For nearly 30 years, James has recorded and toured with some of the most noteworthy rock icons of our time, including Dave Mustaine, Zakk Wylde, David Lee Roth, Ozzy Osbourne, Slash, Ace Frehley and others. Thought of as the “go to bass player” for “Heavy Rock” and “Metal”. his fluid, aggressive style and at-home-on-stage presence has proven to be a perfect match to these musical giants!
Born in Brooklyn, New York, James was captivated and consumed by music of all styles. “My dad loved music and played it for my brothers and I when we were just babies …” “I'd listen to my dad's swing and crooner records, than we'd listen to classical and then we had quite a few 45's.” “My uncle worked for Billboard magazine back in the sixties so he'd load us up with singles.” “All the while I was plugged into the AM radio. “ I listened with great intensity to everything from Sinatra to Ray Charles to Motown and I really dug the hell out of hearing the Stones in the midst of all that.” James knew at the age of ﬁve that he wanted to be a musician, “I knew I would make music somehow.” At the age of 10 James received an electric guitar from his parents as a Christmas present and proceeded to take guitar lessons over the next year. His uncle who worked for Billboard magazine and a music publishing company brought him music books and sheet music. One of the books was a Beatles complete edition, which sparked James’ interest in singing and performing mostly Beatles songs. “My repertoire was based strictly on the sheet music that my uncle Larry would bring to me.” “Travelin’ Man” by Credence, The House of the Risin’ Sun by the Animals, The whole second side of Abbey Road, I ambitiously plowed forth, singin’ and strummin’ my little heart out.”
At 11, James performed at his public school and at talent shows in the neighborhood. “I met Steve Augeri (Journey) at one of these talent shows. “We ended up in music class together and started our ﬁrst band “Sir Donicus”, named after our friends deceased Beagle”. That summer James and Steve went to a summer camp for performing arts and that’s where James discovered the Bass guitar. “I had only noticed a Bass once before and that was on a TV show with Sly and the Family Stone.” “I remember thinking how cool those big tuning keys looked. Anyway gene was cool enough to let me try his bass and I fell in love with it!” “I was able to easily play simple bass parts and sing as well.” “He let me use it all summer and when I got back home to Brooklyn I was hooked.” “I couldn’t afford to buy a bass right away so I pulled the high E and B string off my guitar, turned up the bass tone knob on my amp and played the ﬁrst four strings with my ﬁngers. Eventually I saved up enough money to buy a cheap Japanese bass for $60 and I was off!”
Throughout High School James traded off his time playing French horn and Bass (upright and Electric) in a variety of Bands. They were; Concert, Orchestra, Quartet. He played upright bass in the schools Jazz Band and electric in his own 7-piece Rock band. “We rehearsed in my basement… ...played music by Chicago, Santana, Elton John, Led Zepplin and the Who. I would arrange the horn parts for the guys and then take my position as singer/bassist. We even played a bunch of tunes off of the Who’s Quadrophinia.” “It was insanely ambitious.” “I actually once snuck the band into my high school after calling in sick so we could play a lunch time concert in the Auditorium... seven of us and all our gear through the back emergency exit! ...right past the Music Chairmans office”.
Early Days/Famous people
After high school James received a scholarship playing French horn to Brooklyn College but became impatient with the structure of the Orchestra. “I really wanted to go all the way playing bass and singing and I knew I was burning up too much time with the French horn, so I quit B.C., answered some ad’s in the Long Island papers (that’s where most of the clubs were happening for live music at the time) and found myself in a band called “Hooker”. “We did three sets. In one set we dressed up in leather and makeup and played Judas Priest covers, In another we dressed up in “Glam” costumes with the requisite six inch boots and played Bowie, Rocky Horror and AC/DC and the third was a mixed bag of The Stones, The Cars, etc.” “Most notably, our lead singer’s boyfriend (yes our lead singer was a girl) was the late, great Eric Carr (from Kiss)”. “He used to pick me up for some of the Gigs (this of course, before his Kiss fame)”. “I moved from that band to another and another and eventually found myself moving to Los Angeles with a band called Metropolis.” “We played the clubs out there and basically got the lay of the land.” “This was about 1982.” “
James caught the eye of White Lion’s management after a gig at the club L’Amoure in Brooklyn. They suggested that James would be perfect in their band however James declined. “I thought at that time that they were just so much like Van Halen that they couldn’t possibly succeed.”
In 1984 James packed a bag and put it on his motorcycle and headed out to L.A. “What can I say?” “L.A. was calling me.” “I unscrewed the neck of my old Bass and crammed it and the body in my duffel bag and took off.” “When I arrived in L.A., I jammed with a bunch of bands and worked as a motorcycle messenger.” “Two months into it, my bike found the front end of a Lincoln Continental as it tried to cut me off.” “I leapt off but hurt my leg.” “My bike was banged up pretty bad, I was out of work,so I went to (where else?) The “Rainbow Bar & Grille”, to drown my sorrows.” “While I was there, I ran into an old friend of mine who mentioned that White Lion was still in need of a bassist and that they'd probably be into ﬂying me out (back to Brooklyn) to audition.” “At that point I just said "who do I call?" “The arrangements were made, I jammed with them and all went well.” “It sounded like they had some interesting things on the horizon so we set ahead to write and arrange what was to become "Pride" and in about six months we were signed to Atlantic Records”. In 1987 Pride was released featuring the hits, “Wait”, and “When the Children Cry”. The album has sold millions of copies worldwide. “It really amazed me, we were out there touring and I’d talk to people back home who were raving about how often they were seeing us on MTV, we really didn’t have a clue”. That year White Lion toured with Kiss and Aerosmith. In 1989 the band released “Big Game”, featuring “Little Fighter” and a spirited rendition of “Golden Earring’s: “Radar Love”. In that year, James met up with Zakk Wylde while the band was on tour with Ozzy Osbourne. “We hit it off right away, he’s like a brother of mine from a different life”. The band returned from that touring and started working on “Mane Attraction”. All the while, James and Zakk were playing the L.A. clubs under the moniker “Lynerd Skynhayd”. It’s there that they sowed the seeds for what was to be the monster 3-piece Jam band “Pride & Glory” (released on Geffen in 1994).
