HIGH ON FIRE's Matt Pike on New Album: "It Was Like Lemmy Telling Me Don't Let This Shit Go To Your Head."
"I'm the mayor of crazy town," High On Fire frontman and Sleep guitarist Matt Pike tells Metal Injection, beginning a lengthy chat that delves into the woes of technology, balancing humility and humour and a psychedelic Lemmy dream that inspired the formers eighth studio album, Electric Messiah.
Indeed, Pike has had an unenviable 2018. His doomy, stonerific staple Sleep dropped – unexpectedly I might add – their first new album in 15 years, following it up with a select batch of highly acclaimed tour dates.
Back to High On Fire, the relentless, mind-bending three piece who incorporate sludge and thrash elements with influence to spare, and the clock has yet to strike midnight on a year that will include separate extensive tours with Enslaved and Municipal Waste, as well as the release of their highly anticipated followup to their 2015 record Luminferous.
"That record should have been done six to eight months previous to that, but we didn't let ourselves put out crap just to put our crap," Pike says of Electric Messiah, which is set to be released through E1 Music on October 5th of this year. "I don't like doing shit like that and I've never done shit like that. I'd rather the record be quality and it comes out 10 years later than it be half-assed and not what we're capable of. I'm glad we took our time on it. I feel like this record has a lot of energy and is a lot of fun to listen to and isn't as doomy as some of my shit in the past. This one I didn't get tragically dumped or my bother died in the street in front of me while I'm recording it like some crazy stupid thing that always happens."
After two of their more acclaimed albums both critically and commercially (2012s De Vermis Mysteriis and 2015s Luminferous) the trio opted to return with producer Kurt Ballou (Converge, Torche, Kvelertak) for the nine track collection which Pike has called some of the band's finest work.
The album and title track are dedicated to late icon of all things good and heavy Lemmy Kilmister. Spending much of his career being compared to metal's maverick, Pike shaped the epic single and album's central concept on a dream he had of the Motorhead frontman, who – in classic Lemmy fashion – handed out a legendary ass-chewing, reminding Pike to stay humble.
"I'm a humble guy for the most part," Pike says. I know I'm good at guitar and writing songs and shit, but I don't like to get too into my own narcissism or ego. I see a lot of people fall into that when they get fame. I don't do that, although I tease around about it. I make fun of everything, making fun of myself is fucking great … It is humbling. I think that's part of when I had this dream about Lemmy, that I was humbling myself and getting yelled at. It was like Lemmy telling me don't let this shit go to your head and don't think you're me ever. I don't. I don't. I don't even touch that man. I definitely admired him, we all did. We'll miss him. It made us do our best that if we're going to write a song about Lemmy we better carry the torch well."
Electric Messiah, which is sure to wind up on the year-end list of just about any 'best of' metal release list for 2018, is one of the more diverse records in an already thick discography for High On Fire. There's the Sumerian historical epic/rock opera "Steps of Ziggurat/House of Enlil", or the Sir Francis Drake inspired "Freebooter", and balls to the wall opener "Spewn From The Earth."
Digging in on the writing process behind one of the albums deep cuts "God of the Godless", Pike gets real on the mindfuck that is technology and our gross dependence on tech-living.
"Elon Musk was on Joe Rogan the other day and he smoked weed and lost half his investors. Just for smoking weed and telling everybody they're cyborgs for using their phones so much, and I agree with him 100 per cent. I have that song "God of the Godless" and it's about AI and how far can we trust ourselves, making things that are going to learn and be as smart as us, if not smarter, almost instantly. The question is, is that technology safe? Is that the way you want human beings to be conceived? Should it be illegal for us to be human at a certain point because we don't want to get on a cell phone? When someone yells at you because you don't answer your phone and it's like dude, I don't sit around and worship my phone all day. They've replaced religion with phones and computers. It's kind of sick, but that depends who you are. There are some people who want robotic arms and to be in the Terminator. I can see why that would be a benefit, but at the same time that scares me. With the spark of the creator in all of us, what does that do to that? If you even believe that. If you're even an atheist you know that there's something about humanity that's special and something about humanity that sucks shit. Why are we so ying and yang?"
Celebrating the 20 year milestone of High On Fire in 2018, Pike shares that he'll never grow tired of getting creative with Jeff Matz and Des Kensel.
"Playing with Jeff and Dez, I don't think I'll never not be able to have really creative material. We have a lot of chemistry in the creativity department. We all understand each other. If you ever hear me and Jeff jam guitar and bass while we're sound checking, we don't hit wrong notes with each other because we know each other's playing so well. It makes it easy to write when you know the other guys head that way."