Nick Menza, the one-time drummer of the heavy metal group Megadeth has died. He was 51 years old. The celebrated percussionist was performing a show last night with his band Ohm at a Los Angeles venue called Baked Potato when he suddenly collapsed on stage just three songs into the set. Despite the best efforts of paramedics, they were unable to revive Menza, and shortly thereafter he was pronounced dead. The cause of death has yet to be released.
Menza was born July 24, 1964 in Munich, West Germany. His professional career began around the time he turned 18. He began drumming alongside singer Kelle Rhoads, the brother of legendary Quiet Riot/Ozzy Osbourne guitar player Randy Rhoads, in a band named simply Rhoads. Shortly thereafter, he moved into the anonymous world of session playing and backed up some of the biggest names in the recording industry with little fanfare.
Fate intervened in 1989 when Dave Mustaine, lead singer and guitarist for the band Megadeth, fired the group’s drummer and brought Menza in to replace him. For almost the next decade, Menza provided the thundering backbeat for some of the heavy metal band’s biggest hit albums, most notably Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction. The drummer’s tenure in the group ended around 1998 when it was discovered that he had a tumor that needed to be removed. Rather than wait for his recovery to end, Mustaine and Megadeth carried on with a replacement.
In the wake of the news of his stunning passing, multiple tributes poured in from some of the biggest names in the business, shocked at the loss of such a titan of metal music.
TELL ME THIS ISN’T TRUE! I woke at 4 AM to hear Nick Menza passed away on 5/21 playing his drums w/Ohm at the Baked Potato. #nickmenzarip
— Dave Mustaine (@DaveMustaine) May 22, 2016
RIP Nick Menza. Thank you for sharing your gift of music with us. Peace to your family. pic.twitter.com/wpkIwWvkFd
— Ethan Luck (@ethanluck) May 22, 2016
Tragic news….Rust in Peace Nick Menza… You were taken too soon 🙁 https://t.co/vm42rAQ2Wm
— STEMM (@5TEMM) May 22, 2016
Jesus…..right as I was about to post pics of having fun at a festival yesterday I just hear that Nick Menza… https://t.co/e4WpN4XAaD
— Jason Bittner (@jbittnerdrums) May 22, 2016
Wow just heard that Nick Menza passed away. Wow I can’t believe it, way too young! Great guy too, hung out with him a lot. #RIPNickMenza
— Brian Slagel (@brianslagel) May 22, 2016
— Dave Lombardo (@TheDaveLombardo) May 22, 2016
Last year, Mustaine revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone that Megadeth almost reunited with Menza at one point in the early ’00s, but they just couldn’t make it happen. “I think there was so much bitterness because of the people that were managing us at the time,” Mustaine said. “If you poison the well you can’t expect there to be an area of clean water anywhere.”
Menza is survived by his parents and two sons.