Interview with Matt Pike of Sleep and High on Fire

On Thursday, July 5th, I got the opportunity to interview famed guitarist Matt Pike of the bands Sleep and High on Fire. In this 28 minute interview we cover topics such as Sleep’s upcoming shows at the 9:30 Club, the stories behind various Sleep songs, details about the next High on Fire album and other songs that were supposed to be on the Dopesmoker album. You can download the entire interview as an mp3 for free here, stream it by clicking the orange play button below or read the full transcription under that. As always my words are in bold.

This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and today I’ve got Matt Pike of the bands Sleep and High on Fire on the phone with me. Sleep has 2 upcoming shows at the 9:30 Club right now. The first is going to be on Sunday, July 22nd and the second is the following night, Monday, July 23rd. The Sunday night show is already sold out however tickets are still available (here) for the Monday night show that was added recently. To start things off Matt, can you tell me what will be different about the set Monday night?

We’re playing Holy Mountain which, that’s always a great thing. We do it every great while someone will ask this but we can do it. I just gotta rent and acoustic [guitar]. Yeah, the difference is it’s shorter but we’re playing a pretty arcane album. It’s old music that we know very well cause we played it over a million times but yeah, I love playing that album and Al [Cisneros, bass/vocals of Sleep] and Jay [Jason Roeder, drummer of Sleep] do too. It’s kind of easy for us actually. Haha. So we’re good at it. If you know Holy Mountain you know that it’s before we got too weird.

Will you be playing any songs from The Sciences or anything else during that set on Monday night?

I’m not sure. The set’s probably about 50 minutes. The shortest Sleep usually plays is like an hour and that’s at a festival and then this is not a festival it’s our show so we’ll probably add something else but I don’t want to ruin the surprise if it’s something weird. It’s gonna be a full set is what I’m saying, hahaha.

Matt Pike

Matt Pike photo by Jason Roeder

Ok, cool. Alright now back in April on 4/20 actually, Sleep released their first album in 15 or 20 years, depending on when you count Dopesmoker as actually having been released. The album is titled The Sciences and it really lived up to expectations to both fans and critics. On it we finally have studio versions of songs like “Sonic Titan” and “Antarcticans Thawed” and those are songs that you’ve played live for some time since you reformed in 2009. Were there other songs that were older on this album or was the rest of it written more recently?

Well what we did, it’s a reprise of music that Al and I had but we had to restructure and work with Jason. Obviously Jason’s a different drummer than Chris [Hakius, Sleep’s drummer in the 90’s] so the only drums we ever had on the songs that we were playing were Chris Hakius’s versions and we had to retime it, figure out BPMs, figure out time signatures. We basically recreated something that we did twenty years ago. That’s only for some of the songs. Some of them are brand new and original and some of them we took skeletons of what we had and redid them. Made them brand new for us just because I think we’re a little more experienced than we were when we were just kids which you lose some of the magic from when you were a kid but at the same time you actually understand things like timing and what you’re doing music theory wise. So it was a big chore for us to go through but we had been playing some of those songs live for a long time and I think it helped us kind of rewrite them just having that in our muscle memory or whatnot. I don’t know how to explain it but if you’ve been playing a song for a long time you’re all “ok let’s get serious. We’re going to record this. Maybe we should think about all the little things in it.” If that explains anything. I’m sorry. I’m just waking up having coffee.

Haha no, no, it does. So what’s an example of one of the songs on The Sciences that’s actually a new song that was written for this album?

Oh I wrote “The Sciences” for this album. That’s my version of a Vietnam vet meltdown, heh heh heh, and I was thinking of like Jimi Hendrix, haha, and I didn’t want make it a lead at all. I just wanted to make it a rhythm solo which it’s just so fucking weird, hahaha.

I actually like it a lot. That’s one song I put on to people, I’m like, you can listen to this and I’m like, if you like stoner metal you will like this and if you do not you will not like this, haha.

Yeah, no, yeah, haha. It definitely critiques towards a certain type of person, hahaha.

