Interview with Jeff Loomis of Nevermore

Nevermore is an American metal band created in 1991 in Seattle, Washington. Since then, they’ve been on the road with seven albums and a legion of fans around the world, mainly in Europe. Jeff Loomis is the impressive guitarist and main songwriter for the band.He auditioned for Megadeth when he was 16 years old, was listed as one of the fastest guitarists of all times by “Guitar World”, has his own signature Loomis guitar by Schecter and will soon have his own signature distortion pedal. To top off the successful career, he just released his first and very inspiring solo album, Zero Order Phase, by Century Media. I had the pleasure of speaking with a laid back and funny Jeff Loomis and my interview with him can be read below.

In September of 2008 you released your first solo album, Zero Order Phase, was that something you always planned on doing?

It was an idea I had in mind for quite some time, it was just that there was never enough time to do it because of all the touring that we were doing with Nevermore. When the touring cycle ended for the "This Godless Endeavor" tour I knew we would have a lot of time off, so I called Neil Kernon, my producer, and we got the project going. I called my friend Mark Arrington, who actually played on our very first self titled CD, to play drums on it and he was more than happy to do it. One of the really cool things about recording this CD was that the majority of it was done right in my own house. We recorded the drums at a studio down the street, but everything else was done in my basement. This really made the whole project very relaxed without the feeling of being rushed like you would normally be in a real studio environment. I've been a fan of instrumental music for a very long time, so I’m finally glad I had the opportunity to show a different side of my playing to Nevermore fans and fans of experimental music.

Does the album reflect exactly everything you intended it to reflect when you first started the project?

I think it exceeded my expectations. I knew it was going to be very cool once I had made the initial demos, but once we started recording, things really started falling into the right place. I think it was just a matter of the right people being together at the right time for the whole project. I was really fortunate to be able to work with a lot of talented people that made this recording a reality. Neil was a big help with many of the arrangements and Mark was the glue that made everything cohesive and sound like one entire piece of flowing music. The entire CD is a big journey of different musical soundscapes (laughing), that may sound like a weird way of describing it but it's the best way to explain how it sounds, sonically speaking.

How has the response been so far? Nevermore has some very passionate fans, how has their reaction been to your album?

The response has been very, very good. Most of the reviews have been excellent and the fans seem to really like it. I think I’ve gained a bit of a new listening audience as well, which is really cool. To be honest I really just wanted to make this CD for myself, just to see if I could pull something like this off. I didn’t want to make a CD just to show off some fast guitar riffs. My intention was to make a CD of a wide array of different musical styles that incorporated many elements of my playing intertwined. I'm always playing very aggressive stuff with Nevermore, so it was cool to be able to experiment with different approaches to writing music on Zero Order Phase. I also know that the fans want a new Nevermore CD…we have been together as a band for 15 plus years, so taking a break from that was a very healthy thing for us to do. It will just make us come back stronger with new music and a fresh start. We are working on a new CD right now as a matter of fact! 

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If you were to describe Zero Order Phase in three words, what would they be?

Relentless experimental “riffage”.

Do you normally listen to your own music at home, like when you're cooking or doing laundry?

After the final mix I listened to my solo CD quite a bit…but if I’m cooking or cleaning usually I’ll be listening to other stuff for whatever mood I’m in at the time. It could be Classical music or Cannibal Corpse!

In the end of last year Nevermore released the DVD The Year of the Voyager and you guys are already working on a new album, what else can the fans expect from the band in 2009?

Yes we are finally working on the new stuff. Yes it will be heavy and yes it will be very melodic too. The fans can expect a new CD and a world tour in the very near future. Our first show will be the “Wacken Festival” this summer in Germany. From there on out we hope to be on the road for a long time. I have about 7 songs written for the new CD. I can't give you any working titles yet, but I can guarantee it will be some of our best work yet.

I know that you were very moved by the guitar playing of legends like Jason Backer and Marty Friedman. Is there any new guitarist that blows your mind?

There is a guitar player from the UK by the name of Guthrie Govan who is just amazing. I really come from the old school of guitarists that I grew up with, such as Brian May, Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen. These are players that really inspired me to play and stay in my room practicing hours a day. I love Fredrik and Martin from Meshuggah as well, these guys are doing some killer stuff that I love listening to. Jason and Marty are my all time favorite players. I got a chance to work with Marty last year in L.A., I played a guest solo on his new CD called Future Addict. He's an incredible musician and composer and a very nice person. It was a total honor to be able to spend some time with him and learn a few new things about his approach to guitar playing.

One of the coolest times was being on tour with the band Death" – Jeff Loomis -

What have you been listening to lately? What was the last album you bought?

