Interview : Tombs – English

Mike Hill, singer and guitar player of American Black Metal outfit Tombs, answered some questions about the release of Ex Oblivion, the band’s upcoming EP.

Ex Oblivion review

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Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band Tombs without using the usual “Metal” labels?
Mike Hill (vocals/guitar): Bonjour, c’est Mike Hill de Tombs. I’m the founding member of the band, play guitar, sing and write the lyrics. We’ve been thru many different lineups over the years, so in some ways, I’m the last man standing.

How did the band meet?
Mike: Brett Bamberger of Revocation introduced me to Justin Spaeth our current drummer. It was literally on the heels of recording The Grand Annihilation, the record we released on Metal Blade. I had to put together a lineup for the upcoming tours and Brett connected me. The other guys were musicians that were active in the regional extreme music scene that had all played in bands together over the years. Justin was really the lynch pin in meeting Drew and Todd who are now in the band.

Where does the band’s name come from, and what is its link with your music?
Mike: The name was inspired by the tomb, the short story by H.P. Lovecraft. The subject matter of a guy sleeping in an empty coffin, connecting to the beyond is a theme that resonated with me. Tombs seemed to fit the vibe of the band and what I’m trying to communicate thru the music. There is a heavy reflection on the nature of reality, dreams, secular satanism and the left hand path that runs thru the band and the writing of H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti is a huge influence. Both writers see the universe as material, without any kind of supernatural influence, but the true nature of the reality is beyond comprehension of the human mind. This is a theme running thru our music.

The band is about to release Ex Oblivion, its new EP, how do you guys feel about it?
Mike: We’re all very happy with the result. I wanted to keep busy during the downtime of the pandemic so we produced this single/EP. Usually, writing and recording is an intense, stressful process but this time around, maybe because the whole world seemed stressful and heavy, we wanted to have some fun for a change of pace.

How does the composition process happen? Was it different from your previous releases? Did you have some guidelines for the artwork?
Mike: Mostly, I write the majority of the material, but lately, Justin has been writing a lot which is a real nice change. He’s an incredible musician and it’s very easy collaborating with him. However, for Ex Oblivion, I wrote the song in its entirety, wrote the lyrics and did the arranging. With the artwork, I just unleashed our friend Mike Goncalves and he came up with an incredible piece for the record cover. Mike is an old friend and great musician in his own right ; his bands Replicant and Windfaerer are amazing. Mike also plays bass in Scorpion Throne, a new project that I have coming out in the next couple of months.

When I listen to the EP, I feel a lot of differences, from the haunting blackness of the first track to the raw Punk energy of the Mötörhead or GG Allin covers, how do you manage to make the sound stick to your universe?
Mike: In general, Tombs is an amalgamation of different facets of extreme music, so in a way, I wanted to show the diversity of our influences. All we needed to do was maybe add a Black Flag, Celtic Frost and Fields of the Nephilim cover and that’s pretty much where i’m coming from creatively.

How do you decide what song to cover?
Mike: Mötörhead is a band that everyone likes regardless of what scene you consider yourself part of. Punks, metalheads, rockers…everyone loves motorhead so likewise, we love motorhead. Doing Killed by Death was a no-brainer and having Drew sing it made a lot of sense since he has a very Lemmy-sounding voice. We invited our friend Dan Higgins to rip the solo ; Dan is also a huge Mötörhead fan.
With everyone being so sensitive these days, we really need GG more than ever. Looking back, I think GG Allin was a creative genius and I feel very inspired by him on a creative level. Underneath the self-destruction, there was an obsessive artist with the need to express himself. I also relate to the nihilism of his work. Commit suicide was always one of my favorite GG tracks; killer lyrics and a very intense vibe.

To me, the track Murder Legendre sounds a lot more Drone/Noise, how do you describe this song?
Mike: That’s accurate. I’m very much interested in playing with sound to create moods, reflecting emotions. Dwid Hellion was a collaborator on that. I’m a long admirer of his projects Psywarfare and Vermapyre. He contributed these percussive sounds with instruments he uses in Vermapyre that I crafted into rhythms.

Since 2020, Covid-19 crisis fucked a lot of things up, how did you face the situation as a band? Did it have an impact on the album?
Mike: It was a very dark time. For me, it was a very internal time. I live alone, so I went deep inside of myself, spent days without talking to anyone. I suppose that influenced the lyric writing for Ex Oblivon.

Do you already have plans for the future after the release of the album?
Mike: We’re doing quite a bit off to touring over the next few months. With respect to new material, we’re always writing stuff, working on riffs, all of which will end up on a new record.

What can you tell me about the evolution of the Metal scene around you?
Mike: I honestly don’t see much evolution around me with the exception of a few bands such as black anvil, replicant, windfaerer and maybe a few others. Most bands just want to recycle Thrash riffs.

Do you think you still improve yourselves as musicians?
Mike: I am always trying to improve everything I do. Foremost I try to become a better player, but I also try to become more proficient with lyric writing. 

What are your best and your worst experiences as a musician ever?
Mike: Best experiences probably have to do with touring and the great people I have met. Worst is the sacrifices that I’ve had to make in my personal life with respect to relationships and friends. Some of my closest friends have passed over the last year and I wish I could have spent more quality time being a friend instead of traveling to these remote parts of the world playing shows. I guess touring was a double-edged sword.

What led you to the Metal universe back in time? What was the very first album you ever bought?
Mike: I heard (Black) Sabbath’s We Sold Our Souls For Rock And Roll and it changed my life. It was so dark and intense ; I had never heard anything like it before and it made me want to create something like that. The very first album I bought with my own money was probably Damaged by Black Flag.

What do you know about the French Metal scene? Which French bands do you know and like?
Mike: There is a whole universe of great french Metal bands. I’m most familiar with the Black Metal scene; Les Legions Noires bands are great, Hell Militia, Mütiilation, Blut Aus Nord, Celestia, etc.

What if I ask you to compare Tombs’ music with a dish? Which one and why?
Mike: A dish of charred red meat.

Are there any musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with?
Mike: A dream collaboration would be Gaahl; I feel like we have a similar approach to music. Also Attila from Mayhem would be a dream collaborator

Last question: which bands would you love to tour with? I let you create a tour with Tombs as opener and three other bands!
Mike: My dream tour would be this : Slayer, Mayhem, Tombs, Black Anvil, Restless Spirit. That would be a sick traveling fest bill.

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