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"I had known Joe as an acquaintance from when I used to go to Melvins shows," Pike says. "Then years later, he started coming to a few High on Fire shows, and we'd kind of hang out. Our old bassist decided to quit, and me and Des tried to think of someone who could learn the material quick enough to get us in the studio with Albini. Joe just came from out of nowhere and said, 'I'll do it.' He learned all the new material, and some of the old stuff, in five days.
"We went with Albini because we were just shooting for a different kind of sound," he continues, "and maybe reinvent ourselves and take a shot in the dark. Which we did, and I'm glad. The new record definitely has a different feel to it. I like the recording he's done with Neurosis and Shellac, and I wanted that more up-front and in-your-face sound."
But it isn't just the sonic textures that Pike tweaked on Wings.In great swoops and flutters, the disc displays a much wider arc of mood and atmosphere than High on Fire -- and indeed, most metal bands -- usually shoot for.
"The emotion of it, the intensity, goes up and down. There's a lot of depression in it. Most of the music I write is about personal depression, problems that I have with myself, the way I act with my bandmates and deal with touring. It's about us, you know?"
Lest you think High on Fire has gone emo, though, keep in mind that Pike -- once a fucked-up kid with a Mohawk and a crappy Denver band called Desire -- has never lost sight of his epic sense of humor. "I love it when we're writing songs and one of us comes up with a riff that totally sounds so over the top that it's smart-ass, almost ridiculous," he remarks. "It's like the riff is laughing at you."