Published Nov 06, 2019Stoner metal titans High on Fire ride out on their upcoming North American tour this November — the moment their legendary guitarist and vocalist Matt Pike has been waiting for, to be back on the road, burning rubber and bursting eardrums with the band he formed more than 20 years ago.
Just last year, road warrior Pike toured extensively across North America and Europe with Sleep, while fitting in a European tour with High on Fire between stops. But he was forced to slow down after he lost part of his toe to diabetes, prompting High on Fire to drop out of a co-headlining North American tour with Municipal Waste in October 2018. A second tour was cancelled in January when he risked losing even more of his foot; this new tour will be High on Fire's first appearance in North America since those cancellations.
"I felt really bad about the cancellations," Pike tells Exclaim! "I'm not the kind of person who says they're gonna do something and doesn't do it, not unless it's life threatening.
"I had to figure out some things about my health, which I have vastly under control now. There will be no more cancellations."
Despite this optimism, Pike is still struggling with complications from surgeries. When doctors operated on him a second time, they removed an infection from under his big toe, leaving a wound he described as "a big bullet hole." It still hasn't healed, so he has to walk with a hole in his foot and bandage it before every show.
But for Pike, the hardest part of his recovery process wasn't the pain. "I'm no good at sitting on my ass," he said. "I get too bored." His dog and his guitar made the time pass quicker, but it was his resolve to tour again that kept him motivated.
"We're gonna bring it hard," said Matt. "I've been anticipating this for a while now." Judging by the already soldout show in Los Angeles, so have fans.
This tour will be the first opportunity for many to hear songs from Electric Messiah performed live; their acclaimed 8th album was released just prior to Pike's surgeries, and the band have only performed songs from it at a few shows.
Fans can expect to hear material from High on Fire's whole career, but for Pike, it feels especially awesome playing songs from their most recent album, in particular the Grammy Award-winning title track "Electric Messiah."
"I'm really proud of that album. It's a masterpiece of everything we've done. I'm really glad (Des) could leave on a foot like that. He really cemented a legacy there," said Matt, referring to former drummer Des Kensel.
Matt formed High on Fire with Kensel in 1998 when the two met in Oakland, CA, which Matt described as a "magical marriage, as far as music goes." High on Fire recruited drummer Chris Maggio, of Wear Your Wounds, for this tour, who took part in some "phenomenal" practice sessions with Pike and bassist Jeff Matz prior to Pike's tour with Sleep.
"I'm feeling very strong about his style," said Matt. "It's gonna be a bit of an improv experiment, but I think it will be a really good one. I'm not afraid."
Rolling with the punches is something Pike has learned to do. While on tour with Sleep earlier this year, $2,200 worth of guitar pedals were stolen out of his luggage while in the care of Delta Airlines baggage handlers, who then delivered the empty bags to his home. "Needless to say, your shit is not safe and neither are you!" he said of the ordeal. Despite filing insurance claims, Matt says he has received no compensation from Delta Airlines.
Pike plans on writing new material with High on Fire after the tour wraps, but he also intends to spend more time at home with his new wife, tattoo artist and musician Alyssa Maucere. While it was hard staying sedentary during his recovery, it was also the most time off he's had in 32 years.
In the meantime, Matt promises fans will get their fix of High on Fire. "Go to the show. We're going to fucking melt faces."
High on Fire play Montreal on November 24, Toronto on November 25 and Vancouver on December 2.