Ozzy Osborne/Slash/ Pride & Glory
In 1990, James worked with Zakk in Ozzy Osbournes band, working on and recording an unreleased version of “Ozzmosis”. “The album we recorded was not very different then the one that was ﬁnally released featuring Geezer Butler on the bass. The record company A&R for Ozzy at the time, didn’t like the way our version was sounding. He wanted it to be more “Seattle”. Ozzy seemed to be digging it though. “Anyway, a few snippets of my playing did end up on the ﬁnal version (though un-credited), a great experience non the less.” Following that, James did a short summer tour with the legendary Ace Frehley and then returned to L.A. to begin prep for the “Pride & Glory” album. Zakk, James and Brian Tichy moved up to Seattle to record P&G and later on in that year opened up the esteemed Donnigton festival in England. “P&G has always been one of my favorite bands that I’ve been involved with.” “When I run into fans of that band, it amazes me, seems a lot of newer musicians that I respect actually were inspired by that seemingly little known band.” In 1995 James received a call from Brian Tichy to ﬁll in at the last minute in Slash’s Snakepit. “I had a week to learn about 15 songs I’d never heard before, which is really 2 days if you count showing up and rehearsing with the band. Not too bad (but not too easy).” “My Daughter had just been born 2 months earlier so it was tough to pick up and leave but duty, Rock & Roll and a paycheck called!”
After the Snakepit tour James spent the better part of the year writing with Slash and Brian until Slash decided to up and tour with “Slash’s Blues Ball”. James effectively removed himself from the music business at that point. “There were messy arbitrary lawsuits that I got caught up in, it was a lot of predatory nonsense... I was getting burned out on all of it… wanted to spend more time with my family... I just didn’t care about music as a career at that point.” James did play on a record for a fellow named Mike Onesko (Mike Varney featured on guitar) one last recording gig at that point.
David Lee Roth
A few years later, after working as a freelance graphic designer James started to run into a few old and new friends in the music business. One was Ray Luzier (KORN) who was playing with David Lee Roth. “His girlfriend at that time was our daughter’s baby sitter.” “Ray would come over, we’d hang out, listen to music and trade war stories.” “Ray always threatened (It was just the way he said it) that if Dave ever needed a bassist, he was sure I’d be perfect for it!” Months later he called James and asked if he could be available to record. “I jumped at it, always loved Dave, and the opportunity to do a one off recording with Ray in that context was sweet.” “We knocked out a kick ass version of Steve Millers Living in the U.S.A... Dave was so killer on it.” “Anyway, Dave liked my bass playing and invited me to tour with them on the spot!” “It was fantastic to be back on the big stages with Diamond Dave”. “The following year we played a dual headlining tour with Sammy Hagars band, The Sam & Dave tour.” “Essentially, we were competing to see who was the better Van Halen cover band.” “We both had well uniquely qualiﬁed lead singers (laughs).” “I toured with Dave for the next year or so and in the mean time put together a Jazz/Rock/Fusion band with Ray (Luzier) and Toshi (Hiketa) called the “Hideous Sun Demons”. “We’d work up stuff over at Rays place after rehearsals with Roth and then record it when ever we could ﬁnd a spot.” “Around the same time we knocked out the “Diamond Dave album”.
Re-Enter Zakk Wylde
“So, I get this house up in Castaic, CA (the last truck stop out of town) and I ﬁnd out that my old buddy Zakk lives up the hill from me.” “I’m putting up a fence to corral my Chihuahua and I take a break and call up Zakk” “In 5 minutes he’s at my front door with a six pack.” “Next day he stops by my house and tells me to meet him at the studio in the afternoon to record”. “Before you know it, I’m playin’ bass with with ol’ Zakky again this time in his “Black Label Society”. After a couple of world tours and Ozzfest’s with Black Label Society, James decides to call it quits with the band. In an interview James said; “It just wasn’t working for me ...” “All the chaos, all the time... .... too true... too true...”
A time later while producing a buddies band, James got a call from a friend regarding playing with “one of the great, formative metal bands”. “My friend, Alan Steelgrave call’s me and asks, what are you doing?” “Would you be interested in playing in one of the “big” Metal bands?” “I immediately guessed, Megadeth?” Alan Replies “I can’t tell you.” “O.K., so what do you want me to send to Dave Mustaine?” He laughed, and so I sent a press kit and whatever metal-ish recordings I could ﬁnd and sent them off.” Dave loved it and after a quick meeting hired me. A month later they were headlining Dubai’s “Rock in the Desert”. James put in four years, touring all over the world, playing with the seminal thrash kings and recorded on two of there most recent, critically well received albums, “United Abominations” and “Endgame”. “It’s truly amazing that the band has yet again come back into the public consciousness from virtual obscurity to carry on it’s legacy to a whole new generation of fans.” “It was such a fantastic honor to be a part of that”. James left when Dave Ellefson and Dave Mustaine finally “buried the hatchet” of a long standing feud, Megadeth’s original bassist returned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the bands “Rust In Peace” album.
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