Nevermore’s Jeff Loomis is
shaping up to be one of the leading lights
of a new generation of metal shredders.
He can not only play crushingly heavy
riffs and blazing solos, but he can also
throw in bluesy bends, interesting phrasing,
and a nuanced sense of dynamics that
takes his music way beyond the relentless
onslaught of many bands in the
genre. Where lots of metal guitarists
started with Yngwie or Metallica and
never looked back, Loomis has a deep
knowledge of classic rock and draws from
players like Eddie Van Halen and Brian
May as much as modern chuggers such
as Meshuggah. With a new Nevermore
album, The Obsidian Conspiracy [Century
Media], and huge tours underway, this
might just be Loomis’ time.
How would you characterize the differences
between this record and your previous work?
It would have been very easy for us to
do a Godless Endeavor part 2—our record
from back in2005. We didn’t want to go
that route. I think the main differences
are the songs are a little bit less complex,
and the choruses come in much more
quickly. It’s a record that’s more to the
point. The tunes are going to come across
much better in a live situation and maybe
we’ll gain a wider audience too. We’ll see
what happens. The record is still quite new.
You come right out of the gate burning on
this album. The intro riff in “Termination
Proclamation” is pretty in your face. Talk about
how that riff and that tune came together.
I’m a huge fan of the diminished scale.
I tend to overuse it because I love the
darkness and the sound of it. Basically
what I do when I’m writing music is I’ll
come up with a foundation of a drum pattern.
I’m using this thing called Drumkit
From Hell by Toontrack. It’s a plug-in
that you can use in Pro Tools and it
sounds awesome. I’ll come up with a basic
pattern that I’m thinking in my head and
just jam various riffs over that pattern.
I’ll come up with three or four riffs and
turn them into a song.
You started on drums, right?
That’s correct. I started playing drums
when I was about ten or 11. My dad had
a huge record collection of all these ’70s
bands. I remember listening to bands like Queen, Fleetwood Mac, the Doobie Brothers,
and stuff like that, and I would just put
on headphones and jam along to those bands.
It was cool because it gave me a good sense
of rhythm and of how to actually play the
drums. But I quickly became frustrated with
my little 3-piece kit and I found a guitar that
my dad had lying around. I picked it up and
never put it down.
It seems like you still think very much in terms
of drum patterns, syncopation, and accents. A lot
of your riffs—if you took the notes out of them—
would almost sound like drum rudiments.
You’re extremely right. It’s funny because
of course I’m interested in watching other
guitar players. I was very much, and still am,
into the shred thing. I love ’80s Shrapnel
guys like Jason Becker and Marty Friedman.
They’re still huge inspirations to me, but it
was a lot of the drummers back then that
really got me excited about writing and composing
music. Deen Castronovo and Atma
Anur—the guys that played on some of those
Shrapnel albums—are just amazing drummers.
So a lot of the stuff that I get inspired
by is not just from guitar players, but from
drummers as well.
On that first tune, “Termination Proclamation,”
the solo at 2:05 has some really fast octaves. How
are you playing those?
That’s a tapping riff. I start off with a
whole-tone scale that goes into the tapping
section. It’s Eddie Van Halen inspired, but
it didn’t sound right the first time I started
messing around with it. Sometimes that’s
the coolest thing, when something doesn’t
sound quite right—when it almost has a dissonant
sound to it. That’s kind of what I was
Speaking of dissonant, there’s a really cool
creepy sound a little later that sounds like you’re
bending a note and then tagging a note that’s
maybe a half-step above it.
That is exactly what I’m doing there.
Actually, I was bending the note on the B
string up to the original one I had on the
high string but kind of went further beyond
that to get even more of that dissonance.
That was inspired by a guitar player who
used to be in Nevermore, Tim Calvert. He
did a lot of stuff like that back in the early
’90s when he was in Forbidden. I just love
sounds like that.
What was your rig on that tune?
For the entire record, I used an Engl Special
Edition head, an awesome amp that comes
out of Germany. I’ve been working with those
guys now for about four years. I also used an old Peavey 5150 head that belongs to Peter
Richards, our producer. We did two channels
of the Engl and two channels of the
5150 and combined them together to get
this wall of sound. We set the gain on the
Engl extremely high so that was basically
our chunk amp. The gain on the 5150 was
set very low so I had to work at it harder to
really get the color of the chords out. With
a combination of something that’s so overly
distorted and something that’s somewhat
clean, you get a great sound when you blend
them together. I used an Ibanez Tube
Screamer to get a little bit of extra gain for
the leads. But these Engl amps are so saturated
and so distorted you really don’t need
anything like that. I found that if you just
add a little bit of the Ibanez Tube Screamer,
you get extra pick attack. You get more of
that clicking kind of noise. I used my 7-string
Jeff Loomis signature Schecter guitar for 99.9
percent of the record. The only other electric
guitar I used for different tunings on
certain songs was a Schecter Devil Custom.
That’s it—those two guitars. For acoustics
I just used a Martin 12-string and a 6-string
that I think was an Alvarez. I used the Fractal
Audio Axe-Fx for most of the clean sounds
and effected tones that were on the record.
It’s an awesome unit.
You get one of the best 7-string tones out
there. How do you keep the low-B so clear?
You have to have some midrange in there
for it to cut through everything else. A lot
of guitar players out there now are cranking
the bass and cranking the treble, but the
midrange is really what makes it cut. Of
course our engineer Andy Sneap, who has
worked with us since 2000, since Dead Heart
in a Dead World, is a master of getting the
separation that we’re looking for, especially
when using 7-string guitars.
Your use of clean tones under distorted tones
on this record makes it a much more enjoyable listen
than distortion on top of distortion. Talk about
your philosophy on guitar layers.
I definitely get sick of listening to distortion
on distortion. I grew up listening to
bands like Queen where Brian May was doing
a lot of different harmonies and layers of guitars—
almost treating the guitar like it was
a violin. I try to put textures and colors
inside the song to make it more interesting.
I just love the diversity of Queen
because they can go from something that’s
completely melancholy to something that’s
totally brutal and insane. That’s what I try
to do with Nevermore.