Exclusive: High On Fire and Kvelertak talk "Scion A/V" Tour, Discovering Metal, Album Art, and More
Thu, 14 Nov 2013 10:37:23
Right now, High On Fire and Kvelertak are scorching venues across the United States on a raucous jaunt presented by Scion A/V. They remain two of metal's most pummeling acts, but they also each possess their own inimitable identity. The run is bound to be remembered as one of the year's best.
So, ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino sat down for an exclusive interview with Matt Pike of High on Fire and Erlend Hjelvik of Kvelertak to discuss the tour, first discovering heavy metal, album artwork, and so much more.
How did this tour come about?
Matt Pike: Kurt Ballou, the dude who records us from Converge, hooked us up with Kvelertak's music, and we really liked what we heard. We'd them a few times, but we never got together and played. They've gone to our shows, and we've gone to their shows. I think it's a really good pairing, and we're taking a stab at having a really cool tour. I think it'll be great.
Erlend Hjelvik: High On Fire is one of the best bands we could open up for. I think it's a perfect match. We probably share a lot of the same fans too. It's a great tour.
Both bands also have their own singular styles.
Matt Pike: In the words of Charles Bukowski, "Style is everything". Bands with originality and style are hard to come by nowadays because everybody sounds like something that had been put out in the nineties or early two-thousands. It's hard to get a band that really thinks around the bun. Kvelertak does that as well as we do. It's interesting.
Erlend Hjelvik: Definitely!
How did you both discover metal and what made you want to play it?
Erlend Hjelvik: It's a bit embarrassing for me to talk about [Laughs]. I guess I'm a lot younger than Matt is. I got into metal when I was a teenager. I didn't know too many other kids in the village where I was living. I got into nu metal when I was 14- or 15-years-old. Then, I got into some cheesy Norwegian black metal like Dimmu Borgir. When I turned 18 and moved to a city, I discovered more music and some better bands. That's about it.
Matt Pike: I got to grow up in the era where my dad was listening to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. I was turned on to that early on. I've been playing guitar since I was a little kid because my grandfather and my uncle would play to me. It picked up early. I got to watch MTV come out. Van Halen and ZZ Top were on it as well as AC/DC. I had early exposure to what you would call "rock 'n' roll metal". I got a little older and got into Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Then, I had the chance to watch Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, and Anthrax all come out. At the same time, the punk scene was banging with Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, and Dead Kennedys. I grew up in all of that. I had the early influence. That was the big influence growing from a boy to a teenager to my twenties when death metal got really popular. I was doing my own thing then. It evolved from there.
Erlend Hjelvik: That's what I mean. That answer is a lot cooler than mine. I guess I was just born too late [Laughs].
Matt Pike: Well, I'm a fucking brontosaurus, dude. I'm old!
Erlend Hjelvik: Your dad sounds cool too. My dad didn't turn me on to any good music.
Matt Pike: I was spoiled. I got to be around the Oakland Berkeley punk scene. I got turned to Neurosis and Melvins early on. I was lucky I guess.
Erlend, did you find music on the internet as a kid?
Erlend Hjelvik: Yeah, for me it was MTV. We had satellite with MTV2, and that's where they show all of that nu metal as well as Marilyn Manson and Metallica videos. That's what I started listening to as a teenager. That's about it. I had an older brother, but he only listened to Kiss. His favorite band was Pearl Jam. I find metal on my own.
Matt Pike: I grew up in the era of tape trading so cassette tapes and LPs were really big. Nobody had heard of a CD until later, let alone a cell phone or a computer [Laughs]. It cracks me up though. The human race has come a long way, right?
At the same time, the bands at the top of metal are still the same. How far have we come?
Matt Pike: Yeah, no one has invented something too new since then. I suppose everybody has tried everything. Then again, once you think everybody has done that, someone will think of something new. After, there will be a new revolution. People have taken things to an extreme point where it's like, "How do you get more extreme?" Or it comes down to having this big show like Gwar. That's not the next extreme—the live shows. You can still have your own style. When a band really has style, you hear them instantly and you know who it is right away. That makes a difference nowadays between one band that's run-of-the-mill and one that's making waves. People put their personal touches and soul into what they're doing. It shines when someone has that ability. Everybody has the ability to sit there, practice, and be technically good. Not everyone has the ability to be emotionally involved in what they play. That's a deeper thing that I think a lot of people aren't born with. The ones who have it shine more.
