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Tombs Founder Mike Hill Discusses Creating "Savage Gold"

Even though founding member, Mike Hill isn't sweating it, his group, Tombs has a lot to live up to since the release of "Path of Totality" three years ago. Said album was at the top of many journalists' lists including Decibel and Pitchfork. Hill doesn't give much relevance to publication awards and online promotions such as The A.V. Club's premiere of "Deathtripper." He would much rather talk about the events that led him to penning this song or working with famed producer/musician Erik Rutan's production.

Living up to a certain standard can increase the pressure on a group looking to step into a different direction, but "Savage Gold" is a return to the blackened experimentation that characterized the first two albums, although with more maturity. To say this album is better is a subjective claim, but its one more album under the proverbial belt, so it only makes sense that journalists would expect progression. Before "Savage Gold" drops on June 10th, I was able to get Mike Hill's insight on these ideas and much more in the following email conversation.

Rex_84: Relapse Records will release "Savage Gold," the new Tombs album soon. How do you feel about your first recording in three years?

Mike Hill: I feel positive about it. We worked really hard on the writing and recording and we’re proud of it.

Rex_84: Usually, bands cite their most recent efforts as their best. Considering how well your previous recording "Path of Totality" did in the press, many journalists hailed it as one of the best of 2011, what makes "Savage Gold" a better album?

Hill: Whether or not Savage Gold is a “better” album than Path of Totality is totally subjective. I like this record best out of all of the material we’ve done so far, but I can’t predict if anyone else will like it.

Rex_84: "Savage Gold" is a title that can be taken many ways. I like to think of advanced civilizations moving in and taking the gold of primitive tribes. Is this what you were going for with the title? Please explain how you view this title in regards to the album as a whole?

Hill: That’s a pretty literal interpretation, but unfortunately I don’t have such an aggressive perspective as that. I’m not into imperialism or any kind of ego trip like that. If you take the alchemical view, gold is a higher, more noble substance. The title has to do with transformation into a higher state of consciousness.

Rex_84: Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal recorded and produced the album. Why did you use him? What was it like working with him?

Hill: We worked with Rutan because he was the best man for the job. I’ve been a fan of his for some time now, both as a musician and producer I’ve admired his work. All the way back to Ripping Corpse, I’ve admire him. His understanding of extreme music is unquestionable. Working with Erick was a great experience. He’s a focused, hardworking guy and is dedicated to making the best possible record.

Rex_84: "Savage Gold" contains a mix of post-punk, black metal and traditional heavy metal. How did you piece the album together for a smooth end product? Please describe your writing sessions?

Hill: We wrote the album over a pretty long period of time. Mostly, I hang out in this room alone and riff out on the guitar, making these little demos. Sometimes I email my ideas to the other guys to check out. We all live in different cities, so rehearsal is limited to these really intense sessions a couple of times a month. When we get together, we run through the riffs and try to organize them into songs.

Rex_84: Tombs premiered "Deathtripper" through The AV Club. How did this premiere go? Did your song receive many listens?

Hill: I have no idea if anyone liked it. I’m not one of those people that spend their time looking for approval on the internet. Some friends told me that they dug the track and that’s pretty cool. I’m sure the song wasn't everyone’s cup of tea if you know what I mean.

Rex_84: You commented on this tracking saying you penned this track in the late '90s when you were couch surfing. How does the song title relate these ideas, in particular the ending where he screams "it's suicide"?

Hill: Being alone at that time was pretty bleak. I don’t know what kind of trips you might have been on, but that whole period was pretty grim for me. I never really contemplated killing myself; I’d rather hang around and get revenge on people that have it coming to them. At times, I thought about what it would be like to fade into nothingness, cease to exist.

Rex_84: Why did you sit on this track for so long (written in the late '90s)?

Hill: I didn’t sit on the track at all. I wrote the song in pretty much one sitting with a drum machine. I looked through my journals, which I normally do when I need inspiration for lyrics and found the lines of the songs pretty much complete.

Rex_84: The album's opening track "Thanatos" is another interesting title that references death. Can you go into this track a bit, what is it about? What do you like about this track?

Hill: I’m not sure how well-versed you are in mythology, but Thanatos was death personified in the Greek pantheon. The song is a meditation on one state of being transforming into another possible state. It’s a meditation on the material world of suffering and violence that we live in and a desire for knowledge about possibilities beyond the membrane of this reality.

Rex_84: "Savage Gold" is your third full-length. All came by way of Relapse Records. Do you have a contract stating you'll release another album on this label?

Hill: No.

Rex_84: What has kept you on Relapse Records? How has this label helped you?

Hill: We have a contract that calls for three albums so we delivered the three albums we agreed to. Aside from that, Relapse are pretty rad dudes and have been very supportive of our efforts. They are a good label; they helped get word out and have helped us with touring opportunities.

Rex_84: Do you have any tours dates on the calendar. Where can your fans see you play next?

Hill: We’re heading out with Pelican in June around the time of the record release. There is more to come that hasn’t been announced yet and I can’t talk about it at this time.

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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