Dave Mustaine has confirmed that Teemu Mäntysaari will continue to play guitar for MEGADETH for the foreseeable future.
The MEGADETH leader addressed the band's current lineup one day after longtime MEGADETH guitarist Kiko Loureiro announced his decision to "extend" his absence from the group's touring activities.
Earlier today (Monday, November 20), Mustaine released the following statement: "Hey Droogies, last week I received a call from my partner, Kiko Loureiro, and we spoke for a while. I asked him how things were going regarding the important issues that led to his absence from our previous run, which was necessary for him to be with his family.
"I want to update you now on what Kiko shared with me. But before I do, want you to know that I love, respect, and fully support Kiko's decision. He has emphasized his love for me, MEGADETH, and all of you, our fans.
"As a reminder, Kiko had to leave the tour last August to handle some very important and private family business. He was conflicted but appreciative when I told him that he needed to go to take care of his family. He agreed but was still concerned about us — meaning the fans, and MEGADETH. I told him at the time, 'Go! Kiko, you can never regain this time with your family, I know first hand... I paid the price myself'. Eventually, he agreed.
"Kiko is a top-notch professional, a maestro — and he did not want to hurt me or MEGADETH," Mustaine continued. "We came up with a solution to find a fill-in for him during that time and that's when he presented and trained Teemu Mäntysaari to take over for us. In the beginning, this was only going to be until the first week of October 2023. However, things rarely turn out the way they are planned.
"The 2023 tour is over, and it was long and arduous. Last year saw a substantial amount of touring, and it appears that 2024 is gearing up to be even more intense, with extensive touring commitments keeping us on the road for most of the year. We have had many conversations with Kiko about this and they have all been very positive. Kiko is going to remain on an extended leave of absence, due to our heavy touring commitments next year and we are going to continue to move forward with Teemu Mäntysaari as the guitar player for MEGADETH.
"I would like to thank Kiko for his dedication and hard work these past 9 years, helping us to achieve a Grammy on 'Dystopia' and the additional awards we have received on this latest record 'The Sick... The Dying...And The Dead'," Mustaine added. "I could not have done this without Kiko Loureiro.
"We hope to see all of you supporting Kiko in his next endeavors, and we want to see you next year out on the Killing Road. We have exciting plans to share with all of you in our next newsletter."
Kiko, who revealed in September that he would sit out the next leg of MEGADETH's "Crush The World" tour in order to stay home with his children back in Finland, announced his decision to step back from the band in a social media post on Sunday (November 19). He wrote: "Dear MEGADETH fans, I want to share with you a decision that hasn't been easy for me. In September, I had to step away from the U.S. leg of the tour for family reasons. Looking ahead, during 2024, we anticipate an even heavier touring schedule for MEGADETH. After thorough reflection and discussions with Dave Mustaine and MEGADETH's management, we have collectively agreed that it is the right move to extend my absence. I don't want to hinder any of the band's plans or the hard work of all the incredible people involved in the tour.
"My nine years with MEGADETH have been an unbelievable journey, filled with countless 'pinch-me' moments," he continued. "Unforgettable tours, a Grammy Award for 'Dystopia', a Grammy nomination, and various accolades for 'The Sick, The Dying, And The Dead' are just a few of the highlights. It is hard to put into words the magnitude of these experiences. I am sure any heavy metal fan can appreciate how incredible it is to play and create music in a band you grew up listening to, and to share the stage with a guitar legend like Dave Mustaine, along with phenomenal musicians like James LoMenzo and Dirk Verbeuren, not to mention our incredible crew. However, the most cherished aspect of these nine years has been getting to know the incredible army of devoted MEGADETH fans around the world. Your dedication is inspiring, and I have immense admiration and respect for all of you.
"Much love, see you soon!"
Last month, Mustaine told Ultimate Guitar about Kiko's absence from the band's recent tour: "I love [Kiko] and I want him to get whatever he's going through worked out. And fortunately, he had mentioned the name of a guy, Teemu Mäntysaari. Teemu came out, and he was prepared.
