June 4, 2007 - JAMES LOMENZO "I HAD A FEEL FOR WHAT MEGADETH WAS ABOUT"
Before Megadeth, James Lomenzo, cut his teeth playing bass with ‘80s poodle haired rockers White Lion, just a gigolo frontman Diamond David Lee Roth’s band and the brutality that is Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society. I caught up with the talented bassist while he rested at home after the band’s recent tour with Heaven & Hell (in support of their brilliant new album, United Abominations).
Mitch Lafon: Let me start off by saying United Abominations is a killer album.
James Lomenzo: ‘Thank you. I’m floored by these kind of reactions. Since this is my first one with the band it really feels good to have accomplished something that we set out to do.”
ML: Let’s talk bass. You’ve played with White Lion and Black Label Society and this is your first with Megadeth. How do you approach a project like this in terms of preparation, bass lines, etc. or does Dave just say ‘play this’?
JL: “Here’s the thing - I’ve also played with David Lee Roth, Slash... so, I’ve played a lot of different types of music. I’m still a student of the instrument. When I came in the band I had to jump on the catalogue and I had to ‘get’ twenty of the classic songs Dave and the guys were doing in concert and not having been a big listener of Megadeth over the years it took a Herculean effort on my part to really learn those songs and put them to my fingers. As time marched on and having learned those twenty songs, I had a feel for what Megadeth was about, but having never been in the studio with Dave, obviously, I had some trepidation and I felt that I probably needed him to guide me. When I got there Dave didn’t really say that much. He was digging what I was doing and every once in a while he’d say ‘let’s follow the guitars in this part’.”
ML: Dave let you be free, but you stayed within Megadeth. You didn’t come in and say ‘I’m going to redefine the band’s bass sound’.
JL: ‘Not at all Mitch! My history has taught me that sometimes it’s better for the fans for it to sound (if you can’t have the real guys standing there) as close to your time honored familiar stuff that you’ve fallen in love with.”
ML: Did you feel you were making something special with this album?
JL: “Well, oddly enough – yeah! But not right away because a lot of the music was still being conceived as we were recording it. We had some good riff passages and patterns. My job was to do as creative a job with them and put a stamp on them within the spectrum of what would sound familiar to a Megadeth listener.”
ML: Now, you get to play ‘your’ Megadeth songs (your bass playing) – how does that feel?
JL: “Oddly enough, I’ve really come to adopt Dave Ellefson’s style through playing the classic Megadeth catalogue. Which is very different from when I joined the band. I do enjoy playing the parts I brought in, but in a strange way it’s all the same band.”
ML: Dave seems re-energized with the current line-up...
JL: “It’s really a question of enthusiasm. I’ve been in bands where after five years the social implications of living with other human beings cramps the music and the enthusiasm for the project. So, what you have here is the Dover brothers who are devout Megadeth fans and are stellar musicians and a guy like me who is experienced and a new fan of the band. So, for me, it’s still all very exciting and new musically.”
ML: Are you surprised by how well the album is doing on charts worldwide?
JL: “I’m delighted, but I’m not completely surprised because of what I’ve seen at the live shows. There’s been a lot of enthusiasm for this band. Dave is re-energized as you said and willing to give it 110% and that’s contagious for all of us.”
ML: Any thoughts about the Heaven & Hell tour?
JL: “It was a really great package and that’s why we couldn’t turn it down. We were planning on doing something else and being headliners. But this made a lot of sense to us. In Canada, we had Down opening the show and I think it gave it a kind of broad spectrum. Where it is now (Down) , where it was in the middle (Megadeth) and where it all came from (Heaven & Hell). There is a divergence in the music which is why it didn’t sound like the same old same old. Linearly, it made a lot of sense to the fans and it’s what brought a lot of people to the shows. In the US, we had Machine Head opening and it was equally as interesting. It brought in young kids and fans that had crossed over from Black Sabbath to Megadeth and the staunch old-timers (that’s the group I’d be in if I’d come to the show as a fan).”
ML: How was it sharing a stage with the great Geezer Butler?
JL: “One day, I was in the tunnel leading into one of the arenas and all of a sudden from behind me I hear ‘heyyyyy James’ so I turn around and it’s Geezer and I couldn’t stop from turning into Roger Rabbit (does the voice) ‘wow, he knows my name’. So, it’s very exciting. When I was a little kid I saw Larry Graham with Sly & The Family Stone on TV and that really attracted me to the instrument. I got a bass, but I never could play anything like that guy. Years later, I saw Geezer at the California Jam and I remember looking at him and his fingers and it occurred to me at that moment that’s how us white guys are supposed to do it. That’s great – that’s how we’re going to rock.’”
ML: Let’s talk White Lion. Any chance of a reunion?
JL: “Well, I called Mike Tramp and I had heard Vito had just got back into playing, but I guess there’s just so much weirdness going on between the two. I don’t know what it’s about. Then one day, I saw on the Internet that White Lion was going to be touring, but it’s just Mike. I don’t think that’s so bad, but the fans probably want to see Vito too.”
ML: Do you want to do one more whatever with White Lion? It didn’t finish well – do you want to finish it well?
JL: “From my perspective, I don’t know if finishing well is in the cards, but having said that – YES! I absolutely would. I pulled myself out of the running of doing something with that band because of Megadeth. This is my band now. If I were available, I would absolutely encourage the two of them to get together and figure out what the differences are, put them aside and get out there and do their thing.”
ML: I’ve noticed that you don’t run away from your past.
JL: “This is the classic case of walking a mile in my shoes. Perhaps, if I hadn’t played with Ozzy Osbourne or David Lee Roth or White Lion, Slash or all these other people or if I hadn’t had the chance to jam with Ritchie Blackmore... But I’ve always considered myself to be a multi-genre musician (mostly in rock and jazz) – had I not done all that I might have said it was all about the hair, but musically my soul has always been intact. I’m thrilled when people come up to me these days and tell me how much White Lion meant to them and I understand it. I appreciate the fact that people appreciated that music so much. The band had a pretty boy singer, a lot of hair and nice costumes, but so did a lot of bands back then. I think musically we did a lot of great things.”
ML: Is Megadeth where you want to stay to end your career or is this just another stop before the next band?
JL: “I tell you what – I have not played with so many adept musical souls and earnestly good people and I’m talking about Dave Mustaine as well as the Dover brothers that I couldn’t see myself playing with anybody else. I have no eyes in any direction but Megadeth.”
ML: So no solo album or jazz fusion projects on the side?
JL: “As long as Megadeth needs me – I’m 100%”
ML: What’s next for Megadeth?
JL: “We’re playing most of the summer festivals in Europe and a whole bunch of headlining theatre dates then we’re trying to figure out what we want to do in September/October. Now, that the record is moving forward we’re going to try to service that to the best of our abilities. We’ve also been thinking about making new music.”
JL: “Yeah, already. Can’t stop a train once it leaves the station.’
To hop onboard the Megadeth train visit: www.megadeth.com