As the world continues to recover from the Coronavirus, we're all finding ourselves in unfamiliar territory given the subsequent lockdown that is keeping us off of stages and confined to our homes. Luckily, there's comfort in the fact that we're all in this together, and that there are still many outlets for us musicians to keep us active and sane throughout this quarantine. We're checking in with bass players from all over the world to see what they're doing to stay entertained, healthy, productive, and safe during this trying time.
Bass Player: James LoMenzo
Bands & Artists: White Lion, Ace Frehley, Black Label Society, David Lee Roth, Megadeth, Jerry Cantrell, John Fogerty, Lynch Mob
Home: Santa Clarita, CA
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
Although I miss playing shows, I’ve been kind of enjoying not traveling so much and slowing down the pace. I've been cataloging and organizing music that I've written over the years, mixing music and film projects for clients, and recording music for my new band, Firstborne. As most of us seasoned guys do, I’m also recording bass-for-hire for musicians who contact me over the internet. I love doing that—there are so many great musicians out there, it’s really exciting to hear what they’ve got and to be a part of their musical journey. Additionally, my wife Angie has been deadlining her book, The Tribe of the New Bohemian Women. I'm doing photographic portraits of the women featured in the book, which helps me stay creative through photography—a different lens if you will. The upside of being home consistently is being able to focus more on this project. Anyone who's doing professional digital photography these days knows how important the post-production process is. Being sequestered at home, I’m a bit less scattered and able to spend whatever time is required to focus on and complete these portraits, instead of coming back to them two weeks or a month later.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I recently had the pleasure of participating in an online forum with Jerry Jemmott. To me, he's a bass icon and what a great and inspiring educator. I've been going down the Jerry Jemmott rabbit hole, chasing down a bunch of his great recordings. Chuck Rainey is another guy whose bass playing really moves me, especially on some of those old Aretha Franklin tracks. Lee Sklar’s YouTube offerings are pure infectious inspiration. I’m instantly mesmerized watching him perform his classic bass lines. I guess I’m a lot like Bob Seeger, “I like that old time rock ’n’ roll.”
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I've been working on improving my dexterity in both hands. For my Fretting hand, I'll create two- or three-octave arpeggios, rolling through major, minor, adding 6ths, 7ths, and 10ths. I'll build up pattens and down the neck and syncopate them in different ways. As I loosen up, I’ll start to break off and improvise ideas based on those exercises. For my right hand, I've been working on alternating which fingers I start phrases with. For years I've been a three-finger alternator starting with my Index or ring finger. I was watching some old Stanley Clarke videos not too long ago. I love the way he leads with his longest middle finger, so I started training myself to do that more. I'm seeing the value of it. I can mute the lower strings with my index finger and I can set a nice, quick snap following the initial attack. It’s a work in progress.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Foremost would be Fisrtborne. It features Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler, Girish Pradham on vocals, and Myrone on guitar. The music is a crazy good amalgam of energetic, classic metal and ’70s rock. This band is ready to go as soon as there actually is somewhere to go!
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I have the new Yamaha BB434, and I’ve taken the time at home to dial it in. It's off-the-shelf stock except for a set of Dimarzio pickups. I recently strung the strings through the body, which I've always resisted. I love the instrument’s versatility. It can emulate a vintage Fender Precision beautifully. I’ve recorded with it for several clients and they were very happy with the tone. I've also been going deeper into the Line 6 Helix Gear. There's a ton of potential for expanding my live rig there.
What non-music activities, books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
That's something I think is specific to the individual. For me, motorcycle riding is as good as meditation. When asked, I always recommend to musicians who are feeling stale to go to a museum, watch a movie, take a walk, stop thinking about music, and try to experience art and inspiration in some other way. It's all around us. Of course, now's not the time to go to a museum, but getting out in nature can do wonders to replenish your soul.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
To stay positive, try to limit your news intake. Get the info you need to navigate the day and understand what’s happening, then step away from it and breathe. This current situation will inevitably be a blip on the radar, but we've got to get through it. And we will. Stay safe, stay positive, and envision a better future; it'll be waiting for us when we finally get there.
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi