20 QUESTIONS WITH…
NEVERMORE guitarist JEFF LOOMIS!
Jeff Loomis might not be a household name to fans of glam rock or more mainstream hair bands, but in the world of progressive metal, he’s an icon! What exactly is progressive metal? Does that mean Nevermore is for national health care reforms and new environmental regulations? Fuck no, it means they’re very skilled musicians and play epic, technical heavy metal. Huge in Europe, and they have quite a following in the USA — even without very much airplay. So if you’ve never heard of Nevermore before, then today’s your lucky day, because you’re going to learn quite a bit about Jeff and his band!
Anyhow, Jeff’s been around for awhile and played in the band Sanctuary for a few months prior to joining Nevermore, and is about to go on the road as part of the GiganTour. So we hit him up for an interview, and he said he was down! That’s what we like to hear.
Today’s 20 Questions was conducted via audio by Lemmy LeSte, one of our newest Metal Sludge staff members. He did a great job with asking all of our questions, following up appropriately and getting in-depth answers for all to enjoy. So Metal Sludge is proud to present: 20 Questions with Nevermore’s Jeff Loomis. Here it is!
1. What’s going on with you, NEVERMORE and your life? Plug away.
We recorded a brand new album called ?This Godless Endeavor? and recorded it in England, which is the first time we?ve ever recorded a record outside of the United States. Basically we have a lot of touring coming up and we?re going to be apart of this thing called the GiganTour. It?s Dave Mustaine from Megadeth?s idea. It?s kind of like the OzzFest, if you will, with two stages. We?ll be playing on the main stage. The tour starts July 21 and runs up until September, we have four days off and then we go to Europe for a headlining tour so we?re going to be pretty busy right up until 2006.
2. Most wouldn’t want the title bestowed upon them, but you are looked at by many as a guitar God. How does it feel a decade plus into a career that has taken you from your bedroom playing along to records, to touring the world for thousands of music fans and appearing in the pages of Guitar World, and similar magazines you once read in school?
It?s very, very strange. It?s one of those things that first starts off when you go to your first concerts or whatever and you get inspired just by seeing the mammoth size of the arena and I was just blown away by seeing a band, but I was just inspired to be the best that I could be and I sat in my bedroom for hours and hours and played until technically I got pretty advanced. I started winning guitar wars and things like that, but to be titled as something like a ?guitar God? and things like that I?m pretty humble about it because there?s always going to be somebody out there that is going to be better than you. You have to do your own thing. Try to be as best as an innovator as you can and try to do something original with your own identity so it?s really cool to see all photos and stuff that have been happening, you know, being in Guitar World and stuff like that. A lot of this is just starting for me, believe it or not, after 10 years of being in Nevermore. I?m starting to get a lot more recognition as a guitar player so I can?t say anything bad about it. Any publicity is good publicity at this moment. I?m just proud to be a whole part of the process.
3. You originally joined Warrel and Jim in Sanctuary and then there was the split. How did that make you feel and did you think it was already the end of something that you had just barely started?
It?s a great question because I joined Sanctuary for about two months. Originally Shawn, one of the rhythm slash lead guitar players had left the band and actually through a friend of mine heard that Sanctuary was looking for another guitar player. I sent the demo tape out, got the gig and to make a long story short this was during the rise of the grunge era back in ?91 and initially we were going to do another Sanctuary record but when we realized the other guitar player, Lenny Rutledge, wanted to write more in the vein of what was going on musically in Seattle we were kind of disappointed because we really wanted to do another metal record. Some of the demos he was doing really sounded like Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and we were just like, ?ah, no.? And so that was the demise of Sanctuary and the beginning of Nevermore and that?s basically how the whole thing happened.
4. What single rock star really needs to be punched in the mouth?
(laughing) Let me thing about that. Goddamn it! That?s a hard one. I got say it without, ah, I knew you were going to get me on one of these. (laughing) I?d have to say Jeff Waters from Annilator.