Well in 2014 Sleep released the song “The Clarity” through the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim summer singles series and this was the fist new Sleep song, at least to be studio recorded and released to the public, after the 2009 reformation of the band. How did this song come about? Was it one of the old songs that you had from the 90’s or something and kind of redid like some of these other songs or was this a new thing you did specifically for the Adult Swim release?

Well since we had the opportunity to write a new song, “The Clarity” was us putting together new music and seeing if we could do it without killing each other. All of us are in other bands that write. We hadn’t put together charts and things of that nature and truly tried to arrange something, and then Al just sent us the intro to the song which is just like “wah wah, wah wah, wah wah.” It’s like a horrible keyboard. Well that’s how Al wrote the riff and sent it to me and Jason. Me and Jason were looking at each other and just laughing like, what the fuck?

Haha.

What the fuck are we gonna do with this? But if you know anything about Al, if he sends you something like that there’s method to it, so me and Jay are staring at each other like trying to figure out how to make a riff out of this thing but we knew that Al had already fucking thought the whole thing through. He’s a chess player so if he does something like that it’s thought through it’s just the presentation was that horrible keyboard part at the beginning that we rock out to and hahaha, there’s a derogatory thing to that. It’s like, this is how it was presented and then we made a song around it you know and then when the song kicks in you understand. It’s kind of like how “Dopesmoker” was too. It’s like, what the fuck is this guitar intro and then when everything comes in it makes sense. So that was Al just getting stuff started with a riff that was recorded like, horrifying, hahaha, and then we decided to keep it cause that was the beginning of it and then we all just added onto it. Since Al had it planned out he left space for me to write a riff and left space for Jason to do things with and yeah, that was the first thing we really wrote together since we had gotten back together. It’s a special song. I love playing that thing. It’s fun. It was one of those things where we were forced to write together and it’s the first time we did it and it was successful cause we did it in like a weekend which is unheard of for the three of us. We’re all so picky and anal and weird, and me included. I’m not talking shit. I’m saying, it’s kind of amazing how that band puts its stuff together and what we do. It was the first time we had written something just off the cuff from scratch. It’s like we’re making a pie from scratch and it worked really fast and yeah, I’m in love with that song. It’s really cool. There’s never a dull moment when you’re playing with those guys and you’re Matt Pike I guess but I hope they would say the same about me, heh heh heh.

Well you guys also recorded and released another song with Adult Swim recently that’s called “Leagues Beneath.” It really sounds like it really fit in with the rest of The Sciences and in fact when I usually play The Sciences digitally on my computer I actually edited the ID tags to make it like a bonus track basically, to the album. Was this recorded at the same time or was this another one that you guys kind of wrote together just for the Adult Swim release?

No it was just for the Adult Swim. It turned out really cool. That one is the craziest. I’m glad I learned it in the 1990’s. Me and Al had that song, which, of course Al, he wrote most of the intro to that whole thing and I remember [saying] you know, “Ok Al, we gotta turn it into a song where you sing now.” You know?

Hahaha.

The whole intro you’re just picturing this barge on huge hurricane seas with stuff going over the side. Then it’s all, “Ok, where do we go from there?” At the time we were really influenced by [Black] Sabbath. We’re always really influenced by Sabbath, but it’s just all kick drum. You hit every odd note in between the kick drum to make the riff and then when the riff comes in it makes sense so it’s another Al… I don’t know. That guy’s pretty amazing, man. And it’s not like I don’t contribute it’s just he thinks differently than most people you ever met. It’s pretty crazy, hahaha. But yeah that song turned out amazing too. It’s one of those things where, when we get together and write all this magic shit happens cause everybody’s so fucking pissed off at the world that you get all these weird things. And that one though we did have the whole intro and we had the main body of the riff and then other than that we had a couple other parts and then my job in Sleep is to kind of add weird details but then have Jay time ideas I have because if I don’t have timing I’ll just wank so that band tries to teach me how to be patient, heh heh heh. So I’m learning how to be patient and wait for my part to come up. It’s hard to explain unless you’re in the room. It’s weird but we had that song for fucking I swear to god twenty years. That should have been on Dopesmoker and it just never happened like that and the same thing with “Antarcticans Thawed.” It should have been on Dopesmoker. Those two songs were written about the same time but then we just changed the tuning and Al wanted to use a five string so I had to figure out the theory behind– I am not going to buy a seven string guitar cause I think that’s fucking lame. I figured out a drop tuning that would keep up with him in B, which means I actually have to tune every other string up a half step and then drop my tuning. It was weird but it’s cool experimenting like that cause we get used to something too long and then we try something different [and] sometimes it works out.

