HIGH ON FIRE - "A Shot of Metal, A Dash of Punk, A Twist of Sludge"

By Jens Hellroute

This interview with Matt Pike took place when High On Fire recently played the Loppen venue at Christiania, Copenhagen. It was originally a radio interview which aired on my show Virus Radio 98,9FM. Thanks to my co-host, Jens Bacon (who’s right now at the Roadburn festival in Holland. Sadly I couldn’t afford it this year), for helping out with the questions we asked the big guy. It was a quite a journey to the center of the quirky mind of Mr. Pike as you will see.

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Welcome back to Copenhagen, Matt.

MATT PIKE: Thanks a lot.

WC: We assume that no one was arrested this time?

MP: No. Hamburg is the easiest place to go jail. Last time I slept in some lady’s car I thought was our tourbus, and I urinated in front of several cops. I never got a fine, they just threw me in the drunk tank. They let me out the next day and I just left, haha. So I was a bit more cautious when I visited the city again. Don’t know if there’s a warrant out on me. Thankfully nobody asked for my passport.                       JENS & MR. PIKE!

WC: The show tonite is the last on the High On Fire euro tour. Are you ready or burned out?

MP: I’m ready! And burned out and wasted like a motherfucker, but ready. I’m always ready.

WC: You’re doing Roadburn and performing the whole “The Art Of Self Defense” album?

MP: Yeah, we’ve a regular set and then the album back to front. A wish from Walter, the Roadburn booker. And since it’s Walter we said yes, of course. He’s a good man. We played Roadburn several times.

WC: Also with your other band Sleep. It’s a amazing festival!

MP: Yes. It has become something very special.

WC: Your latest video, “Fertile Green”, is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

MP: Phil Mucci is insane. I just gave him the lyrics and he went with it. I was blown away with the results. I’d do a Pink Floyd movie with him if he wanted, haha.

WC: Prior to the interview we’re looking at your tour t-shirts and was really impressed by the ‘Richard Pryor’ one. Are you a fan of the comedian? If anyone was on fire, it was Richard Pryor!

MP: Absolutely! It’s a bootleg shirt which some fan made. Completely hilarious, a moment of genius!

WC: What was the inspiration for the last couple of records?

MP: I was in a pretty bad state. My alchohol and drug problems had become quite serious which came out in my lyrics. There’s also a lot of mysticism, religion mixed with science fiction but mainly about my substance abuse and trying to find a way back.

WC: Any H.P. Lovecraft influences?

MP: No, mostly my own thoughts. Well, maybe a little. The “Green Man” myth, reincarnation, aliens, reptilian people, dualism, Christianity. Lots of different stuff. Faith. Can you believe what I believe in, what’s real and what if this was the truth etc.

WC: What the hell are you sucking on?

MP: Cough syrup! Keeps me from drinking, haha. There’s been a few relapses, but I’m doing fine. It’s pretty common for an alchoholic like me. I love to drink and put down a lot. I’m a big guy as you can see. But it’s tough being on tour, you’re at a venue/bar till four in the morning every day. At times I just changed to pyjamas, went back to the bar, got photos taken with the fans and started drinking with them. Girls flirt with you and buy you shots, and you don’t wanna be an asshole. Peer pressure. And then you’ve fallen off the wagon. It happens. You’re only human.

WC: Got any routines when you touring?

MP: Yeah, my anti-depressive medicine. I had a lotta pains and was addicted to opium but now I’m on a different kind of medicine which really helps. The booze also helped against the pains.

WC: In the beginning of High On Fire you had a more groovy sound, and then it became a lot harder?

MP: We were looking for our identity, and while we were looking creativity came. We had like three bass players and three different periods. Our first was more into the groovy stuff. Joe Preston wrote a lot and was like the next level to the more sludgy shit. More thrashy and doomy. Then came Jeff Matz on the “Death Is The Communion” album, he’s  more prog and got that solid hardass metal sound.

WC: Jeff was in Zeke. A fast and furious hardcore/punk metal act.

MP: Hell yes! Zeke are awesome. And that’s where we found him.

WC: High On Fire became more metal?

MP: Yeah. I’ve been metalhead since I was a kid as much I was into hardcore punk. Sabbath with Sleep, the doom sound. I was doing doom metal in high school with my first band, Asbestosdeath. Heard a lot of Melvins, Neurosis, Rich Kids On LSD…

WC: Rich Kids On LSD! Seen them a couple of times. Those punks can skate. “Rockn’nRoll Nightmare”…what a kickass album!

MP: Yeah! Hardcore punk are the roots of High On Fire.

WC: Saint Vitus played a lot with Black Flag in the early years.

MP: Totally. Both were on SST Records. Great label. More questions?

WC: No, but we’re airing the interview in a few minutes, so got any requests you want played on the radio?

MP: Yes. You gotta play “Wasted” with Black Flag and then play the Circle Jerks version. “I waaaaaaaaaas sooooo waaaaaaaaaaaasted – I WAS WASTED!” Haha.

WC: Will do! Keith Morris (singer of pre-Henry Rollins Black Flag and Circle Jerks) is doing pretty good nowadays in OFF!

MP: Fuck yeah! Awesome band. High On Fire love being on tour with them. Great guys!
(Jens and Matt photo courtesy of Jens Bacon)