PHOTO: Gabriel Olsen | Getty Images
Former Megadeth drummer Nick Menza died Saturday night while performing with his band OHM in Studio City, California. He was 51.
His management confirmed his death, on May 21, in a statement: “Nick collapsed during the third song into a set with his band OHM. Earliest reports indicate he suffered a massive heart attack and was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital.”
Menza had performed for nearly a decade in Megadeth’s classic lineup, which included founder Dave Mustaine, guitarist Marty Friedman and bassist David Ellefson.
“TELL ME THIS ISN’T TRUE!” Mustaine tweeted on Sunday. “I woke at 4 AM to hear Nick Menza passed away on 5/21 playing his drums w/Ohm at the Baked Potato.” He added in a follow-up tweet, “I am gutted.”
Friedman, who performed with Menza both in Megadeth and as a solo artist, wrote on Facebook, “We all know the great and unique drummer that Nick Menza was, but he 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.”
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Menza played drums on Megadeth’s classic 1990 album Rust in Peace and 1992’s Countdown to Extinction, as well as 1994’s Youthanasia and 1997’s Cryptic Writings. He left the band in 1998 while touring for Cryptic Writings due to knee problems caused by a benign tumor. He was replaced by Jimmy DeGrasso. Though Menza was drumming again when Megadeth recorded the follow-up, 1999’s Risk, he was not asked back.
The son of jazz musician Don Menza, the younger Menza was two years old when he was seated at the drum kit of Jack DeJohnette during an intermission and proceeded to play. He was later tutored by such notable drummers as Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Nick Ceroli, Jeff Porcaro and Louie Bellson.
He began playing professionally at the age of 18 in a band with Kelle Rhoads, brother of late guitarist Randy Rhoads.
Here’s a clip of Menza with Megadeth performing “Holy Wars” at the Hammersmith Apollo in 1992.