Main Article: Dave Mustaine Megadeth is an American Thrash Metal band formed by Dave Mustaine in Summer '83 after Mustaine was fired from Metallica. Mustaine's dismissal was not the result of any musical deficiency but rather the consequence of irreconcilable personality conflicts between him and other band members; Mustaine formed Megadeth as the antipodean ideal, a band where personal differences could be put aside in the pursuit of music and where he would never be kicked out for punching anyone.
Over the past 25 years, Megadeth has endured as a major driving force in thrash metal. Mustaine's style and musical ideals were never compromised for money, popularity, or fan or peer pressure unless it suited him.
Fueled entirely by a staunch sober sense of duty to his beloved budding art form, Mustaine conceived Megadeth during a cross-country bus passage. He could show up Metallica, he thought, if he took care to surround himself with nothing but the best, most talented musicians. Once he arrived in LA, he quickly fashioned the band's first lineup, with Matt Kisselstein on bass and Lee Rausch on drums, out of the first guys he bumped into who owned instruments.
Soon after, Mustaine affrontedDavid Ellefson, the bassist who lived below him and practiced incessantly with little regard to how hung over Mustaine might be. Ellefson, a baby-faced starry eyed youth too young to buy his own alcohol, had big rock star dreams and talent to back it up. After Mustaine exposed Ellefson to thrash, Ellefson recognized his true calling, and abandoned his dreams for hair metal sluts in exchange for musical integrity. He also conveniently had a roommate, Greg Handevidt, who could play guitar. Kittelstein was out, Ellefson and Handevidt were in, and Mustaine, realizing his singing voice would scare away any potential listeners, brought in vocalist Lor Kain for the band's first performing lineup.
After a few performances, Kain, Rausch, Rausch's replacement Richard Girod, and Handevidt had all been kicked out, with reasons ranging from "acting like a front man" to "sucking" to "not having long enough hair". New drummer Dijon Carruthers, in unfounded fear of being kicked out for superficial reasons, lied to Mustaine about his heritage; he was later fired for lying and for implying Mustaine might possibly be racist.
At this point, Mustaine brought in a highly skilled JazzFusion drummer by the name of Gar Samuelson and a rhythm guitarist by the name of Kerry King. Mustaine took up the positions of lead guitar and vocalist himself, as no singer wanted to join the band, and there was no way he was going to let anyone else solo. King left the band shortly afterwards when it was found his presence on stage cause the audience to chant "Slayer Rules! Slayer Rules!" instead of "Kirk Hammett Sucks! Kirk Hammett Sucks!" as Dave had become accustomed to. Samuelson brought in his friend and former bandmate Chris Poland, and the band's first real lineup cemented.
Guitar 1984-1986, 1986-1987, 2004
Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? The System Has Failed
Chris Poland was born and raised a Jazz-Fusion guitarist in Dunkirk, New York, before moving to LA at age 20 with his high school band. For six years, he played legitimate music in the LA Fusion scene and supported himself by playing in girly pop bands. In 1984, he was brought in to Megadeth by his long-time drummer and friend, Gar Samuelson.
Poland had a unique, instantly recognizable shredding style, in part shaped by his fucked up left index finger reminiscent of a severed monkey paw. This dreadfully creepy finger is fixed stiffly crooked but compensates with a stomach-turning extended range of motion at the MCP joint. As a result, he has an expanded reach with the finger and can cover more frets than most, at the cost of being completely unable to play power chords.
In 1985, while Megadeth was on tour in support of Killing is my Business... And Business is Good!, Mustaine began to take issue with Poland's playing style. For one, Poland would often "improvise" solos on stage, a practice common in jazz but unacceptable in metal, where musicians are generally expected to know their parts instead of simply making things up as they go along. For two, Poland would regularly perform under the influence of heroin instead of waiting until after the show like the rest of the band. At this time, Mustaine also began to suspect Poland of selling band equipment for drug money, equipment that Mustaine had purchased with money that he would have otherwise been able to spend on drugs. Guitarist Mike Albert was brought in for the remainder of the tour.
Even though his departures were far from amicable, Poland was asked (and agreed) to rejoin Megadeth several more times. In 1990, he was recruited to play on some demo tracks for the album Rust in Peace. These demos were then provided as audition material for potential new guitarists, the final album versions played by Marty Friedman. In 2004, he rejoined Mustaine and the two studio musicians Jimmy Sloas (bass) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) for the Megadeth revival album The System has Failed. After the album was recorded, Poland discovered that he, too, was a studio musician.
Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?
Gar Samuelson, the band's enigmatic first recorded drummer, played with the band continuously from 1984 to 1987, and is present on the band's first two albums. The nickname "Gar" is both a reduction of the polysyllabic "Gary" and a reference to the noise made by large, cartoonish reptiles.
In the band's formative years, Samuelson took on the position of band guru, gently steering while Mustaine propelled the band forward. It was Samuelson who first convinced the band that the path to metal greatness laid in scathing political commentary and heroin.
