I first saw Tombs open up for Pallbearer and Baroness at Union Transfer in 2013. I was blown away by the band and the crushing riffs that led me right to their Pandora radio and Spotify section. The hype for the band’s 2014 release, Savage Gold, was cited as one of the top metal albums to look forward to this year. Along with the record, guitarist/vocalist Mike Hill has been working on another one of his favorite things: coffee. He has been working on unleashing Savage Gold Prime Roast Coffee for a summer release date.
In my conversation with the singer/guitarist, Hill discussed where fans could purchase the coffee, some packages available to Tombs fans, and Savage Gold. Hill was also kind enough to discuss what it was like being in DIY bands, his thoughts on the local scene now, his vinyl collection, and the almighty Black Sabbath. Check out what he had to say below:
I read that you did most of the writing for Savage Gold and drummer Andrew Hernandez helped with the composition?
The core of the writing was me and Andrew. It’s pretty much been like that for the last few years. I spend a lot of time working on the riffs in my studio at home. A lot of that record was done with just me and Andrew at the practice space by ourselves. Ben [Brand, bassist] and Garett [Bussanick, guitarist] then contribute their own individual parts to the songs there as well. Everyone always has ideas about arrangements and stuff like that. I would say there is a collaborative element in terms of the arrangements, but the major riffs and things like that are mostly me and Andrew, and the lyrics are all derived and my responsibility.
Do you do most of the writing in between tours or when you are on the road?
Usually it is in between tours. Some of the ideas for the songs do come when on tour. For example, the riff in “Thanatos” is just something I was using to soundcheck with. I thought it was powerful and decided to use that in the opening of the track.
In terms of album and song titles, are they thought of last? Are there times when you’ll actually think of one that inspires an entire song?
Music always comes before the lyrics. A lot of the times we will assign a title to a song, and that is just because of the feel of it. Maybe or maybe not we will write lyrics around that idea. Other times, the title may be unrelated to the lyrics.
In terms of the album title, we were scratching our heads to what it should be called. When we were down in Florida, I was going through some of the lyrics and I saw the two words “savage” and “gold.” I threw that idea out to the band. Over the next few days we ended up unanimously agreeing to name the record Savage Gold.
Savage Gold refers to a transformation and a fierce desire to get there. You guys have a lot of different moments on the record, culminating different types of music. Is there somewhere you would like to take your music that you haven’t yet?
I would just be interested in refining things more. Like some of the softer moments on the album, I would like to do more of that. I would love to have more music that still has that intensity and power, but also can express that feeling through less obvious means. Some musicians can play the acoustic guitar, and it can be the heaviest thing. I would love to have that kind of command over what I am doing.
Is there something in the studio you would like to be doing?
There’s just no time in the studio. I would like to spend more time mixing and tracking. I wish we could do an entire analogue session on tape. Nowadays that stuff is very expensive though.
A lot of people cited this as one of the top metal albums to look for in 2014. That has to feel great after putting in a lot of work in some DIY bands. What was the most difficult aspect of being in a local DIY band?
Oh yeah. I feel like it is harder now than ever before. With the internet and all the tools available, anyone could really put together a bunch of songs and become a band. If you are trying to make music, and eventually make it a career, there are a lot more bands trying to do the same thing.
Back in 1995 and 1996, it was harder to record, make songs, produce them, sell them, and then book shows and play them, and it took more resources to do those things. Now I feel like it is very easy. If you have a laptop and GarageBand, you can make a demo. It’s great, don’t get me wrong. I think it is amazing. But because of that, there is a lot more music out there and it is harder to pick who is actually down for the cause and not for just like, summer vacation.
Do you have any tips for local metal bands that may be looking to continue their passion for a living?
Work really hard on your recording skills. If you put the time in and learn whatever program you choose to use and learn the different techniques, you will be able to present your music in a much more powerful way. If you take the time to learn something, learn it completely. Also, try not to pay attention to trends; do what is in your heart. If you believe in it, and you keep going in that direction, it will eventually pay off.
In terms of some of your biggest influences, I read that Black Sabbath was one of them. What album or song has had the biggest impact on you as a musician?
Oh yeah, big time. Hell yeah. Well, there is two camps here: There is Dio and early Ozzy, at least for me. I know there were other singers. The song “Iron Man” was always my theme. For Dio, I would have to say “Neon Knights” is the jam. That song just gets me so pumped.
Have you gotten a chance to see them live in the past?
I actually just saw them last summer. That was the first and only time I have had the chance to see them play. They went to New Jersey on that tour and performed at PNC Bank Arts Center.
That was actually my first time seeing them as well.
It was a beautiful summer night, all of those people were there, and it was outside. And they had such a huge sound. I had such a great time at that show.
As an avid vinyl collector, I couldn’t be any more pleased with the gold double LP you guys are offering with the booklet and all. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on the comeback of vinyl?
I welcome it. I think vinyl sounds best. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to take thousands of songs with me out on the road. It’s great to have UFO, Black Sabbath, Slayer, and having all of it at your disposal. That being said, you just can’t beat a LP. A 180-gram vinyl and great artwork. It’s like an artifact. You really feel like you own something that digital doesn’t really express.
As an artist, what was it like having your own work on vinyl for the first time?
Oh, it was an accomplishment. Especially because the first time a Tombs work was on vinyl was for a split release that was basically my project to put out. I was really involved in all aspects of it from the writing to recording and production. It was such a great feeling getting those records back from the plant and being able to listen to them. I have one still on my shelf somewhere in my own special cover.
And you are also working on the Savage Gold Prime Roast Coffee as well?
Getting down to the final strokes right now. Probably late June.
In stores or on the Tombs website?
It will be on a website we are launching for Savage Gold Coffee. We will send tweets out, share it and promote it. There will also be a package that will include the coffee, record, and the t-shirt.
You are playing a few shows with Pelican this month. Anything else you can talk about?
We have some U.S. tour plans that are in the works. We will be busy in U.S. and Europe.
Tombs will play St. Vitus in Brooklyn on July 25 with Pyrrhon, Statiqbloom and Passage Between. Savage Gold is now available. For more information on future tour dates or Savage Gold Coffee, go to tombscult.com.