Well, because at one point on blabbermouth he said he was one of the fastest guitar players in the world and I just find it really hard to believe that. If he was willing to show people through a contest, ah, I just don?t believe he?s the fastest. There are flamingo guitar players that are faster than he is. Not that he?s a bad guy or anything. I just think he opens his mouth up a little too much.
5. Rate a guitarist 1-10. A ‘1’ being a broken fingered hack and a "10" being a 6 string virtuoso genius.
Say that again.
This is where you?re going to rate the following guitar players. One is a broken fingered hack and a 10 would be a virtuoso.
Oh, all right.
Cool. Lets start with Eddie Van Halen: You know Eddie is a 10 when it comes to seeing him on stage playing without hitting the bottle beforehand, but I recently saw him and I?d probably have to give him a 2 because he was literally loaded as fuck and he could not even walk correctly. I think the guy?s got a probably with hitting the bottle a little too much nowadays. Yeah, it?s too bad because you can tell visually he?s got a problem with booze. He?s still one of the most influential guitarist of his time, of course.
Tim Calvert: Awesome, awesome. I couldn?t say enough good words about Tim and I had the fortune of writing a great album with him called Dreaming in Black, which was Nevermore?s first concept album, and Tim is one of those multitalented guys and he?s pursuing a career in aviation now. I would give him a 9 ?.
CC Deville: Well, number one, he talks a lot. I don?t know, man, I would probably give him a 4.
Wow, hey, he scored higher than a drunken Eddie Van Halen.
(laughing) They both have had some problems, but I hear (CC?s) sobered up now and good for him.
I think you got some bad information, but oh well what about Steve Smith:
Actually, it?s Smyth.
Oh, OK, my bad. That is what was written so I guess I read it wrong. Steve Smyth: I would give Steve a 10 because he?s definitely all 10?s. One, it took us a long time to find someone like him and two and three, he?s a great friend and a great touring partner. 10?s all the across the board for that dude.
Malmsteen: I would also give him a 10 because he was my first inspiration. He was the guy that really led me to stay in my room and work on my guitar skills and try to be a better musician myself, but a great showman. He shows off a little too much, but the crowd loves that shit. People like to see guys that are into what they?re doing and he?s definitely into what he?s doing so I?d give him a 10.
Kirk Hammet: I don?t know, man, but he relies too much on the pentatonic scales for me. I?d give Kirk, probably, a 6.
KK Downing: I don?t know, man, I?d give KK a 6 ?.
Dave Murray: Another inspiration too. I?d give Dave a 9 ? because Peace of Mind, that record rules. He?s a great guitar player.
Warren DeMartini: It?d give Warren a 7 just because he can fall through floors in videos and still play his guitar solo. That was in the Round and Round video, of course, in case any of you forgot. (laughing)
Pat O?Brien: That guy rules. Any guitar player that?s been in our band has to have been a great guitar player so I?d give Pat a 10.
OK, now for the bonus round.
Do you still want me to rate them with a number?
Yes! George Lynch: Goddamn, ah, I?d say I?d give George about an 8. I didn?t really listen to too much Dokken growing up to tell you the truth, but we did however work with the same producer that worked with Dokken and he told me some weird stories about George running naked through the Hollywood Hills. (laughing)
Please, do tell us more?
Well, I don?t know, umm, I guess he broke into somebody?s house and they saw him watching their TV naked or something like that. There were some more really weird stories about George that I really didn?t understand. Maybe he was experimenting a little bit too much. I don?t know. I guess the guy is working his ass off now, though, because he sure is looking fit as hell. It?s crazy.
I have to say, that is one of the best George Lynch stories I?ve ever heard: running naked through the Hollywood Hills in order to watch a stranger?s television. OK then.
(laughing) From what I heard he had broken into a house that he had used to live in and wasn?t supposed to be in, but he was completely naked watching the television all high. At least, that?s what I heard. I do hope that I don?t get in trouble for any of this.
Oh, no, it?s just the Internet.
I mean, it?s all in fun, right?
