Exclusive! Interview With Nevermore Guitarist Jeff Loomis

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Tuesday, August 16, 2005 @ 0:07 AM

Nevermore Axeman Loomis Takes

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In their tenth year of metal mayhem, Nevermore find themselves on the road with one of the summer’s biggest metal tours, Dave Mustaine’s Gigantour, supporting their highly anticipated follow-up to 2003’s Enemies of Reality. This Godless Endeavor dropped in July, and their first single and video from the CD, “Final Product,” is out now ripping up the metal world.

Guitar wizard Jeff Loomis weighs in with Gnarly Charlie at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, California about his band Nevermore and performing on this summer’s Gigantour.

KNAC.COM: Did Dave Mustaine handpick Nevermore to do this tour?
LOOMIS: He's had a relationship working with Warrel Dane and Jim Sheppard, our bass player, in the past. What happened was the two new players he has in his band, Glen Drover and Sean Drover, who are both brothers of course, but they're very big fans of Nevermore, so I think that helped to push us getting on to the bill. I think it's a bit of both things, actually. We lucked out, you know –we're just very overwhelmed by all the great response we've had so far and very happy to be a part of this whole process.

KNAC.COM: It's a good lineup.
LOOMIS: A very diverse lineup. Every band sounds different.

KNAC.COM: During your set I could not believe how hard Van [Williams] was beating the drums. It was great.
LOOMIS: [Laughs] Thanks.

KNAC.COM: This Godless Endeavor, commercially, is going places where your previous albums haven't. Do you think you're reaching a wider audience?
LOOMIS: I think so, with this whole thing here, especially. We've only played very small venues before in the past, you know, 800-900 people, in the States and now we're playing in front of 8,000-9,000 people a night, so it's amazing. Hopefully this will push Nevermore to the next level, as far as getting a little popular over in the United States, rather than just us being popular in Europe. We want to become a bigger band in the United States and this is the start of it for us, I believe.

KNAC.COM: You have a bigger following in Europe, now?
LOOMIS: We kind of do, but I don't know why that is. Maybe it's just because we tour a little bit more over there. It's one of those things we want to change here. We want to become a bigger band in the United States. So, this is the start of it for us, I believe.

KNAC.COM: So this is your tenth year?
LOOMIS: This is our tenth year, dude. It's gone by so fast, you know? We've learned a lot, we've come a long way, we've matured as musicians, we've matured as songwriters and we've become a tighter band because of that. We're proud to announce, too, that Steve [Smyth, ex-Testament] is our fifth and final member of Nevermore. We've gone through so many guitarists in the past, looking for the right person and we found that in Steve.

KNAC.COM: Do you write all the music?
LOOMIS: Warrel always writes all the lyrics and the lyrical melodies. I, in the past two albums, have written all the music. On this record, we all had a contributing factor in the songwriting process. Steve wrote three songs, Jim Sheppard wrote one song, and I wrote six songs for the whole record, so I think that's why with this record there is so much going on, and that's simply because everybody has different inspirations and different feelings. It's a good thing. I'm glad we went back to the old way of songwriting, because it makes for a much more diverse record. We're all writing now, we're all part of it.

KNAC.COM: Steve Smyth, your new member, has added a new dimension to Nevermore, being a very proficient guitarist.
LOOMIS: He came from Testament. Being his long time friend, I asked him to politely join Nevermore and he said yes, so it's as simple as that. That's how it worked out.

KNAC.COM: And you have another Testament member, James Murphy, who helped out with guitar duties on “Holocaust of Thought.”
LOOMIS: It's kind of like an interlude between two songs. What happened was that James was at the studio where we were recording in England, and he was recording with another band in the B Studio. So we were like “James, come on over, brutha!” He's a longtime friend of ours and he was more than willing to put on something exceptional.

KNAC.COM: You've been touted as being the guy to watch in the guitar world. The generic question: Who are your influences?
LOOMIS: Influences? Everything -- I grew up with a family of musicians, basically. My Dad had a very, very big collection of ‘70s music and stuff like that. I try not to limit myself to what I listen to, as far as inspiration, but as far as guitar players go, I was very moved by Jason Becker and Marty Friedman, They used to be in a band together called Cacophony. Phenomenal guitar playing. Of course, I went through the whole Yngwie period as well. Anybody who has technical proficiency and speed and that plays amazing, I'm into. It keeps me excited. [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: James' lead in “Holocaust of Thought” is very Yngwie-ish.
LOOMIS: It is. It almost has a jazzy feel to it, too. James is kind of known for that. I listen to everything, dude. I listen to everything from the Doobie Brothers to Fleetwood Mac to jazz to classical music. I try not to limit myself.

KNAC.COM: Your guitar playing sounds like you've been infused with a lot of different influences…
LOOMIS: That's a good thing, because I'm more of an ear player, really. I'm really a self-taught guitar and I've never really had many lessons. I would sit at home and spin a record at slow speed and try to pick it up by ear. I guess some people frown on that, but some people also look up to that, and I'm happy with the way I learned how to play the guitar.

KNAC.COM: For the aspiring guitarist: How many years have you been playing?
LOOMIS: I've been playing for about twenty years now –ever since I was about thirteen, so I'm 33 now. Long time. [Laughs] It's an everyday thing, you know? It's one of those things that you have to be really consistent with. You can't just play one day and put it down, and come back a week later. I'm pretty disciplined. I sit down everyday and play.

KNAC.COM: Are you writing anything right now, while you're on the road?
LOOMIS: Well, normally I don't write on the road, but this time I'm going to, simply because we have so much down time on this tour –we're only onstage 30 minutes; we have the rest of the day to do whatever we want, basically. I bought a little 8-track mini-disc recorder thing and I plan on writing a lot of our next record on this tour. I'm just going to try to stay busy and keep focused, and I also want to work on my solo record as well. I don't know when that's going to come out, but I just want to stay busy and write and write and write. We'll see what happens.

KNAC.COM: Let's talk about Gigantour. Who have you been watching? Who do like going out to see?
LOOMIS: I really like Fear Factory, because they kind of have that industrial element with metal, which I've always been a fan of. Megadeth, of course. It kind of goes back to when I first listened to them when they first came out. I'm a very big fan of them and Dave. It's like I'm surrounded by all these great guitarists, dude. Maybe, hopefully, one of these days we can all sit down and jam with each other. Mike Romeo, from Symphony X is good, too --amazing.

KNAC.COM: What do you anticipate doing from here?
LOOMIS: Well, just keep on doing our thing, man. We're going to try to put out one record every year. We're going to tour our asses off, tour the world, put out a record a year and hopefully this will push Nevermore to the next level where we want to be. We keep on writing good tunes and we're still strong as a band, so ... until somebody gets sick or can't do it anymore, we're going to keep doing it and make records for our fans.

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