By the time Megadeth bassist James Lomenzo joined the band’s lineup in 2006, he’d built a 30-year career of rock with artists like David Lee Roth and bands like White Lion and Black Label Society. “I’ve played with pretty much everybody, so there’s not much that’s gonna scare me,” Lomenzo asserts.
But even someone with Lomenzo’s credentials has to marvel at the Megadeth beast that’s stayed hungry since its inception in 1983. When founding member, and last holdover from the original lineup, Dave Mustaine suffered severe nerve damage in 2002, it marked the only time in the band’s 25-year history that Megadeth was derailed.
Now Lomenzo and Mustaine look to pass the torch to metal’s next generation on this year’s Gigantour, whose bill features some of the most formidable names in the genre— In Flames, Children of Bodom, Job For A Cowboy and High on Fire.
Lomenzo talked with the Alibi about Megadeth’s place in history, what bands have caught his ear lately and how he makes sure his rock ’n’ roll flame stays lit.
How did you react when you were offered a spot in Megadeth?
At first, I really didn't think I was the right guy for the band. I'm a blues basher, not a metalhead. Over time I started digging the idea a lot, though. I’ve always been a fan. Megadeth reminds me of symphonic music, the way things build upon one another.
So what do you bring to the table?
“It’s a kick in the pants, which is always good for us.”
I bring about 50 bands of experience. Dave’s a seasoned veteran, too, and I’ve learned a lot of things just from playing with him, and, presumably, he’s learned things from me. In a cool way, it feels like the band is still growing after 20-plus years.
What's kept Megadeth together after all that time?
Dave's will to keep the band going. He is Megadeth, and he knows exactly how the music should sound. So as long as he’s still got the will, Megadeth will be together.
Let’s talk about the tour. Do you try to take some of the younger bands you’re traveling with under your wing?
Dave and I do quite a lot of that. We’re like, Grab some hot cocoa and let’s sit around the fire and talk about the good ol’ days. It’s interesting how much the young bands are into coming up and asking you questions. We’ve been through what they’re experiencing now, so it’s good to be able to help them along and pass on the tribal knowledge, so to speak.
Do you feel like you learn something from them as well?
Absolutely. My feeling is once you stop learning, you might as well stay home. It’s great to see those kids go on stage with that unflurried energy. It’s amazing to watch. It reminds you of how you should be conducting yourself out there. It’s a kick in the pants, which is always good for us.
Do you guys rock as hard as you used to?
I rock as hard as I possibly can, my friend. I tell the other bands on tour this story all the time. When I was with White Lion, we were fortunate enough to tour with AC/DC. I swear, Angus Young never said die. He was pulling out every trick he had on stage. I mean, anyone can play notes, and it’s easier to do when you’re sitting down. The real superhero stuff is being able to run around and do all the crazy stuff and still play the songs as well as possible. You have to do that every night so the audience feels like they’re seeing something special.
Are there any new bands you’ve taken a liking to?
I put on a lot of Internet radio stuff and let it fly and I don’t really catalog it. Bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Static-X are very good. Then there are bands like a group we’re touring with, Children of Bodom, who maybe aren’t really the same style as I’m into, but I still recognize quality when I hear it. Those guys are great.
How do you hope history treats Megadeth?
I think history will remember Megadeth as a vehicle Dave Mustaine created that always stayed true to the music and the fans.