For every generation of players, there’s a select few who achieve an iconic status over time.
Players who either bring something new and fresh to the table (which is a bit hard to do these days) or players who take what already has been touched upon but make it their own and expand the limits of what a guitar player is thought of being capable of doing.
One of the players who have taken the guitar and put his own stamp on it, done his own twist so to speak, of this current generation is Nevermore’s shred lord Jeff Loomis.
Jeff is currently out on a clinic tour with Schecter guitars in which he gives some insight to his philosophies regarding writing, playing and gear, as well as shredding through a nice six-song set composed of two Nevermore classics and four songs from his debut solo album, Zero Order Phase.
I heart guitar asked me to go there and to report from it, so I figured I should try and ask Jeff a couple of questions. Thankfully, he was an grade A dude, very approachable and very funny.
Jeff actually started playing drums before moving to the six-string (and eventually adding a seventh to his arsenal). Starting on a three-piece kit that had such a foul odor that he gravitated away from playing it, he eventually heard Yngwie Malmsteen and his work in Alcatrazz, which caused him to gain enough interest in guitar to pick up one of his dads instruments.
From there, he went to Jason Becker and Marty Friedman who remain big influences to this day which shows up in Jeff’s playing such him as utilizing a Becker-like approach for the whammy bar phrasing of the song Jatu Unit.
As a 16 year old, Jeff actually auditioned for Megadeth and though he was deemed as too young and inexperienced at the time by Dave Mustaine, he took him aside and told him that he really was on to something and to stick to his guns, because he would one day, according to Mustaine, become a great guitar player.
Lo and behold, Mustaine was right on the money, seeing as Jeff is one of the most revered guitar players in metal today and actually toured in his own band Nevermore with Megadeth on Gigantour in 2005!
After his audition, the young Jeff (not Jeff Young) went to see a Cacophony show and as Marty Friedman left the stage after it, Loomis told him about Megadeth seeking a new guitar player and “Marty’s eyes just lit up”, and well, we all know how the story about Marty and Megadeth went on from there.
Jeff himself struggled on, playing in death metal bands until he got tired of the vocal styling and wanted to find a singer who sung with a more traditional approach. In 1991, he was able to join the band Sanctuary as a touring member, which was where he met Warrel Dane and Jim Sheppard.
4 months after him joining Sanctuary, the good ol’ “musical difference” thing snuck up and the band dissolved. Jeff, Warrel and Dane went on to form Nevermore who, six studio albums (plus one EP), a live album/DVD-package and a new full-length on the way, have truly become a force to be reckoned with. With Jeff being the main-composer of their music, a big part of their success can be attributed to him, so I was really expecting this clinic to be something extra-ordinary.
From the get-go, Jeff comes out all guns blazin’ with the first track from his awesome solo album Zero Order Phase, Shouting Fire at a Funeral and he delivers a stellar performance, his fingers flying across the fretboard. Between the six songs played, he opens the floor for questions three times, revealing that the new Nevermore album The Obsidian Conspiracy has been recorded and it’s currently being mixed, hopefully to be out in January, as well as philosophies regarding picking. For example, he reveals that a lot of the fluid sound of his runs descending down the strings comes from his use of economy picking instead of straight alternate. On Chris Broderick, he gets a bit emotional, saying that:
- “I miss him, for sure. We were best friends and we still are” and how he thought the new Megadeth album Endgame, which Broderick performed on, was
- “killer and a bit of a return to the roots. The best album they’ve done is Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying and it was a bit like that so I really like the new album”. Jeff also dropped a fairly big bomb, revealing that he was offered the lead guitarist position of Megadeth after Glen Drover left the band. However, Jeff declined and stated that
- “I’ve been in Nevermore for over 15 years now, and though the paycheck from Megadeth would’ve been really nice, the music goes before the money”. Also addressing the fact that Nevermore live shows have been remarked as “thin sounding” due to the lack of a second guitarist;
- “I think the main problem is to find someone who can replace Chris, which is a big thing. He’s a great guy and an amazing player so it’s not easy. But yeah, we will try to find a new guitar player” (can we freeze-frame here for a couple of decades so I can practice and get good enough?).
After an hour of fretboard blazing and Q&A, the clinic’s over and it’s time for us clinic-visitors to try and take it all in which is a pretty tall order, seeing as Jeff has kindly shared a lot of cool, memorable tips with us. If Jeff has a clinic coming up anywhere near you (or if Nevermore swing by on tour), you should go, seriously. It was a lot of fun, if nothing else, and Jeff is one of the kindest and most awesome famous guys I’ve ever met.
Setlist (the order might be slightly off):
Shouting Fire at a Funeral
This Godless Endeavour
Enemies of Reality
Miles of Machines