Pike moved to California after spending time in Military School while living with his mother in Golden, Colorado. A self-proclaimed juvenile delinquent at one time, he was stealing car stereos in order to feed a developing drug habit. When he arrived to the Silicon Valley, realizing that the hardcore punk and heavy metal scene was much more active than the one in Denver, he quickly made friends and began going to shows. Pike joined a sludge metal band called Asbestosdeath. After playing around the bay area they developed a much more heavy and slow sound. Dubbed doom metal by the press, the quartet soon gained a following and changed their name to Sleep.
When fellow Sleep guitarist Justin Marler decided to quit, Sleep became a power trio. The band’s second album, “Sleep’s Holy Mountain”, illustrated Pike as a young Tony Iommi — generating ear-shattering Black Sabbath-styled riffs that invariably made a profound impact on the developing stoner metal/doom metal scene.
As a result of the increased press, the band’s demographic and following widened greatly, and major label deals soon began surfacing. However, instead of following a path to mainstream exposure, the band fled further underground, turning down countless major label deals and submitting the one-song, full-length “Jerusalem in mid-1996. In 1997, though, the band called it quits after London Records refused to release the “Dopesmoker”/”Jerusalem” recordings and the accumulating pressure the members were experiencing. Pike couldn’t come to terms with the break-up and became depressed. A short time later he realized that it wasn’t “over”, and decided to give it another shot by calling people over to jam in his garage. He finally decided on Desmond Kensel (drums) and an old friend George Rice (bass). Within six months, the jams were headed to fruition and a band (High on Fire) was developing from a simple need to play guitar again.
From the ashes of Sleep rose Pike’s new band, High on Fire (HOF) contains the heaviness of Sleep but is faster, with more aggression and edge. Pike handles both guitar and vocal duties. High on Fire have toured consistently since their inception.
Pike has hardly changed his guitar set up since his time in Sleep. He plays two or three Gibson Les Pauls in High on Fire, including the cherry-sunburst standard he used in his previous band. During the early years of Sleep, Pike used Laney and Orange Amps but Pike and Al Cisneros discovered the Matamp “Green” while on tour in England, which became their preferred amplifier. In the recent string of Northwest shows he has been using a custom-built First Act nine-string guitar. The bottom three strings (E, A, and D) are regular guitar strings, while the top three (G, B, and high E) are from a twelve-string making the total number of strings nine.
A few photos online have shown him using his Laney amps and some Marshall amps as well. In the Sleep “Dragonaut” video, he was shown using a Hiwatt amplifier. Initially, the only other addition he made to his set up after Sleep was adding a Soldano X-77 Preamp (to add more gain) to the Green head. Pike would feed the Matamp and Soldano signal into a Solid State Power Amp to power his Green Cabinets. He eventually switched to a beefy Soldano SLO-100 Head during the “Blessed Black Wings” era.
As of 2006, he has been using only the Soldano head to power two home made cabinets.
For the 2007-2008 Tour; From FirstAct.com: For Matt Pike of High on Fire, we created a distinctive 9-string guitar, with three strings on the bass side and six on the treble side. Each treble string is doubled for a chorused twelve-string guitar sound. The maple and mahogany body features a gorgeous, classic cherry sunburst finish and intricate 5-ply binding. The pickups are a pair of First Act custom made Duomags with super-wide frequency range. Matt’s amps for tour are currently a Soldano SLO-100 head and a Marshall Amplification Kerry King JCM800 head powering 4 Emperor 4x12 cabinets.