Sure, but what about Chris DeGarmo? Any naked stories?: No. I don?t know him, but one time he sat behind me at a Heart concert. I didn?t get a chance to talk to him, but I?d give him a 10 because he?s an awesome songwriter and he?s flying planes.
Kerry King: Brutal, awesome guitar player and a real innovator of death metal, grind core. 10.
Mick Mars: Well, I feel really bad for Mick Mars because he has a terrible bone disease and he can hardly move on stage but I give the guy a lot of credit because I was reading the Dirt and he?s the oldest member of the band, but he still kick a lot of ass. I liked early Motley Crue stuff so I?d give Mick an 8 1/2.
Paul Gilbert: He?s definitely one of those geek guitar players. You can tell that guy spent way too much time in his room because he?s so Goddamn good. He?s like a tall and lanky, dorky kind of fella so I?d give him a 9 ?.
Nevermore hanging out on a beach… somewhere.
6. Okay, let’s go back a ways. When you were still a teenager in high school you slipped through the cracks and found yourself in Hollywood auditioning for Megadeth. How did your demo tape from Appleton Wisconsin find it’s way into Dave Mustaine’s hands? How did that all go down, and what was the bands reaction after they realized you were skipping school to be there?
Yeah, well, I was 16 years old and wasn?t even finished with high school and the drummer from Flotsom & Jetsom, Craig Nielson, I?d been friends with him for a very long time. He used to live in the Wisconsin area and moved out to Los Angeles and through word of mouth found out Megadeth was looking for another guitar player and so he asked me to send out a demo tape. I?m not sure but I think a manager they had at the time heard and basically I flew out there. I was sitting in the waiting line because there was probably a line of 50 guitarists and I remember Junior, Dave Elfson, walking out and going, ?what the hell?? Seeing this kid, 16 years old and my hair wasn?t even long, I looked like a total idiot and he was wondering how I even got there in the first place. Being the nice guys that Megadeth are I played the audition and wound up playing four songs with them. I think I played ?Wake Up Dead,? ?In My Darkest Hour,? ?The Conjuring? and one other one I don?t remember, but it was kind of weird because Mustaine didn?t sing at all. He was just kind of looking through me in a sense. It was one of those things that was extremely intimidating and basically after the audition was over he came up to me and said, ?sorry little dude you?re just too young, you don?t have enough experience for something like this but we really appreciate you coming out.? It was one of those things that kept me going because he said if you work hard enough at it you?ll be a great guitar player so maybe he could tell the talent that I had at the time. How ironic 16 years later I?m going to be touring with them so it?s pretty fuckin? cool.
Does he remember you?re the guy that was 16 years old when you auditioned for the band?
Well, I think a lot of people know that back then Dave had some problems with substance abuse and stuff so I don?t think he really remembered. It?s true because I had a chance to talk with him recently when we did a thing for Guitar World together and the same question popped up and he said, ?you know, I really don?t remember? plus that was 16 years ago so that?s a hard thing for anybody to remember something like that. He?s an awesome, awesome person and Nevermore can?t thank him and his band members enough for inviting us out. We?re totally stoked about it.
7. At 16 you won the Wisconsin Guitar Wars. The MP3 clip is on your site and showcases you as a sick ripper. Do you think if we had a pretty girl take a rubber hammer and smash it once on each of your hands you could still play "Spirit of the Radio" by Rush without fucking it up?
Yeah, yeah, I could. That?s not a problem. That?s not a problem at all. In fact, I could play it with a pair of ski gloves on. I?ve been known to do this thing called the glove where I put a ski glove on and I rip with that on as well too. I might even be able to play it with my toes but I haven?t really experimented with that yet.
8. You list Jason Becker as an influence first in your bio. What are your thoughts on the history of Cacophony and the current situation that a great guitar God like himself now finds himself in on a daily basis?
