5/15/07: Here’s the back story for this interview. Deege called me a month ago and told me that he was getting questions together for a follow-up interview with James LoMenzo. I thought it was a great idea because as cool as they are to read, typing them out is a pretty time consuming affair. This time we’re clocking in at almost 4000 words. I typed out the last LoMenzo interview and with the amount of typing I knew it would take…better Deege than me! I was really looking forward to reading about it, not typing it so I said “You want to interview LoMenzo? Absolutely perfect…go for it!”

The day the Heaven & Hell tour rolled through Philadelphia, Deege called up and dropped the bombshell. Cleveland was the next night on the tour and he didn’t have a recorder lined up. That’s the monkey wrench of doom when doing interviews! We decided that I should do it and with no preparation I showed up with my minidisc recorder in hand and winged it! But being the true professional he is, James took it all in stride and made it look easy.

Before anyone asks why we’re supporting another band on the site, I’ll say this - We’re all Black Label Family here at SDMFworldwide. James is a Brother and he’s one of the best in the business. He's been in two of Zakk's bands, both Pride & Glory and BLS, plus he played on Book Of Shadows. Besides, truth be told, Deege and I are huge Megadeth fans. I was a Megadeth fan before I knew anything about Ozzy Osbourne! (I didn’t catch that train until 1989 and I heard ‘Crazy Babies.’) Mike Jeter let me borrow three cassettes the summer before I started the 6th grade. ‘Among the Living’ and ‘Spreading the Disease’ by New York thrashers Anthrax and Megadeth’s ‘Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying’. My life changed that summer. So now 20 years later, when I get to see my favorite Beatle center stage under the spotlight ripping through the intro of Peace Sells…I just can’t help but smile. James LoMenzo is incredibly talented and genuine and I am more than honored to call him a friend. He absolutely rocks in every sense of the word. Enjoy the interview!



WW: James, it’s always a pleasure to sit down with you.

James: It’s always a pleasure to be here with Fred Kowalo over my shoulder.

WW: (Laughs)

James: Is that too confrontational?

WW: Nooo…Hey Freddie, what’s going on?

FRED K: Hey Shawn.


WW: So you’re in town with Megadeth. Let’s start with some background on how you got the gig and how it came to be.

James: Okay. A buddy of mine who worked over at the guitar company ESP recommended me to Dave. I called him up, after we had been hanging out having lunches and such and he said “Are you looking for another gig?” and I said “Yeah, sure.” Alan Steelgrave’s his name. He said there’s this band that I think you’d be great for, they’re one of the pioneers of Heavy Metal” I said “Oh, Megadeth.” He said “No, I can’t tell you who it is.” I said “OK, what do you need?”
“Let me get a CD of some of your music and I’ll pass it on.”
“To Megadeth, right?”
“No, I can’t tell you.”
“Alright, I’ll get you a CD put together for Megadeth.”

So I got it put together and he sent it off to Dave. I guess Dave liked what he heard and we got together and had a little pow-wow and it just moved from there.

WW: So did it start with a jam session? Did you go into a room and play or was it a meeting of the minds over a couple cocktails?

James: It was actually one of the strangest auditions of my life. I was asked to meet Dave and the Brothers Drover in their Manager’s office and to bring an amplifier and a guitar. I didn’t have too many small amps at the time so I packed up my car and moved with my dolly into their office off Sunset Plaza and set up. Dave showed up not too long after I got there and then the Drover Brothers showed up. I assumed that Dave would have a guitar or they would have instruments or something like that, but no. It was just an office! So I’m sitting there and the secretary is there and we ran through some of the songs that I had boned up on - some of the more popular Megadeth tunes. I played a few things and Dave was like “Yeah, I get that…that’s Symphony of Destruction. Could you play me some stuff like you did on the CD I heard?” I remember saying that most of that was on a six string bass so instead of having the extra strings, I used extra volume. I cranked up the amp and played a little bit and he thought it was good! He went on to say “I’m looking for somebody to join Megadeth who’s been doing this for a while. Someone who can get in there and handle themselves relatively well and I know you have experience. So why don’t we give it a try?” And so with about three weeks to learn the set we shoved off to Dubai and played a show.

WW: That was a festival in Dubai (The Dubai Desert Rock Festival)

James: Yeah it was, but we were headlining it. They do that every year.

WW: Was that your first time to the Middle East?

James: Yeah, that was an exciting thing and it kinda made sense, joining Megadeth and doing something that extreme. All of a sudden it played into the whole parable that I figured that Megadeth was.

WW: Holy Wars come to life

James: In a strange way yeah! It became my theme song as I was driving through the desert.

WW: That would definitely be crazy…and it was a trial by fire. You didn’t have much time to prepare.

