The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

A Quietus Interview

Loopflesh: Justin Broadrick And Robert Hampson Interviewed
Neil Kulkarni , May 28th, 2014 05:34

Mr Neil Kulkarni - who may be a self-confessed balding 40-year old but is still unreasonably handsome - talks to Robert Hampson and Justin Broadrick about why Loop and Godflesh are not touring for the benefit of the hairless and aged. Classic Loop photo courtesy Mr Tom Sheehan

Godflesh, current incarnation photograph courtesy of Carl Byron Batson and Trebuchet Magazine

"We both have no interest really in playing to rooms full of 40-year-old bald blokes."

That's Justin Broadrick talking. He's from a band called Godflesh and is a funny fella.

You mean, blokes like yourselves? 
"Exactly. With these shows for me, it's not about really responding to a demand. We're both not really interested in reliving any glory days. For me the motives are entirely selfish. I have really fond memories of when these two bands were last together."

"I wouldn't say the motives were 'selfish' exactly. I was thinking about it and the one band that links Loop and Main, the band that helped me when I was in limbo between those two things, was Godflesh. They gave me the chance to take a backseat, which I needed at the time. We're brothers, it feels natural to be playing with them again."

That's Robert Hampson talking. He's from a band called Loop and is a funny fella.

I'm a 40-year-old bald bloke.

Would you say that the older you've got the mellower you both are? 

Justin Broadrick: "Fuck no. If anything my anger and frustration have grown. And when you have kids, and think about the world that's being left for them, fuck, you get even angrier"

RH: "What's changed for me? Not a lot, I'm still shy, and I still get tremendously nervous before appearing on stage. I frighten myself so deeply. I deal with it a little better now – back in the early days I'd suffer badly; get myself in a state where I was basically catatonic with fear."

Why put yourself through it? For a room full of 40 year old bald blokes?

JB: "Because what's been astonishing is how many young people have become enamoured with the idea of this tour. People who missed things the first time round."

Can we not expect triumphant encores of 'God Gave Rock And Roll To You', you and Robert with arms over each other's shoulders, leading the crowd in a clapping sing-along, footballs and scarves showering down?

RH: "Errm, no."


"No, there won't be any of that. I think we'll definitely be keeping each band as a separate entity."

Talking to Justin Broadrick and Robert Hampson, respectively 'frontmen' for Godflesh and Loop, two of the late 80s/early 90s most bruisingly beautiful rock bands, you're aware of similarities and differences. From an objective genre-based filing viewpoint, no-one would put these bands together but for anyone who's felt Loop's power and glory, anyone who's succumbed to Godflesh's crushing beauty, their reunion makes perfect sense. In 1990 the two bands first hooked up on a now-legendary tour with fellow UK psychonauts World Domination Enterprises.

RH: "I'd never met Justin but Loop were big fans of Godflesh, and I personally was a massive fan of Head Of David, so was already familiar with Justin's work. It was the Streetcleaner LP that first introduced me to Godflesh and I was immediately really into what they did."

Wouldn't have you down as a metal fan, Robert?

RH: "Well, that's the thing, I never ever even thought of Godflesh as a metal band at all. Metal for me wasn't about what Godflesh were doing."

JB: "Nor did we! I'm glad we ended up in that fold because the thing about metal, and the metal audience, is they have a fierce loyalty. Our fans have stuck with us for a long time, and metal also opens doors in America that other scenes don't get. Godflesh were big fans of Loop so we were blown away to be asked to support them. When me and Robert first met, we instantly clicked."

RH: "The bands on that CND Tour were really diverse. The thing with bills back then – they were diverse in a way they're frequently not now. Godflesh, Loop, World Dom were all different – all we had in common was that we were noisy and dissonant, different but similar. Speaking to Justin anyway, it became clear that we had a lot in common."

Both coming from that same post-punk tradition of musical open-mindedness?

RH: "Yeah. Justin had far more knowledge of the whole power-electronics thing than I did, but we both came from the same kind of musical upbringing. Very much informed by punk, Bowie and art-rock, krautrock, and we were both massively into dub. Self-taught in every way about music. It's unusual to think about it now but a lot of us kind of fed ourselves musically, gradually, and it led to people with interesting takes on music, not really concerned with whether their own music fitted into any categories."

JB: "Metal polarised people and was met with derision by most of the press but for me it always transcended that criticism – me and Robert had our differences musically but we were both really enamoured with the post-punk years, and the thrilling sense of freedom it gave musicians. In the late 80s for Godflesh and other heavy bands the US market was just on the brink of really snowballing but in the shows we played at that time there was still a really eclectic audience that reflected the eclectic nature of the bills."

Do you think those kinds of bills could still happen now? 

JB: "I'm not sure. Bills are really kind of identikit at the moment. People would probably worry too much that there'd be an audience. Don't get me wrong, artists are way more empowered now than ever before, much more in control but chaos becomes more difficult. Loop & Godflesh, on that tour in 1990 – it became like a family, real friendship and tightness, there was a lot of overlap between the two bands. Couldn't last of course – fell to pieces because of me and Rob's egos! We clashed, predictably, because we both have very singular visions about music and at the time were quite focussed and intolerant about pursuing what we wanted."

