Getting sober is no easy task, but to get sober and be in an active heavy metal band? That seems like a Herculean task. But High on Fire's Matt Pike is on that journey and he is succeeding and we commend him for it.
What made you decide that you wanted to lead a sober lifestyle and leave drinking behind?
“Here’s the thing: I’ve struggled with it off and on, and I thought either I could, like, you know, not drink on tour or try to just, ‘Oh, I just drink beer’ or something like that. And then I’d fall off and things would go too far, and I get kind of crazy, and there’s this other guy, Patt Mike, who takes over at a certain point. Everybody has an alter ego when they drink – or not everybody does but I do – and that dude gets me in trouble. So I don’t know, I play better and I feel better when I just don’t drink alcohol.
“And I don’t endorse this for everybody, but it’s helped. I actually recreational marijuana; medically, it helps my depression, and it helps me stay off the booze. It just makes me clearer, it makes me more present.”
What was the turning point that made you decide that ‘This is something that I want to pursue’? Did you go into a rehab program?
“The first time I entered a rehab program, since then, like, four or five different times I’ve been drinking hard and then quit drinking, and then drinking hard, and then quit drinking. And this time around, I’m just kind of over it, but I’m also 47 years old. I mean, if you’re in your 30s and you haven’t destroyed your life, and you drink a little hard, you drink casually, maybe you’re not the alcoholic that needs to quit. But I go too hard, I go until there’s no tomorrow, and I try to out-drink everybody, and I out-party everybody.
“And then there’s other drugs that get thrown in there, and there’s other troubles that go with drinking as much and steady as I did for as long as I did, and I can put them back in its self-destructive, it’s not good for your health.”
I know you’ve admitted to falling off the wagon a couple of times, we’ve even seen it happen to James Hetfield right now, we wish him all the best.
“I do too, I love James. He was sober for so long, and he called me about my Grammy [2019’s Best Metal Performance with High on Fire’s ‘Electric Messiah’]. And a couple of times when I was not doing so great, you know, him or Kirk Hammett, I could like text something, they’d have something to say that was cool, it’s cool when other peers have your back.”
Seeing that, how much of that was a reminder for you that you could be clean for years, but this will always be there in the shadows?
“It will be, it’s just a reality, it’s a matter of practice. The more you practice anything, the more perfect you get at it. And not drinking alcohol when you love it as much as I do, or James does, or anybody does – you just got to practice. You got to practice not doing it and get good at subsidizing what your mind wants to do.”
High on Fire haven't announced much in the way of touring plans this year. They have two European dates lined up, one of which is France's Hellfest.