New MEGADETH Guitarist TEEMU MÄNTYSAARI: 'I Don't Feel Like There's Any Limit To My Creativity Here'

July 7, 2024

In a new interview with former THE HOURGLASS guitarist Rudi Messiah, new MEGADETH guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari spoke about what it has been like to perform material originally recorded by previous MEGADETH guitarists Chris Poland, Jeff Young, Marty Friedman, Chris Broderick and Kiko Loureiro. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I'm very relaxed about it. I mean, of course it feels great to be in a band that you've been a fan of and get to play the solos of these guys that you've looked up to for years. So, that just feels really great. And I don't feel like there's any limit to my creativity here. And we've been talking about coming up with riff ideas [for new MEGADETH music], and Dave [Mustaine, MEGADETH leader] has been very open about us, the band guys, offering ideas as well. And that's what we're gonna start doing very soon. And so far I've had my hands full learning the back catalog, which we're still doing. We're adding more songs as go along. So that has been a lot of fun."

He continued: "We're always working in the jam room backstage and putting more songs to the setlist that maybe the guys even haven't played in 10, 15 years. So it's kind of a learning experience for them as well, relearning some of the songs that they haven't played maybe ever or in a long time. So far we've been concentrating on that, and we've added quite a lot of songs from when I stepped in. So that has been a lot of fun and it has to be really inspiring as well and educational as well. So I get to kind of have a better picture of the back catalog, the different kinds of songs that they've done previously. Of course I've listened to the albums previously, but I haven't really like learned the songs in detail."

Teemu previously talked about playing material originally recorded by some of the former MEGADETH guitarists in a June 2024 interview with Finland's Chaoszine. At the time, he said:  "There's, of course, challenges in every guitarist's parts, different kinds of challenges. But the kind of good thing is that I've been a fan of the band and I've known the previous guitarists and their styles in some capacity already in the past. I've studied quite a bit of Marty Friedman's style and even Kiko's style before I stepped into the band. I have to say I didn't study that much Chris Poland, but I knew kind of what kind of style he plays, and then I was really curious to find out that he has some of these more bluesy and fusion-y things, which I also learned before. So it has been really interesting and enjoyable to have not only one style that you need to handle and play well, but kind of from all these different guitarists — Dave's [Mustaine, MEGADETH leader] rhythm playing, of course, and then all the solo guitarists, the lead guitarists who have been in the band. I try to pay respect to everybody, not necessarily try to imitate 100 percent each one of them… I do wanna respect the songs, and if I think of myself as a fan, if I go see a band that I like, I like to hear the solos as they are on the record, because that's how I know them. Of course, it depends on the style of music, but in this style of music, I think that's what fits and that's what I try to do. I try to play them as much original as I can with my own little nuances maybe."

Asked if there are some former MEGADETH guitarists whose parts are more difficult to learn and play, perhaps because they are more outside of his own style, Teemu said: "Yeah, I'd say probably Jeff Young and Chris Poland. Chris Poland has a quite special style with his special intonation, very special vibrato and the whammy-bar use. So that's probably more out of my comfort zone, but it has been also very nice to be able to then learn some of those things."

Teemu also talked about meeting Marty at last year's Wacken Open Air festival in Germany and being influenced by Friedman's playing. He said: "Like [Marty] mentioned also in the interview [he gave to Chaoszine earlier this year], we met briefly [at Wacken]. This was the first time that I actually met all the guys in MEGADETH, Wacken last year. And then he was there as well. And we got to chat just a little bit. And, of course, I got to see the guys jamming backstage and that was really cool. And seeing the show also, I was on the side of the stage and filming everything there and trying to take as much like study material as I can. But yeah, Marty's style is such a special style, exotic style. I think he has a lot of this jazzy approach, but not necessarily jazzy vocabulary… But, yeah, I've loved his style all the way from the CACOPHONY and then his solo albums and then, obviously, all the MEGADETH stuff. So I've been following him for a long time and, yeah, try to play some of his things every once in a while."

Mäntysaari stepped in last September for MEGADETH's longtime axeman Loureiro, who announced earlier that month 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. It was later revealed that the 37-year-old Finnish musician would continue to play guitar for MEGADETH for the foreseeable future, with Loureiro seemingly having no plans to return.

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.

