Interview with High On Fire’s Matt Pike

Photo Credit: Travis Shinn

Tonight at The Met in Pawtucket, local metalheads Churchburn and New Orleans instrumental hellions Mountain Of Wizard will be opening up one hell of a show with Oakland, Calif., sludgeheads High On Fire. Before this evening’s festivities I got to have a chat with frontman Matt Pike about the reuniting of his old band Sleep; the rebirth of sludge, stoner and thrash metal bands; the genre’s credibility; performing without a shirt on and many other things.

Rob Duguay: Along with being part of High On Fire, you’re the guitarist of the influential metal band Sleep. Eleven years after Sleep broke up in ’98, the band got back together and Sleep resumed performing live. Does managing your time ever get difficult when playing in both bands?
Matt Pike: Oh Jesus, yeah. It’s now getting easier to deal with, but at first it was a nightmare. Playing in Sleep is only part time where being in High On Fire is a full-time thing, but it does get a little difficult when it comes to managing my time. I’ve had trouble with being at home because I’m never home. But that’s part of the business.
RD: I can imagine that when Sleep got back together it must have taken you a little while to fall into a type of routine without destroying yourself.
MP: It can get pretty hectic and it does take a lot out of me.
RD: Lately in metal there’s been a huge boom in sludge, stoner and thrash metal bands. Mastodon, Torche, Kylesa, Baroness, Gojira, Kvelertak, Toxic Holocaust and many others, along with High On Fire, are gathering huge followings and getting a lot of press. As a musician who has been associated with the metal genre for your whole career, how to do you feel about this new explosion?
MP: Well, it’s good for me. Obviously my career recently has gone kinda crazy, which is awesome, and it’s what I’ve worked at for my whole life. On a personal level, it’s great for me and my fellow bandmates. There’s been a huge sense of success going on and it makes it a lot easier for us to keep going and keep creating. Every time you have people who want to hear something that you’ve created, the market gets larger and it keeps me employed.
RD: It is great seeing hard-working musicians having their work pay off in a big way. Metal has to be the most wide ranging genre of music with all the styles it encompasses. You have black metal, doom metal, death metal, extreme metal, progressive metal — the list goes on. Do you think that all of these classifications water down metal or do you think it just solidifies metal’s credibility?
MP: It depends on the bands, but I think it gives metal more credibility. As a musician I try to be well-rounded, I don’t want to be put into just one category. I like having my other band members run stuff off me that they wrote. Some of it might be proggy, some of it might be thrashy, some it might be a little doomy. Whatever their music is, I think a good band has a lot of different tempos and a lot of different rhythms while conveying emotion. Being well-rounded just makes for being a great band, along with covering all the bases. It gives metal credibility because it shows that the people playing are incredibly talented while mostly likely they’re also messed up with some sort of emotional problem, which usually makes for a good musician.
RD: One thing a lot of metal fans know about you, and it’s not a rare thing nowadays, is that you have a habit of performing without a shirt on. Has there ever been a time at an outdoor festival where it’s late at night, you’re in the middle of a set and because it’s chilly out you would like nothing more than a sweater or something?
MP: I’ve worn shirts before. I feel more comfortable without wearing a shirt, but it’s kind of become of expected of me now. Sometimes I’ll wear a shirt anyways. I’ve always felt comfortable with the way a guitar strap moves across me, it’s just a comfort thing.
RD: There have been rumors floating around for a little while now that both Sleep and High On Fire are working on new albums. Can we expect either band or both bands to have a new release this year?
MP: Yeah. High On Fire is actually heading into the studio tomorrow to record with Kurt Ballou from Converge in Salem, Mass. With Sleep, I’m not sure what we’ll be doing next.
Get ready for a whole lot of metal at The Met tonight, you might even hear some unreleased songs live from High On Fire. Be there or be lame.
High On Fire’s Website:
Tickets to High On Fire @ The Met: