Nevrmore Guitarist Jeff Loomis Explains "The Obsidian Conspiracy"
Band Photo: Nevermore (?)
Seattle's long running metal phenomena Nevermore launched the latest full-length album "The Obsidian Conspiracy" on June 8th, 2010, which debuted at #125 on the Billboard top 200 chart. Prior to the album's release, guitarist Jeff Loomis spoke with me about the direction of the new album, the dark theme of the music, and his own projects outside of Nevermore.
Commenting on the change in musical style on this album, Loomis stated "I wanted the songs to be a little more catchy. Peter Wichers, the producer, was a very big part of helping me out with that to make the songs much more easy to listen to and take in. That’s the real difference to me. I think a lot of people are probably going to freak out a bit." Check out the whole chat below.
xFiruath: Would you like to say anything about Dio’s passing or his music before we get onto your guy’s new album?
Jeff: I had the opportunity to meet him once and he was an amazing individual. His wife Wendy too was just a fabulous person. Obviously we lost someone tremendous. He was one of the founding fathers of heavy metal. It’s very sad to say that we lost him, but I’m just glad he went peacefully. I don’t think he suffered much, but it’s very sad.
xFiruath: Had you heard about Westboro Baptist picketing his memorial and are you familiar with that particular group at all?
Jeff: No man, are you serious? I’m not familiar with them, that’s mind blowing. I don’t understand why people can’t see the good in somebody. People bring good things to the table and there’s people protesting because they think he’s Satan or whatever. I don’t get it. It just goes to show you how very short life is and you really have to be aware of certain things. Like Paul Gray now is dead and Peter Steele. They are dropping like flies and it’s very sad.
xFiruath: Are you doing any solo work currently outside of Nevermore?
Jeff: Not at the moment. I’m currently writing for my next solo record, but that won’t be out until next fall. So right now I’m focusing on the new Nevermore record. We’re out here doing festivals right now and we’re excited to be back as a band and touring again.
xFiruath: Let’s talk about the new album “The Obsidian Conspiracy.” What’s the new album like in comparison to the older material?
Jeff: Well I tell you what, it’s a lot different. We could have easily done “The Godless Endeavor Part 2,” but I really wanted to make this record a little bit more simplified. I wanted the songs to be a little more catchy. Peter Wichers, the producer, was a very big part of helping me out with that to make the songs much more easy to listen to and take in. That’s the real difference to me. I think a lot of people are probably going to freak out a bit. Some of the classic, more note-y Nevermore stuff isn’t really in there. It’s still a diverse record, with elements of craziness on it, but at the same time I think the songs are a little more structured this time around.
xFiruath: Where was “The Obsidian Conspiracy” recorded?
Jeff: We did the beginning drums in Seattle at Robert Lang’s studios. We did the rest of the record in North Carolina. We rented out a summer home and put a Pro Tools studio in it and we recorded the guitar and bass and vocals there.
xFiruath: I know a lot of musicians prefer to let fans interpret the lyrics on their own, but is there any particular theme or overall story behind the lyrics on the album?
Jeff: Warrel’s (Vocalist Warrel Dane) written a lot about personal feelings that he’s had in the past with his family stuff. He’s talking about capital punishment in the United States and abortion on a few songs. He’s got a lot of issues, and he doesn’t necessarily want to preach, but he wants to let the world know about these issues. There’s a lot of personal things I think. It’s a very dark record. It’s not a concept album, but it is very dark and has lots of stuff going on. That’s just the way I prefer to write music. I don’t set out with a goal for myself to write very dark stuff like that, but it’s just what comes out.
xFiruath: The dark theme definitely comes across in the cover artwork. Who did the art for the album?
Jeff: This guy has been working with us for many years now and he’s done other records for us like “Dead Heart In A Dead World” and “Dreaming Neon Black.” His name is Travis Smith and he and Warrel basically came up with the theme and the children with the masks on the cover.
xFiruath: Tell me a bit about the music video for “Emptiness Unobstructed.”
Jeff: We filmed some of it at the cliffs of Dover in England and we also shot some live footage of us playing in London, so it’s a combination of both of those two things for the video.
xFiruath: In other recent Nevermore news you guys added on another touring guitarist. How did that come about?
Jeff: Basically we lost our other guitar player Chris Broderick to Megadeth. Fortunately enough though, we started getting Youtube videos from this kid playing guitar. I was blown away by how much this guy knew from the Nevermore catalog. He started playing in Warrel’s solo band and I suggested we use him in Nevermore, and that’s how it all started. He’s just a young kid and he’s from Budapest, Hungary and he’s a fantastic guitar player. We are really enjoying working with him. Hopefully he will be a permanent member sometime soon.
xFiruath: Hey that’s pretty cool, getting to work with a band you love just by sending in videos of your talent.
Jeff: Dude, I know, right? It’s really impressive and this kid has obviously done his homework. He’s studied all the Nevermore songs and I really didn’t have to show him anything. He knew it all already. That just goes to show you what an amazing ear he has as a musician. He’s just as hungry as I am when it comes to guitar playing.
xFiruath: You’ve got a new instructional DVD set coming out too, isn’t that right?
Jeff: I just got done filming that like half a year ago. I went to West Haven, Connecticut and filmed my first DVD under the Rock House. Basically it’s 40 lessons or something like that. If you pick the DVD up it will definitely give you some insight into the way I play my instrument and the way I like to show my guitar skills. It’s all about my guitar playing but there’s some Nevermore stuff as well. It focuses on the techniques I use for my guitar playing and introduces you to how I warm up and things like that.
xFiruath: What music have you been listening to lately?
Jeff: I listen to everything. If you see my iTunes I listen to jazz music, Meshuggah, anything that’s heavy. But I’m also into classical music and jazz music, ‘70s music. I was brought up on ‘70s music so I’m a huge fan of Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Doobie Brothers, stuff like that. I just try to keep an open mind when it comes to music. I don’t just listen to one kind. I hate listening to a record where it sounds the same the whole way through. For instance, a band like Queen is very incredible to me because you have your moments of melancholy stuff and all of a sudden it can explode into something huge. Having that diversity is something that I look at for Nevermore, and I think we’ve accomplished that over the last few years with our diversity and our form of metal music.
xFiruath: Any specific show memories that stick out in your head from all the touring you’ve done with Nevermore?
Jeff: One crazy show I remember is doing the Dynamo Open Air Festival in Holland back in 1995. There was like 90,000 people. I remember being scared to go on stage because all you saw was a sea of people and it looked like the ocean, it was incredible. That show definitely sticks out for me the most because we opened up a show that day, we were called the breakfast band. It’s something that I’ll never forget.
xFiruath: I saw a video interview Nevermore did awhile back on Bill Zebub’s “Metal Retardation” DVD, and I can’t remember if it was you or Warrel, but somebody in Nevermore spent the whole interview trying to get a groupie to take her pants off. So I’m wondering what happened after the camera turned off and if you were successful?
Jeff: That was Warrel and Jim. Yeah, I never had an interview with Bill Zebub but I know who he is. I’ve seen him before, but I don’t think we ever sat down and chatted. You know I’ll have to go check out Youtube right now and see if it’s on there. I have no idea about how it turned out so I’ll have to check that out.
xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to add?
Jeff: We’re coming back as a band again and we’ll be on tour everywhere so be looking out for us, and I hope the fans appreciate the new record.
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