So another thing I wanted to ask about was the whole issue with Dopesmoker like you were saying, which was originally released in ’98 as Jerusalem and had been kind of chopped up into different parts by the label and I know the band wasn’t really pleased with that version.

No. I took action cause Al was missing in action. He took like eight years off of music altogether. Chris went into the mountains and wasn’t doing anything. I got together with Al and Chris for the first time in like eight years and I was like, “hey dudes, we have a chance to get this back and release Jerusalem as Dopesmoker how we intended it with different masters and a different version” cause Al had one that had desert lyrics and Al had one that had space lyrics and so we went with the desert theme on the second release but the first one was chopped up because at that point in time there was not downloads, there wasn’t streaming, there was barely internet and they needed a radio version and that’s what they were trying to sell it as. “You just aren’t seeing the future here” and so we had to go into hiding before people discovered that it was a piece of work.

It reminds me a lot of what Rush said happened [to them] around the recording of their 2112 album.

Yeah well they were looking to drop us too and they did. They shelved it and I was like, “what a waste of a good piece of music” so I was pushing to get it out but then one dude wanted to bootleg and I’m like, “that’s on you, man. If you get sued or something like that, that’s on you, that’s not on us” but he tried to pay us or whatever and that got shut down. And then we finally got back together, got a lawyer [and] got the rights to that record back and then we could release it with Southern Lord properly. So that was all done legally, you know? Before that, that record label went bankrupt so no one knew anything about anything.

One thing you said though, it got released properly but then you said earlier that “Leagues Beneath” and “Antarcticans Thawed” should have been on that album too. Were there other recordings of these?

We tried but I just think all of us were smoking too much weed and it was hard enough to get the one 72 minute version of Jerusalem done, you know what I mean? It was hard enough to get that song done. It was the first time I think a band tried to do something that long that wasn’t improv. We had it written and it took us four years to write and having that much information in your head and then trying to do other songs, that wasn’t even doable. That’s too much to ask anybody to fucking memorize. After that whole album happened we were all kind of burnt on being around each other or anything. Me and Al weren’t but I think Al and Chris, that separated them for a minute and then they got back together and they started playing music together again. That’s where Om came from and then [I] think Chris just decided that he would rather hide in the woods and not be on tour, which I don’t blame him. [It] takes a special kind of person to be on tour and deal with all that kind of stuff and so I think the evolution of Sleep has happened properly the way that it should have. It just takes time. It’s a very patient band and it waits for its members to be ready to do things and it’s a special band. It’s definitely different. We got our own thing going on.

After the break up around then you went off and did the High on Fire thing, Al and Chris did the Om thing and it’s always kind of made me wonder what led you guys to come back around 2009?

Well cause we got offered one show that was in England. Or it was actually two nights and it was with Jesus Lizard and I just think that the band grew while we were taking a hiatus and when we saw the reaction to us walking out on stage after that long of [a] period of time, none of us had played together in that long and we played some pretty good shows. The two sets we did were amazing and then I think all of us realized that when we were kids we had a lot of magic but then we’re getting older and there’s something to all this. People love it. We have a cult following and it was like, oh wow, man, we can do something with this and all of us enjoy playing with each other but Chris didn’t want to be on tour and Jason, we grew up, me and Al, just kind of worshiped Neurosis [Jason’s other band] and the Melvins and like all the shows we’d go to in Berkeley. That was Gilman’s Street and that’s where we grew up as kids just tripping out on all these crazy bands like Nomeansno and Nausea and Glycine Max and Neurosis and the Melvins and all the good shit that was going on there so Jason knew us since we were little kids like that and Jason just knows all our music because, shit, quite frankly Sleep wouldn’t have ever done anything without Neurosis taking us out and believing in us so they’re like family to us cause we’ve known them our them our whole lives.

