During the Power Of Metal Tour with Symphony X, Nevermore and Psychotic Waltz I had the change to sit down with Jeff Loomis of Nevermore fame. He turned out to be a very down to earth and downright funny conversationalist with some very sharp and witty answers from time to time. We talked about the whole Power Of Metal Tour, trading licks with Micheal Romeo (Symphony X), The Obsidian Conspiracy and his love for seventies music…
Hi Jeff, thank for doing this interview. This is the final date for the Power Of Metal tour. How are things going thus far?
It has been going great, just awesome. I’m a big fan of Symphony X and Psychotic Waltz, so it’s really a pleasure to be on the road with these wonderful people. The attendance has been really good every evening, so the whole package is really satisfying. It was a lot of fun.
Did you learn any new tricks from Micheal Romeo, the resident guitar god from Symphony X?
I’m a big fan of him. We’ve sat down a couple of times and we played a bit. You can always learn from players like him. I really look up to his playing.
Perhaps you can ask him to do some guest solos on one of your solo albums in the future?
If he would say yes to something like that I would overjoyed. It would be great if he would be a part of it.
Talking guitar heroes, you’re seen as one the best guitar players within the metal genre. How do you cope with that status and the pressure that comes with it?
Thank you, I’m really flattered when people say that about my playing. I really don’t think too hard about something like that. It’s not really good for your psyche, you know? You still need to go on the stage to play and do your job.
Let’s move on to The Obsidian Conspiracy. Compared to the previous records, it’s really straightforward and less technical. It’s solid as they come though. What’s your take on that?
We didn’t want to repeat ourselves with making another record like This Godless Endeavor. The fans expected us to do just that. It was a very strong record for us, so we toured three years to support that album. That also explains why it toke us so long to come with something new. We toured a lot and we simply needed a break. Somewhere along the line I got the itch to start writing again, but I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something less technical and progressive, but more cohesive and structured for the ear, you know? In the end The Obsidian Conspiracy got a lot of mixed reviews, because of that. Many people liked it, some didn’t. In the long run the only thing that really matters is that we as band are happy with it.
The Obsidian Conspiracy really needed time grow on me. Most of the songs fit brilliantly with the rest of the Nevermore material, but I’m still feel they miss the punch of Born, Final Product or Inside Four Walls for instance. How do you see things from your perspective?
I don’t know really. With The Obsidian Conspiracy I trying to go for something simpler to satisfy myself. That’s the thing, you know? As an artist I want to progress and try new things. I’m just a musician and I write anything that comes out of me. I don’t sit down and analyze things too much. The music would suffer from it. The stuff I write is a reflection of what I feel at any given moment. The last five years we had a lot internal turmoil within the band, including some health issues. The Obsidian Conspiracy is a reflection of that.
Talking about health issues. How’s Jim Sheppard doing?
He just had his brain surgery. That went really well and he’s now recovering at home. Hopefully he will return to the band within the next couple of months. He’s just at home resting and relaxing at the moment.
Let’s change the subject. The last couple of years technical music gains more popularity within the mainstream metal community. What do you think of that?
It’s great, I really love that kind of music myself. Especially Meshuggah with all their different types of time signatures. I also like Periphery. Misha Mansoor, their guitar player, is a good buddy of mine. I also played a guest solo on their record. I really like bands who bring something new to the table. I grew up with Frank Zappa and all his technical sensibilities. I’m really into challenging music. I also like Omnivium, the new record by Obscura a lot.
What other music do you enjoy besides metal?
I really like seventies music. When i grew up my father had a huge LP collection, so I just had to pick one and make my choice. I listened to a lot of Queen. Brian May is just such an incredible guitar player. I also listened a lot to ELO, Fleetwood Mac and also jazz and classical music. I just like to keep an open mind to music. There’s so much out there you can suck in as a musician and improve your skills. It’s really painful to see that so many good musicians out there being stuck within one genre, especially young kinds within death metal. Dude, just go out there, there’s so much more!
You practised a lot to get your own signature guitar sound. Can you describe your own sound, without getting too much into the technical side of things?
That’s a really tough question. It takes years and years of practise to get your own style. Over the years you’ll get certain riffs you incorporate in your music and you’ll always get back to. People will start to recognize that sooner or later. When you hear a guitar riff by Eddie van Halen without knowing it would be him, you still know it’s Eddie van Halen. That’s because he has his own guitar tone and ditto style. I use a lot of minor scales and ditto styled arpeggios, so that makes my signature style. Nowadays I don’t practise that much anymore like I used to. I like to spend my days writing and composing instead. Realistically, how long can you practise in your bedroom and fiddle away all day long? Nowadays, there a lot of bedroom guitar players posting their stuff on Youtube showing they can play better than anybody else. Just get in a band and play with other people. That’s the way to improve yourself, even as a young kid.
Time for the final question. Back in the day Nevermore had quite a reputation when it comes to partying while touring. Who’s the biggest party animal within the band?
Haha, I don’t know, probably everybody. Obviously you grow up and you’ll get more responsible, you know what I’m saying? You got to watch out for your health, especially on the road. It’s okey to have a drink, but it’s good to know your limits.
A special thanks to Arne Lakenmacher.
Written by Raymond Westland