High on Fire’s Matt Pike on Converse Tour, Next Album, Conspiracy Theories + More
Matt Pike is an extremely interesting dude. Having achieved near-legendary status as the guitarist for Sleep and the frontman of High on Fire, Pike has helped create some of metal's most respected discographies.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Pike to chat about the upcoming Converse Rubber Tracks Live tour, progress on the next High on Fire and Sleep works, elaborate conspiracy theories, his future goals and much more. Check out our exclusive interview with Matt Pike:
Let’s talk about the Converse Rubber Tracks Live tour. It’s the first tour they’re putting together and they picked you to headline. Then you guys picked Blackest to open. What was it about Blackest that made them the best choice?
We just went through MP3s, we didn’t have much to go off of. All of us were really under-slept and on tour for five weeks. [Laughs] I wish I had a better story, but we were just like, let’s pick the one we all like and agree on. We liked the MP3s they sent us and they were great kids and put on a really great show, so it worked out really well. They seem really excited. I think we’re all glad to be a part of something to help other artists that are up-and-coming to get to where we’re at and torture themselves to death. I keep telling those kids, you’re in it now! You better get used to it. [Laughs]
The Converse tour is very pro-artist, trying to make everything as affordable as they can to keep music going strong, especially underground metal. What do you feel like will be the notable differences between a normal tour and these Converse dates?
One is the free admission thing and them paying artists still. It's a really cool deal. It gives the kids a lot of promotion and the kids a lot of money to buy t-shirts and hang out. It’s really cool on the public side of things, it’s a win win for everyone. They’ve gone out of their way to hook us up. I’ve had feet problems, so I’ve had a problem finding the right pair of shoes. [Laughs] Everyone is all about, “We got new Chucks!” but I have peripheral neuropathy, so I can’t wear flat shoes. It’s nothing personal, I’m a freak of nature. [Laughs]
You being involved in the Converse tour is interesting because you recently released 'Slave the Hive' through Scion A/V, who are also doing awesome things for metal bands.
Yeah dude, I love Scion. They’re really cool to all the bands. It seems like the music industry is taking this commercial marketing money, and they’re throwing it at the music industry, which is awesome. Artists, for a long time, didn’t get paid for s--t. It’s kind of amazing. They’re paying us not to own it, just to lease it, they’re giving us the rights back. I think it’s a better way of the whole music industry being run. Now you don’t need a bunch of labels and people hoarding up all of your publishing. They’ll pay you for some marketing money and release the downloads and you got your album to sell on your own. It’s kind of a win-win.
I read you guys are writing the new High on Fire record. I’m a big fan of 'De Vermis Mysteriis.' Is there a crazy concept for this new album or anything that could possibly top the weirdness of the last album?
Oh yeah, it’s an extension of 'Vermis,' only it’s way deeper. Way deeper. I’m not going to elaborate until I have everything written and my band has all the music together. Jeff [Matz, bass] has been writing all crazy. We’ve been locking ourselves up in New Orleans. We’re taking a little time, I think we’re going to push back our recording date a little but just to make sure that everything is solid and there’s no get-by music on it. It’s all straightforward until every last note is perfect.
New Orleans is such a musically rich city, of course when you’re talking about metal, sludge or doom. Have your surroundings in New Orleans been inspirational in that sense?
Yeah, it’s great for me personally -- not speaking on behalf of the other guys. I stay with a friend of mine and he’s a brilliant tattoo artist. He’s also a fellow conspiracy theorist and he’s real smart, dude. My friend Jordan, I bounce a lot of ideas off him. It’s good to have another guy who’s freakish as me about worldwide paranoia. [Laughs] That’s where I spend the night, so I come home from practice and I'll say, "What do you think about this?" And he’s like, "Oh, that’s very interesting hypothesis. [Laughs] It kind of helps me have an outside look outside of the band. I bounce ideas of my guys too, Jeff and Des [Kensel, drums]. They usually dig what I come up with for themes and lyrically, but it’s good to have another guy who has no affiliation to say, "Dude, I think you’re going a little far." [Laughs]
Speaking of conspiracy theories, when does one get too weird to believe? Is there an example?
How about that Planet X (or Nibiru) -- supposedly when we were put here, our DNA was manipulated by… well there’s two theories about that. It’s either the Anunnaki are reptilians or the Anunnaki are pretty much the Yahweh and Yahshua and the whole biblical thing, but they have in those tablets that Zecharia Sitchin had been deciphering. They have in those tablets the flood of Noah and these things biblical and they got passed on by some of the ancient Babylonians, the ancient Sumerians, all the way to Catholic church and Rome and all the stories seem to be the same, they just have different names for all the characters.
