Tombs Interview

Tombs L-R: Mike Hill (g/v), Andrew Hernandez (d), Carson Daniel James (b)
Tombs L-R: Mike Hill (g/v), Andrew Hernandez (d), Carson Daniel James (b) - Photo by Jimmy Hubbard

Mike Hill is probably one of the most hardcore people on the planet. A fierce work ethic that has seen him serve time in the excellent techy hardcore band Anodyne through to myriad other projects has eventually led to what appears to be the most cohesive unit in terms of playing and sound. Tombs sound like no-one else at the moment; a transcendent wall of sound mired in doom and gloom. Mike was kind enough to write me back with some answers to some questions. Enjoy!

Can you give a rundown / timeline as to your activities post the dissolution of Anodyne and the formation of Tombs?

After Anodyne broke up, I did a band with Jamie Getz (Lickgoldensky, Gods and Queens). This actually overlapped with the final months of Anodyne’s existence; we rehearsed in the same room and it was great, I was playing pretty much six or seven days a week between both bands. When Anodyne disbanded, I focused on the Getz collaboration as a more full-time gig. We actually toyed with the idea of calling the band Gods and Queens but eventually settled on Versoma; our first choice for a name “Matamoros” had some alleged white power overtones. I always thought Matamoros was a bordertown in Mexico.

Versoma released an ep on Robotic Empire, did a tour with Red Sparowes, played some dates with Isis and fizzled out due to lack of interest. Jamie and I wanted to do different things so it didn’t really make sense to continue. I also managed to alienate our rhythm section during our CMJ showcase so the band was more of less broken up anyway.

I moved directly into working on material for the band that would ultimately become Tombs. At that point, it was me and the original drummer, Justin Ennis kicking around ideas and experimenting. Some of the material was culled from ideas that I was working on for Versoma so much of the first EP has a kind of “shoegazey” vibe.

There have been some lineup changes over the last couple of years. Justin was ejected from the band and Domenic Seitia, our original bassist formed A Storm of Light with Josh Graham. The current lineup of Tombs is solid. We all have similar work ethics and everyone is civilized.

When comparing the sound of Defeatist with Tombs, one could construe that you wanted to do something more epic and song-based whereas the other two just wanted to strip things down and grind it out. Would this be about right? Were there other factors not to do with musical differences that contributed to the eventual split of Anodyne?

It’s solely a musical thing. I love both of those guys and we remain close friends. Defeatist and Tombs have shared many bills and I think that they’re one of the more interesting bands working in the grindcore medium thiese days. I wish they would play more.

I think the primary departure was that those guys wanted to do something more extreme and stripped down. At this stage of the game, I want to create bigger productions using more layers and more diverse instruments.

Was it a conscious effort on your part to try something different? How would you personally describe the sound to someone who had never heard you? How would you “sell” it to a potential listener?

I just follow my instincts. I wouldn’t say that it was a conscious effort. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to rip off My Bloody Valentine and buy a ton of effects pedals. It was a gradual kind of thing where I would test the waters. I think that some of the material on “Lifetime of Gray Skies” gives a hint of some of the concepts that would be used on the Tombs records.

I don’t know how I would describe the band. Ultimately I end up saying that I want to be like Richie Blackmore during the Deep Purple Machine Head era, but for you, Kunal, I’ll give it a try.

Tombs = gloomy blackened doom-core with a shoegaze sensibility.

How is the dynamic different in this band compared to your previous ones? Is it a democracy or a dictatorship? What is the songwriting process like for Tombs?

Honestly, and the other guys will back me on this, the writing is more of a dictatorship. I write 99 percent of the material on my own and bring it to rehearsal. We arrange the songs as a band. I’m open to what the other guys say because we all share similar tastes in music. Usually, if Andrew suggests something it’s on point so “being open” isn’t really an issue. Nobody’s suggestions are coming from left field.

Tombs' first EP
Tombs' first EP

How did the Relapse hookup occur? How has their treatment of you been (or can you not say)?

It was a pretty low stress scene with the Relapse thing. Greg Drudy, who works at Relapse as well as doing Level Plane / Enucleation records, gave a copy of a demo we recorded to the point men at Relapse. They dug it. We were on tour, played a show in Philly and the offer followed. So far things have been pretty right on.

