Jeff Loomis. Arch Enemy guitarist and all-round shredding legend has recently produced his second guitar with Jackson and it is an absolute masterstroke of engineering. A simple yet slick design that the 30+ year veteran of the metal scene has developed as a follow up to the very stylish and lovingly crafted Kelly SR6.
Wall of Sound’s resident boomer fan-boy Duane ‘Museum’ James sat down with Loomis the Legend to discuss his amazing new instrument, the upcoming Arch Enemy album Deceivers, touring on the back of a pandemic and a few stories from the road.
Jeff Loomis has a huge year ahead of him. Thirty-plus years into a distinguished musical career that included playing guitar for American Heavy Metal monsters Nevermore, through to touring alongside some of the greatest musicians that have ever graced the stage, Jeff is showing zero signs of slowing down. In addition to releasing a new album as the guitarist of iconic Swedish metal band Arch Enemy, plus a year-long touring schedule that will take him throughout America and Europe including a slot at WACKEN Festival in Germany in August, Jeff released a new seven-string guitar, the Jackson Pro Series Jeff Loomis Soloist SR7.
But three decades into an impressive career playing and producing guitars, you’ve gotta look back and ask yourself why did you pick the instrument up in the first place. So who were the guitar heroes that inspired Jeff to become one of the best guitarists on the planet?
“I was first probably introduced to Edward Van Halen, through my dad, believe it or not. My dad had a huge record collection when I was a kid. So he had all these awesome 70s progressive metal/rock albums in his collection, and he would be spinning them all the time. I would listen to the first Van Halen record with him. He also loved like, bands like Queen. Brian May, he’s another influence that I grew up listening to, and believe it or not, a guitar player/singer by the name of Jeff Lynn, from the band ELO, Electric Light Orchestra. So I was listening to all music like that when I was like 9,10,11 and even into my early teens. Eddie Van Halen is definitely the biggest influence. Then it moved on to more of the more technical players like Jason Becker and Yngwie Malmsteen.”
But guitar wasn’t the first instrument that Jeff kickstarted his musical journey on. His father initially had something else in mind when introducing his son to the world of playing live music.
“My dad bought me a three piece, I still remember this, this little three piece drum kit because it stunk like mildew, like really old, 1950s Ludwig jazz kit. He brought it home from work one day, and I’m just like, playing along to some songs, and I think it was cool because it gave me a good sense of rhythm and time. Then I got a little bit bored with that.”
So after putting down the sticks, Jeff picked up a guitar and in doing so, truly found his voice.
“I was always a very shy kid. So I couldn’t really express my feelings to other people very well. I found that I could do that with guitar more so than drums. My dad had a little classical guitar in a closet. I took it out one day and I just found it to be amazing. Like, it was something that I could really just, feel. How many years later now, I’m still playing it and enjoying it. So it’s pretty awesome. I made a living out of it. It’s all I know. Guitar playing, Yeah!”
Now with the release of his second Jackson guitar, a 7 string Jackson Pro Series Jeff Loomis Soloist SR7, Jeff looks back on the first Jackson guitar he ever got his hands on.
“My history with Jackson runs far, back to my childhood. The very first “metal” guitar that I ever owned, was a Jackson guitar. When I was about 13 years old, my mother had bought me a Randy Rhoads V From a music store. It was a used one. But it was a USA custom and music store that sold it to me, they didn’t know that it was a special one. It had a low serial number on it, right? So he calls me up like, two weeks later and he says, ‘Hey, I need to get that guitar back from you. However, I’ll give you any guitar you want in the music store of your choice of equal value’, which at that time was like 2500 bucks. I ended up actually giving the guitar back to him and got a red Jackson Professional guitar that I don’t have anymore. But I wish to heck I still had that black one that my mom bought for me. You know, it was a real special guitar. Somebody told me that it was floating around somewhere in Wisconsin still. Somebody had seen it recently. So it’s around. I just don’t know who owns it.”
Which leads to the present day as Jeff reflects on a lifetime as one of heavy metal’s leading guitarists and a lifelong love affair with Jackson that leads full circle to the release of this guitar, the Jackson Pro Series Jeff Loomis Soloist SR7.
“When I got a chance to tour the Fender/Jackson/Charvel facility in California. It was like a no brainer to me. I had just politely asked them, could I be a part of the family and they’re like, ‘Welcome’. You know, here we are a few years later and a few guitars later.
At this point, Jeff grabs his new guitar and he looks like he can’t wait to show this bad boy off. He’s like a proud parent as he runs through the specs like a savant and it’s as much about what he’s left off the guitar as what he’s put in.
“This is the new guitar, the JACKSON JL7. It’s just an ultimate guitar for anybody. It’s such a METAL looking guitar though and I couldn’t be more than happier with it. Um, if you’d like I could run down some specs for you.”
“HELL YEAH!!! LET’S DO IT.” Arm yourselves up guitar nerds and marvel at this proud parent as he shows off his favourite kid, telling you why he’s designed it to be the ultimate guitar for the studio as well as a hectic touring schedule. It’s a resilient instrument that looks genuinely impressive as you thrash the audience’s ears to within an inch of deafness.
