Photo Credit: Tom Sheehan
"Hindsight says that maybe a long holiday would have sorted out many things," says Richard Hampson, "but hindsight is only fruitful when it's too late, of course."
Hampson is discussing the tensions that led to the dissolution of his band, Loop. The thunderous UK shoegaze pioneers did take a holiday of sorts. After releasing three tremendously loud LPs in the late '80s and early '90s, the group split in 1991. A holiday and a half later, Hampson has reunited with bandmates Neil Mackay (bass) and Scott Dowson (guitar) to celebrate the wonders of amplifiers operated at high volumes.
In 2014, as traces of psychedelia can be found in nearly every aspect of musical culture, the rejuvenation of Loop makes plenty of sense. As the band's sole consistent member throughout its brief early existence, Hampson's vision smashed together primal aggression and minimalist repetition.
The group's spaced-out heaviness stands as a precursor to acts as diverse as Lungfish, Torche and Deerhunter. But Loop is its own bracing, monolithic juggernaut of a beast, bludgeoning audiences without much regard for song structure. If you like the way a Loop song starts, that's great; it's going to sound like that for a while. Loop wears its band name well.
While Hampson busied himself with solo work after his band's demise, Loop's legend steadily grew, and the holiday's end began to come into view. In 2008, Hampson got together with longtime mastering engineer Kevin Metcalfe (U2, David Bowie) to remaster the group's three LPs—1987's Heaven's End, 1989's Fade Out and 1990's A Gilded Eternity.
"We had access to all the original master tapes, so we went right back to the source," says Hampson, who quickly makes his position on digital piracy quite clear. "Sadly, mastering them so well will only be heard by people that actually listen to music on a decent hi-fi system. Much of our hard work is lost on people who feel entitled to liberate our material via illegal sites and listen to vastly inferior MP3 files on tiny laptop speakers."
Indeed, going "back to the source" wouldn't work in terms of doing justice to Loop's music, and Hampson soon became convinced that it needed to be experienced anew. After being coaxed into curating and performing at one of the final iterations of the storied All Tomorrow's Parties "holiday camp" festivals in the UK, the band has come stateside for the first time in over two decades. How long it will continue to tour is unclear.
"It was at a very tricky time with untold amount of pressures that just built up until we imploded," says Hampson, regarding Loop's initial disintegration. "Sadly, being in a band can create more problems than being a solo artist, because it is hard to keep everyone happy. Adding frustrations and tiredness from pressures that shouldn't be there just adds to a possible dangerous cocktail.
"Already," he adds, "there have been changes to personnel." Following Loop's performance at ATP, original drummer John Wills bowed out of the reunion. (He has since been replaced by Wayne Maskell.) "With all the best intentions, sometimes things are just not meant to be," Hampson says. "I'm not prepared to go into details… Right now, one can only concentrate and focus on what is in front of you, and it's advisable to take small steps and find a balance to possibly move forward."
According to Hampson, the group has no plans to record anything new, or extend the reunion beyond the dates currently scheduled. But the New York Times reported on something curious at the end of Loop's performance at Manhattan venue Le Poisson Rouge. Following a set-closing cover of "Mother Sky" by Krautrock godfathers Can, Hampson left the audience with a cryptic farewell: "We'll be back soon."
WHO: Loop, Maserati, The People's Temple
WHERE: Georgia Theatre
WHEN: Thursday, May 1, 8 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $15