Jeff Loomis is known largely for his band Nevermore and has since joined death metal band Arch Enemy. He has a solo project as well as one with notable muscians such as Alex Webster and others in Conquering Dystopia. An amazing guitarist, Loomis performs around the world, touring with Arch Enemy but also doing guitar clinics to a great effect. In December this year, he’s doing a multi-city tour of India, in the following cities – Delhi, Guwahati, Chennai and Bangalore. Peter K. talks to this humble and respected musician to obtain his insights on various subjects and what has kept him going on for so long.
Transcending Obscurity (Peter K): You are embarking on your Conquering India Tour 2016 next month. How does it feel? Is this your first time in India? What are your expectations from it?
Jeff Loomis: Yes this is my first time I will be visiting India and I am really excited about it. Besides playing music I enjoy traveling and seeing new places, so I think it will be great. From what I hear I have quite a few fans in India, so my expectations are very high. I can’t wait to meet everyone and share my music. One thing about touring in a band is that sometimes you really don’t get the opportunity to meet your fans. So half of the reason I started doing guitar clinics/seminars and solo performances was to be able to connect with the fans and answer as many questions as I can.
TO: How did the tour come about? Were there any issues that you were worried about? How has it worked out with the organizers thus far?
Jeff Loomis: The tour simply came about with my friend who lives in India who is a promoter and event organizer who initially asked me a few months back if I would be interested. The only thing I was really concerned about was if I would have time to do it, because Arch Enemy tours a lot and I just so happened to have a bit of off time. The organizers thus far have been a tremendous support and have helped with every little detail along the way. I’m happy to say everything is locked in and ready to go. Right now with it being two weeks before the tour starts, my days are pretty much busy just preparing for everything and rehearsing all the songs.
TO: In 2014, you joined well known metal band Arch Enemy. How did become a part of the line up? How has the experience been for you so far?
Jeff Loomis: Yes! I joined in November of 2014. Basically to make a long story short, I’ve been friends with most of the band for quite some time. I’ve known Michael and Sharlee the longest and we have kept in touch over the years. As a matter of fact Arch Enemy and my old band Nevermore used to tour together back in the day. So with that being said, Michael basically emailed me while I was in China doing guitar clinics and asked if I would be interested in joining the band. To me it was basically an easy decision, simply because I am a big fan of the band and writing style, and I was really itching to tour again on a professional level. The experience so far has been really amazing. Almost 100% of the shows are just packed. They have such a solid fan base and it’s really a huge honor to be surrounded with such fantastic musicians and people. We have a great crew and everything runs really smooth while on the road. I’m having a great time.
TO: What’s the most memorable point of your career? Would you like to share some memorable incidents as well?
Jeff Loomis: Haha well there are so many and I’ve been so fortunate in so many ways. I’ve jammed and met a lot of my guitar idols….Yngwie, Tony MacAlpine, Marty Friedman. But something i’ll always remember the most was playing the Dynamo festival in Holland when i was in Nevermore back in 1995. I was only 23 and we played in front of over 100,000 people. It was massive and we were one of the opening bands of the day. I think we were all a bit overwhelmed to say the least. We had just put out our first album and started touring in Europe. We were lucky enough to play this festival and it really opened up a lot of doors for us and it’s something I’ll never forget. This year marks my 21st year of being a touring musician. I’m really lucky to still be able to do this and I don’t take it for granted by any means. It’s in my blood.
TO: You also a part of Conquering Dystopia along with Alex Webster, Alex Rüdinger and Keith Merrow. The band 2014 self-titled release was a delight for guitar players. What is the current status on the band? Are you’ll working on new material?
Jeff Loomis: Yes thank you! I think that is one hell of an album. I listen to it all the time and it’s such a pleasure to listen to. Keith is an amazing writer and a riff machine haha. We worked really well together and hopefully we will be able to do another one in the near future. Conquering Dystopia is more of a project than a band. It’s basically 4 musicians that got together to do something insane and that’s what we did. Everyone is super busying with other things – Alex W. is in Cannibal Corpse, Alex R. is in a band called Good Tiger and a lot of Keith’s time is dedicated to working with Seymour Duncan pick ups besides him being a composer, and of course me in Arch Enemy. So really it’s about finding the time when everyone is free. I would be super stoked to do another one if the timing is right.