In a recent interview with Sakis Fragos of Rock Hard Greece, Mustaine was asked if he thinks Mäntysaari, will contribute to the songwriting process on MEGADETH's next studio album. Mustaine responded: "Yes, I do. I think he's gonna be a great addition to MEGADETH. He already has. We're playing more songs now than we were playing before. And that has nothing negative to say about any of the previous lineups. It just says that he knew more about the band and understands the metal backbone of so many of these songs more than some of the other people would understand it."

He continued: "When you're a metal guy, I think you understand metal compositions more than somebody who, say for example, knows progressive rock like Chris Broderick does, or somebody who knows bossa nova, which Kiko does, or somebody that plays jazzy, like Glen Drover would play, maybe Al Pitrelli. These guys all have their strengths."

Mustaine added: "I've often thought, although I've never said it, I do believe that when somebody gets singled out by me, that's pretty much it for them. They've been indoctrinated into the world of great guitar players, and from that moment on, their life will change."

Asked if he saw any signs that Kiko would leave MEGADETH permanently or if it came as a surprise to him, Dave said: "Well, it wasn't really a surprise, because it started to become clear that his family was gonna need him. And I'm a dad too, so I saw it and I knew that his wife and babies all needed their daddy. And Kiko is a good husband, he's a good dad, and he needed to do what was right for him and for his family. And I applaud him for doing what he did. A lot of people would not have the guts to walk away from being a rock and roll star to take care of their kids. They would somehow sacrifice something, and it probably would not be their family."

Mustaine also once again seemingly ruled out the possibility of Friedman, who made a couple of guest appearances with the band last year, rejoining MEGADETH at some point in the future.

"We played together for a couple of tracks, which was fun, and it was a very natural feeling," Mustaine said. "But I know that Marty, when we got together in Japan and we talked, Marty's changed a lot; he's a different man. And it'd be really fun to play with him every once in a while, see what's going on. But the problem is a lot of fans will misunderstand us doing something with Marty and think that there's some hope of Marty joining MEGADETH again, and there's not, that there wouldn't be, because Marty is doing his own thing in Japan and I am 100 percent satisfied with Teemu right now, and I've already told the world that he's our new guitar player."

In May, Teemu told Italy's Poisoned Rock webzine about his addition to MEGADETH: "I definitely was aware of MEGADETH for a very long time. They were one of the first bands that I got into when I discovered metal. I think, for most people, at least my generation or our generation, when they get into metal, it's usually the biggest bands, and MEGADETH, of course, being one of them."

Regarding his first show with MEGADETH, which took place on September 6, 2023 at Revel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mäntysaari said: "That was a very nice venue. We had a day there before, before the show, for production rehearsals, to rehearse on stage, and then on the next day we had the show. So that was nice and relaxed. I think we played through the whole setlist once before the show, the day before, and then played the show. And yeah, it felt very good from the beginning. And I felt like I was prepared. I was confident with my skills and confident with everything. The guys were so helpful and welcoming and, yeah, everything felt to kind of click and fall in the right place. So, it was really nice."

Earlier this year, Teemu told Guitar World magazine about his addition to MEGADETH: "I never thought something like this would happen to me. But at the same time, I've always felt like being prepared was important in case a big band like this did call me.

"I have a specific skillset where I can learn fast, jump into new situations, and be comfortable," he added. "I've always liked doing that. I love teaching, and I've been on many cover projects, so being detail-oriented is part of my skillset."

Regarding his preparation for the way he approached playing the MEGADETH material, Teemu said: "[We'd] look at the small details of how they groove, the moods, and the technical side. We talked a lot about what Dave wants to project, picking directions, being very aware of down-picking, alternate picking, and, in many of the songs, being aware of both. We also talked about things like dampening, the flow of songs, creating contrast, hand positions, and trying to get things right fingering-wise, all of which I enjoy doing. There's a bit of detective work involved, and to get that information from the source in Dave was amazing."

This past February, Mustaine told Brazil's A Rádio Rock about how Teemu ended up landing the MEGADETH gig: "Kiko had recommended Teemu, and Teemu is an exceptional guitar player. Kiko was at the top of his game when this happened, so we were obviously disappointed, but it is what it is. If Kiko would have said, 'I don't know anybody, and you're on your own,' that would have been a lot harder. But Teemu is the right guy for MEGADETH. And Kiko knows that Teemu is the right guy for me. So, he actually did us a really big favor, and I love him and I wish him the best with everything that he does."

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."

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 Marty. 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."

Loureiro officially joined MEGADETH in April 2015, about five months after Broderick's exit from the group.

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