By Jason SchreursOakland riff lords High on Fire, known for their unfathomably heavy live shows, are readying the release of a double live album to prove their live punishment prowess. As previously reported, the double set, entitled Spitting Fire Live, comes out Tuesday (June 18) via eOne and features 15 of the thrash/doom/stoner metal band's career-spanning tracks over two shows, both recorded in New York.
"I figured it was time for a live album," guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike tells Exclaim! "We're a really good live band so we wanted to give our fans the same energy you get from live shows that you can't really put on an album. We chose New York because we always do two shows there and our New York fans are always really crazy and it's a lot of good energy."
Recorded early last December at back-to-back shows at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City and Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg, Spitting Fire Live marks the beginnings of Pike playing sober after a stint in rehab for alcohol addiction.
"I remember those shows being a lot of fun, and that tour was the beginning of me and my sobriety, so there was lots of excitement, but also lots of nervous energy going on. And I was really proud that we recorded on the nights we did," says Pike. "There's a lot more clarity [when you're sober]. It's a little scarier because you don't have your stage buzz to go on. The liquid confidence, you know? I really wrestle with my confidence level and with a lot of anxieties and I'm learning how to deal with those as I go, and it's getting easier and easier."
The double live set features songs from each of the band's six studio albums, including last year's De Vermis Mysteriis and was mixed by Greg Wilkinson at Earhammer Studios in Oakland with additional engineering done by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. Pike says the work done in studio was to clean up the live recordings, but most of what he worried about onstage wasn't a big deal when they got into the studio.
"When you're sober everything's way clearer when you're up there on stage, and you're your worst critic, so you're always going, 'Oh my god, oh my god, did I fuck that up?' when in reality no one else notices, it's just you. You have this little voice in your head telling you that you suck, but at the same time you have another little voice telling you, 'It's alright because you're sober, dude," he chuckles.
As for High on Fire's next album, Pike says an upcoming knee surgery will put him out of commission for a couple of months, but he plans to take the recovery time as a chance to work on an "amazing" new project that he believes will stoke up the band's fervent fans.
"I have some ideas and we're about to get together and figure out what direction to take. I have in mind it will be a very big project and it's going take a little while to make, but it's a very good idea and I can't elaborate on that. But it's going to be totally amazing and I think people are really going to love it. It needs to progress a little farther though, because it's an embryo right now, so it needs to be spiced up and cooked."
Pike says he's looking forward to finally putting a nagging injury behind him while trying to be a "creative as I can" during his down time, working with High on Fire co-founder/drummer Des Kensel and bassist Jeff Matz (ex-Zeke) to send music files back and forth, as well as getting together with Matz to "nail down some riffs" for the new album while he's on the mend.
"I've had the injury for eight years and it's probably where I developed some of my substance abuse problems, constantly nursing that fucking pain, and it's time to get it fixed because it's just getting worse. And I finally have insurance, thanks to Obama! I couldn't afford it before," he says.
As for Pike's "other" band, legendary stoner/doom trio Sleep, he confirms that plans are in the works for the group to record their first new material since the legendary late-'90s opus, Dopesmoker, which featured one, 52-minute track and got them dropped from London Records who refused to release the album. Sleep have played sporadic live shows since 2009, mostly in the form of big metal festivals, such their upcoming appearance on June 21 at France's Hellfest, and Pike says Sleep's new material will be a mix of old and new.
"We have some unreleased Sleep songs that we never got to record, so we were thinking about going into the studio for a few days and recording some of those tracks and some of the jams we've come up with, but that's all relative to time and what we're doing with our other bands, so we have to be very specific about when we plan to do something like that because it's a juggling act for all of us," Pike says. "So we haven't made it solid yet, but we do have plans to do some more recording."