Interview with Former Megadeth Drummer Nick Menza
Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
I met Nick Menza once, back in 1997 in St. Louis, MO. after he played a show with Megadeth on the ‘Cryptic Writings’ tour. It’s crazy that after almost 20 years I ended up sitting right across from him for a day at the Rock n’ Roll Autograph Show. I was at my Metal Babe Mayhem merch booth and saw Dave Ellefson and Nick Menza reunite for the first time. They hugged, and talked a while, and it all seemed really genuine. When I had a chance, I sat down with Nick and had a great conversation about his brand new band/comic book/cartoon Atomic Disintegrator, his book MegaLife, his cymbal designs, and music and life in general.
METAL BABE MAYHEM: I just overheard you talking about a cartoon you have in the works. Tell me about that.
NICK MENZA: It’s called the Atomic Disintegrator. It’s like a part man, part android, part cyborg, superhero dude who tries to save the planet, and things that are going on in the planet. I wanna have a whole series that I get on Adult Swim Cartoon Network. I’d like to have a comic book with it, and a band behind it so I can write a song for each episode. Right now I’m doing all the music myself. So it’s just me. But I’m gonna try and get a band of guys together so I can go out and play live with them.
MBM: Do you have your pilot completed at this time?
NICK: No, just the idea is being put out there right now. A couple guys are looking at it. I’ve got some good connections to get onto Adult Swim. I’ve got a lot of material. A ton of material… I’ve got about twenty to thirty songs right now that are roughed out.
MBM: Are these all songs that you will use in the cartoon?
NICK: That I can use, yeah. I haven’t put the voice on there yet because I don’t know what kind of voice it’s gonna be. If it’s gonna be a computerized kind of sounding voice… It’s gonna be more about the message and the words, than the voice. It’s not gonna be about the singing. (Sings note).
MBM: What’s the message, or does it vary with each show?
NICK: It’s gonna be positive. Each message is gonna be good because there’s so much negative bullsh*t in the world. I wanna get something out there that’s exciting and high energy. My first episode that I wanna have is to save the island of Japan from its nuclear meltdown. The Atomic Disintegrator is gonna come in and absorb all the radioactivity that’s there, and then suck it into his giant cauldron container and shoot it up into space.
MBM: That’s so cool. Are you, in some way, the superhero?
NICK: I could be… If I had those kinds of powers. The first place I would go use them is Japan, because I feel really bad for the people there. Japan is being destroyed, and the ocean’s being destroyed. The planet’s gonna be affected by that, really heavily. People have no idea what’s going on there right now, and how bad it is. I don’t eat fish anymore for that reason. It’s already come to where it’s on the West Coast . It’s in the air. It’s in the atmosphere. It’s definitely gonna ruin Japan. There’s nothing they can do about it. I don’t know why we mess with things on the planet that we don’t know much about and there’s no solution for. The Japanese are such proud people that they don’t wanna ask for help from anyone. Chernobyl was bad. This is really bad. If you go online and you look up Fukushima and look up some of the things they’re saying about it, it’s not very pretty, to say the least.
MBM: What is your personal attachment to Japan?
NICK: I like Japan. I mean, it could be anywhere in the world that this could be happening. It has happened. It happened in Russia. It happened in America a couple times, but not to this level. They have four reactors there. Two of them have already sunk into the ground, under the ground and they can’t do anything about it. They’re trying to save the last two, so it’s pretty crazy. That sh*t’s gonna come all through the ocean into the West Coast, and it’s gonna rain down on us. I’m not like a political activist or anything like that, but I just see that in the news and it blows me away.
MBM: You’re finding a creative, fun, musical outlet to spread awareness and give people a positive message.
NICK: The Atomic Disintegrator will come and save the day!
MBM: That’s very cool. Tell me about Megalife. Where are you at in the process of your first book?
NICK: I’m in the process of having a publishing deal. It’s something that I’ve been turning away from for the past 13 years. Megadeth this, Megadeth that… I don’t want to be the “drummer of Megadeth” anymore. I would still be in the band. I would have never quit. I was fired, obviously. Dave was kinda like doing a whole thing, like there will never be a reunion and all this sh*t. I’m not saying there could never be a reunion. I put the ball in his court. There is a chapter in the book about Megadeth, of course. There’s a lot of government conspiracy, alien cover-ups… A lot of sarcasm. The book’s about me. It’s about my life. My Megalife.