“This layer on top, that’s called SANDBLASTED ASH, which just almost looks like burnt scorched earth. It’s amazing looking and you can actually feel the texture of the wood. The body itself is basswood. It’s got two of my Jeff Loomis Seymour Duncan blackout pickups, which are active pickups. It’s got a Floyd Rose 1500, which has a push pull tremolo arm that you pop in there, and you tighten it down with an Allen wrench. Unlike most of the Floyd roses, you see that screw down. Those tend to get a little loose on me. So I prefer the push pull.”
There’s no stopping the legend as he points to the base of the neck to show off one of his favourite additions.
“It’s also got this really cool truss rod wheel adjustment where you can adjust the neck, this little wheel, which makes it very simple to do quick adjustments on the fly when you’re on tour.”
Then he just starts spinning the guitar around flashing all the aesthetic choices made in the design of the JL7.
“Binding around the whole body like a white pinstripe that makes the whole guitar really pop. One volume and one pickup selector. Really simple, not a lot of stuff to fuss with down there. I don’t like that. I don’t like complications. Shark fin inlays. (Pointing to the top length of the neck) It’s got lumen lay side, where if you flash a light on it they’ll light up on the side for dark stages, so you can find your way around the neck in a live situation. 24 frets with jumbo frets. The headstock is really cool. I don’t know if you can see but the logo, it’s not inscripted in the wood. It’s actually like a metal plate that sits on top of the wood. (At this point I’m about ready to smash open the piggy bank. That pristine Jackson logo looks amazing emblazoned across that iconic headstock) Can you see that? You can also see that the sandblasted ash continues on the headstock to make it an overall killer looking guitar.”
The JL7 is a genuinely beautiful instrument, and I noticed that it sports the same finish as his previously released guitar, the six-string Jackson Pro Series Signature Jeff Loomis Kelly Ash.
“The aesthetics of each guitar are pretty much the same, except for the body shapes which differ and the extra string for the seven string, but we kept the whole vibe. There was a lot of talks in the past about me doing a seven string Kelly guitar. But I really wanted something that you could sit comfortably with for long periods of time. The JL7 is very well balanced as well. It’s just a really comfortable guitar to play.”
Jeff has long been renowned for being a seven-string guitarist, so why has it taken til now for him to finally release a seven-string Jackson and why the shift in the body shape?
“The whole idea with the Kelly was, not a whole lot of people were using it as of late. Marty Friedman used it quite a bit during (Megadeth’s) Rust in Peace (album) and I always loved the look of it. It just has an Explorer type body, streamlined with all the nice cuts and stuff like that. I’m like, I’d love to bring that back. So I was thinking that that would work perfect with Arch Enemy, because Arch Enemy is such an aggressive metal band. So that’s really more of my “Arch Enemy” guitar. The seven string is more of a guitar that would sit with me for long periods of time in the recording studio. A lot of people know me from being a seven-string player from back in the day, with Nevermore. So I really wanted to bring a seven-string out to the masses and show them that I’m still a seven-string guy.”
So you, the punter, will have that opportunity to see the JL7 being used and abused by the man himself as he tears his way across America and Europe touring Arch Enemy’s upcoming album Deceivers, which will include their slot at WACKEN in Germany in August. But it will be a ways off before we get to see them in Australia.
“You know, we have the US tour coming up in April. We have a slew of summer festivals that we’re doing in Europe. Wacken as well. Then we’re gonna be doing a huge end of the year tour in Europe, with Behemoth. That will last until November. Then we’re done for the year. So I mean, it’s a lot of touring, and I just hope we can make it to your territory soon, man. We definitely love playing there. Great audience. Some crazy people down under.”
In the meantime, suss out Arch Enemy’s new song ‘Handshake with Hell’ off of the forthcoming album Deceivers and for all you guitar aficionados, it’s absolutely worth checking out Jeff Loomis’ solo material as well. Maybe even cash in your crypto, bust open the piggy bank and take a look at what promises to be one of the sweetest touring and recording seven-strings out at the moment.
Interview by Duane James @duanejames666
Take a closer look at the Pro Series Signature Jeff Loomis Soloist™ SL7 right here
- 26.5”-scale, 7-string guitar
- Basswood body with sandblasted ash top
- Through-body three-piece maple neck with graphite reinforcement and satin color matched back finish
- 12”-16” compound radius bound ebony fingerboard with 24 jumbo frets, pearloid sharkfin inlays and Luminlay® side dots
- Heel-mount truss rod adjustment wheel
- Active Seymour Duncan® Jeff Loomis Signature Blackouts® bridge and neck humbucking pickups
- Three-position pickup toggle switch and single volume control
- Floyd Rose® 1500 Series double-locking tremolo bridge system
- Jackson sealed die-cast tuners and Dunlop® dual-locking strap buttons
- Available in Satin Black with white binding, matching Jackson pointed 7-in-line headstock and black hardware
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