Samuelson was fired from the band in 1987 for his capacity to convince Mustaine to rehire Poland; Mustaine viewed Samuelson as an enabler, and hoped that by removing the drummer, he'd have an easier time breaking his own destructive habit. Samuelson was also suspected of also selling band equipment for drug money. He was replaced by his tech, Chuck Behler.
Samuelson died in 1999 of liver failure, making him the only deceased former member of Megadeth. He is also, incidentally, the only former member of whom Mustaine speaks fondly and admits influenced the band's sound.
So Far, So Good... So What!
Chuck Behler was hired by Megadeth as a drum tech in 1986. He was promoted to drummer in 1988.
Any rumors that Behler was fired for being a "fat fuck" are unsubstantiated. Behler was fired for having all the same drug-related behavioral problems as Samuelson, with none of the skill.
So Far, So Good... So What!
Jeff Young was hired by Megadeth to transcribe and then teach Poland's parts to Poland's replacement, Jay Reynolds, in 1988. He was promoted to guitarist when Megadeth realized Reynolds could not play their music.
In fact, Young's entire career prior to joining Megadeth had been as a music teacher, and before that, a music student; when he joined the band, he was just three years out of college, where he had majored in musical education. Despite how well-versed he was in music theory and technique, he was not particularly practiced in applied music. He could play all the notes required of him, but there was little feeling, little art, little metal, in it. On top of that, Young did not do drugs and never tried to sell band equipment, making him somewhat a perplexity in the band, leading Mustaine to distrust him.
After Young was dismissed from the band in 1989, he returned to music academia. From time to time, he's resurfaced to perform at venues as diverse as Lilith Fair and Farm Aid. He's achieved some success as an acoustic world music performer, with many fans in parts of Europe.
Drums 1989-1998, 2004
Rust in Peace Countdown to Extinction Youthanasia Cryptic Writings
Nick "Nick, Nick, NICK!" Menza was hired by Megadeth as a drum tech in 1989. He was promoted to drummer later that year.
Born in Munich, Germany to American jazz saxophonist and trivia footnote Don Menza, Nick Menza was raised surrounded by music; in his childhood, Menza would often be left alone with drumming great and notoriously short-tempered bandleader Buddy Rich, an experience that left Menza uniquely equipped to deal with Mustaine. Menza began his professional drumming career at the age of two.
Menza was introduced to Megadeth fans with the Alice Cooper cover No More Mr. Nice Guy for the Wes Craven's Shocker soundtrack. Menza's first studio album with the band was 1990's Rust in Peace, and he was with the band for a total of four studio albums ending with 1997's Cryptic Writings. This is notable for being the first and only time Megadeth actually maintained the same lineup between albums.
This infallibly changed in 1998, when Menza began to notice a pain, and later, a lump in his knee. Concerned for his ability to double bass and for his life, Menza took a leave of absence from the band to have the tumor surgically removed. Post surgery, it was established that the tumor was benign and had no chance of recurring.
Menza was subsequently fired for lying about having cancer.
In 2004, Menza was invited to rejoin Megadeth (at the time, Mustaine, new guitarist Glen Drover, and touring bassist James MacDonough) on tour in support of the album The World Needs a Hero. Rehearsals for the tour lasted longer than Menza did.
Rust in Peace Countdown to Extinction Youthanasia Cryptic Writings Risk
Marty Friedman was hired by Megadeth after a long audition process in 1990. Originally rejected for "looking like a dorkyPaulStanley", Friedman was only accepted after submitting to a Mustaine makeover that took him from long hairspray-poofy hair, black spandex pants, and Mickey Mouse shirts to long naturally-poofy hair, black skinny jeans, and Beavis and Butt-Head shirts.
Friedman is often noted for his solo composition style. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Friedman, seemingly fearlessly, moves freely beyond the five tones of the minor pentatonic scale. Many observers believe this must be the end result of years of study in exotic scales, but Friedman says otherwise; he doesn't even know what a scale is. The issue here is actually one of combinatorics. With the 49 possible tones on a 24-fret six-string guitar in standard tuning, along with the possibility of silence or letting a note ring, there are only 49*51^199 possible solos of 200 notes or fewer (and that squared when counting harmonized solos). With Friedman's speed, accuracy, and eidetic memory, he was able to master all of these through an intense structured daily practice regimen started at the age of 14 and completed 17 years later in 1993. After this, it was simply a matter of recalling them and selecting the best one, by ear.
This also explains Friedman's increasing disinterest in the guitar solo as a musical construct, ultimately leading him to reject thrash metal. Friedman quit Megadeth in early January 2000 in order to pursue Japanese girls and other interests.
The World Needs a Hero
Friedman's sudden and unprecedented voluntary departure left Megadeth guitaristless in the middle of a worldwide tour. In order to forgo the mess of canceling and rescheduling shows, Mustaine decided to audition new guitarists on stage with two days prior notice in front of hundreds of thousands of onlookers, offering the audience a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the band. During the onstage audition, Al Pitrelli nailed his songs and at no point broke down in tears, securing him the coveted position.