Your touring schedule is rigorous. Do you have regular jobs and how does “real life” fit around the band?

Somehow it all works out. It’s a tight rope walk and at times things get pretty shakey but we all make it happen with respect to our “day-jobs”. My “personal life” is currently in a shambles but that kind of stuff happens from time to time and I just have to deal with it.

How has the response been to the live show? When supporting bigger bands, is it the usual indifference to support bands, or is there a marked difference according to who is headlining? Have you had much chance to headline gigs yourself?

The response has been really good on the last few tours. The opportunity to support Isis, Pelican and Wolves in the Throne Room were amazing. It was the perfect situation for us to get out there with those bands. It’s easy for me to take the cynical path and say that I don’t care if anyone likes us or not, but after years of touring I have to say that it definitiely helps.

Is being a band in New York tough? Are practise rooms expensive to hire, or spaces tricky to find, and venues difficult to park at and so on? Is there a scene as such in the densely populated metropolis?

It’s hard to be a band in NY. Rehearsal space is overpriced, parking is tough and in general there isn’t much of a scene.

I don’t want to be part of any scene; I don’ feel comfortable with being a New York Band or a Brooklyn Band because we do’t have anything in common with a lot of the bands in this city. I just want to be on the road.

Tombs - Winter Hours
Tombs - Winter Hours

Have you had interest in Tombs from quarters that previously would have given, say, Anodyne short shrift? Would you attribute this to your sound or the involvement of a large independent label?

Anodyne had a very specific audience so yeah, a lot of people that wouldn’t have been into Anodyne seem to be into Tombs. To me, I don’t see the difference, but I guess Tombs has more melody and it’s easier for people to relate the the music. I don’t know. Being on Relapse has definitely been a big help and they have allowed us to get in front of a lot of people.

“Winter Hours” seems to have picked up a number of very good notices. How important is the critical reaction from the press at the end of the day? Have you had much audience response in this respect, at gigs or via fanmail and so on?

The media, though, I admit is important and necesary, doesn’t play as big a part in the success of your band. I take it all with a grain of salt. Anodyne got really positive reviews but we were always a super obscure band to most people.

I have to admit, that I do get a fairly steady stream of email from people regarding the band. It’s important to me that I answer everything, my point is that everyone is busy these days and if you take time out of your schedule to put together some kind of correspondence, the least I can do is write back.

Your label Black Box has put out a handful of great, well presented releases. Do you plan on continuing with it or does Tombs occupy too much time? What were your reasons behind starting it and what are your aims with it?

Tombs has definitely moved up on my action item list. I’m still doing BBR but all of the touring has made it difficult to manage everything. My next release is a split 12-in with Dead in the Woods and Diet Pills. It should have came out in the spring, but the touring set it back. I’m going to be home all summer so the revised release date is fall 2009.

I started the label because I wanted to put out quality music that I thought was important. I feel like a band like the Wayward should have their own section at the local record store. I would like to do whatever I can to facilitate that.

Judging by the (often personal) commentary in your blog, it seems like touring is more gruelling than rewarding. Is it something you enjoy or something you feel you have to do as part of the band lifecycle?

At this point, it’s part of who I am. It’s important in the business end but I also need to travel aspect of it. Every night is an achievement and I love to achieve.

You’ve been doing this for a long time. What keeps you hungry for it? What do you hope to achieve with Tombs? A similar longevity to Anodyne (which I would consider to be lengthy within the hardcore genre)? Absolute world domination?

Absolute world domination. I want to have my own country and I want “Seven Stars, the Angel of Death” to be it’s National Anthem.

Links / Tombs / Black Box / Relapse

Live Review

Army Of Flying Robots / Battle Of Wolf 359 / Hello Bastards / Dopefight – London 12/07/09

This was probably going to be my last chance to see the mighty Robots, so I had to go really. London traffic and the elevated temperature got me in the right frame of mind – pent up and aggressive.

Dopefight continued my emotional arc with their gnarly downtuned stoner sludgecore. I’m sure they’ll come up with more and more killer riffs at this rate, which is what it’s all about really, because it’s not an overly deep genre. I really enjoyed it, although I did need to nip out after a few songs to get a beverage to combat the oppressive heat.