I don’t see that it’s just a phenomenon. I see that it’s been passed on and enforced by something that wants us to know our history but not have a good grasp on it and give us some sort of belief system that we base our laws, populations, thoughts and theories on. It seems to me that we’ve been manipulated or taught by our relatives who messed with our DNA a long time ago.
Here’s the conspiracy though: The Nibiruans, the Reptilians or the Anunnaki [say Nibiru] comes once every 3,600 years, which would directly align with the flood of Noah, the ice ages, all the disasters that wiped humanity out and then somehow a small part of the population is preserved and we re-populate. Well, that happens once every 3600 years. Supposedly, Nibiru and its brown dwarf sun, which is twin suns to our sun, and another solar system is in our Kuiper belt. The reason we know this is because Neptune’s orbit, it has a wavering effect. When something is wavering it means that mass or gravity is pulling on it that is not directly in context with our sun. So we know that something is out there pulling on Neptune just like our sun is. It’s pulling itself in and people have photographed this s--t, man. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s an interesting conspiracy theory. That’s only one. I know about a thousand of them.
Nibiru, apparently, as it passes on one side of the sun, it doesn’t f--- us up. If it passes on the other, it makes volcanoes, earthquakes… it never directly strikes us, but it pulls all this gravity and mass and it interrupts the Earth’s core and it changes our poles, so we have pole shifts, which is scientific, and apparently it’s on its way. Who knows in the next 50 to 100 years if that will happen or not? It’s an interesting theory. I’m basing a lot of the new album off of thoughts like that.
Wow, that’s going to be killer.
You have to have to have riffs to go along with how heavy that is. [Laughs]
Are you going to be recording with Converge's Kurt Ballou again?
Oh, yes. We’re trying to.
The sound on 'Vermis' was perfect. We also recently got some new Sleep material. I read that the new song, 'The Clarity,' has inspired a new full-length. Is there anything you can tell me about that?
No, I really can’t go into that. Maybe the miracle will happen if the miracle happens. [Laughs] I can’t elaborate, I’ve already said too much.
A lot of people are saying that since you entered rehab in 2012 that your live performances have been some of the best in your career. Although you've admittedly fallen off the wagon here and there, how has your road to sobriety changed your experience when it comes to playing live?
Well, it’s given me more anxiety but a lot more focus and lot more good habits, trying to stay out of being all twisted up in the self-medicating world. It’s hard a lot, man. Especially when you’re rolling and you have no sleep and you’re getting on these flights, you’re getting there and you’re supposed to be all chipper and entertaining for everybody and you don’t have any booze in you and you don’t have any drugs you can fall back on to make you chipper. Sometimes you just have to smile and deal with having the clarity.
Having to exit the 2012 Mayhem festival to attend rehab, was that a crushing blow?
Absolutely not, no man. It was to save my life. It was to save my being. I don’t think I would have been very good on that festival. I think my life is more important than playing with all of those other bands. I can always do another show when my health and my head are straight. It would have been a really good tour for us, but at the same time, I wasn’t doing too good, man.
An interesting thing with fans -- it's weird what people tend to grasp onto -- it seems like fans tend to gravitate towards you not wearing a shirt on stage.
Oh, yeah. And everybody thinks its a macho thing. It’s actually a comfort thing. It spares me laundry. The way my straps slide across my naked back is different than the way my strap slides across a shirt, it’s a weird way of playing. So if I wear a shirt live, which I do every now and then, it’s kind of awkward because my strap doesn’t slide the way I want it to. It’s completely physical.
Do you have a vision of where you want to be in 5 years or 10 years?
Hmmm, I don’t know. I just want to keep entertaining. I'd like to be a lot more involved in the way I write creatively. I'd like to have a lot of music under my belt and be in the best band in the world and the other best band in the world and have a bunch of books out and be doing screenplays -- just creatively making art. That’s what makes me happy to do and I want to be happy to doing it. I run myself ragged and spread myself thin a lot just because of my love for it. It can burn you out, I hope I’m not burnt out. I want to be happy about what I've accomplished and what I do and who I do it with and I want them happy with me. I have kind of a schizo personality I try to maintain. [Laughs]
I’m engaged to a lawyer, actually. I want her to be happy with what I’m doing and us to be able to have time, but you know, that’s a perfect world and the American dream, etc. The way that I see the world going, I don’t think it’s going to be nice for anyone you’re seeing. I just want to make people aware of the art we do and give them some kind of hope and some kind of thing when they’re having a bad day, they have something to listen to and they know someone understands how they feel.
Thanks to Matt Pike for the memorable interview! To check out High on Fire's remaining North American tour dates, click here.