This is your brain. Crack. This is your brain on Loop. Sizzzzzzzzzle.
Born in 1986, dead by 1991 and recently arisen from the ashes, this seminal British band specializes in a unique blend of psychedelia, drone, distortion and pulsing rhythms. On Friday, April 25, at Gabe’s, Loop will melt minds during a rare performance that is not to be missed.
“We decided to re-form about a year ago,” Loop ringleader Robert Hampson tells me. “We had been chased down over the years to do this, and I always said ‘no.’ But after a while, quite frankly, I started to question my reasons not to do it. So, instead of instantly dismissing it, I began to get in touch with various members. We were asked to curate the very last All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in England, and we ended up playing around 10 shows last year. Basically, it was about testing the waters, and it worked out quite well. We are now preparing for an extensive U.S. tour and are playing some big festivals in Europe.”
During their time together, Loop helped develop a new musical vocabulary by synthesizing a diverse range of influences from the 1960s and 1970s. “There’s the references to CAN and bands like Suicide, The Stooges, MC5 and The Velvet Underground,” Hampson says. “There was also the freak beat psychedelic side of things, and you also had the more avant-garde and post-punk groups as well—with bands like The Pop Group.”
“So it was a hodgepodge of influences,” he continues, “but I’m not really one for overstating or wearing influences so readily on your sleeve. I mean, you have to try to create something unique, make it your own.” Hampson certainly practiced what he preached. Loop echoed elements of all of the above-mentioned bands, while at the same time developing a distinctive musical personality that was itself quite influential.
During their brief lifespan, Loop was extremely productive, releasing three proper studio albums (1987’s Heaven’s End, 1988’s Fade Out and 1990’s A Gilded Eternity), as well as several singles and EPs (which are collected in the excellent compilation album The World In Your Eyes). Each is a stone cold classic—full of expansive, trip-tastic freakouts and pummeling proto-punk riffage.
“In the context of what was happening in England at the time,” Hampson tells me, “musically, we were definitely apart. For me, my kindred spirits at the time were Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Sonic Youth and Big Black—the pre-grunge American bands. Nirvana opened for us very early on, but they didn’t make a very big impact on me, to be honest.”
“For me,” he adds, “a lot of those grunge bands were like the Seattle equivalent of what we called in England ‘pub rock’—just really generic. I just couldn’t get into all those groups who played sub-Black Sabbath riffs all the time. It got really boring really quickly. Unfortunately, Loop often got compared to Black Sabbath, but they were not influences. At all.”
Just as those grunge bands helped create a new “alternative” market for bands like Loop, they disbanded in 1991. “There’s lots of different reasons why we broke up,” Hampson says. “We were under so much pressure at the time, with constant touring and a steady recording output. When you’re at a certain level, physically, it’s really demanding. And when you have to put up with a lot of other external pressures as well, sadly, it just got the better of me.”
“I have said since that, with the benefit of hindsight, I should have just said to everybody—the record company, management—that we needed six months off. We had come off an insane period of touring, and it got the better of us. I just felt like I wanted to do something different, and me being me, I took a radical step and did something really different. With hindsight, it was a mistake, because we still had at least another good album left in us.”
Does Robert Hampson still think the group has another album left in them? “I’ve got music in me all the time, but as Loop, right now, I don’t know,” he tells me. “We’re still in that testing-the-waters stage with this very large American tour and big festivals coming up. So we don’t have any time to do anything other than to rehearse and tour. We’ll just see how it goes and take it from there. I will admit that I am entertaining the idea of entering the studio, but I can’t say right now that it will happen.”
For now, we must content ourselves with seeing the band in its live incarnation during their stop in Iowa City—when they will crack open skulls, scramble brains and leave them splattered on the grimy floor of Gabe’s.