The friendship between the bands is cemented in wax on the ultra-rare split 7" they brought out under the Loopflesh moniker in 1991. What did you each think of the other's cover? 

RH: "We covered 'Like Rats' from Streetcleaner, an album that everyone in Loop was hugely into. That was fun to do – like I said, I never saw Godflesh as a metal band and that comes across in our cover I think. Just a great song."

JB: "'Straight To Your Heart' was the first Loop track I think I ever heard. I remember hearing it with Ben on a Peel session and we were both just like 'HOLY FUCK' so when it came time to choosing a song to cover it had to be that one."

With Loop falling apart in 1991 it was only natural that with Justin looking to extend Godflesh's palette on 91's Cold World EP and the new Pure album, eventually released in 92, he'd call on Robert to help out. Robert's presence on those records is unmistakeable – reminiscent of his work for Loop but also prefiguring, in the sheets of guitar noise he sculpted behind GF's groove & grind, what would soon be his new project - Main. For Robert, the opportunity came along at just the right time.

RH: "It helped me out massively. I was a bit burned out by Loop, and the pressure of being a 'frontman' if you like – or at least feeling as if there was a lot of stuff on my shoulders, however mistaken I might have been. It felt good to demur to someone else, let someone else take the reins and retreat a little. Justin has always, I think, been more of a social animal than me. With Godflesh it was a real pleasure to just stand at the back and make noise. To be just a guitarist and part of a band and kind of hide."

Pure is a stone-cold masterpiece. A masterpiece Justin's still not satisfied with.

JB: "My objections are the mixing. Not heavy enough. I was listening to a lot of hardcore hip-hop at the time and I wanted the beats to be as heavy as that. That's my lingering dissatisfaction with that album. But perhaps it was just something I noticed. When Loop disbanded Robert had said the only band he was interested in joining was Godflesh so it seemed totally right for him to become involved. And it worked brilliantly. But yeah, we've both got big egos so perhaps it could only last as long as it did, but Robert, as ever, wanted to keep moving. "

RH: "I realised that Godflesh, as you'd expect from anything Justin's involved in, were something you have to give a lot to, you have to be dedicated and disciplined and commit completely to what to me was a really punishing schedule. I was just then starting to make the first moves towards Main, the Hydra Calm EP, and I realised I couldn't do Main and Godflesh, I had to choose. I realised I hadn't really got over Loop, and being in Godflesh was like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire in terms of gigging and playing live, something I was never comfortable with anyway. I was tired of rock music to a large extent, really wanted to pursue guitar music from a completely studio-based perspective. So I pursued Main."

JB: "There was still that sense of family - Ben Green from Godflesh worked with Robert on the Motion Pool album, but for a long time, a really long time, me and Robert simply didn't see each other. We both had very singular visions always, not so much massive ambition as just really strong work ethics, a desire to always do things our way, so Robert followed what he wanted to do with Main and I carried on with Godflesh, Final & Jesu."

So how did the reconnection occur? 

RH: "I was at the Incubate festival in the Netherlands doing a Main performance and I realised that Justin was also playing with his Final project. We just literally bumped into each other in the crowd."

JB: "I got a tap on the shoulder and there he was. Freaked me out! Literally hadn't seen him in nearly 20 years! We bonded again almost immediately, had a good long catch-up and chat."

RH: "And it was then that things started rolling. Pretty soon we were talking about performing Pure again, and when that happened in 2013 it was just the happiest I'd been on stage for a long time, we all played brilliantly. We weren't over-rehearsed, I wasn't self-conscious, in fact it was one of the best times that me and Justin and Green ever had. That's what really started me thinking about Loop again, and bringing things back. I was starting to have the idea of a Loop reformation but those gigs with Godflesh really made me consider it properly. I realised that playing this music made people happy. That I was over-thinking things a little too much, a problem I've always had. Everything started to fall into place once I realised that Loop is what it is, that Godflesh is what it is, and there's nothing wrong with revisiting those feelings, that music, because the music is still new – those gigs, and the Loop gigs have been the total opposite of 'going through the motions' which really has never interested me. For years I was hounded to reform Loop and resisted that almost instinctively, but I just couldn't say no anymore. The power of it was too great and crucially, what I discovered playing with Godflesh again was that we ALL PLAY BETTER now!"

Are you creaky? How's your muscle memory?

RH: "With John leaving things are different but it's not the end of the world. Things have totally fell into place.

JB: "Everything for us has clicked back into place perfectly. It doesn't take long. What's new though for me is that I find I can express even more of a gamut of emotions in a way that's really satisfying. If it was just going through old songs – I got bored of that with Godflesh at times, playing the same songs for years – that'd be one thing but everything feels fresh, and better than ever. I think Godflesh are sounding more streamlined the more confused I get as a person. I still seek the bass-sound of the Stranglers and always will."

Catch Loop & Godflesh live at the following dates and venues:

Mon 2 - SWG3, Glasgow
Tue 3 - Cockpit, Leeds
Wed 4 - Heaven, London
Thu 5 - Heaven, London
Fri 6 - Optimus Primavera Sound, Porto, Portugal

Sat 7 - Villette Sonique 2014, Paris, France