High On Fire’s Matt Pike: ”My amputated toe? F**k it, good riddance”

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Matt Pike is a cult metal legend. As frontman with 90s stoner OGs Sleep he helped shape the sound of modern metal, before spreading his black wings with High On Fire on the 00s. These days, he continues to spread the gospel of doom with both bands.

What’s the worst thing about being in a band?

“Having no time to yourself. You give all your energy to everybody else and you never settle down. It catches up to you after a while but you just need to learn how to manage it if you are as busy as a guy like me.”

What’s been the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Lemmy told me to not wax my ears! He didn’t wear earplugs either and I’ve never worn earplugs. I can’t believe I’m not deaf by now! So I never have and I actually have pretty good hearing. I had a hearing test when I was 42 and they told me I had the hearing of a normal 42-year-old man and I’m like, ‘That’s literally impossible!’”

What was the first time you felt like a rock star?

“I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like a rock star, I’ve never considered myself that. I get harassed more than most people because I go out in public more than most other guys do! Ha ha ha!”

What’s been your worst experience on drugs?

“Oh god! There were these sea sickness pills, kinda like Dramamine… I ate like a whole box and my mum had to take me to the hospital because I was hallucinating scorpions in the carpet and spiders everywhere. It was like an insect trip, it was fucking horrible.”

When was the last time you cried?

“Shit, I don’t know. I used to cry every time I got drunk. I just wanted to cry, fight and fuck, ha! I’m an emotional and spiritual person, so I cry a lot, but I can’t remember the last time. It’s a good way of not losing your temper.” 

How does it feel to be the godfather of stoner metal?

“I love the respect of my peers and I love the respect of my fans, I truly appreciate it. It’s why I keep going and I really want to make sure that everything I do is quality or enjoyable. I enjoy it and I’ve had a long-lived career – it’s good to know that down the road even if I’m not as huge as I am now I’ll be able to play a show and people will want to see me play as I’ve contributed to the society of music and art. I’m just one dent in the road and I just appreciate it. I don’t mind if someone makes fun of me for it, I’m like the king of memes as opposed to the king of stoner metal!”

Your Wikipedia page says you are best known in the metal scene for never wearing a shirt when playing live. What are your thoughts on that?

“Well, I do that because I am comfortable playing like that! I’ve always done that and some of my stage kung-fu comes from the way my strap slides across me in the way I catch the neck on it. On occasion, I throw a wrench and wear a shirt. I have this dirty bartender shirt that I bust out every now and then and it’s fucking horrifying! It’s got lapels and it’s made out of polyester. It’s brown with green poppies. People are like, “Why is he wearing a shirt that is so offensive?!” People will give me shit if I wear a shirt – it’s become a thing and it really doesn’t drastically affect my musical abilities but it’s how I’m comfortable!”

You had to have one of your toes amputated a few years ago. What the fuck happened there?

“I had a gruelling shitty tour and I didn’t have any days off. I had dirty showers and my toe had been infected from a previous injury. Then, I got a bone infection. There’s bacteria and bad shit everywhere, and when I took a dirty club shower it blew up. I played the last shows with a fucking hotdog in my sock! Eventually, I went to see my podiatrist and she was like, ‘I have to amputate’ and I’m like, ‘Fuck it, good riddance!’ That toe caused me nothing but problems so fuck that thing. I wouldn’t have cancelled the tour if I didn’t have to, but because of the bone infection I was on serious antibiotics and I need a sterile medical environment to change my dressing every day. I had to wait until the stitches came out and by that time we would have been halfway through the tour and, quite frankly, I needed the time off. In a way, it was really a blessing in disguise.” 

Published in Metal Hammer #320