Welcome to Metal Insider’s video game column, What Are You Playing? With High on Fire frontman Matt Pike newly sober, he’s been spending a lot of time playing video games, namely Angry Birds. We caught up with Pike to speak about his latest, more healthy, addiction, as well as the band’s addition to the Metal Alliance tour and the band’s forthcoming live album.
I read in a recent interview that you’ve been playing a lot of Angry Birds to pass the time now that you’ve cleaned up.
Yeah, it helps with my frustration. (laughter)
Had you been playing it before you cleaned up?
No. I’d been playing a lot of online poker, I play a lot of Texas Hold ‘Em, but I downloaded Angry Birds, and I have this huge phone, so it looks really cool, I have one of those Galaxy Notes. It helps me stay on the bus and gives me something to do.
Do you have different versions of the game? I know they have a Star Wars version now.
I have Seasons. I haven’t downloaded Star Wars yet. I’m trying to finish Seasons.
Do you have the original version?
Yeah, I have that one too.
Yeah, me too. I’ve been trying to get three stars on every level.
That’s what I’m doing right now.
I’d imagine on the Metal Alliance tour, you’ll be playing a lot more, as opposed to getting hammered with the other bands on the bill?
Not necessarily. I’ve found that on nights after I get done with the show and all my anxiety’s gone, I’ll take a hot shower and throw on some sweats and I’ve found I can go to the bar and watch everyone else get drunk and drink Red Bulls or Cokes. I’m pretty sociable afterwards. It’s just beforehand that’s the issue.
And I’m pretty sure that most people are pretty aware of the situation, too.
Yeah, most people know my story. If anything, if I try to have a shot, a bunch of people will yell at me.
Had you played a lot of video games before, or were you mainly an online poker player?
I’d always been really into cards, but you’ve gotta be kind of careful with that, because when [following rehab] lots of people get gambling addictions afterwards. Online poker, it’s not real money, so that kind of keeps me at bay. I kind of have a tendency to win though.
Do you play any other games?
I really like Assassins Creed. I haven’t gotten the new one yet, but I’m really looking forward to getting that.
Do you have a console on board the bus?
We didn’t this last time. We get different vehicles all the time. When we get a bus, we usually have to share with another band, so it gets crowded. You’ll have that middle section that becomes a fartbox. With the band wagons, we have a shower on the bus and our crew, so it’s not quite as many people to deal with. It’s more comfortable, but it doesn’t have an XBox on it. That’s why I have a smart phone.
Do you have other games for your smart phone?
I have a few ’80s video game kind of things. This game Winged Warriors, and a Street Fighter game. And the poker game, that’s about it.
Let’s talk about the tour you guys just wrapped up. It’s the first one you did since you cleaned up. Was there a noticeable difference?
I noticed that I had a lot more anxiety, especially for the first few songs. I used to be a pretty social guy, but taking the stage sober, it’s like ‘fuck, everyone’s staring at me.’ I go through little panic attacks and shit. I never used to do that, I used to just walk on stage and own it. So I’ve gone through that. I think my playing improved a lot though. There’s up sides and down sides to it. My singing has gotten better – my voice lasted all six weeks, which is kind of amazing. Overall, the shows got better and better as we went. I stuck to my guns about staying on the straight and narrow for the most part, but I can only do what I can do, I’m only human.
Did you feel yourself getting more confident as the tour went on?
It was more like after the second or third song. Every day I’d have anxiety until I got to a point where I felt comfortable. I’m warmed up, my hands aren’t shaking any more, I don’t have butterflies, that sort of thing. Then I’d get into it. It’s like being high on a drug that you haven’t been high on.
You recorded the Manhattan and Brooklyn shows for a live album. Any word on the status of that?
It’ll be out sooner than later. I’m not aware of a release date or anything. Once I do a few fix-it tracks and an overdub or two, it’s up to eOne.
Have you heard the album yet?
I’ve heard some rough tracks. I played pretty good both nights. The guitar playing is good, so I wasn’t worried about that. There’s a few vocal things. We have different tracks too, so we’ll be able to mix it well. It’s not like it’s a board recording or anything.
How do you feel about appearing on Metal Alliance?
I’m going to fucking murder that tour! I feel really good about it. Exodus and Anthrax are going to be awesome. I don’t know the other bands very well, but looking forward to hanging with them. Anthrax was one of the first thrash metal concerts I’d ever been to, and Among the Living is a great album. And I’ve always been the biggest Exodus fan. I’m looking forward to playing with Gary Holt and getting some guitar lessons from him. Any time you meet childhood heroes of yours, it’s fuckin’ cool. Meeting Slayer and Megadeth and Metallica, and now there’s a few more, and that’s awesome. And I’ve known the Exodus guys for a while, since they jam at the same practice space as us. The same with Testament and a bunch of the old school thrash metal bands around here.