Dave Mustaine says that he really wanted Nick Menza and Marty Friedman to return to MEGADETH more than five and a half years ago.
The opportunity for MEGADETH's most celebrated lineup to regroup arose following the departures of guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover in 2014.
Menza was approached by Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson to replace Drover at the end of that year, and he started working out new tracks with the band. But the plan collapsed after he was offered a contract he described as "very unfair." A year and a half later, in May 2016, Nick died after suffering a heart attack during a concert with OHM: at The Baked Potato in Studio City, California.
Mustaine spoke about Menza while promoting his new book, "Rust In Peace: The Inside Story Of The Megadeth Masterpiece", which details the making of the band's iconic record "Rust In Peace". In a video interview with Loudwire, Dave said (see below): "The chemistry of Nick and Marty, don't get me wrong — that was amazing. And my heart aches when I think about that. And, in fact, that's why I wrote at the back of the book 'In Loving Memory' and not 'In Memory Of'.
"Nick said some shitty things about me at the end, especially to you guys and to Blabbermouth, where he would just wail on me," Dave continued. "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 was really bummed about 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."
Mustaine added: "Marty has a really successful career in Japan where he makes quite a lot of money. And this is the part where I thought it was a little weird, where he said he said that he has to pay all his team while he's gone instead of just himself. 'Cause I thought we'll pay you what you're making so that's switching horses in the middle of the river — it's no big deal unless you fall off. And then when we found out that he wanted to sell his merch, his this, his that, his this, his that, then he wanted this crazy amount of money and he wanted to fly first class everywhere. I said to our management, 'I can't deal with this.'"
Back in 2015, Menza explained to the "The Sick Room" podcast why his return to MEGADETH failed to materialize. He said: "I went out there [to Dave Mustaine's studio] and jammed with [Mustaine and Ellefson]. We played for, like, a weekend — like, three days — and on the third day, we were working on new songs. And everything was cool. They were telling me, 'You're back in the band. We'll do a press release.' And I'm, like, 'I don't wanna say anything until I have an agreement, a contract in writing of what's gonna happen.' And then they send me this ridiculous proposal stating that, 'You're not gonna paid anything until the touring starts.' So, basically, I was gonna work for nothing, doing the record. Which I was still kind of ready to bend in that direction anyway. But I'm, like, 'You know what?! I'm not gonna break or sell myself short with something that's gonna be huge. They've gotta realize the longevity of it.' And then they were kind of coming back at me the same way. So the whole thing was silly. I didn't even get a chance to negotiate with them about anything. They just put it off and said, 'That's it.' And I couldn't get hold of anybody."
Mustaine previously spoke about his attempt to reunite MEGADETH's "Rust In Peace" lineup during a 2016 interview with the "Eddie Trunk Podcast". Reflecting on his December 2014 jam with Ellefson and Menza, Dave said: "We started playing, and we did 'Rattlehead'. And we didn't get through the first chorus, and the song got messed up, so we stopped. We started again, it got messed up, we stopped. We started again, it got messed up, we stopped. I put my guitar down and I walked out of the studio. 'Cause I didn't wanna say anything mean to Nick. And David Ellefson came up to me and he goes, 'Man, this is a lot worse than I thought it was.''
He continued: "I had talked to Chris Adler [then-LAMB OF GOD drummer] about him playing on the new MEGADETH record. 'Cause I said, even if we do a reunion tour with these guys [Menza and Friedman], when we make a new record, we wanted to have someone who was just a monster on drums; we wanted [Chris Adler] to play [on it]. And when we did the rehearsal thing [with Menza] that didn't pan out, it was, like, 'Man, I'm worried.' So we were at the [January 2015] NAMM show, and we [Mustaine, Ellefson, Friedman and Menza] met there. And the guy that was managing us at the time had said something at dinner. We all had a band dinner with this guy. And he said something that really pissed Marty off really bad. And it was so obvious that it wasn't meant to be. It's like trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic; the boat's going down [and] there's no sense doing it."
Mustaine added: "I think it's better off that the fans just hold on to that wonderful memory of the four of us playing together and the music that we made than trying to do something that, obviously, there's a lot of history and a lot of scars and a lot of tension and stuff like that. 'Cause if you remember how everything ended, Marty had a nervous breakdown and wanted to play more J-Pop. And when we were doing 'Risk', he said that we needed to go even more alternative than that record was. And I said, 'No.' We needed to go back to our roots. And Nick had injured his arm, so his playing ability had been challenged. Now, do I still love those guys? Of course I do. They are my friends and brothers from the band's alumni. Now, do we all get along? Well, you know, what day is it?"
Asked whether Nick's playing was simply not up to par during his rehearsal with Mustaine and Ellefson, Dave told the "Eddie Trunk Podcast": "Don't get me wrong. Nick is a good player, but 'Rattlehead' is straight-forward all the way through the song, and the beats would get mixed up [when we tried rehearsing it with him]. As well as, he had said that I make him nervous and that he wasn't feeling well and this and that and the other thing. And it just wasn't meant to me. I think that Nick has got the talent and the capability to play whatever he wants, and if he does form a band, it'll be great. But it just wasn't happening. Maybe it was just that day. But it wasn't happening."
Mustaine also confirmed that MEGADETH didn't hold any rehearsals with Friedman while attempting a reunion of the "Rust In Peace" lineup.
"Marty had sent some e-mails saying, 'Oh, man, you know, the fans have this self-inflated importance of 'Rust In Peace' beyond what it really is. And I was, like, 'Huh?'" Dave said. 'So I didn't know if that was a backhand to the face of the fans or not, but he had basically said that if we were gonna do anything, it had to be better than 'Rust In Peace'. And he sent me over some links to some songs that he thought should be the direction that we were going in, and one of it was this J-Pop band with some Japanese girl singing, and I was, like, 'Uh-uh. This ain't gonna work.' More power to [Marty for being into that stuff]. Do what you want, Marty. He's a great guitar player. But I'm not gonna sing like a Japanese girl."
Menza's official autobiography, "Megalife: The Autobiography Of Nick Menza" by J. Marshall Craig, was released in December 2018 via Post Hill Press.