James: You’re pretty good at this.


WW: When you came back from the Middle East did Gigantour 2006 start up immediately?

James: Before we did that we jumped off to England and started recording the new album.

WW: Was that a process where you ran through recording all at one time or because of the touring situation it had to be broken up?

James: Our intention was to go out and blast the record out. But as we moved into it we realized that there were different places we could go. It’s a relatively new version of Megadeth. We were feeling out how we would do it musically. We got the basic bones of most of the songs laid out there in England. We got most of the tracks there. It became apparent that we had the luxury – because of Gigantour interrupting the recording if you look at it that way – to go back and listen to what we had done and analyze it and think about it. It moved in a really great creative direction where we were able to go out and play some gigs and then get back to thinking about music and then take that back to the studio to work on it. It was definitely all a positive experience.

WW: When we saw you on Gigantour, this version of the band was still new. Did touring help pull the band together? Playing live had to help tighten up the band. Did that come across in the studio?

James in the studio with MegadethJames: I think there’s something to that. Both when you’re on tour and when you’re in the studio, especially when we were out there at SARM Studio in Reading. (http://www.sarmstudios.com/hookend.htm) We stayed in the mansion that was right off the studio facility itself. So we lived together and that kind of thing will bring you together or it’ll just drive you apart. Fortunately everybody’s really cohesive in this band. We all fell together through the process and we got along really well.

WW: How does the writing process work in Megadeth? Because there’s a guitar playing bandleader who’s also singing, are there similarities between Dave and say…Zakk? How is new material brought to the table?

James: It’s a song by song process. Some of the songs are obviously led more by the orchestration so you’d follow along with what Dave had laid out. Other songs give you a little more license to be a little more creative. In the case of BLS I think it was based on the amount of beer one had consumed for the day or night and that would lead to the creative process or the non-creative process - but either way we got something done!

WW: Megadeth fans are some of the toughest fans to please because of the different line-ups. They know what works and what doesn’t, how did you go about learning the Dave Ellefson material?

James: Now I’m a big fan of David Ellefson! More so than I probably would have thought! He has a more guitar oriented style than most bassists. I come from that old 60’s funk thing to start out. As I started to delve into Megadeth’s sound I started to realize that his style is crucial to the classic Megadeth sound. It’s instrumental to it. So I have nothing but props for him as far as being a great bass player in his own right.
I have a great respect for bands in their original entity. I remember seeing Deep Purple and thinking “Man, if they’re all not up there I’m not so sure…” but it’s not possible sometimes. I take the responsibility of being in this band very seriously, even to the point of where I play a lot of these songs with a pick instead of my fingers. I’m trying to replicate the basic Megadeth style and make it more familiar to the fans.

WW: Was that a big learning curve for you or was it pretty quick? You’ve played with a pick before.

James: The learning curve was actually memorizing the music! I can play just about any style. I come from a classical music background. So I used to play French horn back in the day and I was always used to playing complicated symphonic music. Megadeth’s music is a lot like that.

WW: Here’s something that’s completely off topic - I saw an old Entwistle interview and he started his music career playing the French horn in school. Is that a coincidence or was it the plan?

James: That’s an interesting question. That was something that drew my interest to him. Before that I was very into the Beatles and Sly and the Family Stone. When I finally got to the Who, and I love the Who, it wasn’t about the bass. I really wasn’t that keyed into the bass guitar on that stuff. But as I started delving into it more and listening to how the instruments broke into their role in the band, I started getting into the concepts. I realized “Oh my God, the bass player was playing French horn, just like me!” That made me more interested in how he was playing! I realized that if he’s coming from that background and looking at things that way, I should probably be looking at his bass playing as well. Then all of a sudden I was blown away.

WW: (Laughing) We really took a left turn with that one!

James: No, that was a good question.

WW: I never put all of those pieces together before tonight.

James: Over time it’s kind of funny, because in all of these years I just went about my business playing bass as I do. Then as I got a little older I started looking back and it all came together. I was with the Warwick Company and playing the Buzzard basses!

WW: Speaking of Warwick, how long have you been with them?

James: This coming year will be 20 years.

WW: That’s a pretty fantastic run considering these days guitar companies and the endorsers are constantly switching it up. They must treat you well.

James: Without a doubt! To my mind there are companies out there like G&L and Fender and they’re like Oldsmobile and Chevy. Warwick’s are like Mercedes Benz. Everything about them, right down to fit and finish – is all the same stuff that you look for in a premium overseas automobile.

WW: One of the things I noticed tonight was you had something you had that I hadn’t seen before. It was an explorer shape…

James: Oh I thought you were talking about my embolism on stage!

WW: It looked like a Mahogany Explorer

James: That’s it! That’s their new bass, called the Stryker.

