Lorna Thomas has made a serious impression on the music scene north of the border in recent years, playing with artists like Jill Jackson, the Humpff Family and Sandra McBeth.
The daughter of the late actor Peter Thomas, known for his work in Doctor Who and elsewhere, Lorna was brought up in a creative family, and through her father playing folk tunes she fell in love with music.
“I basically tried every instrument until I got to the bass,” chuckles Lorna. “I started playing when I was 14, after my dad got me a short-scale Eko bass for my birthday. I then started playing with local songwriters and got to be in my first band. It was an indie band with fellow students, and we got terrific support from our school’s music department.”
Growing up influenced by a certain Duran Duran bassist (“I have an Aria Pro II SB60 fretless as I’m a massive John Taylor fan - he used that exact model on Save A Prayer”), Lorna knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
“After school I knew I wanted to do music, although there were only two contemporary music universities around at the time, in Manchester and Perth. I was invited for an audition in Perth and I’ve been living in Scotland ever since. It was after university that I ended up playing with the blues-country band the Humpff Family. We basically toured for three years straight and did plenty of TV, radio and big festivals. I then went on to work with Speedway’s Jill Jackson for about five years.”
That’s fast work in a short time, we reckon. What gear does she use? “After I played bass on the L Project’s charity single It Does Get Better in 2012, I approached Ashdown,” she tells us.
“I’d been using Trace Elliot with the Humpff Family, but when Mark Gooday founded Ashdown I was interested in trying the new gear out. I love their sound and reliability, and I’m not a massive tech-head, so I love how straightforward they are. I have the RM 800 EVO head, RM15 EVO cab and the RM 2x10 cab.”
“As for basses, I swear by my Sandbergs, but before those my go-to bass was a Yamaha BB2005, which I was using all the time, although it weighed a tonne. I saw an advert in Bass Guitar Magazine for Ida Nielsen’s first Sandberg signature model, the four-string with the P/J pickup configuration. Alan Greensall at Synergy Distribution told me that he had one in stock if I wanted to try it out, so I drove down, fell in love with it and took it home the same day!
“I was offered an endorsement with them and gladly accepted. That was about three years ago; I’ve been a part of the Sandberg family ever since. I help out at the London Bass Guitar Show each year.”
Is she equally happy with four or five strings, we ask? “Yes! I got to know the Sandberg CEO Holger Stonjek, who was telling me all about the new Ida Nielsen signature. It was going to be for sale as a four-string, but I asked them to make me a five as I was missing the low B. They agreed and now I have the only five-string apart from Ida’s own bass!
“I love the diversity of it - you can dial in a 1970s sound or a real midrangey 80s slap tone. I’ve also got a deal with Elite strings from the Bass Centre, I love their flatwounds.”
Versatility is at the heart of what Lorna does, she says.
“I have a deal with Bassics and use their BPA-01 preamp, which is great for getting the sound quality of a double bass without colouring it. It’s also handy when you need to switch between different basses, as it has two inputs with their own EQ and volumes. When I play with Sandra McBeth, I use a Dunlop Cry Baby wah and an EHX Freeze sustain pedal, which is great when you want to create a drone or hold a chord to play over. It’s a great practice tool.”
With forthcoming gigs with Horse McDonald and Earl Thomas, plus masterclasses and Q&A sessions alongside funk legend Bobby Vega in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Lorna has a busy time ahead. Time to head north, we reckon…