That’s pretty cool.

Yeah, yeah.

Sleep reunion shows poster

Sleep 2009 reunion shows poster art by Malleus

You were talking about that show in London which I think was the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival.

Yeah it wasn’t in London though. It was out on the Southwest coast and it was at the place, Butlin’s. And Butlin’s was a place for English working class families to go while dad gambles, mom gambles, and the kids run around and there’s like an amusement park for pasty, white English people that don’t have anywhere else to go. It’s cold and wet and it’s weird, heh heh heh. I think that’s where werewolves came from, I don’t know.

Well I know that show is pretty much the only one, or the shows there that you played, were the only ones with Chris back on drums since the reunion, right? After that Jason I think took over everything.

Yeah well cause Chris didn’t want to really do it. He was real hesitant and although he had been touring with Al but I think Chris just isn’t cut out to tour. He’s a great drummer. He doesn’t like the limelight. He doesn’t want to be famous. It takes a certain type of person. Like Al and I for myself, we really care about what we do. We want to leave a legacy a little bit. It’s not like we’re narcissists or something like that we just want to leave a legacy because we care about our playing and we spend a lot of time getting good at what we do and Jay has just known us since we were little kids so he totally understands why Sleep does what it does and ever did what it did. It’s about amplifiers and tone and loud and fucking with people because we got that from Neurosis and the Melvins. Fucking with people through music is like a great thing. Whether it’s derogatory, funny or very serious, we cover all those aspects. I mean I can improv all day with those dudes but then when it comes down to serious arrangements, we don’t want it to be what people expect. We want it to fuck with people’s heads a little bit. Like why? Why did they do that that way? Fuck, why do I like that? You know, question why they like what they’re listening to. That approach works for us.

So do you think you’ll ever play again with Chris? Even like a one off or a festival somewhere?

With respect for Jason, if Chris wanted to do a weird set with us or something, I wouldn’t be opposed. I love Chris Hakius but I love Jay too and Jason’s like our main dude so with respect if Jason said, “yeah, you should do a show with Chris” I’d be like, “dude I’m not opposed to playing with anyone.” It’s like the old jazz blues bands. Everybody moonlighted in between each other’s bands so I’m not opposed to anything. I just enjoy playing. I try to leave politics and head trips out of what we do.

High on Fire

Alright so shifting gears a little I would like to talk to you about your other band a little bit and one thing I’d like to know is, how did you form High on Fire? Like how did you find the other members and kind of pull that all together after Sleep was kind of on hiatus there?

Well I got out of Sleep and I had a bunch of fucking songs that I wrote that I was going to show them to Al or whatever if he ever got out of being depressed about music, which he ended up doing. I knew it would happen. So the first song I wrote I was actually just trying to start a band with anybody so I got a friend of mine, Karl [Larson], who was more of a Soundgarden-y guitar player, and later on I figured out I don’t work with other guitar players well usually, unless they’re my bass player, so yeah, I started a band and I met Karl and he had some stuff to contribute but I had all these riffs that were kind of Sleep-ish riffs and then I met Des Kensel who’s an East Coast hardcore drummer. And then when I started trying to play some of the Sleep riffs to the hardcore drummer it like clicked. We were like married and then Des didn’t like another guitar player either. Even though I love Karl who started that band with me, we moved on and we had a friend of mine, George Rice, come down to start singing. I thought he sucked at singing but he’s a great guitar player/bass player, so he just started playing bass and I started singing. I was a shitty singer for like ten years and then I started figuring it out. Started going my way a little bit more but it’s cause I met this total little super drummer, but he was very different than what I was used to. But I always liked thrash metal. I love my like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, that sort of thing so it works. So basically High on Fire is a metal band but it’s a weird metal band. It’s just strange what we do. But I just finished doing an album which is coming out in September.

Yeah I wanted to ask you about that. Do you have any other details? You said it’s going to be out in September. Do you know the album title yet?

Yeah it’s called Electric Messiah.

Cool.