I was expecting boring crusty punk from Hello Bastards, and while they have an aesthetic that may suggest that on their shirts and records, they certainly surprised me with some ripping near-grind in places and playful powerviolence. Wicked drumming, and even wickeder gurning, but could it do with a bass in there and less singers?

BOW359 are a total (Borg-like?) machine nowadays, with lots of people onstage to observe which is fun. Some tuning issues aside, it was dense and heavy and the mental fast bits were offset with lovely, crushing slow bits. Sure it’s a formula that they keep repeating, but it works bloody well. Another kickass drummer too.

And finally AOFR. It would be a sad moment but they’re totally angry and vicious and treat every gig like it’s their last anyway, so it’s not long before they’re blasting out track after track like they always have, one difference being that Henry has turned into a ball of hair with some eyes and a nose placed on it. The crowd go nuts, and Luke’s the most kickass drummer of the entire night!

AOFR play Supersonic Fest on 24th July, and have a farewell gig in Nottingham on August 7th. Don’t miss out. And buy the CD I put out by them while you’re at it.

Live Review

Thou / Moloch / Ghast / Spider Kitten – Newport, 21/06/09

Although Newport is a bit of an armpit, Le Pub is an absolutely wicked venue and a haven from the outside world, and it’s not even that far from Bristol. A half-hour jaunt across the architectural wonder of the Severn Bridge makes for a nice drive, although the toll seems to go up 30 pence each time we go over. Bastards.

spider kitten
Spider Kitten

Spider Kitten sound a bit Godflesh-y thanks to some chunky drum machine beats, dense riffs and hoarse vocals, but it’s dead plodding and they keep trying to sing and do melodic bits which tend to fall on their arse. Ghast plough through some black metal and pay their respects to the classics of the genre but it’s a bit much for me on a Sunday evening so I hide downstairs to nurse a soft drink.


Moloch are up next and they’re something of a Nottingham supergroup now. Chris is still singing, with Henry and Craig from Army Of Flying Robots (Henry’s drumming here, his genetically modified power-calves positively stamping down on the kick pedal) and Steve from Gramercy Riffs helping out. They sludge it out with some big riffing and a nice hardcore vibe running through it all, providing a homegrown alternative to bands like Fistula, Rue and 16. They’re not quite as memorable as those bands yet, but they will be soon I’m sure, and they rock it live.


Thou are from Baton Rouge in Louisiana, and as such have that swampy sludginess running through their veins. They are quite the tight unit having got all that practising, gigging and recording under their belts in what seems like a frighteningly short period. Straight from the off, they blow us away with a seriously loud, seriously satisfying bit of downtuned chug, but the key thing is that they don’t dwell on anything too long, and before you know it, the songs have flowed into embellished sections of psychedelic, winding, trebly, duelling guitars. Super.

Live Review

Coalesce – Plymouth, 18/06/09

The White Rabbit, Plymouth – 18th June 2009

A quick glance at the tour poster tells me Coalesce are really getting about on their first ever jaunt across the pond. Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Zurich, Hellfest in France… but Plymouth?!?!! Someone’s fucked up real bad here.

a whole lot of not many people
a whole lot of not many people

So as expected it’s not as rammed as it should be, with some blissfully unaware locals, some fans from the slightly hotter musical bed of Exeter, plus a gaggle of morons willing to drive from Bristol on a schoolnight (i.e. me and some chums dragged along to keep me awake). We arrive mega-late due to Google map miscalculations only to find no bands have played yet, our relief at not missing Coalesce offset by the fact that we’ll be getting home at a correspondingly late time. There’s only one support band, Cornwall’s Crocus having pulled out due to the drummer being on holiday. Local chunners Castor Troy (not the defunct one from the Midlands with Montana folk in) tickle the cochleas prior to the main event with their tight but utterly run-of-the-mill haircut hardcore and have the good grace to play for 20 minutes, though it did seem longer.