Well, you know, like Jason says he?s not able to use his body but he?s able to use his mind and that?s one thing that he still has. It?s so sad. He was about to become or actually I thought he was the best guitar player in the world and having something like that happen where you lose all your bodily movements and muscles is something that is incredibly sad. I don?t know how in the hell he deals with all of that because having ALS for one is something that has a very short survival rate. You?re talking 12 plus years now and it?s incredible all the things he?s gone through and he still has an overall love of life. He has a very loving family. They all take care of him as well and it?s unbelievable to see that, the support he gets from his fans and his family. I still look up to him and just because of his guitar playing, but because of his spirit.
9. One last serious one… December 8th 2004, Dimebag is taken from the world… how did he, his band, and his playing affect you? And tell us a great story about anything related to this great guitar God!
Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet Dimebag. There was one time where I almost got a chance to meet him, but I think he was ill or something. It was one of those things where I literally couldn?t pick up my guitar for almost a month and I couldn?t stop thinking about it for almost two or three months until I went on a vacation to my family?s house and first started to forgot about the whole incident. It just goes to show you man that you never know when something terrible is going to happen. You have to have a love of life every day because you never know when your life is going to end. He was huge influence on so many guitar players and it was a tragic loss. It?s one of those things where it was so unbelievable. You know what I mean? The first time I heard about the whole thing was when we where practicing for a tour in our rehearsal room and swear to God you could hear every band stop playing. It?s like everybody heard about it at the same time. Everybody was just walking out in disbelief. To tell you the truth I really don?t like talking about it anymore. It?s just so terrible. It was a terrible, terrible thing.
10. Name the 3 highest points, and the 3 lowest points of your music career to date?
Highest: Number one, getting a record deal. I guess that?s not too terribly difficult for a lot of bands out there right now, but that was a really big high point. Playing in front of 180,000 people for the Dynamo Festival back in 1995 was another. And having the freedom to write whatever I want to write in our band. Having that freedom is a high point.
Low: Dealing with a lot of internal fighting sometimes. Just a lot of the bad struggles we had to go through in the past with a bad bus accident. It was really terrible and our bass player almost died. Another low point, jeez, I don?t know. I?d have to think about that. I guess time just being away from your home.
11. Walk us through the first 2 hours of your life every morning upon waking up?
(laughing) Oh my. Well I get up, feed the cat, go to blabbermouth with a cup of coffee to see what?s happening in the metal world, turn on the TV to see what?s happening in the news, shower, get a good jerk in (laughing) and actually that?s about it really. Oh, of course, I practice for half an hour.
12. If you had a choice, between having your hands cut off with a chainsaw or joining Warrant as lead guitarist for the next 10 years what do you do?
(laughing) Can you say that again one more time?
If you had a choice, between having your hands cut off with a chainsaw or joining Warrant as lead guitarist for the next 10 years what do you do?
(laughing) Oh my God. Holy shit. Oh my God. I?d have to say I?d join Warrant for my love of playing guitar. Yeah. I love guitar too much and it?s the only thing I know how to do. (laughing) It?s a terrible thing and a terrible thought, but I?d rather have my hands and my guitar and be in a band like Warrant than have them chopped off. Yeah.
13. Pick your Poison?
Slaughter or Firehouse = Slaughter
Goth or Glam = Goth
Shout at the Devil or Out of the Cellar = Shout the Devil, of course!
Touring the states or touring Europe = Umm, at the moment, touring Europe. Our popularity has always been better over there, but we?re trying to fix that.
Megadeth of Metallica = Megadeth
Kid Rock or Limp Bizkit = Oh my God. That?s a really tough one. Oh man, I?ll have to say Limp Bizkit.
6 Strings or 7 Seven Strings = Seven strings, of course!
Hamburgers or Hot Dogs = Hamburgers.
You know, you?re buddy Stevie Rachelle really fucked that question up because it should have been hamburgers or brats or maybe hot dogs or brats.
OK, well, then lets add the question ourselves and for sure it?s beer brats.
What the fuck was he thinking?
I don?t know, but you have to have beer brats.
Playing Live or Recording in the Studio = Playing live.
Warm European Beer or Cold American Beer = Cold American beer.
