We recently caught up with Pike in Madison,
Wisconsin, during the band’s tour for their fifth
studio album, Snakes for the Divine (E1 Music),
to talk about metal’s place in the music business, his nine-string First Act guitar and dual-amp rig, and what it takes to be a torchbearer
in the latter-day metal underground.
How did you get into playing guitar?
Basically, I was a juvenile delinquent in
Denver. One of those bad kids in high
school. I did things like drop acid all of the
time, hang around the smoking pit, chase
girls, whatever. One of the things that I was
always really capable of was playing guitar,
and I had been playing since I was 8. I was
pretty good at the time, but I didn’t think
about it in a “I’m the best ever” sense. I just
really liked to play and only cared about
getting better and better at it. I’d eventu-
ally become the guy in school that taught
other guys songs. Stuff like Mötley Crüe
and Metallica. I eventually got caught up in
stealing car stereos, then eventually the cars
straight up. It was completely my own fault,
and I paid for it by going to military school
and juvenile hall. I ended up taking the rap
for some older guys in the ring, and when I
was about 14 I got shipped off to my dad.
While I was there, I met this guy named Al
[Cisneros]. He would eventually become the
bass player and singer for Sleep. He had this
band called Asbestosdeath, which was this
dirge-y, Black Sabbath-y punk band. I wanted
to play leads and do a bunch of crazy stuff,
and they were like “No man, it’s not like
that.” We’d go see these really great punk
bands like Neurosis and the Melvins that
were doing something new and cool at the
time, and we got to open for guys like that.
Snakes for the Divine is pretty aggressive—
even for you guys.
It didn’t last that long, though—why?
We made Jerusalem and then broke up. I’m
an aggressive, competitive type of guy. I like
a challenge. It’s a great attitude to have when
you’re an athlete, but sometimes it’s bad
when you’re a musician. I get that way to try
and push the music to be the best that it can
be, and if I blow you off the stage one night,
that’s your problem. You should be doing
that to me [Laughs]
This one is a lot more aggressive than the
last one. The last one had its moments. Our
bass player, Jeff Matz [formerly of Seattle
hardcore band Zeke], wrote a lot more of
the stuff than last time. He was a little bit shy
about showing what he could do, thinking
that he’d get shot down if he brought in a
riff or two. I was like, “No, dude!” So he’d be
down in the studio at 6 a.m., looping some-
thing in a delay pedal. I’d hear it and think,
“Oh my god, dude, you’re really serious
about this aren’t you?” [Laughs]
Then what happened?
So, six months go by and I start High
on Fire. I met Des through a friend, and
instantly clicked with him after we jammed.
He’s one of those drummers that I know
exactly what his playing is going to be like,
Did this record come together faster
since you guys have been playing
together for a while now?
No! Jeff, Des, and I sat around Oakland
for eight months, just going down to the
studio and pressing record. We started