Tombs‘ Mike Hill is a musical genius. With Tombs, he is able to craft powerful black metal with a touch of Brooklyn added to the mix. I was able to chat to him about Tombs’ origins, the creation of The Grand Annihilation, working with Metal Blade Records, and the future of the band.
Jack: Tombs formed ten years ago, what inspired the creation of the band?
Mike Hill (Guitar/Vocals): I was doing a band called Versoma, it was sort of a My Bloody Valentine-influenced project with my friend Jamie Getz who used to play in Lick Golden Sky. It was fun, but ultimately, it wasn’t in the cards for us to continue. When the band broke up, I took some material that I had been working on and continued refining it. That became the early Tombs material. I wanted to do music that I liked and not put any constraints on it. I didn’t want to limit what I could do and approach it with creativity and purpose.
Jack: The band has been described as avant-garde metal with influences raging from Neurosis, Swans, Joy Division, and Black Flag among others, what bands have played the biggest part influencing the latest albums?
Mike: I don’t get the “avant-garde” tag, but whatever. I think Philip Glass is avant-garde. I wouldn’t say that specific bands influenced the new record, it’s more like feelings and moods. I wanted the record to have an introspective feel to it, not so much autobiographical but reflective.
Jack: Has being from Brooklyn helped shape Tombs?
Mike: Maybe at first, but at this point Black Anvil is the only band that I feel any kind of kinship with. Also, I’m the only band member that currently lives in Brooklyn, the rest of the guys live in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I have a more national worldview these days. In a lot of ways, aside from a few venues and bands, there is a very weak music scene here in Brooklyn. Metal doesn’t really play a big part in what people gravitate towards. I appreciate the true metalheads in Brooklyn because there aren’t a lot of us left.
Jack: Your latest release The Grand Annihilation came out last week, do you pay attention to the reviews the album gets?
Mike: No. I was on tour when the record came out. I had a lot more, immediate concerns to deal with than read about the band.
Jack: Do you think some acts get obsessive over reviews and feedback?
Mike: Probably. I’m not one of those people. I have a pretty sold idea about what I want to do with Tombs and I don’t think a journalist would be able to influence me. You mentioned Black Flag earlier. They definitely did not care about popular or critical approval, especially in the My War-era of the band. I follow that kind or philosophy. I just want to be free.
Jack: Mike, you said “The title comes from the idea of destroying the current world to open the door for the new world,” what would the new world entail?
Mike: First of all, I would love a world that didn’t have the internet or mobile phones. That is the biggest move towards complete enslavement that humanity has made. The new world wouldn’t have any of that. Also, there would be a substantially less number of people. We wouldn’t make the same mistake of enslaving ourselves to the abstraction of money or wealth.
Jack: How much of the current situation in the US affected the album?
Mike: Honestly, very little. I wrote the albums and lyrics early last year. Anyway, Europe is fucked as well. You guys have tiny masters popping up all over in several other countries. It doesn’t look good for any of us.
Jack: You’ve said that your previous release Savage Gold was, “the closest we came to realising what I thought the band should sound like,” how does The Grand Annihilation push that sound further?
Mike: The new record comes closer.
Jack: Do you have a favourite song on the album?
Mike: I really like ‘November Wolves.’ It has a cool, old school metal vibe and I love the way it turned out with all of the additional vocals. My good friend Raeph Glicken (Black Anvil) sang on it. I love that we’re on a track together. He song is about werewolves as an allegory for the dark side of the male experience. These days, it’s not cool to be a man, or at least embrace some of the typically male expressions like fighting, fucking and destruction.
Jack: Even though Tombs is your project, how much of a say do the other members get?
Mike: I’m open to suggestions but the songs are pretty much exactly the way I wrote them. There was more of a collaborative effort when Andrew Hernandez was in the band.
Jack: What made you want to work with Erik Rutan again?
Mike: First off, Rutan is a good friend of mine and I respect him deeply. I think he’s one of the best producers of extreme music that is currently active. He has such a deep understanding of the recording process yet also takes a creative standpoint and is open to experimenting. It will only get better with each release.
Jack: This is your Metal Blade Records debut, how has working with them been?
Mike: Pretty good. Honestly, our management deals with them on the actual business end of things. It’s not like working with Relapse which had way more of a “Dude” vibe and we all sort of hung out.
Jack: Did you ever think Tombs would still be going ten years later?
Mike: Sure. I don’t see why it won’t continue for another ten years.
Jack: What’s been your proudest moment with the band?
Mike: Being invited to play Roadburn not once, but twice! I have the ultimate respect for Walter and I think Roadburn represents the full potential of extreme music. I was really proud to have been able to be part of that program.
Jack: Finally what are the upcoming plans of Tombs?
Mike: More touring. We’re playing Ozzfest this fall. That should be a lot of fun.