Megadeth is coming to town soon. I spoke with bassist James LoMenzo last week for the November issue of MELT Magazine (new issue coming REAL soon). While that feature focuses solely on Megadeth, I couldn’t resist the temptation to talk to James about White Lion, the band he played with from the mid-80s through the early-90s. Since that stuff didn’t make it into my Megadeth story, I thought I’d share it here.
(Me with White Lion, backstage at the Phantasy Theater in Cleveland, 1987)
If offered the right deal and it didn’t conflict with what you were doing with Megadeth, would you entertain the idea of doing a White Lion reunion?
Oh, absolutely. I’m a journeyman, I would do that in a second.
You’ve played with a bunch of bands, from White Lion to Ace Frehley to David Lee Roth. Do you keep up with what your former bandmates are doing?
Mike Tramp calls me every once in a while and lets me know what he’s doing, so it’s easy for me. He just went back to Denmark to be a solo star and I think that’s a great idea. I suggested that years ago, and he’s doing quite well. Ace Frehley … I contacted him because a friend of mine in Japan was doing an album of songs that go with animated monsters and I thought he would love that. I just keep an eye on him peripherally, we don’t really speak very much, although he’s been to my parents house. Every once in a while I’ll see somebody who knows David Lee Roth and they’ll say, “Dave says, ‘hey’.” There’s not like a clubhouse or a batcave that we all go to and hang out.
Do you go out and listen to new releases by those bands? Like, have you heard the most recent White Lion CD?
I’ll do what everybody else does, I’ll download a track or two just to see where they are at. I’m very proud of Mike. He’s put together a really good band and he’s carried it out. I don’t think he’s embarrassed the name in any way, shape or form – he’s kept it pretty consistent. I feel bad that Vito isn’t able to get together with him and come out and do that. There was a time when it seemed like it was really right for that.
Do you think Vito will ever play again?
I would fathom to guess that he will not ever play again. I know there has been a lot of offers and interest and he just doesn’t seem to bite.
You’re connected to a few of the guitarists who have sort of disappeared. Vito Bratta, Jake E. Lee. You’ve done stuff with Ozzy and with Jake’s replacement, Zakk Wylde.
Just before White Lion broke, Ray Gillen, who was in Badlands, a dear friend of mine from way back when, called me up and said, “I know you’re in L.A. and you’re going to get on a plane but we need a bass player, would you come down and audition?”
I was already in White Lion and we had already recorded our album (Pride) but, as it goes, I said, “Let me come down, I’d love to play with Jake”. Eric Singer was playing drums and we jammed for a while. It was really quite good except I remember Jake E. Lee had some sort of distortion pedal and it was really hard to hear everything he was playing. So we finished playing. There was this little bathroom in the corner so I went there because, you know, we had to go to the airport and as I’m relieving myself, in comes Ray and he goes, “Well, you want to do it?” I was like, “Dude, let’s just get to the airport. Get me home and I’ll think about it.” We got in his car, turn on the radio, and “Wait” came on. It was the first time I had ever heard it on the radio. I looked at him and said, “You know what? It was really cool playing with you but I don’t think so.”
The other recluse guitarist from that time period is Vinnie Vincent. Any stories about him? Did you ever work with him?
Never met Vinnie Vincent. I was at the studio with the Kiss guys because of Eric Carr, who was a friend of mine, and he invited me down to the studio to listening to some tracks that Vinnie played on but he wasn’t in the studio at the same time. That’s my six degrees of separation.
How do rock stars manage to keep all their hair? At my 20-year high school reunion, half the guys were bald or losing their hair. Do you think once you make that decision to be a rock star, you get the gift of having long hair until you stop playing? I mean, you don’t see a bald Mick Jaggar, Robert Plant, or Jon Bon Jovi!
Chip, I was born into metal. It chose me, I didn’t choose it. It’s not the hair, it’s not the music, it’s the deal with the devil!