MBM: What is your ultimate goal as far as getting the book out?
NICK: I’m trying to get it out for Christmas. No real goal… Just something that my buddy J. Marshall Craig, asked me about. He said ‘Dude, let’s write a book.’ I go, about what? About a bunch of lies, drugs, and sex on the road? And he goes, ‘no, no, no. Your life, your story… People wanna hear your end of the story.’ I was like, that’s boring dude, how boring for them.
MBM: I don’t think so at all. I’m interested… I heard about it on Blabbermouth, and there’s excitement building already for it.
NICK: It’s all truth’s and it’s all my life. Like I said, there is a chapter in there about Megadeth. About my time with them. It starts out at the age of two when I got put on somebody’s drum set at the Montreux Jazz Festival and I played my first drum solo.
MBM: Wow! Did you really?
NICK: Yeah, I didn’t even know I wanted to be a drummer at the age of two. I have no recollection of that at all. But there is a photograph in the book of me playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1966.
MBM: That’s amazing. I look forward to seeing that. Tell me about your signature line of cymbals.
NICK: Soultone Cymbals is my endorsing company, and they’re putting out my line through their company. I engraved on them with adremeland different tools. I made these all by hand. I can do any design on them. (Shows me cymbals) Skulls, logos, flames, different star patterns, the Medusa symbol, the serpent series… You can put anything on a cymbal. I’m surprised that nobody’s come out with any designs on cymbals before.
MBM: I’m surprised too. These are really cool. What else have you been working on musically?
NICK: I do all kinds of stuff. I do a lot of production, engineering… I play guitar, bass, keyboards, sing… I pretty much do everything. Drums, obviously, are my main instrument. The music business is so weird now, it’s really hard to like, say ‘Oh, I’m a musician and I make a living at being a musician.’ I always say that any job you can get in the music business and get paid for is golden. So I do a lot of music that I hate, for money, because I need to feed my kids. I have a 13 year old, and a seven-year old boy. And they’re Black Ops leaders. I need to feed them, put clothes on them, and keep them healthy. So I do all kinds of stuff from gospel to hip-hop to metal to jazz, to whatever music I can do. It doesn’t matter. Any job… I’ll take it. I don’t care. I’m not like ‘Mr. Integrity’ like, ‘I only play metal.’ That’s all I do. So I like doing any music, really. If it’s good, I’ll take the job on.
MBM: Do you have a CD in the works?
NICK: Yeah, the Atomic Disinigrator CD’s gonna come out.
MBM: So you’re going to put the CD out with the cartoon.
NICK: Yes. I had the band idea first. I realized no one’s selling records anymore so I figured, you know what, why not have something else tied to it. Like a comic book, cartoon, or pilot movie. And try and market it that way. Nobody is really selling records anymore, you know, not like it used to be.
MBM: Yeah, with the downloads.
NICK: Yeah. Not like it used to be. So there’s got to be another way to strategize how you‘re gonna put yourself out there. I keep saying, it’s all about self-promoting. What do you have to offer that people want to look at? I do art, I do paintings, I do cymbals. I do anything, you know. If I don’t know how to do it I’ll say I know how to do it and I’ll figure out a way to do it. They go, ‘What instruments do you play?’ I play all instruments. They go ‘Everything?’ I go, yeah, I play everything. And they go, ‘You play the cello?’ And I go, no, but I’ll play it on the guitar and I’ll midi it and I’ll get the sound as if the cello in there. I’ll do whatever. Whatever I can do.
MBM: Awesome. Any final words?
NICK: I just wanna say thanks for all the support, and for sticking by me all this time, because I kept trying to hide and get away. Close the door. And it’s like, here I am again. I’m gonna go out and do some drum clinics. It’s kind of like I’m giving it back to all the drummers out there and the people that care. I say this really corny saying: ‘everything happens for a reason.’ I truly believe that it does. For a long time I was like, that’s bullsh*t. It only happens if you make it happen. But, everything happens the way it is supposed to. For all those who care… Thank you for sticking by me, and stay tuned.
MBM: Thank you so much Nick. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.
For more information on Atomic Disintegrator and Nick Menza, please see the links below.