TO: What are your plans for the coming year? How much time do you dedicate or allot to touring and composing music respectively?
Jeff Loomis: The last two years of my life was on the road with Arch Enemy. My plans are to come to India in two weeks for a short run of shows. Them immediately after I will commence work and writing for my third solo album. Arch Enemy will also be recording in this time so my time will be split between those two things. It’s really just about finding the spare time to come up with riffs etc etc. It’s a bit hard for me to write on the road so I find it easier when I have down time and not traveling.
TO: It has been four years since the release of your solo album ‘Plains of Oblivion’. When can we expect the next release from you? How challenging was it to start a solo band?
Jeff Loomis: My next solo release will come out in the Summer of 2017. Doing the solo band thing was something I tried. We did about three tours in the past, a few in the US and one in Europe. I just simply found good musicians and went out on the road with it. I doubt that will happen much anymore because of all the extensive touring I do with Arch Enemy. But at least I will be able to put another album out for people that are interested. This is always fun for me because I’m able to show another side of myself musically.
TO: What is your take on the relevance of metal these days, when most of the audience is into EDM and such dance-friendly forms of music?
Jeff Loomis: Yes well a lot has changed. I listen to some of the new stuff. But I generally find myself listening to music I grew up with.
TO: Do you think live shows are diminishing worldwide in favour of programmed shows? What are your thoughts on this?
Jeff Loomis: No not necessarily… obviously there are many performers that go that route because it’s part of their style so to speak. It’s just that technology is getting better. This makes recording and performance easier and can also ruin the live aspect of things. Perfection in a recording used to be worked for with hundreds of takes until you got it right. Now things can be processed and in tune with a press of a button. I prefer to work on things with keeping it real so to speak and taking the time to make it right on my own.
be diverse with what you listen to musically. There is so much out there that is beautiful.
TO: What would you like to tell your fans? Do you have any words of advice to young budding musicians here?
Jeff Loomis: Yeah of course. I would say be diverse with what you listen to musically. There is so much out there that is beautiful. People would be surprised of what I listen to haha. It’s really what makes me excited for the frame of mind I’m in during any particular day. I tend to listen to a lot of classical music because I find it relaxing. I also love jazz and 70s music. So I try to mix it up a bit. Also I think it’s really important to get out and jam with other people. I see a lot of kids just playing and recording themselves in their bedrooms and that’s great, however if you play with other musicians like a drummer or bass player it opens up a lot for the creative process. And by all means try to play in front of people. I started doing that at a very young age. It really just makes you better and more seasoned of a player. And last but not least, be an innovator. Do things others don’t and be your own person. Have an identity so people know it’s you when you are playing. I’m still working on this myself, but that’s what makes music fun. It’s an open canvas to let you do what you want.
TO: Were you aware of the existence of a metal scene in India before getting booked for the shows? What are you looking forward to at your shows in India?
Jeff Loomis: To be quite honest I’m not that aware of the music scene in India so I’m so looking forward to meeting the other bands and seeing what it’s all about! I’m mostly looking forward to meeting other guitarists to see what they’re into and what they are playing. I always look forward to learning something new.
TO: Since this is your first show in India, what can fans expect from your set? Do you have any fixed favourites that you always perform?
Jeff Loomis: The music I will play will be spanning my entire career. So I will play some Nevermore songs, some solo Jeff Loomis material, and also some Conquering Dystopia stuff. Some crowd pleasers are pieces such as Miles of Machines and Jato Unit. I’ll be playing both of those for sure, and a few other surprises as well.
I’m generally a pretty shy person and guitar is another way I express myself through what I’m feeling.
TO: Lastly, what has kept you go on for all these years? What is your secret?
Jeff Loomis: There is no secret really. It’s all about the love of playing guitar and music. To me it’s a passion. It’s a way of expressing myself as well. I’m generally a pretty shy person and guitar is another way I express myself through what I’m feeling. I can’t go a day without picking up the guitar, it just so happens that I can do it on a professional level and tour to share it with others. It’s an amazing thing and I can see the joy it brings to people which makes me happy too. That’s what keeps me going.
TO: Many thanks for your time to answer this interview despite your busy schedule. Do you have any final words?
Jeff Loomis: Thanks a lot for the interview! I would just like to say that I’m beyond excited to come to India and share my music with everyone. See you all very soon.