Yeah and it’s the best album we’ve ever done, by far. It’s ridiculous. And I’m really proud of that. So to do Sleep The Sciences and that album, between 2017 [and] 2018 that’s two albums that I’m really fucking proud of in one year. I’ve been working hard. I haven’t had any time to myself til recently. This is my month off and then pretty much I’m on tour all the way up til next year. And then I’m sure I’ll be making plans for next year in the next week here or something. It is by far the best High on Fire record ever which is hard to believe but it’s fucking bad ass, heh heh heh.

That’s cool man. I can’t wait to hear it. How many tracks?

I think there’s ten tracks, eleven tracks. It depends cause there’s a bunch of songs, like I wrote a Sumerian anunnaki rock opera that actually is two songs but they’re separate tracks. And then there’s a lot of slash songs. There’s a lot of songs that– you know [how] Opeth will have like one song but it makes like three songs if you really think about it?

Yeah, yep.

It’s kind of a bunch of shit like that because we’ve had this conscious stream of riffs and we put it together. I like when I do High on Fire records to have a lot of interludes and weird shit going on so you never lose focus but it’s constantly changing. It’s a lot like, Death Is This Communion is like that. There’s tracks that don’t have names but, they’re there. It’s just one stream of High on Fire consciousness and it’s fucking good, that’s all. I’m really stoked on that record.

So I suppose you’ll be touring to support that at some point, probably in the fall or something?

I think we’re going to be on tour with Municipal Waste. Cause we’ve been kind of beating a dead horse, dead in the water for a while so we’re doing a co-headline [tour]. Municipal Waste dudes are our good friends so we figured we’ll just punch the country together, swap spots and no one gets tired and all that stuff and yeah, it should be good. I want to get High on Fire rolling again so it’s full throttle. We took a lot of time to write this record, really make it good.

I’ve always kind of wondered, which band do you like performing with more, Sleep or High on Fire?

They’re apples and oranges. It’s so different and so the same. It’s weird but the common link between High on Fire and Sleep is obviously my guitar playing. I like having my own voice and being able to sing my lyrics. High on Fire is my baby like that. But Sleep definitely, I am a third of that thing’s heart and I get to express myself in different ways that I don’t get to in High on Fire. It’s very visceral. It’s super tight and visceral and very detailed but it has its own soul and I can do different things. Sleep’s like a weird science experiment because I learn about tones. You know if I used my rig from Sleep for High on Fire you wouldn’t even be able to tell what we were playing. It’s too fast, heh heh heh. Sleep’s one of those bands you’re supposed to play loud because you hit one note every fucking five minutes, you know.

Hahaha.

It’s a tone experiment and High on Fire I have to be very, very– both of them I have to be very careful about the controlability of my rig. But I like singing too so that’s the other part of it that I love High on Fire for is I like singing. It’s like a part of my playing. It’s fun to see what I can pull off and between Jeff [Matz, current High on Fire bass player] and Des, they’re constantly pushing me to be able to sing and play more shit than James Hetfield would when Metallica came out. It’s hard, heh heh heh. And it being hard is a good thing for me cause I like challenges and I usually like rising to the occasion.

Matt Pike for president

Alright well, this is Washington, D.C. and so I really want to make sure I ask you about all these Matt Pike for President stickers that I’ve seen around [get them here]. Do you think you might actually run for president in 2020?

I’ll run for president, I don’t give a shit, if you guys really want. You know I think I’d be more popular than Trump instantly.

Hahaha.

I’d be a great diplomat. I am so unorganized and I have ADD so bad I think I’d either be a awesome president by luck or a horrible president that has a lot of resistance, you know?

Heh heh.

Hahaha. No I’d be a great diplomat. I think I could bring world peace but I think I’d fuck up our infrastructure. I have no idea how that would go but I hear it at every show and it was like a gimmick and the fantasy of being president in some sort of alternate universe, I’d like to see that on film just to see what [would] really happen. Hahaha. It’s a funny notion. That was a great idea. Shit, I don’t even get money from that or anything. I didn’t do that. It’s just some kid made something funny up and it just started going ape shit. And they did it for Frank Zappa and Ozzy Osbourne in the 80’s so I felt kind of flattered I guess.

Well I think we all know that Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath are major influences on you but I’d like to know some of the other bands and musicians that are also influences on you.