WW: So it’s something that someone could go out and get…

James: Anybody can get one if they pony up enough bucks. It’s based on the Exploiter. Alembic made some basses for Entwistle in the late eighties. The Stryker is based on that which is basically an explorer shape. So they replicated that vibe and as soon as I saw that…you know…

WW: …you went with the Entwistle!

James: I’ve always been with Entwistle! I’ll have whatever he’s having, just like the guy at the bar. So I had to try it and this bass is remarkable! It’s made of Mahogany and it’s got something called Ziricote on the front which I had never seen before. It’s a really dense, bright wood and it sounds like the bass in ‘The Kids are Alright” to me - it’s got that spank and that drive to it. So I’m having a lot of fun playing those and I think it looks a little more…heavy metal-ish, which is what brought me to it.

WW: It’s a great looking bass. Two things I want to touch on before I lose track. Did Dave ever say anything about the Buzzards like “Absolutely not!”

James: No, no he thought they were pretty cool but he did look at me one day and say “You know, that bass makes you look really small.” I guess if I’m not wearing the vest that might happen!


WW: So it wasn’t a matter of style.

James: No sonically it was great! As a matter of fact, just about everything I played on the new record - I played with my old and new Buzzard basses. I had a custom Buzzard made when I joined Megadeth. I’ll tell you what, in context I really prefer to play these new Strykers. They make me feel more metal!

WW: How does the custom you had made when you joined Megadeth differ from your old Buzzard?

James: With the new custom, I just had to have the big, long headstock like the original Entwistle one. Just to get that vibe going. I had it made in a blood red so you can actually see the Zebrawood through it. I had LEDs put on the side.

WW: LEDs on the side of the neck for fret markers?

James: Yeah, so I could see it in the dark! I also had my logo – I designed my logo near the end of my tenure with the Black Label Society. It’s a picture of me wearing my BLS vest with a little fedora hat because I’m Italian, coming out of these flames playing my black Buzzard. There’s a little cartoon bubble under there that says “Ain’t Dead just yet, just having fun.”

WW: I’d like to see that bass, it sounds awesome.

James: I also had done on a custom Stryker made by Warwick as well. I pulled the scale of the bass further into the body of the wood and I’ve got the decal on that one too. That’s my little inspirational thing.

WW: How many basses do you have out on the road with you with Megadeth?

James: I take very few basses. I took three because I only play one per show. So I’ll usually have one to practice backstage, and there’s one for a backup on stage in case something goes wrong. I’m not big on changing basses for every song. If one’s working, it’s working.

WW: Speaking of basses - who’s taking care of those out on the Megadeth Tour?

James: You know what? …this crazy nut…he’s out of his mind! His hair is down to his ass.

WW: He’s a sexy bitch!

James: He is a sexy bitch there’s no doubt about that! …Freddy Kowalo!

WW: Keeping it in the family.

James: Here’s the thing - I needed to get a bass tech for this last run out so I called up my friend Doug Short. He’s a superlative soundman and I asked him if there was anyone that he had worked with who was available. He gives me the number of this fellow and I talk to him and we get the deal all sewn up. Ten minutes later Freddy calls me up and says “Dude, I heard you were looking for a bass tech. I’d love to do it for you.” I told him that I would love to have him, but I just gave the gig to this other guy. I said “If anything falls through you’ll be my next call. I’m glad you called!” So sure enough, very serendipitously this fellow calls back and said he had to go to a wedding in the middle of the tour. It was something that he had to do so I told him no sweat and I called up Freddy. It pays to have the best. He’s been looking after my stuff and everything’s been going great.

WW: Before we get off the gear topic, Warwick is making your signature custom bass…is it going to be the “James LoMenzo” Stryker?

James: Yeah it will be! We’re going to move a few things around and set it up to my spec. We don’t want to change too much - we’re going to try to keep it affordable so people can grab one.

An interesting thing happened when I joined the band. Dave was looking at my name and goes “Dude, do you know that if you look at your last name, the word ‘Omen’ is in there.” And you know I love those old movies man! So I asked “Why didn’t I ever see that?!?” and he was like “Well, I am a wordsmith.”


Alright…cool! So I developed a little logo of my name which kind of looks like the logo of The Omen with my full last name. I called up Red Monkey and said “Dudes…straps!” And they were like “Dude, we’ve got to make you straps!” So we put those together and we’ve got the Omen logo straps now. We’re going to do the same thing across the board and do it with the guitars as well.

WW: Pretty Cool!

James: Thank you! Well…we’ll see!


WW: They’ll be all over NAMM 2008

James: If they’re there then I’ll be there!

WW: On your website, in the Gear section there’s a mystery pedal in the rig diagram.

