Sobriety is a fickle creature. Getting clean after years of alcohol abuse can do wonders for the body, but the mind plays by its own rules. Matt Pike, frontman of stoner rockers High On Fire, is no stranger to this game.

Insecurity, anxiety, panic attacks – they’re all stresses that feature in the life of a former alcoholic. Pike has experienced them all, and more, as he explores the highs and lows of his new lifestyle choice. After heading to rehab in 2012, he emerged a stronger musician as a whole – but dealing with the rollercoaster of his own mental state is a daily battle.

“The whole writing process is different now,” Pike says. “I’m realising when I wrote a lot of my older material, you know, I was always high, medicated or drunk. With clarity now, it’s a little hard sometimes to judge whether something’s good or bad. There’s a lot of anxiety that goes along with being sober – just the comfort level in social environments. I’m learning how to do things this way still. But I really think my guitar playing has gotten a lot better, so it’s definitely a positive change.

“I’ve never really doubted myself. There was never a thing where I doubted whether I was talented because I was drunk or not, or high or not. I never faulted with that, but then again, I am not an egotist. I have flaws. I think it’s just part of the evolution of life and how you grow as a person. I just judge my music on whether I can put my heart into my fret board. You can hear what someone is going through in their life if they do that, for sure.”

Now, instead of turning to the bottle or other pharmaceutical means to find comfort, Pike finds inspiration in new things. Most recently, a trip to Peru got the creative juices flowing for High On Fire’s upcoming seventh full-length.

“After a tour not that long ago, me and my fiancé went to Peru and I really got inspired from being there and going to all these ancient monoliths and all this weird alien stuff,” Pike explains. “It really got me thinking lyrically. I’ve been working with that and writing sci-fi also, along with the riffs. It’s coming along, as all records do. We’ll be recording in September or October, so it should be out next year, if it all goes well. I don’t like to rush it or force it, it’ll just happen.”

This yet-to-be-named LP builds on the ‘Slave The Hive’ seven-inch released last year, Pike says. “It’s all sorts of stuff; faster songs and slower songs. We try to make each album so it’s got a nice rollercoaster feel to it – it gets all the different moods, tempos and emotions. It’s hard to describe something until it’s really finished, but I definitely know this one’s going to be good.”

But that’s not the only musical venture the guitarist has been pouring his blood, sweat and tears into over the past 12 months. In 2013, when he underwent knee surgery and was taking some much-needed recovery downtime, there was talk of a new, mystery project – completely separate from his High On Fire and Sleep links.

Although Pike still can’t reveal much more about this project, he does give a few hints about its progress. “It’s hasn’t really been put together yet,” he says. “I’m working on a storyline and possibly some films to go along with this, and music. It really hasn’t taken the shape yet, as far as I wanted it to be. These things come together when they want to come together. I am pushing for it and I’m writing. But it will make sense when it makes sense.”

Catch High On Fire at Factory Theatre on Sunday July 20, tickets available online.

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