Well, kind of everything. You know second to Tony Iommi I always loved David Gilmour from Pink Floyd. I always loved John McLaughlin you know in Mahavishnu Orchestra and just everything that guy’s done. He’s just [an] amazing guitar player. And I’m influenced by a lot of early punk. I grew up in the 80’s and I was exposed to the Dead Kennedys and the Exploited and Black Flag, all the classic punk shit when I was a really little kid cause I had a babysitter that, she’d just do bong hits and show me punk rock music. And when Mötley Crüe came out, MTV came out and I always liked ZZ Top. I always liked, you know all the classic stuff. I love W.A.S.P. I love a bunch of cheesy ass shit and I like so much stuff in my playing. I went to school for– I never went to like Juilliard or something. I went to a community college cause I felt that I needed to learn music theory and my art a lot better. I actually went to college for jazz for a couple years so I learned jazz improv and I always played blues, I always played classical so, I could play guitar very well before I even knew what I was doing. You know what I mean? I just have an ear for it. And then, as I went through that, it just kind of made me better and better so my influences come from all over the map. I love fucking Angus Young and Malcolm Young [of AC/DC]. I love K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton [of Judas Priest]. I love Slayer. I love all the things that I got to grow up on and I was spoiled with.

Well D.C. is known for its harDCore scene as well and we also are known for a lot of the doom bands that came out of here. Are there bands from the D.C. area that you would say are influences to you at all?

Oh dude yeah. Fucking Alfred Morris III [of Iron Man], rest in peace. Bless his heart. Me and Al loved the shit out of that guy. He was the greatest fucking guitar player. It’s a shame that his death had to come. Sleep had Iron Man play a couple different shows when we were in your area with us because we were big fans of that. Wino is from out of that thing. I really love the Spirit Caravan thing. You know I kind of knew Wino before that with the Obsessed but then the Spirit Caravan, he was doing that and High on Fire was raging about that time so I got to know that dude around then. There’s a lot that comes out of there and it is definitely doom. Yeah Washington D.C. has definitely got a doom thing to it.

[Do] you like Clutch at all?

Oh yeah dude. I’ve been on tour with them. They took High on Fire out for a bunch. They have one of the coolest crowds ever. Those are some of the better tours that High on Fire had cause they were really cool to us. And that drummer, fucking J.P. is fucking retarded. It’s so good, hahaha. And I like anything with [Clutch vocalist Neil] Fallon.

Are there any new bands or albums that you’ve been listening to lately?

Well I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to get the masters done for Sleep and High on Fire [that] all I’ve listened to is my own band for a while and then, haha, I have a girlfriend who’s substantially younger than me so I get all my new bands through her. She’s an artist and she’ll just sit here– she’s also a musician but she’ll sit here and draw and then put on weird shit and occasionally I’ll walk through. I’ll be all, “what the fuck is this?” she’s all “you mean you never heard Portal?” Portal’s fucking awesome, hahahahahaha, but it’s so fucking dramatic and extreme I love the shit. I really like Lana Del Rey cause she’s creepy. I don’t know. I listen to all sorts of shit that comes my way. It just depends. I don’t listen to metal all day but when I do like metal I go deep. I get into like obscure metal quarterly because I have a millennial girlfriend that knows about it, you know.

Hahaha.

Hahaha.

Sleep at the 9:30 Club

Alright well, that’s about the end of my questions here. I thank you a lot for taking the time out to do this interview with me. I’m pretty excited about the show you’re going to be playing here with Sleep– the two shows on July 22nd and 23rd. Those should both be pretty cool and it’s cool you’re playing different sets each night so people can go to both and see something different each night.

Thank you for trying to sell tickets for us man. I appreciate it. And yeah, I’ll see you at the show huh? Come up and say hi. I’m pretty approachable.

Yeah, sure man.

You have a great day and thank you for the interview. I appreciate it.

Yeah no problem man. Thank you.

Alright man, have a good one.

Alright, bye.

