High On Fire's Des Kensel about the origin of band's moniker and his massive drum sound

Categories: Profiles

George was a great bass player, but I think he got burnt. We had studio time booked with Steve Albini, and we had hardly any of Blessed Black Wings written. I think we had two songs, but I think Matt and I busted out the rest of that record in two weeks. We were thinking of having someone just do the bass tracks on the record, and after the record was recorded, and while the label was pushing it, we could do tryouts.

We met Joe because we played The More The Music Festival in Columbus, Ohio, and Thrones played that. His hotel room was next to ours, and we knew about him from way back being in The Melvins. We were thinking the situation he was in, that he didn't have to talk to a band to play bass tracks on our record. He was totally into the idea; he learned it really fast.

We loved his tone, his style of playing and how thickened it up with a lot of chord work. We did a couple of weeks of shows on our way to Chicago, and after the two weeks of shows, he enjoyed playing with us and we enjoyed having him, so we asked him if he wanted to do a tour or two. We got offered a Clutch tour while we were in studio.

He agreed to do that. Then the record came out, and he did the record release tour, and two years later, he said, "Hey, man, I didn't really expect to be in this band that long." And we were like, "You know what? We didn't expect you to do that either." But it was definitely great to play with him for two years and do that record.

We were in a similar position again, and Matt called Hank III to see if he wanted to fill in on a record. He said he was too busy with his projects, and he knew Jeff, and he knew that Zeke had just broken up or were on hiatus. We had played with Zeke before, and he came to our shows in Seattle when Zeke wasn't on tour. So he drove down with nothing but his Ampeg and his bass guitar and tried out. We went on tour, and his personality worked out and the chemistry in the practice space and in the band was good.

Any time someone writes about your band they use the terms "stoner rock" and "doom metal." Do you feel those terms really apply to High on Fire?

Yes and no. I think we get the "stoner rock" thing because of our connection with Sleep. I mean that's fine, people who like Sleep and other stoner rock bands might like us. Since we've started, the direction the band has gone has been more of a metal direction. I think a lot of people who are into metal don't like stoner rock. The "doom metal" thing, I can see us getting thrown in that category, especially when we first came out. I don't think we're a doom band or anything, but it's another label to throw on a band to help describe them.

High on Fire, with Kylesa, Torche and Kingdom of Magic, 7 p.m. Sunday, October 3, Bluebird Theater, $20-$22, 303-830-8497.

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