Chris Poland says that while he was “devastated” by the tragic passing of his OHM: bandmate and fellow former MEGADETH member Nick Menza, he now realizes that the way it happened “was meant to be.”
On May 21, 2016, Nick collapsed after suffering a heart attack during a concert with OHM: at The Baked Potato in Studio City, California and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said Menza died of natural causes. The cause of Menza‘s death was listed as hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Menza hooked up with OHM: in 2015 after the passing of the band’s previous drummer, David Eagle, who suffered a heart attack and had open-heart surgery in May of that year.
In a brand new interview with Machine Music, Poland looked back on Menza‘s final days talked about the circumstances surrounding the drummer’s passing.
The guitarist, best known for his work on MEGADETH‘s first two albums — “Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good!” (1985) and “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” (1986) — said: “So, my [previous OHM:] drummer passed away, David Eagle, and that was tragic. But we wanted to [continue] the band, and so I asked Nick [to play with us], and he said, ‘Yeah, man. I’ll do it!’ And so he learned all our songs, and after we played them, we said, ‘Fuck this other thing, this heavy thing. Let’s do this!’ And I was so happy. He showed us what we needed in this band that’s been playing for, God, who knows how long. When he came in, he brought life and just muscle into the band. Every time we played, we had so much momentum. Every time we played, we sold out. We were supposed to go out to Europe to play this big festival in Poland. It was in the cards. But we didn’t know what Nick knew [about his medical condition]. He didn’t tell anybody. He kept coming into rehearsal. About a month or so before he passed away, for a week he’d come into rehearsal and bitch about how doctors don’t know anything. He saw a doctor, and the doctor told him what he didn’t want to hear.”
Poland continued: “The night when we played the Baked Potato, he was fine. As a matter of fact, he started the set off [and] it was like a different drummer had arrived. I had never heard him play so hard and so intense. It was like someone had unleashed this other drummer. By the third song, sweat is pouring down my face to try and keep up with Nick. So he looks at me and says, ‘Dude, are you okay?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m okay! What the fuck crawled up your ass?’ And so he laughed, and he looked at Pag [Robertino Pagliari, OHM:‘s bass player], and they’re both laughing at me. And I’m totally losing it. I’m trying to drink water and all that. And so Pag looks at Nick, he turns around to the mic to talk to the audience, Nick adjusts his hi-hat, puts his hands on his legs with his sticks and slowly leans over into the monitor. And there he is, just leaning into the monitor. And I thought he was just fucking with me, because he could see I was all up there to try and keep up with him, and I looked over and I say, ‘You fucking asshole!’ because I thought he was joking. And I see his eyes are wide open. And so I yelled out, ‘Call an ambulance!’ And the rest is history. That was it.”
Chris went on to describe the whole experience as “horrible” but added that he realized “a month and a half, two months later” that “it was meant to be, and that [Nick] knew what was going to happen.” He explained: “[Nick] had kept going north [to Tacoma, Washington] to see his [two] sons [who live with their mother]. And we were angry, like, ‘Wow, is he not into the band?’ He made, like, three trips up there and he was gone, and we couldn’t rehearse. And while he was up there, he was speaking with his ex-wife and her [current] husband, and he went, ‘You know what? If I go…’ Someone’s death came up, and Nick‘s [ex-]wife’s husband goes, ‘When I go, I wanna go having sex,’ and Nick got all pissed off and said, ‘Dude, you do not want to traumatize my wife like that. Don’t even think like that.’ And then Nick looks at him and says, ‘When I go, I’m gonna go on my drums.'”
Poland continued: “A week before the Baked Potato show in which he passed, he was talking to these HBO people who were doing a documentary on us, at his house, making him breakfast. And they’re filming him and he keeps talking about all these questions he has for God, that he’s going to ask God as soon as he meets him. So, then when we did the Soultone benefit [for David Eagle], or a place where we could all grieve, one of [Nick‘s] friends said that he went to the doctor and that the doctor told Nick, ‘Yeah, you can’t exert yourself anymore.’ And so Nick was, like, ‘You know what? I can’t do that.’ Nick never told me this, but I know Nick. He’s a Type A personality, he’s a Type AAA personality — every minute of the day, he’s either making a drum, or making a home, or making a guitar, or recording music, or writing music, or working on his house, or riding his bike for miles up in the mountains and some shit.”
The guitarist added that while he was “devastated and hurt” by Menza‘s death, he eventually “put it all together and realized that, if it had to happen, everything happened the way it had to happen for him. Because, he couldn’t sit on a couch. He couldn’t lay in bed. And thank God they didn’t revive him, because if he had to live his life in a wheelchair, that would have been hell.”
Nick‘s long-awaited memoir, “Megalife: Nick Menza – The Book”, will finally be released in late 2017. The book, which was written with J. Marshall Craig, was delayed after being drastically reworked in the months following Nick‘s passing.
Menza‘s longtime manager Robert Bolger says the book will reveal how poorly Nick was being treated by MEGADETH leader Dave Mustaine and the brutal truth of why there was never a MEGADETH reunion with the band’s “Rust In Peace” lineup.
Menza was MEGADETH‘s drummer during the band’s most commercially successful period.
Pictured (from left to right): OHM:‘s Nick Menza, Robertino “Pag” Pagliari and Chris Poland watching their music video, “Rugnap” (produced by Soultone Cymbals), before their interview on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles / 98.7 FM Santa Barbara with Mark Torres in late 2015