Review of Slayer at Jiffy Lube Live

On Sunday, June 10th of 2018 the Slayer farewell tour came to Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia. The tour was supported by some other great bands as well. Testament started things off, then Poland’s blackened death metal band Behemoth played (it was the band’s main man, Nergal’s, birthday) followed by Anthrax and then Lamb of God was direct support. I’m not going to get into all of their sets mostly because this post is about Slayer and secondly, I got there during Anthrax’s set. However you can see a few clips at the end of this post from Behemoth’s set that they posted on social media. Anyways, this is a concert review so of course the big question is, how was the show?

First off, like all Slayer performances, the show was a lot of fun. Slayer did a sort of career retrospective set list, which is a bit different than a “best hits” style set list in that it contained songs off 11 of their 13 albums. Only Diabolus in Musica and the mostly punk covers album Undisputed Attitude weren’t represented in the set list (see the full set list here). They left a few classics off, most notably “Spirit in Black,” “Die by the Sword,” and the medley of “Altar of Sacrifice” and “Jesus Saves” that has been a staple of their live set for decades. However they did play “Blood Red” which hasn’t been in their touring set list in many years.

It seemed like almost every metal head from our area was at the show to see Slayer one last time. I ran into some of the dudes from Darkest Hour, Ant Scot was crowd surfing in his wheelchair throughout the day and Randy Blythe even brought out local politician/metal head Danica Roem on stage for a moment during Lamb of God’s set. It seemed everywhere I turned I ran into another regular from the local scene, and I still didn’t see half the people I know were there from seeing their posts on social media after the show.

Most of the bands played in the daylight but it was dark by the time Slayer took the stage after 9pm. They had some great pyro effects including open flames that lit up metal Slayer logos on stage, and giant fireballs that would shoot up behind them in time with the music. While the current line up is only half of the original members, Tom Araya and Kerry King, I had seen this same Slayer line up with Paul Bostaph on drums and Gary Holt of Exodus filling Jeff Hanneman’s shoes twice before. Once in November 2013 (read our review of that show here) and again in March 2016 (read our review of that show here), both times at the Fillmore Silver Spring. What blew me away at those shows was how tight the band still was despite the line up changes. Slayer is probably best known for having written some of the most classic songs of the entire heavy metal genre but they are also known as a band that is incredibly well rehearsed and tight live. They rip through blisteringly fast songs totally in sync with each other and they make it seem easy because they have practiced them so many times. It was impressive that they could keep that up with two new members, something many bands that have that kind of well rehearsed chemistry fail to do after major line up changes. However that tight chemistry wasn’t quite there this Sunday night in June. Gary Holt had some technical issues and had to swap his guitar out a few times, including during the beginning of “Hell Awaits” which left what might be Slayer’s best intro riff sounding off. Most glaring however was Tom Araya fudging or possibly completely forgetting the lyrics to some of the songs. I might give this a pass if they were songs off the later albums but, for example, in “South of Heaven” he repeated a verse that doesn’t repeat and in “Angel of Death” he completely missed an entire verse of lyrics. This didn’t ruin the show by a long shot, it certainly didn’t make me suddenly stop loving those classic songs but it was the first time I’d ever seen Slayer so out of sync live. I’ve seen them live many times before. At the 9:30 Club, the long gone Nation/Capital Ballroom, the Baltimore Arena and the previously mentioned Fillmore Silver Spring. I’ve seen them before at Jiffy Lube Live on Mayhem Fest and even back when it was still called Nissan Pavilion I’ve seen Slayer play there as part of several Ozzfests. This Slayer performance was the first time I had seen a tiny crack in the foundation starting to grow.

Slayer played for about 90 minutes with none of that lame pre-rehearsed encore nonsense. They just got up there and ripped for an hour and a half straight while everyone went nuts. Gary Holt was sporting a “Kill The Kardashians” shirt and brought out his guitar that is painted in his own blood a few times (backstory on that here). However the most memorable part of the show might be what happened after it just ended. After the end of the set Tom Araya wandered around on stage just soaking in all the fans still screaming wildly for the band despite the set being over. He eventually found a mic and thanked the fans for all the memories. I’m not sure if he did that at every stop on the tour or just ours, but it was quite a touching moment, not something Slayer shows are generally known for. Still coming down from the adrenaline rush of a live Slayer performance, it was a sobering reminder that this was the last time we’ll be seeing Slayer in our area.

