James LoMenzo Interview
James LoMenzo has been touring the world with some of the biggest names in metal since the early 80’s. Most recently he’s become the low end for one of the worlds biggest and most successful thrash metal bands – Megadeth.
Yamaha roundup caught up with James to talk about gear, gigs and what’s been dubbed “The best Megadeth album in years”.
Starting at the beginning - what got you into playing bass?
I originally started as a guitarist around age 11, love to sing and strum. Around age 12-13 this dude at a summer camp let me try out his bass and I thought it was just cooler. I was so tapped into bass parts, having grown up listening to Motown and the Beatles... melodically; it made more sense to me.
You joined Megadeth in 2006, just in time for the recording of United Abominations. This album has been called “the best Megadeth album in years” – what was it like joining a band with a history like Megadeth’s?
Honestly, when Dave asked me to join I wasn't completely sure if I was the right guy for the job but I loved the challenge that was ahead of us, going into that record. ...I thought it would be a more stifling situation but it really wasn't, it was very creative and Dave turned out to be a very generous musician to work with. It's gratifying that the album has been accepted so well, given the bands stunning legacy.
You’ve been touring with various bands since the early 80’s. What is your proudest musical moment?
They're all proud moments, from our first gold album in White Lion, performing at the Great Madison Square Garden, Jamming with Ritchie Blackmore in a small club in Long Island, the festivals at Donnington. I'm hard pressed to find the proudest moment. Musically, I'm very keen on some of the work with Zakk Wylde, Pride & Glory in particular, the latest Megadeth has some great moments for me as does The Hideous Sun Demons.
How did you start working with Yamaha?
Well I've always been a fan of Yamaha quality across the board, from their audio stuff, pianos (in one of my early bands I used to help our keyboard player put together and dismantle a CP 70 nightly), Drums and best of all, Motorcycles ... I've put thousands on miles on my old Seca Turbo and V-Max.
I really took notice of Yamaha's Bass guitars around 1989-90. White Lion were on tour in Europe with Mr. Big. Billy Sheehan had just started using what is now his Signature Attitude bass. Standing side stage, I couldn't believe the "size" and depth of his sound. I'd always catalogued that. Years later when playing with David Lee Roth on a dual tour with Sammy Hagar I had the privilege of seeing and hearing Michael Anthony play. Same thing, as soon as he plugged in his BB model it just opened up, big and wide. Years later I spoke with Mike Tempesta (Yamaha's artist rep here in the US) and he was very receptive to the idea of having Yamaha make me the bass with the sound that I was looking for. So, along with John Gaudesi (head designer in the custom shop) we came up with a plan based on the BB series.
Tell us more about your new BB bass – are there any unique aspects to it?
What I was looking to do was have an "every rock bass", something that would be as great playing motown as it would be playing Megadeth. The main elements are a maple neck, a smaller BB sized body made of alder and three Dimarzio pickups. The first two pickups are similar to the Billy Sheehan set up that is a Dimarzio humbucker right off the neck which is great for those Jack Bruce/Felix Pappalardi sounds. Then, a high output Dimarzio in the standard p-bass position. These are all wired together in series. I've added a reverse p-Bass style pickup by the bridge where Yamaha usually places their single coil pick up on their standard models. This mixed just behind the middle pickup gives the bass a richer harmonic attack and provides better right hand access on the lower strings. There's also a Hipshot D-tuner and a BadAss II bridge which are things that I've just gotten used to over the years. Depending on the mix of the 3 pickups you can really emulate a lot of classic bass tones. The bonus is that it plays so well, it's a hard instrument to put down. If I'm sitting around, I'm always jamming on it.
How does this bass fit in with the rest of your rig? – talk us through your stage setup…
Actually, It took me a bit of tweaking to tune my wireless packs and rig to my new Yamaha, it was just so much louder then the basses I'd been using. I had to back down the input gain on everything to make sure I wasn't crushing the front end of my pre-amps.
As for the rig itself, I use Electrovoice REV wireless systems into my Ashdown rig consisting of an:
- ABM RPM-1 Pre-amp
- 2-ABM ABM 1000 Power Amplifier (1000 watts each).
- 2-custom ABM Cabs with neodymium speakers (top 4x10 in sealed enclosure/bottom 1x15 tuned)
For effects I use my Signature "LoMenzo Hyperdrive" made by Ashdown. This is a unit I designed myself. I generally set this at high attack frequency with a little gain to accentuate my picking attack.
During the recording of United Abominations – did you use any special techniques to get your bass sound?
Both producers, Jeff Balding and Andy Sneap were really keen on using a bass rig which is something I prefer. I find It's really the only way to stamp a "sonic signature" onto a recording, Chris Squire anyone?
So, for United Abominations I set up the best live tone I could from my rig. We had plenty of room in SARM studios in England where we recorded the first 2 thirds of the album. We took advantage of one of the drum booths that weren't being used, locked the speakers in and crank the amp up to performance level. When Andy Sneap took over towards the end we went about it in a slightly different way. Due to the configuration of the studio we were using here in San Diego, there was no space to set up my rig till the drums were finished, so Andy put a direct into Protools with a suitable amp emulation plug-in for me to vibe with. When we had all the drum takes, Andy Re-amp'd the direct through my rig and mic'd it with an E.V. RE-27 on the 10's and a ND/868 on the 15's (I use this live as well).
Through out the recording, I put the usual effects in line and just adjusted them to suit the each song ...didn't change the amp tone very much.
What would you say your number 1 tip would be for budding bass players?
#1 (next to listening to as much music as possible) would be to play with live people as often as you can. Everyone has something different to offer musically, getting good at adapting to their styles is a great shortcut to developing your own.
Other than your current band, if you could play in any line-up, of any band, playing any gig in history – what would it be?
Sly, Jimi or The Who at Woodstock... it really wouldn't matter which, I would have loved to gig in any one of those bands at that event.
For more Megadeth info, visit http://www.megadeth.com.
This page has been updated as part of the Dolphin Music Dedicated to Bass Week. Check out what else we've been talking about here
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During more than 30 years experience playing and recording with iconic rock musicians including Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, David Lee Roth, Ozzy Osbourne, Slash’s Snake Pit, White Lion and now Megadeth, James envisioned a bass drive effect that operates entirely unlike any other distortion unit currently available. Now Ashdown has made that vision a reality.