Matt Pike

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Matt Pike
Matt Pike.jpg
Pike in 2016
Background information
Birth name Matthew Pike
Born (1972-06-03) June 3, 1972 (age 45)
Origin Southfield, Michigan, U.S.
Genres Doom metal, sludge metal, thrash metal, stoner metal
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Guitar
Years active Late 1980s–present
Labels Southern Lord
Relapse Records
Man's Ruin
Tee Pee Records
Associated acts High on Fire

Matt Pike (born June 3, 1972) is an American metal musician best known as the guitarist of the influential doom metal band Sleep and the frontman of High on Fire. He is well known in the metal scene for seldom wearing a shirt during live performances.[1]

As a guest star, Pike voiced an unnamed character in Metalocalypse on late-night block Adult Swim.


Pike moved to California after spending time in military school while living with his mother in Golden, Colorado. Arriving in San Jose, he realized the hardcore punk and heavy metal scenes were more active than the ones in Denver. He made friends, attended shows, and eventually joined the sludge metal band Asbestosdeath. When playing around the Bay Area they developed a much heavier and slower sound more akin to doom metal. The quartet soon gained a following and changed their name to Sleep.[2]


When fellow Sleep guitarist Justin Marler quit the band, Sleep became a power trio. The band's second album, Sleep's Holy Mountain, illustrated Pike as a young Tony Iommi—Playing Black Sabbath-styled riffs that invariably made a profound impact on the developing stoner metal/doom metal scene.

As a result of the increased press, the band's demographic and following widened greatly, and major label deals soon began surfacing. However, instead of following a path to mainstream exposure, the band fled further underground, turning down countless major label deals[citation needed] and submitting the one-song, full-length Jerusalem in mid-1996. In 1997, the band called it quits after London Records refused to release the Dopesmoker/Jerusalem recordings and the pressure the members were experiencing became unbearable. Pike couldn't come to terms with the break-up and became depressed. He soon realized that his career as a musician was far from over, and began inviting people to jam in his garage. Deciding to work in a power trio again, he brought in Desmond Kensel (drums) and an old friend George Rice (bass) to play in his new band. Within six months, the jams were headed to fruition and High on Fire was developing from a simple need to play guitar again.[3]

High on Fire[edit]

From the ashes of Sleep rose Pike’s new band, High on Fire (HOF), and while his guitar tone remained largely the same, he began playing faster and more aggressively than Sleep. Pike handles both guitar and vocal duties in the band, as well as writing a bulk of the material. High on Fire have toured constantly since their inception.[4]

Scum Angel/Kalas[edit]

Pike was the frontman of the Bay Area psychedelic-metal band Kalas (formerly Scum Angel) that featured members of Econochrist, Samiam, and Cruevo. Pike set aside the guitar for Kalas, as they already featured two guitarists; his vocals were surprisingly melodic, especially compared to his snarling growls in High on Fire. After only releasing a self-titled album, Kalas split by October 2006.[5]


Pike has only rarely changed his guitar setup since his time in Sleep. He played mainly Gibson Les Pauls through the first three High On Fire albums, including the cherry-sunburst Standard he used in his previous band. During the early years of Sleep, Pike used Laney and Orange Amps but Pike and Al Cisneros discovered the Matamp “Green” while on tour in England, which became their preferred amplifier. Between the touring cycle for Blessed Black Wings and Death Is This Communion, Pike teamed up with First Act to design a custom guitar. He, along with Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds of Mastodon, designed a 9-stringed double-cutaway solid-body guitar, made of mahogany and maple. The bottom three strings (tuned to C, F, Bb on Pike's guitar) are normal; however, the treble strings are doubled up, similar to a 12-string guitar, to provide a natural chorus effect and add depth to the sound. They are tuned to Eb, G, C, with their adjacent strings tuned the same, making the overall tuning C-Standard.

A few photos online have shown him using his Laney amps and some Marshall amps as well. In the Sleep "Dragonaut" video, he was shown using a Hiwatt amplifier. Initially, the only other addition he made to his set up after Sleep was adding a Soldano X-77 Preamp (to add more gain) to the Green head. He eventually switched to a beefy Soldano SLO-100 Head during the Blessed Black Wings era.

Currently for High on Fire, he has been only using two Soldano SLO-100s with different speaker cabinets at each show. He also has a Boss TU-3, an MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay and an ABY box for switching between the amps in his live signal chain.

As of, December 2011, Matt Pike and Lace Music Products announced the release of Pike's Signature pickup set, dubbed the “Dirty Heshers”.

Pike's rhythm guitar style mostly consists of power chords.


Personal Life[edit]

Throughout his career as a musician and guitar virtuoso, Matt has been known to figurehead the bay area stoner/sludge subculture, being all but self-conscious about his appearance, drink heavily, promote NWO-themed conspiracy theories, smoke green and contribute to the 4:20 reference jungle; even including some of the vast number of synonyms and pot-related nomenclature in his lyrical exploits, e.g. the "Weedians" (a fictive nomadic tribe that features in Sleep's epic Jerusalem/Dopesmoker). At first glance, he's in some respects a dead ringer for the now deceased Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead - an obvious inspiration, musically and maybe philosophically - with the whiskey-rough singing voice sometimes accentuated similarly, employed in Overkill-era harmonies; the willfully unsophisticated steam engine delivery, the embracing of the constraints of three-piece instrumentation, the self-destruction through indulgence tolerated or even considered quaint thanks only to the eccentricity label, the lax misanthropy expressed through pop culture conservatism, the unpronounced but factual rock n' roll-/metal-zealotry. They both leave behind a diverse and masterful body of work, even if slightly autistic in its motif, a monologue, exceedingly stagnant by age. Pike met Lemmy of Motorhead on several occasions (most famously in '06 to interview him for Revolver Magazine) considered him a hero and had a tattoo made a few hours after his passing in December '15.

In 2012 Matt Pike made his problems with addiction public as he had to drop off the Rock Star Mayhem Festival during the summer and go into rehab. He cites health problems caused by his drinking as the reason. He admits to having "fallen off the wagon" a few times since.


During Sleep's early success, When asked by a fanzine about where he got the inspiration, the melodies, ideas for Sleep's low-down, slow, dirty yet seductive and hypnotic guitar layers, Pike disappointed an interviewer (probably looking for a anti-social narcotics-related answer) by kything his faith in Christ and implied his riffs had divine origins. Jesus was to thank. This firm belief in the importance of a personal relationship with God seemed to be shared by the other 2/3 of Sleep, vocalist/bass player Cisneros and drummer Hakius. There is a dedication in the liner notes of their '98 LP Dopesmoker, to: "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost". Pike has since at least once aired his doubts about by-the-book christianity: during an interview with Close-Up Magazine in '07 he spoke about desperation, defaitism and friends dying, and how that personal darkness may have infused then-new LP Death is this Communion with even more of an occult, maleficial vibe than 2005's Blessed Black Wings had, when the interviewer reminded him of how he thanked Jesus for the riffs a decade earlier, proceeding to ask if he still believed in God. Pike replied light-heartedly that he's been swaying theology-wise a bit since his 20's and that he may switch deity one day.


  1. ^ Rosenberg, Axl. "Matt Pike's Top Ten T Shirts". Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  2. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Biography: Asbestos Death". Allmusic. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Biography: Sleep". Allmusic. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  4. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Biography: High on Fire". Allmusic. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  5. ^ "KALAS Calls It Quits". October 30, 2006. Retrieved October 30, 2011. [permanent dead link]

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