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I've been listening to this crazy band called The Faceless. They are kinda like a combination of Cannibal Corpse meets the Jazz guitarist Alan Holdsworth. It's strange but works so well together. I like Blotted Science too. I can't remember the last CD I bought! I think it was the new Soilwork CD, I’m a huge fan of those guys too and I'm very happy to hear that Peter Wichers is back in the band.

Do you have any musical guilty pleasure? Something that you only listen when you're alone, that you're not proud of listening to and would not tell your friends about.

I think that Natasha Bedingfield is cool…I saw a live concert of hers on TV and she has a really strong voice and has some catchy tunes too. I don't mind saying that at all. As a matter of fact, I have a close friend who likes Beyoncé! Oh, and I almost forgot that I’ve listened to ABBA a few times too. Cool production and great vocal harmonies. I think I got that from hanging out with many Swedish friends on past tours.

In your opinion, what were the most important moments in Nevermore's career?  Why?

Well, one of the coolest times was being on tour with the band Death. Being able to hang out with Chuck Schuldiner was a great experience. He had asked us to come out and tour with them in 95. I was really bummed out that I didn't get a chance to see him before he passed away. He wrote some great music and he was a genuine friend that I will never forget. We also got a chance to play the “Dynamo Festival” in Holland that same year in front of 150,000 plus people, it was an unreal time that I will never forget.

Do you get anxious/ nervous before a live performance? Have you ever performed under any bizarre circumstances? What were the most remarkable gigs of your career?

I still get nervous. I guess something would be wrong if I didn’t get nervous, it's just a natural thing. We've had to perform with the tour bus rolling into a gig just a few minutes before doors were open many times due to bad traveling weather. I don't know how our roadies and sound people pulled it off, but those were some of our best gigs! Aside from the “Dynamo Festival” I would say all the shows we do in Greece are just always great because the crowds are so loud…at times they are louder than the PA!!! And the now legendary “Wacken Festival” is always incredible. The one we will play this summer will be our 3rd appearance.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of? Is there something you would do differently if you could go back in time?

I am happy with the accomplishment of the longevity of the band. Many bands break up after just a few recordings. I've always felt most comfortable onstage with Nevermore and would not change anything or do anything different from the past. The way we have done things in the past has made us who we are today.

In the end of last year Guitar World put you as one of the 50 fastest guitarists of all time, having Born, from This Godless Endeavor, as your signature song. How does it feel to figure in the same list as Marty Friedman and Jason Becker? Would you pick Born as your signature song?

It is a great feeling to be up there with the names of some of the best guitarists as one of the fastest players. I didn't know what to think of that when I first saw it in the magazine…I always thought there were faster guitar players than me. I've always concentrated on playing with equal parts of speed and feel and everything in between when it comes to guitar playing. One of the tunes that really showcase some of my best playing would have to be The River Dragon from the Dead Heart in a Dead World D, a heavy tune with some cool lead sequences that are part of my signature style.

{mosimage}Did you always dream of becoming a "guitar god" and an influence to new players? Did you have a career plan B? Are your parents proud of you?

No, I never thought about it like that. I just always new I wanted to be the best I could be when it came down to good songwriting. I would rather be able to write a great piece of music than play a million miles an hour all the time. That can be a very limiting thing to a guitar player and can only take you so far. I never had a plan B either. I always knew what I wanted to do and just had a very concentrated mindset. If you put all of your work into something, it can happen for you if you don't give up. I was really lucky to have very supportive parents as well. They are both retired teachers, so they could have surely said to go to college and get a real career, but they always pushed me to do what I loved. Music is something that's been inside of me for a very long time and I never intend on doing anything else as far as a career goes. I don't know if it will always be Metal…I would love to write movie soundtracks one day, which would be a cool goal to shoot for in the near future.

I've been asking you everything that I ever wanted to know. Is there anything you would like me to ask you and I didn't?

Hmmmm…oh, you could have asked me if I plan to record more instrumental CD's. That answer would be yes, I signed for two more with Century Media. You could have asked me if I have any new gear coming out. That answer would be yes, I have a new distortion pedal I’m going to work on with a company that I can't mention yet. And, hmmmm, you could have asked me about my signature Loomis guitar model. It is still available through Schecter (laughing)!  

Now, to wrap this up, give me an inspirational quote, a few last words of wisdom…

Be an innovator and listen to ALL styles of music. There is much out there to be heard. Thanks for the awesome interview, I look forward to seeing everyone on tour real soon.

Photos by Stephanie Cabral and Karen Mason Blair

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