High on Fire's Matt Pike Talks Sobriety, Pajamas, and Jesus Christ's Time-Traveling Twin Brother
This has been a year of ups and downs for the Oakland, California, metal band High on Fire. On the upside, the band's sixth album, De Vermis Mysteriis, was released. It kicks ass. On the downside, frontman Matt Pike boozed his way into rehab over the summer. But he's out now, and the band's back on the road. High On Fire's two-night stand in the city begins tomorrow night at Bowery Ballroom, and ends Saturday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg. A few hours before their show in Maine, I spoke with Pike about rehab, how pajamas are his anti-drug, how Jesus's twin brother inspired the new album, and what's going on with that other band he's in called Sleep.
- The Weight: High on Fire mix brain and brawn while shrewdly underplaying the Satan card
When I was in Chicago this summer, I ate a High on Fire burger at Kuma's Corner. Have you had it?
Yeah, I sure have. It's fucking good. There's a slice of pineapple and Sriracha sauce. It's not bad.
You seem like the kind of guy that eats a lot of burgers.
I like 'em. Who doesn't like 'em?
I love burgers. When you make them at home, do you normally put a slice of pineapple on them?
No. I like lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, definitely cheese, mayonnaise, onions. No pickles. I hate pickles. I fucking hate them. I can't stand the flavor.
Back in August it was announced that you were heading to rehab. How's that going?
I'm doing good. I've just been on the straight and narrow, trying to drink tea and doing my fucking--it's just been fucking granola and guitar, you know? I'm feeling pretty well. I'm managing it okay. There's been some tempting moments, and I've fucked up a few times, but I'm just staying the path and trying not to die young. There's too much fucking music to make.
I've read that High on Fire tours in the past were a long, hard party. Is it a challenge to stay sober when you're on tour?
A little bit, yeah. It's hard sometimes, but I manage. Our bass player quit drinking before I did, and I'm on tour with Bill from Mastodon--there are quite a few guys who are older with us that are--you know, the party catches up with you and you have to take a chill pill on it. Instead of doing cocaine and taking a bunch of shots every night, you put on your PJs and get healthy after the shows. It's different, so you just have to find things that make you happy.
As I get older, I definitely enjoy my pajamas more than I enjoy puking up whiskey.
That's one of my big things, actually. Right after the show, I take a shower and get in my pajamas. I jump in the comfies. It's a stoked feeling. It's like new socks.
Do you wear the classic plaid pajamas?
I actually have a bunch of Adidas sweats that I like.
How has being sober impacted the shows themselves? Are you playing better?
Oh yeah, we're killing it. I'm playing much better. I get a little more anxiety now because I don't have that comfortable buzz. You know, you're not quite as confident as you were, and cocky, but at the same time, you end up playing better after the first few songs and you really get into it. It's like, "Oh, okay, I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and that's why everyone is staring at me." It's harder to get my brain into that thing where I'm gonna go out--there's just this clarity to it, and having that clarity puts everything under a microscope. Every little note you hit, you're very conscious of it. But I think it'll make me play better in the long run.
You're speaking very openly about all this, but how do you feel about these private details of your life being made public?
I'm the one who made the love affair with the public, so I expected that if something like this happened, I'd have to explain it. I suppose I could just ignore all of it. But, shit, lesson learned. And I had a lot of fun with it for 40 years. I'm not that different of a person now. I drank my liver into submission, so I had to take a different path. I'm still the same guy. I still just wanna do what I do best, and that's play music and be a good person. That's who I try to be. Whatever puts me in that spot is what I have to do. And hopefully I'm a good influence on the people that I play for.