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Mike Hill (Tombs)

Interview with Mike Hill from Tombs
by Yiannis Doukas at 29 March 2009, 8:57 PM

Blame it on the nightmare-ish atmosphere or the very good Black Metal elements, TOMBS offer some nice songs inside Winterhours and they are a very good choice for anyone who wants to hear something different. We had the honor to discuss a few things with their mainman/guitarist/vocalist Mike Hill and he gave us some interesting points of view.

Interview with: Mike Hill from TOMBS

Cheers from Metal Temple. How are you? Allow me to start with the most boring question but since we don't know much about TOMBS could you give us some more info? When did you start, what are your releases so far and did you play in any other bands in prior?

We started just under two years ago. My old band, VERSOMA had just broken up and I immediately started working on new material with our original drummer. A lot of leftover riffs from VERSOMA ended up getting reworked into TOMBS songs. We started playing with Domenic, our original bassist, and recorded the self-titled EP that was eventually released on my label Black Box Recordings. After a few months, we parted with Domenic due to aesthetic differences. He's now in STORM OF LIGHT with Josh Graham (RED SPAROWES, NEUROSIS). Carson was enlisted for bass duties and we recorded a split 12 with German hardcore band PLANKS, also released on Black Box Recordings. The record was meant to be a tour split for a short European tour that we organized with PLANKS.  It was during this period that our original drummer began to have issues with professionalism such as not being able to secure a passport or show up on time for rehearsal. He was replaced by Andrew Hernandez. We signed to Relapse and our new LP just came out.

The production for Winterhours and specially the guitar's strength are remarkable. How was it achieved, where did you record the album and for how long?

We're really happy with the way the record sounds. It was recorded down in Richmond, VA by Ian Whalen at The Etching Tin Studio. I think the entire session was like 9 or 10 days. We got the guitar sound by multi-tracking a lot of different guitars using different amps and effects. I like reverbs and delays quite a bit. The hard left and right tracks are dry without any effects and there are over-dubs with washes of delay to create space.

The contract with Relapse; how did it come? Do you think they are supportive enough regarding TOMBS?

We were on tour and played a show in the Philadelphia area, where the office is located. I've known those guys for a number of years and had sent them a demo of some of the new material. They came to the show and a few weeks later we were offered a contract. So far everything has been really cool. I'm more accustomed to working in the D.I.Y. Hardcore world where there are hardly any resources and everything is done in a real hit-and-run manner. Our involvement with Relapse is a real learning experience for us. When you call the office, someone picks up the phone and helps you, that's a big step forward for me.

Have you played outside USA? Is there a possibility for any European gigs?

We did a short tour with PLANKS late last year. Unfortunately, it was only a few countries. Going back to Europe is definitely in the plan for us.

I was surprised by the plethora of pure Black Metal elements in your sound. Songs like Golden Eyes, Beneath The Toxic Jungle and Old Dominion are looking straight there. What does impress you in Black Metal and what bands do you like the most?

I like the combination of melody and intensity in Black Metal music. I've been a huge fan for many years and deeply respect many of the more true bands; the bands that elevate the music to more than just a style and include philosophy and beliefs. I used to only support the Norwegian bands like DARKTHRONE,EMPEROR,GORGOROTH, ENSLAVED, MAYHEM etc, but in the last few years I've expanded to include WATAIN, DEATHSPELL OMEGA and US bands like LEVIATHAN, DRAUGAR and WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM. I feel that Black Metal is a very expressive medium and there are a lot of bands doing really interesting things within that movement.

Black Metal has become popular which has led to the dilution of the scene; I'm sure a lot of the more true fans think the scene is dead. My feeling is that to be a Black Metal band you can't just adopt the sound, you have to embrace one of the many ideologies such as Satanism, paganism, anti-Christianity etc. With all of that said, TOMBS is heavily influenced by Black Metal but we do not consider ourselves part of that scene.  

The fact that you live inside an abyssal big city don't you think that played an important role for your musical identity? I'm saying this 'cause sometimes I feel that your album brings something from the asphyxia and the stress of the huge cities.

