The sultan of sludge illustrates that his first band is a shuttle for sonic exploration launching into orbit on the backs of triple-humbucker guitars, a sierra of Oranges, and two boards the size of Cape Canaveral.
With his fortress of tube amps, Pike has clearly borrowed a page from Angus Young’s AC/DC playbook. As Pike explained in our 2018 chat, not only do High On Fire and Sleep require different setups, but each style of Orange head provides a specific tonal layer to his cake of doom. “They really are two different animals,” he says. “The commonality between both bands is my desire for a thick, pointed midrange, and from there I tailor things. High on Fire uses a little less sustain and a little more gain, where Sleep, which may seem more overdriven, is more of a massive wall of volume and sound that’s better suited for a compressed, sustaining sizzle. The sheer volume allows me to get fuzzy, loose, and roaring.
“For High on Fire, I use my old Soldanos with Orange Dual Darks because those are more modern-sounding and aggressive amps. The Soldanos have a balance and midrange that just works for High on Fire, man. The Soldano is crisp, faster, tighter, and more modern, where the Orange is beefier, sustains more, and lives in a more classic- or stoner-rock world.
“Onstage with Sleep, I go with six Orange half stacks—I’ll have four Thunderverbs that surround the Dual Dark stacks. The Dual Darks are on channel B, 3/4 distortion, 1/2 volume, and the Thunderverbs are in Channel A for a loud, crisp, projecting midrange. Three pertinent things to my Sleep tone: chug, punch, and sustain. I took a cue from AC/DC and how they set their amps for pure loudness, but they got all that gain and filth from the amp just working so hard and punishing the speakers. I like being in total control of my fire-breathing dragon—that’s the it factor now.”
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