"I don't know when Kiko is coming back," Mustaine continued. "He won't be back for this run [of tour dates]. He's at home, and he's soldiering on — for lack of a better term — and working through whatever it is he needs to get through. Out of respect for him, I didn't pry and ask what exactly it was — because it's really none of my business unless he tells me. But I think for any of the fans that are going to say, 'How's it going to sound? What's it going to be like?' Don't worry. I've picked good guitar players in the past, and I train them well. Teemu is very capable of playing these songs. In fact, we're adding new songs to the set. That is really exciting, too."
Dave added: "I wish Kiko the very best. I love him, and I hope to get some good news from him soon."
In early October, Mustaine told Shaggy of the 94.9 and 104.5 The Pick radio station in Idaho Falls, Idaho about Teemu's addition to MEGADETH: "People are losing their minds over how things are going right now 'cause we have a really good chemistry together."
According to Mustaine, MEGADETH has been able to change up its setlist a bit as a result of the guitarist switch. "We've got a bunch of songs from our catalog that we're playing, a bunch of new songs too," he said. "We've been able to add a bunch of songs to the set because Teemu was a metal fan. Kiko did not grow up baptized in metal… Like the show we did a couple of nights ago, we opened with 'Hangar ' and then we followed it up with 'Mechanix'. We've never done that before, so it's a pretty heavy beginning. And we've added a second track off of the new album with 'Soldier On!', and we're getting ready to add a third."
In September, Mustaine was equally full of praise for Mäntysaari, telling Wes Styles in a separate interview: "He's really great. And I'm super excited with what Teemu has brought. And it's uncanny because he plays a lot like [former MEGADETH guitarist] Marty [Friedman]. And it's really exciting. At certain times I just close my eyes during the set and I just hear these songs played, whether like Kiko in the past or Teemu now, it just sounds really magic because these guys have learned these songs and they're not just going out there and just banging their guitar around; they actually learned the solos from some of the virtuosos that I've played with over my career."
MEGADETH played its first concert with Mäntysaari on September 6 at Revel in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The 36-year-old Mäntysaari was born in Tampere, Finland and began playing guitar at the age of 12. In 2004, he joined the band WINTERSUN. He has also been a member of SMACKBOUND since 2015.
Loureiro officially joined MEGADETH in April 2015, about five months after Chris Broderick's exit from the group.
Shortly after Loureiro's addition to MEGADETH, Mustaine called him "definitely the best guitarist we've ever had." His comments echoed those he made about Broderick during the latter's tenure in the band. Back in 2013, during the making of MEGADETH's "Super Collider" album, Mustaine wrote in a tweet that Chris was "without a doubt the best guitarist I've ever played with."
Mustaine told Revolver magazine that finding Loureiro "was really a mind-blower. It was the first time since Marty Friedman joined the band that I was really intimidated as a player," he said. "He's such an amazing talent, and he's been coming in with all of these fresh ideas." Mustaine added that Kiko was a good fit personality wise. "Chris [Broderick] and I had a good chemistry, but we weren't really as close as I would have wanted us to be," Mustaine explained. "Kiko, I feel like I've known him for years."
In 2009, Mustaine praised Broderick, saying in an online post: "I am going on record and I am saying unequivocally that Chris is THE BEST GUITARIST MEGADETH has ever had. And the real talented musicians in MEGADETH's alumni will agree, he is an absolute monster. I mean, he plays the catalog better than anyone did. Jeff Young never wanted to do Chris Poland's stuff, and so on, and so on, until the last guitarist we had before we disbanded over my arm injury."
Mustaine added: "It's funny, because just when I think [Broderick] can get no more outrageous, or any more thrilling with the guitar solos, he comes up with something really beautiful like Marty Friedman would do (he has Marty pretty well down pat),and then goes into the GIT styles that Jeff Young did, yet, there is still such a freshness to his playing and he is so raw, it's like having a new prize bull. And even though he ain't a such a young bull, he's definitely an old bull like me."
In addition to Mustaine and Mäntysaari, MEGADETH's current lineup includes former SOILWORK drummer Dirk Verbeuren and bassist James LoMenzo.