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INTERVIEW: Loop's Robert Hampson
Bryan Brussee , June 26th, 2015 09:15

The Loop frontman sits down with tQ to discuss his band’s reformation, the new EP and Loop's live show.

"It’s an interesting bill," says Robert Hampson, frontman of the recently reunited 80s noise/psych rockers Loop. "I like eclectic bills, I think it’s challenging for people to have a bit more eclectic a bill." We’re discussing Sunday’s Roundhouse show, one curated by post-rock elder statesmen Mogwai that features the reformed Loop, Lightning Bolt, Tortoise and Mugstar. All business as usual, until you realize the four bands are opening for the legendary Staten Island MC and de facto leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, GZA. Eclectic indeed. I pursue the topic further and ask what he thinks of The Genius. Without hesitation, the otherwise reserved but remarkably well-spoken Hampson professes his love for all things Shaolin.

Indeed, Wu-Tang Clan remain nothing to sneeze at, even for an underground veteran like Hampson, who, in addition to making three groundbreaking Loop albums in the late 80s and early 90s, has since built a considerable solo discography under his own name as well as the Main moniker, not to mention an outstanding EP of new Loop material, Array 1, released just last week. Kindly taking time out of his day for a quick phoner, we get on to talking about the new record, what to expect from future releases and Loop's place in 2015's musical milieu.

At the start of the reunion, you said that Loop would only be touring. What inspired you to start recording again?

Robert Hampson: Well basically, yeah, the original plan was to only do a small series of shows and leave it at that. But consequently, because of just the way I felt the reaction was going and because I also started working with different musicians for Loop, I sort of realized there was the potential to do something else. I never really thought about it when we did originally reform. I just didn’t think about the reasons for wanting to directly record any new material because I hadn’t really thought about playing the guitar and being in a band again like that for such a long time. But I suddenly realized that I was really beginning to enjoy it again, and that kind of half inspired me to seriously consider thinking about writing some new material.

So none of Array 1's songs come from unfinished fragments leftover from Loop's original run?

RH: No, not at all, they’re all brand new ideas. At the end of the last series of concerts, I decided I’d sure like to do something, so I asked Barry Hogan at ATP. I said to him, “I’d actually fancy time in the studio.” And he had to think about it, so I spent a month or so writing a new EP in my studio at home and then made some demos. Everybody seemed to like them, and that was it. We went in to the studio proper to record them.

"Coma" and the start of "Radial" are something of a departure for Loop. Did your work as Main inform the EP's more ambient moments?

RH: Of course, yeah. In the 26 years since we’ve split up, I’ve obviously been doing a hell of a lot of my own material, either through Main or through solo work, so it’s part of the style of the way that I write now and drones were always important to Loop anyway. But what I wanted to do was to really... I didn’t mind stepping slightly backwards and putting my foot back into the old style of how it was, because that’s what people would kind of expect. I wanted to feel like I was slightly covering the crossover point that Loop and Main did have in the very early days, but also I wanted to move forward as well.

Why did you decide to space out the Array series across 3 EPs?

RH: For me, it seemed, I’ve always been more interested in releasing material in slightly different ways instead of just throwing out a single or throwing out an album once a year. For me, it felt like it was a nice way of continuing some momentum, rather than just going and recording an album at once, which I didn’t think we were ready for. I like to take my time over things, and the only logical way of doing that was to almost throw out bulletins rather than just one LP that would have five minutes of tension and then get lost among the million and one other LPs that come. For me, I thought it was a decent way of just saying, here’s something, there’s something else coming along. It kind of indicates that there’s a bit of life left in Loop as well.

What can we expect from Array 2 and Array 3?

RH: I think there will be a similar kind of sound. With "Precession" and "Aphelion," they’re kind of moving forwards and slightly more angular than the older Loop material. So there’s progression in that, stylistic change, but it still, I hope, maintains the Loop signature. So there will be more progression with that kind of style and also, I guess, I want to put some more experimental material on there as well. I don’t feel confined that everything we put on an EP has to be replicated live, either. So, it’s nice to put some material on there that’s purely based around a studio idea. I think it’s not gonna be a million miles different from what Array 1 is, but we’ll be twisting that and adding a lot more color.

How’s the live reception been since you started playing again with Loop?

RH: We’ve always stuck out like a sore thumb. So, my expectations have never been particularly high, but for me, working with the new line up, it’s a total breath of fresh air. It’s got some really nice possibilities that I definitely want to investigate. But the live shows have been really good! We’ve been having a good time and I know that we’re, on a personal level, as tight as we used to be in the 80s, so you know, it’s just now for people to rediscover some of the older material but also come forward and listen to the new material.

Loop plays the Roundhouse Sunday June 28 alongside GZA, Lightning Bolt, Tortoise, and Mugstar. Buy tickets here. Array 1 is out now courtesy of All Tomorrow's Parties.