megadeth were a big part of my life. They were like my second family.
SDM: Tell us about playing 'Rock In Rio' circa 1991. What was the experience like?
Nick: It was very exciting! Great crowd, and had a great show. I will never forget it, as it may have been the best gig ever.
SDM: Tell us about the talks of a reissue of your solo effort "Life After Deth.” What musicians will you be working with?
Nick: Just myself playing all instruments and singing.
SDM: Is it true that Dave Mustaine gave you two chances to get back into Megadeth, but things happened beyond your control?
Nick: Yes, I was fired 2 times.
SDM: Is it hard to work for Dave Mustaine?
SDM: What have you learned from your time in Megadeth?
Nick: So much from every aspect of the music business.
SDM: If you had the chance to join Megadeth again would you go for it?
Nick: You never know what can happen.. I’m open to all things, and for the record I would have never quit Megadeth :)
SDM: Why are you only now making a comeback to the metal world of drumming?
Nick: I was in cryogenics for the past 15 years and just came out of deep freeze. It’s time to shred.
SDM: Do you still receive royalties for your work on Megadeth albums?
Nick: Yes of course, always.
SDM: Tell us about playing in the band Deltanaut. Anything new with this band?
Nick: Not lately, but I grew up with them and we are all best friends.
SDM: What was he experience like playing on Scenes (1992), Introduction (1994), and True Obsessions (1996) with Marty Friedman?
Nick: It was really cool.. Marty is my bud.
SDM: Tell us about playing on Rhoads 1986 Into the Future.
Nick: We were a very tight band, but the mix on that album sucked really bad.
Thanx so much for interview guys. I’ll be coming soon to a city near you.. Get ready to rock!
Nick, (AKA) “The Atomic Dissintagrator“