Photo courtesy of SpongeBoob


Photo courtesy of SpongeBoob

On Thursday 15th March, Matt Pike of High on Fire was gracious enough to sit down with Zero Tolerance to discuss, among other things, the upcoming High on Fire album, “De Vermis Mysteriis,” set to be released on 3rd April.  For the last several weeks, various tracks from the album have been slowly released, and eventually the entire album was available for streaming this week via NPR.  The result is nothing less than the high octane, searing stoner metal that High on Fire are known for.



“It’s a little more ‘Death is this Communion,’ the same formula,” says founding guitarist/singer Matt Pike.  “Let’s not trip out so hard, let’s let ourselves jam, let’s let ourselves let go a little, ya know?  …  At first I didn’t know if I liked it, and then after we put it together I was like, ‘yeah it’s fuckin’ brilliant.’”


Produced by Kurt Ballou (guitarist for Converge), “De Vermis Mysteriis” consists of ten tracks that are more brutal and raw than the band’s previous output “Snakes for the Divine” and even exhibits elements of spontaneity.  “We were writing for a really long time,” says Pike, “fucking with things, making things work.  And then there’s always two or three tracks that just happen, and you don’t know where they came from.”  When asked about the choice of Kurt Ballou at the production helm, Pike replied with “He’s a genius.”  Still, Ballou isn’t exactly the obvious first choice.  “He sent us a bunch of stuff.  And we were contemplating… ya know we could have gone with (Steve) Albini, (Jack) Endino, we could have gone with (Greg) Fidelman… All good choices.  But I like to change things up, and so does the rest of my band.”


The musical output of High on Fire is a rather complex one.  For the band’s first three albums, the music was hard edged and raw, but still the band’s evolution into what they are today was still evident.  It wouldn’t be until the addition of bassist Jeff Matz for 2007’s “Death is This Communion” that the musical elements of High on Fire became much more of a prominent factor.  “If you get the three of us in a room for long enough, things just happen.  It’s a good thing, man.  I have a real special thing with Jeff and Des (Kensel, drummer and founding member).  They’re amazing, and I wouldn’t be anything without either one of those dudes,” comments Pike in regards to the approach for the new album.  “It’s just what had to happen, and it happened better than I anticipated.”


Matt Pike with Doug Palmitier - Courtesy of SpongeBoob

Not content with picking Matt Pike’s brain on just their new album, I found it necessary to ask if the energy that comes from High on Fire’s music is a means of attacking the bullshit mainstream music that we have forced down our throats.  “I like stomping the shit out of mainstream.  I’m a better musician than that.”  When asked to clarify, Pike continues “There’s one hit wonders, and there’s people with talent.  I’ve been around for 21 years and I ain’t seen so much of the light that I have a Ferrari or anything.  There’s people with Ferraris that suck shit at their instrument.  I’d rather just play guitar.”  After 21 years of making a strong name for himself, Pike surely has made some music execs happy.  “I guarantee you there’s a bunch of people in Hollywood living off of money that I made them.  They need royalty checks just like I do, but it kinda sucks because they didn’t earn it.”


One of the bands that Matt Pike helped to soldier during his 21 years in music is the almighty stoner rock titans Sleep.  Formed in 1990 as an off-shoot to the sludgy Asbestosdeath, Sleep were hailed as the next Black Sabbath, releasing their much heralded “Sleep’s Holy Mountain” in 1993 before being scooped up by London Records.  What happens next is heavy metal folklore.  Sleep received a large advance for their next album which was abruptly spent on equipment and recreational activities.  The finished product was their 1998 epic “Jerusalem,” the one hour doom song which the record company was rather unhappy with.  A massive amount of drama ensued and the ending result was the album being shelved and Sleep disbanding.  “We had this huge thing going, and it all kinda fell apart,” recalls Pike.  “How do you put your life back together?  I started High on Fire.  Al went into hiding.  Chris went and did his thing.”


“Jerusalem” would come to be released in various forms through the years, including its well known version entitled “Dopesmoker.”  Reading through various interviews, the band was obviously unhappy about the final turnout of this project for numerous reasons, including the final mix as well as the “Jerusalem” version being divided into separate tracks.  However, it is with great news that I can report Southern Lord is diligently working on a reissue of “Dopesmoker,” complete with new liner notes, new artwork by Arik Roper, and a remastering by Brad Boatright (Noothgrush, From Ashes  Rise).


Photo courtesy of Ben Yaker

During my sit-down with Matt Pike, I asked how he thinks this reissue will turn out, and he immediately spun it around, replying with “I dunno, what do you think it’s gonna be?”  I think it’s bad ass as fuck (as it is now), and the sound of it makes it that squared.  “You answered your own question.”


The foreseeable future is going to be a busy one for Matt Pike.  The month of May will be spent with the legendary Sleep as they tour through Europe, followed by Pike returning to the US to hit the road with High on Fire as a part of this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.  The bill this year is rather diverse and includes High on Fire with Slayer, Slipknot, and Motorhead, in addition to As I Lay Dying and The Devil Wears Prada.  Clearly, High on Fire are going to be the stand-outs and even start the bill by performing first each day.  However, Matt Pike remains unphased, “I get to open it up, then I get to watch Slayer and Motorhead.  I’ll just have fun doing my thing in the day, then go and rage.  Maybe there’ll be a 1000 people that will connect to what we’re doing, and that’s what matters.  I’d be a pussy if I didn’t go out and try.”


But, first things first.  Sleep, is about to storm on Europe.  When I asked Pike if he had anything to say to the European audiences that are about to be rattled by their downtuned doom, he simply stated “I am coming to fucking slay you.”


Europeans Beware!


View the entire interview, in six different parts, here:

Interview Part 1

Interview Part 2

Interview Part 3

Interview Part 4

Interview Part 5

Interview Part 6


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