14. Out of all the band you’ve toured with, who was the coolest, and who were the biggest dicks?
The biggest dicks were Annilator. There was a cat in that band, a guitar player, that just bothered the piss our of the whole band. So we were glad to get off that tour. The best band we ever toured with, well, I?d have to say Death back in 1995.
Nevermore live on Stage… somewhere.
15. True or False:
You perm your hair do make it curly? False
You could play Malmsteen?s "Trilogy" note for note at age 14? True
You can drink 20 bottles of beer and still play lead? True
You watch the Green Bay Packers every Sunday? True
You used to go to Stevie Rachelle’s rehearsals/gigs with his bands back in Wisconsin? Wait, and gig with his band?
No, you went to the gigs. You know, you were a fan!
Oh, OK, that?s true.
16. Kill, fuck , marry! (Paris Hilton, Pauly Shore, Paula Abdul)
I?d kill Pauly Shore, fuck Paula Abdul and marry Paris Hilton for her cash.
17. What is the largest crowd (and where was it) you ever played for, and the smallest?
I think I answered that before as one of the high points of my career. The Dynamo Festival in 1995 we played in front of 180,000. Yeah. Killer. That was in Holland. That don?t do festivals like that anymore because of all the injuries that are involved and all the cleanup. Not in Holland anyway. It was a very cool thing. The smallest, oh my God, we played somewhere in Denver in like ?97 where there was a snowstorm and we played to like three people. (laughing) Believe me, it?s one of the hardest things to do but, fuck it, you still have to put on a show.
18. What was your biggest musical related paycheck for and what did you buy with it?
Umm, I don?t remember. Ah, probably one of our first advances we got on our new record and I bought a home studio. Yeah. It?s cool.
19. The Last of Jeff Loomis…
Last rock star you shook hands with = Let me think, ah, Dave Mustaine.
Last Fast Food drive thru you hit = Jack in the Hatch. Jack in the Box.
Last 80 Metal CD you purchased = Loudness. Thunder in the East. I bought that just a couple of weeks ago as a matter of fact.
Why, man, because I love Loudness. I can?t help it, but I love that: why did you buy that? (laughing)
Last concert you watched from the crowd = We were actually playing a festival ourselves, but I watched System of a Down.
Did you like them?
Ah, they were OK. They didn?t move very much and they were all stoned out of their minds.
Last person you talked to on the phone = Heather, my publicist, from Century Media.
Technically, I think it?s me right now.
Oh, yeah, you.
Last time you had to wipe your ass more than 5 times = (laughing) Probably the last time I ate like five beer brats, which was Fourth of July. (laughing) Dude, this is the best interview I?ve ever done.
Last TV show you turned off cause it sucked = ER. I have to watch that every morning with my girlfriend. It?s a terrible show.
Last fist fight you witnessed up close = I think it was at a Cannibal Corps show somebody got their head beat in and that was about a year ago.
Last time you barfed from drinking = [note: interviewer fucked up and forgot to ask this one! So needless to say we have no clue when Jeff last puked, but maybe he can send us an email with the answer since our incompetent interviewer can?t READ!]
Last time you visited Metal Sludge = Umm, the last time I saw that was when you guys did the Jason Becker interview.
20. Time for Metal Sludges World Famous word association:
Dave Mustaine = Innovator
Warrel Dane = God
Nikki Sixx = Sex fiend
Frank Zappa = God
W. Axl Rose = Freak
Rob Halford = Gay
Jim Sheppard = Nikki Sixxstones. That?s what we call him. Yeah, don?t ask why.
Gene Simmons = Rich
Geoff Tate = I don?t know. Boring, kind of now, I guess.
Brett Favre = Vicoden lover
Thanks to Jeff Loomis for being down and for taking the time to answer our silly-ass questions! And thanks also to the enigmatic Lemmy LeSte for conducting the interview and following up with a thought provoking yet borderline insipid line of questioning.
Note: Various images used in this interview can be credited to Eugene Straver, Talitha Martijn, Stephanie Cabral, Asgeir Mickelson, Vincent Kroese, Martin, "Rev," and probably a few other unidentified photographers. So, thanks!!!