James: That mystery pedal turned out to be Dunlop’s Blowtorch pedal.

WW: That’s available now…

James: Right…that was the prototype. It’s out now and that’s a very cool pedal. They were testing it at the time I went out with Black Label. I took it out on stage to see what it was like. …and it’s like those old Maestro Fuzz square wave things. It’s a lot to use for a whole song, but it’s good to kick it on and off. It sounds a lot like ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’ from the Beatles! It’s an unavoidable sound and it’s a very cool unit. I find little places to put it.

WW: So you’ve got a second NEW pedal that you’re working on -

James: That’s right. This is something I’ve been working with Ashdown for a while. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but it’ll be ready in about two months from this interview. It’s already being tested and I think it’s going to work out fabulously. It’s something that I’ve been asking all the companies I’ve been involved with to work on and Ashdown actually took me up on it. It’s a very ‘focusable’ distortion sound as opposed to just a gritty thing. You can get anything from a good old fashioned blistering distortion, like a bass amp overheating, to a more guitar oriented one, and that will all happen on one pedal.

WW: We’re looking forward to it

James: I am too!

WW: So what are Megadeth’s touring plans after the Heaven & Hell run…or “The Dio fronted Black Sabbath?”

James: I call it Black Sabbath

WW: It is Black Sabbath…absolutely, or maybe Dio Sabbath or Black Dio. So after the States you’re headed to Europe. Are there plans for Gigantour 2007?

James: There’s going to be an Australian Gigantour that we’re talking right now. We are definitely in the works for another US Gigantour but we still putting the when and how together. Right now with United Abominations coming out this Tuesday we’re focused on trying to figure out the best way to service the release of that album.

WW: The current single ‘A Tout Le Monde’ features Cristina from Lacuna Coil and it’s on MTV rotation.

James: Actually, that’s really taken off in Canada!

WW: They’re very French

James: Without a doubt…I suppose its more user friendly up there. We’re also getting out ‘Washington is Next’ as the follow-up. We’re really excited about that because for all accounts it’s the blistering Megadeth charge…the call-to-arms that everyone has been suggesting and we love the song.

WW: United Abominations also features the song ‘Gears of War.’ Are any other songs from the album featured in the game?

James: Dave put that together while we were doing the album. Microsoft came around and said “hey here’s this Gears of War thing.” So he actually geared the song towards that lyrically.


WW: It’s a great song title

James: It felt really good playing out live. It always gets over so we’re very happy with that track.

WW: People have asked...and I have to ask [ed - about why he left BLS] -

James: That’s between Zakk and myself.

WW: Do you and Zakk still talk? You live down the road from each other....

James: I see him in my neighborhood all the time, but we haven’t pow-wowed for a while. I’m hoping to change that when we get overseas and play those gigs.

WW: Megadeth and Black Label are both on Roadrunner Records; I guess at some point it’s inevitable that you’d be on the same bill.

James: We’re label mates! How serendipitous is that?

James: That’s my key word for this entire interview – serendipitous!


WW: You’re going to be on the same bill for some of the festivals in Europe, do you think you’re going to reach the hand out and see what happens?

James: We’re not necessarily in battle; we just agreed to disagree on playing together.

WW: Do you think there’s any competition…

James: Are you asking if there’s a rivalry between the bands? How can that possibly be? Megadeth has been around forever and forever. There’s a huge fan base tied into the band and for us we’re just doing business as usual, you know? So I’ve never looked at it that way at all. I’m an old Black Label Brother man! I want them to succeed beyond their wildest expectations! You know I’m rooting for them.

WW: We’re rooting for them too…they’re the Home team.

James: (long pause)…but of course I want us to succeed!


WW: Thank you as always for sitting down with us…it’s always a good time! Do you have any last words for everyone out there?

James: To all the Black Label Brothers and Sisters….Hi!

WW: Absolutely…and United Abominations is out May 15th which is this Tuesday. Thank you James!

James: Thank you brother!

Purchase Megadeth - United Abominations

For more on J-Lo, go to his website at www.JamesLomenzo.com
For more information on Megadeth, visit their official website at www.MEGADETH.com
James uses Ashdown amps and Rotosound strings.
Also be sure to check out James' side-project the Hideous Sun Demons
James Lomenzo's Warwick Bass Feature
Live photos copyright Chad Lee of www.RockConcertFotos.com and Scott Uchida (where watermarked).
All other Megadeth photos taken from www.MEGADETH.com
, studio photo copyright James Lomenzo
Top photo taken by Shawn Sexton in 2004.
Interview conducted by Shawn Sexton at the Philadelphia Spectrum on 5/10/07.
Be sure to check out our first interview with James from Ozzfest 2004!

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