New MEGADETH Guitarist TEEMU MÄNTYSAARI: ‘I Never Thought Something Like This Would Happen To Me’

In a new interview with Guitar World magazine, guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari spoke about his addition to MEGADETH. The 37-year-old Finnish musician stepped in last September for MEGADETH‘s longtime axeman Kiko 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 Mäntysaari would continue to play guitar for MEGADETH for the foreseeable future, with Loureiro seemingly having no plans to return.

“I never thought something like this would happen to me,” Mäntysaari told the magazine. “But at the same time, I’ve always felt like being prepared was important in case a big band like this did call me.”

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.

“I have a specific skillset where I can learn fast, jump into new situations, and be comfortable,” Mäntysaari told Guitar World. “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 [Mustaine, MEGADETH leader] 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.”

Earlier this month, 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.”

Mustaine went on to say that “Teemu is gonna make a lot of people happy” on MEGADETH‘s upcoming South American tour “because we’re gonna be playing some songs that we haven’t played for a long time. When he came in, I figured instead of just saying, ‘Well, you’ve gotta learn these 30 songs here,’ I asked him to learn a couple more. I mean, what’s the difference when you’re learning 30 songs? What’s 33, right? Well, if he learned three and I said he’s gotta learn 30, that’s different. But I asked him to do some other songs that Dirk [Verbeuren, MEGADETH drummer] and James [Lomenzo, MEGADETH bassist] have been asking me to play for a very long time, and we’re adding them now, which is great.”

Kiko announced his decision to step back from MEGADETH in a social media post in November. He wrote in part: “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.”

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 [18]’ 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, 2023 at Revel in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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


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