Coalesce seem like grizzled dads and nice dudes, highlighted by them dishing out a tray of free whisky shots from their rider prior to starting. A couple of songs in however, and they then seem like apeshit lunatics when they short circuit the lights and Jes Steineger flips the tray of remaining shots ceilingwards with his guitar, all of which combined with the dense ferocity of their mangled metal hardcore creates a fairly terrifying experience. I’ve never had whisky in my eye before and it hurts. The band gives it their all, especially Steineger who is either on the floor or on the audience, slamming the hell out of his suffering body and guitar. Ingram’s thick, phlegmy roar holds together well, and the rhythm section kills us all.


Somewhere in the melee they played a select bunch of songs from the entire back-catalogue: Have Patience,, Jesus In The Year 2000, A Disgust For Details, One On The Floor, You Can’t Kill Us All, A Safe Place and 73-C all featured, in amongst a bunch of new ones from “Ox” which sounded great too. Well worth the 13-year wait even if my head hit the pillow at 4 a.m.

Live Review

Aethenor / Bugbrand – Bristol 15/06/09

Bugbrand is a man called Tom, an enigmatic Bristol resident who spends a lot of time mucking about with circuit boards and soldering irons to make boxes and machines that make a massive array of weird analogue bleeps and bloops. His former incarnation as Knowledge Of Bugs was a highly enjoyable noise act, creating a pleasing ambience that pulsed and phased through a variety of soundscapes, but also stepped outside of the nerd-crouched-in-front-of-laptop live setting schtick by actually showing you how those sounds you were hearing were being created in real-time, be it contact mikes on slinkys, e-bows on guitars, laptops played through toy megaphones, and so on. Bugbrand on the other hand seems to be a step away from this involving approach, with Tom utilising a single box with tons of sockets, connecting wires in an ever-increasing tangle and twiddling knobs in a manner that ultimately distanced the audience through the incomprehensible nature of the performance. Ultimately, the monotone bleepsand cycled drones (together with sporadic guitar that was soon dropped) didn’t contain enough light, shade or structure, seemingly appearing random and accidental rather than part of any great plan.


Aethenor is a supergroup worthy of the term. As much as I’d like to hate Stephen O’Malley, you can’t deny he’s in some cracking bands, and maybe the issue I really have is how much certain fanboys fawn over every single fart he produces. With SOMA on guitar, you also have the keyboard player from Guapo, a geezer from excellent Swiss experimental rockers Shora on noise, and, best of all, the drummer from Ulver, so there are certainly no slouches here. Having only recently got into Ulver, especially the later stuff, I was extremely pleased to see that the latter’s skills were exemplary, very jazzy and intuitive, providing an absolute base for what seemed to be a largely improvised bout of pleasing ambience, soon building to stoned freakouts. Usually this stuff really sinks or swims live, but for some reason, on a school night in the intimate surroundings with forty or so other people, it worked. It was nice, loose and exploratory, and clearly made by a bunch of proficient like-minded souls in tune with one another.

Live Review

Annihilation Time / Gurkha / Valdez – Bristol, 9/6/09

Annihilation Time / Gurkha / Valdez
Bristol, The Croft – 9th June, 2009

Locals Valdez are playing as I enter. I’ve somehow never seen them, maybe because I don’t go to ’77 street-punk kinds of gigs as a rule, but they’re serviceable within the genre and cover The Freeze.


Gurkha are up next and make a hell of a lot more noise, based in crust but unafraid to really let wail with some metal solos. They’ve even gone totally Sabbath in places, which is to be applauded, plus Joanna Lumley’s a big fan I hear.


I stood in the correct place for Annihilation Time, as the guitarist and bassist stage left looked to be concentrating a bit too hard and standing too still. In front of me, the other guitarist was having a bloody whale of a time, totally nailing those notes, flailing his hair and grinning from ear to ear. The singer seemed pretty goddamned drunk. In fact I think they all were, but they were still mercilessly tight. They also played that wicked first track from the second album, calling it their “pop song”. Black Flag meets Thin Lizzy equals exactly what’s needed on a school night.



Hello! Hopefully this blog will capture all the stuff that isn’t currently on Collective, such as…

– Interviews with bands, labels and so on.
– Articles and reviews of less current, but equally worthy bands.
– Perhaps the odd link to out-of-print records you can’t find elsewhere.
– Reviews of gigs and live events.
– Random guff.