Pitrelli was never explicitly fired from Megadeth, but was rather implicitly given the boot when the band broke up forever in 2002 and not invited back when it reformed two years later. Despite this, Mustaine has provided reasons why, hypothetically, Pitrelli would have been kicked out. For one, Pitrelli was a newlywed, and insisted on going home at night instead of napping on the studio couch between takes, which affected band productivity. Secondly, Pitrelli was an alcoholic, which reminded Mustaine of Metallica.
Risk The World Needs a Hero
Jimmy DeGrasso was hired by Mustaine as a side project drummer in 1996. In 1998, he was hired as Megadeth's touring drummer during Menza's cancer scare. He was promoted to actual drummer later that year.
Like Pitrelli and Ellefson, DeGrasso was dismissed from Megadeth in the 2002 breakup. Mustaine has never provided a reason why DeGrasso was never rehired, and he seems to bear neither ill-will for the drummer nor disregard for the drummer's skill. Some fans believe Mustaine kept him out for consistency. A competing theory attributes this to force of habit.
Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? So Far, So Good... So What! Rust in Peace Countdown to Extinction Youthanasia Cryptic Writings Risk The World Needs a Hero
David Ellefson joined Megadeth shortly after it formed in 1983, and played continuously with the band until its 2002 breakup, appearing on the band's first nine albums. For his early entry and long service to the band, Ellefson is regarded by most as a founding member and with the respect and allegiance that comes with the position, Mustaine withstanding.
Ellefson was born and raised in the small Midwestern town of Jackson, Minnesota. With formal training on keyboard instruments and saxophone as a kid, Ellefson was drawn to the bass guitar because of his easy-going, selfless nature. He is also an accomplished rhythm guitarist. At the age of 18, Ellefson left home for Hollywood, leaving friends and family to worry, as friends and family of 18-year-old Midwesterners leaving for Hollywood usually do, for his health and happiness, his future, and his innocence.
Everyone's fears were allayed when Ellefson hooked up with Mustaine. The two seemed perfectly matched, with Mustaine taking on a protective mentor role and Ellefson seemingly never at odds with the often inharmonious band leader. Mustaine, against all odds and expectations, treated Ellefson well. The Mustaine/Ellefson pairing was the poster duo of thrash metal, proving, it seemed, that long-lasting unbroken guitarist/bassist pairs were not only possible, but possible when the guitarist was Dave Mustaine. (This was also a particular point of pride for Mustaine, as not even Metallica, famous for its stable lineups, could hold on to a bassist for 19 years.)
The fairytale came to an abrupt end in 2002, when Mustaine announced the band was breaking up, to everyone's surprise, completely. Mustaine cited an arm injury and the diagnosis that he would never be able to play guitar or sing again as the reason for the breakup, but this left many, Ellefson included, unsatisfied. Ellefson alleged that Mustaine had made up the injury to get out of the band, with Mustaine countering that he'd never needed to fake an injury before just to fire someone. Ellefson also protested the small alimony he received from the split, claiming he had an equal share in the partnership. Mustaine countered that he had been the band breadwinner, and that Ellefson's share would be enough to keep him fed until he could find another band to support him. Ellefson sued for a higher settlement and joint custody over song rights, but Mustaine was able to afford a better lawyer.
About rejoining Megadeth, Ellefson has said "[Dave is nothing like the man he is portrayed as in the metal news media. He is far more controlling, far more of the dictator type, you know? Not to mention the drug use and the alcoholism. Did you know he had to go to rehab 17 times over 19 years? No one ever talks about that side of him. All they focus on is the charity work and the political activism. He used to hit me. You know the stories about how no one in the band was allowed out of the hotel rooms until the dark circles under their eyes have been cleared up with makeup? It was all about keeping up appearances with him. And yeah, it was never just under the eyes if you know what I mean. But I know he didn't mean it. I really believe he's changed. If he called me tomorrow and asked me to rejoin Megadeth,] Yes, I would."
Glen Drover was hired by Megadeth in 2004 to be Chris Poland's fourth replacement. He is notable for being Megadeth's first Canadian band member. There is absolutely no evidence suggesting that he was hired in an attempt to convince his brother Shawn Drover to join the band as, at the time, Nick Menza had just been rehired as the band's drummer in good faith. His brother was signed five days later.
In 2008, Drover left the band suddenly, claiming that he wished to "spend more time with [his] family," not, apparently, including his brother. A few hours after he announced his departure, Megadeth confirmed that he would be replaced by Chris Broderick, one of the best guitarists active in metal today. It is unclear how many guitarists were auditioned in the interim.
Megadeth is currently (for the last 5 years, 1 month, and 21 days) composed of Mustaine, Chris Broderick on lead guitar, James "J-Lo" LoMenzo on bass, and Shawn Drover on drums. In interviews, Mustaine has confirmed that these three are the best musicians he has ever worked with, nay, in the world, and that he loves them as family and hopes to work with them for a long time.
For those of you who know a sure thing, Uncylopedia has a pool going on how long this lineup will last.