Latest release: Snakes for the Divine (E1/Shock)

2010 seems to have been a watershed year for California’s High on Fire. Their fifth album Snakes for the Divine was released to almost universal acclaim and the band has spent the best part of the year since then touring heavily, including a run of shows in Europe with Metallica. With the audience for their riff-heavy, aggressive brand of metal ever expanding, High on Fire will round out their extensive touring cycle by appearing at Soundwave this month. Loud spoke to gravel-voiced singer/guitarist Matt Pike:

Q: G’day Matt. What has High on Fire been doing the past few months?
A: We’ve been touring a lot. We were over in Europe with Fear Factory and then Daath, then we’re doing New Zealand, Australia and Japan together, and then hopefully we can get to making a new record

Q: Snakes for the Divine seems to be one of those albums that everyone loves. I think it came in somewhere on all our writers’ Top Ten lists for last year. I haven’t seen a lot of negative press about it at all.
A: We just like to think we came a long way on this. It’s our band’s evolution. Definitely we know a lot more about what we’re doing now than when we started. It takes a long time.

Q: I was most interested in the story behind the artwork and the title track. That whole Illuminati/reptilian thing seems to just lend itself to having songs written about it.
A: Well there’s a series of… well there’s the whole Illuminati reptilians theory. I study theology and such, and fantasy and science fiction and shit like that and I definitely incorporate a lot of that into my lyrics. And at the same time incorporate a lot of personal feelings and things that happen in my life. You mix those up and sometimes you get a lot of good lyrical themes.

Q: And what are you looking forward to the most about coming to Australia this time?
A; Well there’s a lot of days off, so I’m looking forward to actually enjoying myself there a little bit. Last time it was just day after day after day after day. I think we only had one day off, so this time we’ll have a bit of a break and hopefully do some of the sights, hit the beach.

Q: You’ve been on tour a long time with this record. When you start on the next one, what shape do you think it’s going to take?
A: Our albums kinda write themselves. Once we start, they just kinda fall into place. It’s really just a matter of being motivated enough to be on top of it all the time, sitting down in the studio and getting some stuff done.

Q: Snakes has been so successful for you, almost a breakthrough album really. What sort of pressure do think there’s going to be on you with regard to the follow-up?
A: I don’t think there’s gonna be a lot of pressure. There’s always a deadline you have to shoot for, but I was thinking about a different way to have a work ethic and one of ’em’s like, we go outta town for about a week and get all the kids and girlfriends and wives and sort of seclude ourselves into a studio and really get a lot done all at once. I’m thinking it might go a little faster, because sometimes when you’re at home, there’s too much home stuff to do.

Q: A few fans got upset recently when a press release for some of your shows went out and I think you were described as stoner doom or something, which really isn’t accurate. That’s really a description of Sleep, isn’t it, and the two aren’t really that alike.
A: No, no, it’s apples and oranges man! It’s a way different style of writing, it’s a way different style of lyric. I think High on Fire’s a little more aggressive, and Sleep’s a little more drone-y, stoner, super loud. High on Fire’s really active. They’re apples and oranges, I’ll tell you that.

Q: There were some Sleep shows last year. Are there going to be more?
A: Oh yeah, yeah. We might do a show or something here or there. We like to be pretty secret about that, if that happens.

Q: You know that Kyuss’ tour here sold out in minutes. Have you ever been approached about doing a tour with them?
A: I wouldn’t be opposed, I just wouldn’t know who’d headline. I guess Kyuss is bigger than me, so maybe them I guess.

Q: The music of both your bands seems to be really enjoying a upswing in popularity lately.
A: It seems to be moving well and seems to be appealing to a lot of the younger crowd. Sleep sort of has this cult crowd that’s been following them forever, but High on Fire is more anger and aggression and seems to have a much younger appeal.

Q: If you had to choose three songs from across your career to define High on Fire, which tracks would they be?
A: Definitely “How Dark We Pray” from Snakes for the Divine. And I’ve always really liked “Baghdad”. There’s so many songs man… I liked “The Yeti” too. That was on Surrounded by Thieves. “The Yeti” was a real good one. It was like the “Ballad of the Yeti”, really slow and Sabbath-y and there’s some interesting choices of notes and stuff.

Q: Speaking of Sabbath, Ozzy’s just come out last week and said he wants to get the original line-up back together. What’s your thoughts on that?
A: Oh that’s always great! You know, I was at a show the other day and I walked by Geezer Butler and waved at him. He doesn’t really know me too well, but I was like “You fuckin’ rule!”

Q: Getting back to the next album now, do you have an solid ideas about what sort of things you might be writing about?
A: I’m gonna let it take its toll. I always start reading a lot around about the time I start writing. I’ll start going through my library and picking out themes and picking up weird stuff to kinda trip on. Then Des, Jeff and I will write a bunch of riffs, or Des will go down there and make a bunch of drum beats and I’ll sit around and toy with them until I have something. Jeff’s pretty smart. He’s very good at arranging and coming up with multiple parts. I think it’s a pretty strong set up as far as writing goes. I think we’ll be taking on the writing process together, and I think it’ll be pretty neat.

Q: So it’s really just a matter of getting together, getting the juices flowing and taking it from there?
A: Well, I’m just gonna see where it goes. Sometimes you walk down a road and you don’t know where you’re gonna end up. It could be somewhere cool, or it could be like prison [laugh].

Q: And finally, are you looking forward to playing Soundwave?
A: I can’t wait. Even though I’m probably gonna die of heat exhaustion [laughs], everything else sounds OK.