DAVID ELLEFSON On MEGADETH’s Failed 2015 Reunion Of ‘Rust In Peace’ Lineup: ‘It Just Wasn’t Meant To Be’
MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson has reflected on the passing of the band’s onetime drummer Nick Menza.
Nick died in May 2016 after suffering a heart attack during a concert with Chris Poland and Robertino «Pag» Pagliari in their band OHM: at The Baked Potato in Studio City, California. The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said Menza passed away of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Regarding how he found out about Nick‘s death, Ellefson told «Waste Some Time With Jason Green» (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): «I remember we were in Albany, New York on the ‘Dystopia’ tour, and Dave [Mustaine, MEGADETH leader] called me in the middle of the night, in tears, just shaken up. He goes, ‘Oh my God. Nick‘s dead.’ I was, like, ‘What?’ It was the middle of the night. I was, like, ‘Huh? Who is this?’ And he said, he goes, ‘Man, my son Justis just told me,’ and I was, like, ‘Oh my God.’ So it was heart-wrenching.
«Look, despite it not working out musically, and kind of business-wise, with us there toward the end, there was definitely a brotherhood,» Ellefson said about his late bandmate. «And I think especially with Dave and Nick — those two guys, they were buddies in a way probably the others of us weren’t. Nick and I were kind of, like, health buddies — playing tennis and mountain bike riding, when I was sober and getting clean; he was big on that. But Dave and Nick had a very rock and roll, fun… They could hang. They had a cool friendship, I think.»
Ellefson also talked about the failed reunion of MEGADETH‘s «Rust In Peace» lineup more than six 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 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.»
«Nick and I were hanging about a year and a half before [his death],» Ellefson recalled. «That was when we reconnected. And he came down to Fallbrook, where Dave‘s house and the studio [was]. And we jammed. We tried to see if we could make a go of a ‘Rust In Peace’ reunion. And you could tell, as much as the ambition was there for it, it just didn’t connect. It was probably like hooking up with an old girlfriend. You remember the good times from years past, and, for some reason, the magic’s [gone]. It’s funny — I just heard the HALL & OATES song today, ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’. That’s kind of what it was. And it just wasn’t meant to be.»
Last year, former MEGADETH guitarist Marty Friedman admitted that money was a major motivator for him when he was approached about taking part in a reunion of the «Rust In Peace» lineup.
Friedman had met with Mustaine and Ellefson at the 2015 NAMM show in Anaheim, California to discuss the reunion, which would have seen him and Menza back in the mix.
Friedman, who moved from America to Japan in 2003, opened up about about his reasons for turning down the MEGADETH reunion in Mustaine‘s new book, «Rust In Peace: The Inside Story Of The Megadeth Masterpiece», which details the making of the iconic record «Rust In Peace».
«My main thing was I’d be happy to do it, but I’m not going to take less money than I’m already making to do it,» Marty said in part.
«I’d been in Japan for more than ten years cultivating a career with solid rewards. I was making money not only for myself but also for my management and staff. My manager has been with me fifteen years.
«Everything was sound and solid professionally, and when the offer came up to all of a sudden join MEGADETH again, as long as I would not be making less money, I was ready to go,» he said. «But I was certainly not going to take a loss to join a band that, frankly, at that point, didn’t seem like they had too much to offer musically. A couple of members of the band had recently quit, and musically I hadn’t heard anything that they’ve done in a long time. I didn’t know about how relevant they continued to be in the music business. It wasn’t like MEGADETH was on the tip of people’s tongues, at least not in Japan. I had reached the point where people stopped immediately connecting me to MEGADETH and were talking about the things that I had done in Japan.»
According to Friedman, part of the reason he turned down the MEGADETH reunion is the fact that the group is largely seen as Mustaine‘s solo project, with members coming and going every couple of albums.
«Had it been more of a band situation and not such a one-man, Dave Mustaine-main-man party, I might have considered doing it for a little less,» Marty said. «But, at the end of the day, MEGADETH is so much Mustaine because that’s the way he engineered it. I didn’t feel that kind of camaraderie, the four-man diamond, THE BEATLES, KISS, METALLICA. I felt like I would be going out there and tour and it was going to be Mustaine‘s big success. If I’m going to do that, I’m certainly not going to lose money to do that; I was doing great on my own in Japan.»
Mustaine told Loudwire that he was put off by Friedman‘s financial demands when the topic of a «Rust In Peace» reunion was broached.
«Marty has a really successful career in Japan where he makes quite a lot of money,» Dave said. «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.'»
In a 2016 interview with the «Eddie Trunk Podcast», Mustaine 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.»