Is storytelling an important aspect of songwriting for both of you?
Matt Pike: For me, I have little daydreams and visuals in my head when I write lyrics. I'll already have a movie shot in my head. The only way I can put it down is words and sounds. That's what anybody else gets if they want to paint their own in there. No one can see inside my binoculars. I definitely have my own stage set when I'm playing and I write this. The whole band comes together, and it sounds a certain way. I always get these weird dreams.
Erlend Hjelvik: Lyrically, I think I'm inspired by a lot of the same things you are. I'm seeing a lot of Frank Frazetta from the covers and Conan influence as well as science fiction. That's cool.
Matt Pike: Fuck yeah! Frazetta's awesome.
Erlend Hjelvik: I get inspired by the same things like watching documentaries about space and horror movies. I come up with lyrics that fit. I don't come up with the music myself. That's our guitarist BJ. I listen to the song, start to think, and make something that fits musically. It's in Norwegian so I guess nobody really catches it, but I try to give people hints through the artwork, t-shirts, and things like that. Then, they have an idea of what we're singing about.
Matt Pike: I think that's a really important part of metal. When I was growing up, my favorite albums were always the ones with the coolest artwork. Judas Priest had the Hellion on it. You've got this big metallic bird. The artwork put a visual in my head, when I was a kid. I liked the music, and the artwork was an essential part of the whole thing for me as a teenager.
The first thing you see is the cover…
Matt Pike: Totally! I think I bought Celtic Frost's album just for the cover [Laughs]. Then, I ended up realizing how fucking badass that band is. A lot of music, I just bought for the cover because you knew it sounded like it looked.
Erlend Hjelvik: It's a pretty good approach though! What's your favorite cover?
Matt Pike: If I had to pick one absolute favorite, I think the one that always struck me the fucking creepiest because it's on a wood grain and it's all cartoonish, but it's hella evil is Slayer's Hell Awaits. I definitely bought that album, one because I heard Slayer, but two because of the cover. That was one of my favorites. I always liked the Neurosis Pain of Mind album too.
Erlend Hjelvik: My answer would actually be Show No Mercy.
Matt Pike: Oh dude, with the Minotaurs, that's so badass!
Erlend Hjelvik: I've drawn that a few too many times.
Matt Pike: It's so cheesy now, but as a kid, you thought it was the most awesome thing ever.
Erlend Hjelvik: It looks evil!
Matt Pike: It's all Satan, dude. No one would have the balls to do what they did then now [Laughs].
Erlend Hjelvik: Maybe the next cover!
Will you be there?
Stay tuned for part 2 soon...
High on Fire / Kvelertak #ScionAV Tour
Evening openers rotate: Doomriders – Nov. 10 to 23, Pack of Wolves – Nov. 27 and Windhand – Nov. 29 to Dec. 12.
November 15: Webster Hall, New York, NY
November 16: The Middle East, Boston, MA
November 17: Corona Theatre, Montreal, QC
November 18: Opera House, Toronto, ON
November 19: Crofoot Ballroom, Detroit, MI
November 20: A&R Music Bar, Columbus, OH
November 22: Metro,Chicago, IL
November 23: Pop’s, Sauget, IL
November 25: House of Blues, Houston, TX
November 26: Tree’s, Dallas, TX
November 27: Mohawk (outside), Austin, TX
November 29: Granada Theatre, Lawrence, KS
November 30: First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
December 2: West End Cultural Centre, Winnipeg, MB
December 4: Starlite Ballroom, Edmonton, AB
December 5: Republik, Calgary, AB
December 7: Venue, Vancouver, BC
December 8: El Corazon, Seattle, WA
December 9: Hawthorne Theatre, Portland, OR
December 11: Regency Center Grand Ballroom, San Francisco, CA
December 12: El Rey Theatre Los Angeles, CA