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Iconic Metal Guitarist Jeff Loomis Interview with The Sounds Within

If you’ve ever been a fan of metal or have ever considered any effort towards appreciating shred guitars, chances are that you have heard of Jeff Loomis almost certainly owing to his vast associations with many big names like Arch Enemy, God Forbid, Marty Friedman, Periphery, Ihsahn, Keith Merrow just to name a few. Those of you who have done more than just dabbling in the vast ocean of metal artists would be familiar with his prolific work with Nevermore and also his solo projects that have featured more guitar muscle than most people can comprehend. The following is a transcription of our Jeff Loomis interview by founder Akhil Kodamanchili during the Bangalore leg of Loomis’ “Conquering India Tour 2016”.

The topics range from his first impressions of India to career advice for aspiring musicians and some fun facts which you might have never heard of. You could skim through the article by following what’s in BOLD. We hope his perspective and personality enriches your musical journey in some significant way as it has ours, a huge thank you to Jeff for spending some time with us!

A – Is this your first time in india?

J – Yes

A – How was your experience so far?

J – Umm, well… so far so good. Haha, I did not really know what to expect, but you know to be honest, I haven’t had much of a chance to really “tour” around to see much stuff because we’ve been on a tight schedule with planes, performing & stuff like that, but huh, I did get a chance to see the Taj Mahal. It’s something that i’ve always wanted to personally see & that was basically on the first day i arrived, so it was pretty tight… but all in all it has been a fantastic experience so far for me.

A – 2 more days?

J – Yes, we have 2 more days. The last show is tomorrow in Delhi & you know the fans have been phenomenal & very supportive & very passionate, so in that sense it’s been a really great experience so far!

A – Awesome

J – Yeah

A – That’s good. I’m glad & i’m looking forward to see your show as well

J – Thank you so much!

A – Okay, so now more of the geeky stuff….

J – Hmmhuh

A – As a guitarist, of the things that I have always found myself challenged with is musical memory & you have a pretty large catalogue of music…

J – Right

A – Like you’ve played with many other musicians who compose complicated music, stuff you’ve composed yourself & what not – how do you deal with remembering all these ideas – either at a stage when you’re writing them or how do you deal with them when you are on a tour?

J – Remembering ideas?

A – Yeah

J – Huhhh, well I guess you mean, when you are in the initial stage of writing something you’re kinda already in the process of remembering it – as you’re coming up with ideas, for me personally, just playing a part over & over, because i’ve never been good at things like theory or writing or reading music – i have literally learnt all of my guitar stuff from ear & i don’t know how the heck i do it but hahaha i just seem to be able to see or hear something on television or the radio or something like that & i can literally find the notes on the guitar. Some people can read & write – i can’t you know! So i think it’s just one of those things where ummm somebody has a different talent that somebody else – you know what i mean? And it’s just that i kinda use the talents that i have to the best of my abilities & take it to the furthest that i can, you know? It’s very bizarre! Haha, i can’t explain it but remembering all the notes in a composition and stuff is literally just from playing a bit over & over & over until your fingers feel like you can’t move them anymore. It’s all about practice & practice just builds brain power & you know it’s timing – you have to put it in the time – if you’re not willing to do that then you are not going to be a good guitar player you know?

A – Have you figured out any hacks to make that process any faster?

J – Hah, no – that’s the problem man – it’s like people want to become good so fast – you know that’s not the way it works, you have to put the time in & i’m 45 years old, so i’ve been playing guitar for hell of a long time & it’s many many hours and i was lucky enough that i had both my parents as school teachers. My mom was a psychology teacher & my father was a …. Sorry – my father was a psychology teacher and my mom was an english teacher & they both let me stay home from school because they knew that i loved music so much – that’s pretty cool haha! I was very lucky there in that sense you know – they could have said : oh, guitar is just a hobby – you know and : you do that in your own time, focus on your studies. Well they knew that i loved music, so they said – put in the time & you play your instrument & get what makes you happy! So i’m very lucky in that sense, cause i know how other parents are & it’s cool!

