By Bob Zerull
It was my honor to sit down with current Megadeth bassist James LoMenzo. James has played with some of the best musicians in the world including, Slash, Zakk Wylde, Vito Bratta and obviously Dave Mustaine. The interview only lasted twelve minutes, but I got a lot of good stuff so we’ll have to present the interview in two sections. So enjoy part one.
James - All right baby how we doing, how’s Illinois going?
Zoiks! - It’s cold.
J - Well, sorry man. Ok, let’s chat man, baby I’m calling to talk to you. What do we got?
Z - First off I just wanted to say I really like the new album (“Endgame”) a ton, it’s really great.
J - Thank you man, you know we’re really happy with it. It’s just one of those things where we kind of dove in a while back in the middle of being on the Judas Priest tour. We thought about how we were going to capture this thing; then it just became apparent that we’d try to make a good old fashion thrash record. You know, the best we can in our age group.
Z - Did you know you were making something special, while you were making it?
J - Nah, you never know man. You know what you do; you kind of work things out and see how it comes together. Most people that paint pictures or do any kind of art will tell you it’s usually that way, you just keep working away at it. You have to step back for a minute, but then you get back on it. Same kind of thing.
Z - How did you end up in Megadeth?
J - I was in a lot of other bands prior to this so I’d been around the block a few times. A friend of mine over at ESP guitar company (told me that), Dave (Mustaine) was looking for another bass player at the time, he (Dave) said hey if you know anybody. Without hesitation my friend said yeah I know the perfect guy for you and he’s not doing anything right now. So I called up Dave and he listened to a bunch of my music. I got together with the guys and played some of the songs with them. And Dave said ok man you think you can be ready to do a gig in four weeks and go to Dubai? And I said yes. (Laughs) I was kind of shocked at how complicated the music was.
Z - Did you know Dave before hand?
J - You know what, I’d never met Dave. Back in the day when Megadeth was coming up I was in a band called White Lion, so we were real busy selling records and doing all kinds of stuff. So I was well aware of the band and I loved them but it was mostly on a hit basis, what I heard on the radio. My familiarity was based on the fact that it was mostly the band’s hit songs, you know the things that I’d see on MTV, stuff that I was aware of on the radio. And then stuff that I’d hear at the rock club that I used to go to in Brooklyn, a lot of the songs I actually knew better just by hanging out at that club and hearing them come through the PA.
Z - Cool, so what’s your favorite song on the new album?
J - On this new one? I’m actually really into “44 minutes” right now. That one has got me psyched. We just started playing it live and it’s kind of like a little departure from the set which is really nice, it’s a little corner piece.
Z - Awesome, how many songs off “Endgame” are making it into the set?
J - We throw another one on almost every week now. We’re about three up now. Which is pretty good because we started “The United Abomination Tour” and I think it took us a little longer to get them up to size. So we’re doing “44 Minutes,” doing “Head Crusher,” and we’re doing “1320.” And we’re looking at two other ones as we speak. But our time is restricted so it’s kind of fun we get to switch them out. We’re also trying to go back to the old catalogue and play some stuff that even I haven’t played since I’ve been in the band. So we’ve got a lot of stuff going on. But we’ve got a lot of touring coming up so we’ve got plenty of time to shift the songs in and out.
Z - Cool, it seems like three of the big four original thrash metal bands are at their best right now. Slayer’s new album (“World Painted Blood”) is getting rave reviews, obviously “Endgame” is amazing and last year Metallica had theirs (“Death Magnetic”). Do you think it’s a coincidence or were you trying to one up each other?
J - I think it’s a natural progression. I think what happens is that bands mature, you blow off a lot of the teenage anxiety and testosterone that we carry so it’s a little easier to craft what we do. All these bands have their own vocabulary if you know what I mean. They already have a sound that they know they already do, so they can refer to that as another part of the language of the band. I think that makes it easier, it really does. Some bands on the other hand, find themselves getting a little lost with all of that, because they’re always trying to do something new. There are ways to incorporate that sort of vibe but remain true to the band’s essence. I think that’s what a lot of these bands do, because heavy metal is such a delineated style; such a fascist style if you will.
Z - Yeah, I know the rumor has been pretty much dismissed, but do you think a big four tour will ever happen?
J - You know what, that’s always in the works. Depending on which week you get me, (laughs) if it’s a good week it sounds like it’s going to be great and then another week I’ll say it’ll never happen in a million years. I’d be interested just like the rest of the world to see us all get up on the stage together.
Z - After this leg you guys are heading out on the “American Carnage Tour” with Slayer. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
J - We’ve already been through “Canadian Carnage” with Slayer. We certainly had some great shows. It’s amazing how well these bands balance against each other. Classic Megadeth. Classic Slayer. New music from both bands. The fan base really kind of cross the board perfectly. I think that what Slayer does and what Megadeth does, although it’s the same general style, it’s much delineated. It’s actually very different from one to the next. So I think it makes for a really rich show for the fans.
Z - You’ve played with some of the most talented people, not to mention some of the biggest personalities in the rock world. What is it like playing with some of those icons like Slash, Zakk Wylde or Dave Mustaine?
J - You know what? The thing is that with me it’s been through happenstance. Fortunately back in the 80’s I made it really big with White Lion. So I know what it’s like to get that feeling to play big stages. We used to play with a lot of iconic musicians and hang with them. When it started kind of stretching out after that, playing with people like Dave and Slash, these great guitar players, Zakk you know it’s a second thought to me because I see them as musicians first. You know I kind of lose myself in that. A lot of people on the outside are like, “That’s Dave Mustaine!!! That’s Slash!!!” I’m aware of everybody’s history. I take them as musicians, which I think is the only way to really handle it.
Z - Do you still keep in touch with some of your old band mates?
J - From time to time. I’ll run into Slash every now and again when we’re in town. He’s always more than affable; he’s one of those guys. Zakk I lost touch with for awhile, I know he’s doing a little better now, I’m glad to hear about that (referring to Zakk’s blood clot condition that caused him to have to drop off of the “Pedal to the Medal Tour” with Mudvayne). David Lee Roth said hey just the other day on the phone. I talked to Mike Tramp (White Lion) not too long ago. So it’s kind of fun. It’s starting to get kind of like that old stately gentlemen’s club. We’ll meet in some corner of the world (doing an impression of two rock stars catching up), you all right? Yeah, I’m all right. You all right? Yeah still rocking, you still rocking? All right man we’ll check in later.
Well, that’s all for part one, stay tuned for part two where James and I talk about the early days of his career with White Lion and how Jimi Hendrix was actually the one who inspired him to play bass.
Bob Zerull is a frequent movie and concert goer who talks about his ventures to arenas and theaters more than any person should be allowed to do. Now, he puts them down on paper. Visit: www.cadaverchristmas.com. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Bob Zerull