I agree. The overall vibe of living in a place like New York is pretty intense. I wouldn't say that we consciously set out to incorporate the NYC Vibe into our music, but being inhabitants in this city has influenced use emotionally.

Would you like to talk to me about the lyrics of your songs? Is Gossamer based upon the novel of Lois Lowry? What about Merrimack? What does hide beneath the toxic jungle?

The titles never have anything to do with the actual song directly. There is an abstract connection. For example, the song Gossamer is about living in the final age of man and being manipulated into submission by using fear. I developed the title before I finished writing the lyrics. One night I was listening to a demo of the song and the guitars made me think of spider webs so that's the connection with the title.

Merrimack is about losing someone close to you because you think that a better opportunity is available. Once, again, the title came before the final lyrics. The opening riff made me think about the Merrimack valley in Massachusetts.

Beneath The Toxic Jungle is basically about dying in a war. When I was writing the song, I was listening to the band GASP and one of the long noise section references The Toxic Jungle and that resonated with me. So, as you see, the titles are only abstractly related to what the songs are about.

What is the target audience of TOMBS? You are not completely a Metal band, neither completely a Hardcore one, your music looks like a hybrid of many things. What is the feedback from your gigs and the fans/Media?

I don't really think about who likes the band or what scene we'll fit in. I've noticed a lot of different people at our shows. Personally, I would prefer to play with Metal bands. At least in the US, there's a big explosion of these kind of hip Metal bands that are all kind of not really genuine about the music. I'd like to avoid that scene because I've been involved in the Metal and Hardcore scene for most of my life.

Do you think that winter is the best season for listening to your album? How did the title come out?

Winter and fall are definitely the correct setting for listening to any of the TOMBS records. Lyrically, most of the record deals with finality and death so it made sense to somehow incorporate winter into the title. I kept meditating on the phrase Final Hours and just substituted winter for final. Also, a lot of the writing took place during the winter of 2008 so that may have also played a part.

Do you believe in life after death? Do you consider that something exists or all of these are just religious illusions for the combat of the primary human fear about 'angel of death'?

I don't believe in Life after Death, I believe that when you die that is the end of it all. My belief is that you should make your life count because this is all the time you get.

Some moments inside your CD brings a lot of the Dead Man soundtrack by Neil Young. Have you seen the movie? Did you like it? I feel like it is an after death traveling, a chronicle of a soul's moments in purgatory taken by Dante's imagination.

Dead Man is one of my favorite movies; I also love most of Neil Young's work. Soundtracks in general are a big influence on how I write material for TOMBS. I listen to a lot of Ennio Morricone and Angelo Badalamenti as well. Specifically, the Neil Young soundtrack for Dead Man was a big influence on me because he achieved so much with just his guitar. It sounded so lonely to me.  

Have you noticed any changes in your country since the president's change or you think that personalities don't play any important role in politics? What do you love most in your country and - on the other hand - what do you hate?

The only change is that people seem more optimistic, even though, financially, the US is in a fairly dismal state. Some of the old school republican types throw the word socialism around without really knowing what it means. Essentially, I think the vibe in the US is that everyone is tired of the Republican way and is at least ready to try something new. The Democratic Party has a lot of issues as well; I think that any real change in the US will come from a new way of thinking from some other party. My beliefs are more in line with the Libertarian party that supports State's rights and a de-centralized government.

The thing I love about my country is the diversity. It's such a big place compared to Europe. The original American philosophy is about freedom and the desire to be an individual. This leads into my biggest criticism of the US which is the control and erosion of personal freedoms that the Bush Administration has initiated by using fear tactics and paranoia.

Hopefully our new president can help with this. One thing I noticed is that he is busy; you always see him working as opposed to George W. Bush. During his term, you always saw photos and video footage of him on his ranch or flying around in a military helicopter. He was everywhere BUT in the White House trying to solve problems.

What was the best release in your opinion for the year 2008? What are you listening to the last days? Are there any major let-downs, too?

LEVIATHAN's Massive Conspiracy Against All Life is my vote. These days I've been listening to a lot of DEATH IN JUNE, JOY DIVISION and the SWANS.  

Thanx a lot! Take care and add anything you want.

Thanks for asking good questions. We're hoping to see you guys out on the road.


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