A – So what you said actually goes straight into the next question – when i started playing music and when a lot of my friends started playing music, this impatience and this urgency to get “good” or sound like the people on the records that we were influenced by – i think it kinda made me realise that there’s 2 aspects to getting “good” – there is musical proficiency, the physical ability to play & musical fluency, which I guess is the musical resultant of meaning what you’re playing & playing what’s meant to be in a given context – for example you’ve got your people who would play a blaring solo over a simplistic progression just for the sake of playing fast but where it is proficient, there’s nothing technically wrong with their technique or choice of notes or anything – where as when you take the more Miles Davis approach of hitting that one right note right where it should —

J – I see what you’re saying. I think it’s all about, like you said – expression you know? How do you want to hold a conversation with someone is like the same way you relate to the way you’re performing  playing music – you know what i mean? A lot of people choose to do it with one note & a lot of people choose to do it with 20 or 20000 notes & it’s really about the way you want to express yourself as a musician you know? – ummmm you know it’s like – i don’t know – that’s the beautiful thing about music – you know what i’m saying? – it’s freedom – it’s like an open palette you know, to paint whatever you want to on a canvas – some people like what you do & some people like what you do, so really to me it’s freedom & the beautiful thing is that it brings people together – it’s a unity thing! & that’s a beautiful thing about me being in India – you know what i’m saying – my music brought me here, really, you know?!

A – yeah yeah!

J – & if you think about what that is – that’s huge – that’s something that’s really special & if you can kind off like you know, make some good out of that, make somebody happy – you’re doing your job, you know?! So, it’s truly about expressing yourself & if somebody likes it – it’s a pretty cool thing!

A – Awesome! Last 2 bits – first one is to do with business side of things for young musicians trying to make it their livelihood in any way, shape or form – any critical advice?

J – Don’t ever become a musician hahaha – it’s hard man, i wasn’t able to support myself off music for a very long time – i mean i did not get endorsed by musical instruments either for a very long time – i just did music because i loved and i supported myself with whatever job i could get at that time – i did construction, worked at a restaurant, worked at amazon.com, making books for Jeff Bezos hahahaha, i did so many things ummm & it’s not one of things which you can works towards you know? “Oh, in 2 years i’m going to be able to supports myself off music”, it’s something just that kinda happens when you put the time in. Sometimes it happens quicker for other bands & sometimes it takes forever. Ummm, i think something from what i found personally as a musician, you kinda have to have different things coming all over you, you can’t just rely on one source of income – like i tried to spread it around as much as possible between things like instructional videos or other projects, umm you know, there’s so many different things you can do & it’s a hard life sometimes – you know?! It’s not always easy haha

A – You’ve worked with some of the various legends from the metal scene at the very least

J – I’m very fortunate

A – You think they all share this sentiment, in terms of work ethics

J- I think so, i mean if you wanna make it, then you’ve gotta work for it – you gotta put the time and the effort – it’s hard work

A – indeed

J – You have to like it too. I think with today’s day and age with music – artists aren’t selling albums like they used to – not selling millions of albums anymore – so to make a decent living you have to tour your ass off & spend a lot of your time on the road & if you’re not willing to do that or not liking to do that, that’s very difficult – maybe it’s just not for you

A – ahh!! & the last thing is to do with…. Yeah – you are playing with backing tracks this time right?

J – Yeah!

A – So how do you think technology has impacted the music industry over the past, say – 10 years?

J – Well, i mean – if you think about it, things have become easier haha, which cannot necessarily be a good thing right?! – I find that sometimes when you are listening to things lot’s of times musicians don’t have to work that hard because there is so much technology that is easily able to fix things & that can be not so cool. Me, myself, I prefer to listen to music that you can tell has been worked hard at – bands like Queen where layers and layers of vocals – obviously took so much time to build all those things and make it so perfect without the help of technology. So it’s possible, things have become a lot easier nowadays & it’s affected the soul of music a little bit, unfortunately. But that is what it is and we gotta go with the times – we gotta still make music and be happy so let’s try to do it haha

A – Okay, I think we are all good.

Just a few rapid fire questions –

If you weren’t a guitarist who would you be –

J – ummm, i don’t know, hahaha, maybe a sculptor

A – Fair enough

J – I’d probably be a chef or some kinda cook; i love making food – be the Gordon Ramsey of the United States

A – hahahaha, if you were not into metal & you had to pick another genre – to spend your rest of your life playing?

J – Umm, probably classical music – i love classical music, i love Chopin & I love Bach etc, etc, & also love like a lot of new age composers, minimalist composers like Philip Glass – stuff like that – melody, anything that has to do with melody

A – What’s an unlikely song/artist that you like? That you wouldn’t expect Jeff Loomis to be listening to!

J – Ohh man, what was i listening to the other day ….. Ummmm, Lady Gaga hahahaha – she writes some good stuff!

A – So, thank you so much Jeff! – can i have you autograph one of those things?

J – Sure, welcome! Thank you! 🙂

 

Special shout out to Mayur Jalan for making this interview and a wonderful tour to happen! Those of you who have not heard any of Jeff’s work, you should do yourself the favour of checking out his music across the various albums and collaborations he has done. PS// This was originally a video that had to be presented as text due to some technical difficulties, we tried to preserve the essence of the interview as much as possible, and we hope you enjoyed reading this article!

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