I am sad to see Slayer go, but this performance showed us why they are retiring. It seems like Tom Araya’s heart just isn’t in it any more, something that has been hinted at in interviews in other metal publications. I’d rather see them go on their own terms than just become a sloppy caricature of the incredible band they are. I did thoroughly enjoy the show though, despite its flaws. I’ve long held that no metal head can sit still while songs like “Raining Blood” or “Angel of Death” are playing and this show was certainly no exception. Bang your head, throw the horns, jump into the mosh pit, you just gotta go crazy for Slayer! But it is the end of an era, the first band of the Big Four of thrash metal to retire. I love this area’s metal community and it is always bittersweet to see one of the legends bring everyone out to headbang to their tunes for one last time.

Below you can see the photos I shot of Slayer from the photo pit (click them to see them larger) and below those are some images and videos of Behemoth that were posted to their social media, including the audience singing “Happy Birthday” to Nergal.

Slayer at Jiffy Lube Live 6/10/18

Kerry King of Slayer

Tom Araya of Slayer

Kerry King of Slayer

Tom Araya and Kerry King of Slayer

Kerry King of Slayer

Ant Scot crowd surfing

Bonus photo I shot of Ant Scot crowd surfing into security

Bristow, Virginia. We are in the middle of the set. The show is fuckin' intense… I see a guy on the wheelchair crowd surfing! There's a moshpit from the very start of the show and ppl r totally INTO it. Obviously we feed on that energy and return it with twice as much strength! Ryan, our tour manager suggests that he goes Instagram live for the new song "Wolves ov Siberia". I agree, why not, right? He follows me into the stage and I'm announcing the song yet I see him standing behind my back regardless. Weird. As I approach the mic music dies and there's a robotic announcment coming from the speakers all over the place: "Ladies and gentlemen this is not time for "Wolves ov Siberia". Not yet. Today is the day to celebrate your fuckin' birthday, Nergal"! And then Gary Holt, Randy Blythe, Kerry King and the boss of all bosses, Mike enter the stage with a bottle of Jagger serving shots! Holy fuck! It took me few seconds to realize what's goin on… From the speeakers I can hear "Stoooo lat" from the legendary movie "Rejs"… Randy encoured ppl to sing "Happy birthday" and shortly after 10.000 ppl are chanting along the theme. What can I say? I was blown away and hyper-surprised and it was worth waiting 41 years for THIS haha !!! Would love to send regards and massive thank you to my band mates and Wolfpack crew for making this all happen! BEST wishes EVER!!! Love u ALLfuckers!!!! @drandallblythe @behemothofficial @garyholt_official @orion669 @brovarius.victorius @slayerbandofficial @slaywhore @paulbostaphofficial @shark_________________________

A post shared by Adam Nergal Darski (@nergal69) on

The same video as above, but this version is longer and includes the “Happy Birthday” song.

Thank you sooo much for last nite Bristow!!!!

A post shared by Behemoth (@behemothofficial) on

Sleep ticket give away

Sleep at 9:30 Club

Stoner metal gods Sleep have sold out the 9:30 Club yet again for their performance there on July 22nd, however a second Sleep performance has been added for the following night, Monday, July 23rd! For the Monday night show Sleep will be performing a different set, namely the album Sleep’s Holy Mountain in its entirety! We’re so excited about this second Sleep show being added that we’re going to give away a pair of tickets to it to one of you lucky DCHM readers. To enter just leave a comment on this post telling me what your all time favorite stoner metal album is. Then this Friday, June 8th at 5pm EST the contest will close and a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries. The winner will get two free tickets the show! Be sure to enter using an email address you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that, I hate spam too. If I haven’t heard back from the winner within 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Ticket Fly for $35 here (they go on sale 6/7/18 at 10am EST).

On 4/20 this year Sleep released The Sciences, their first full length album of new material in 20 years! They also recently released a new 16 minute song titled “Leagues Beneath” on Adult Swim’s singles series. Of course Sleep will be playing their classic album Sleep’s Holy Mountain for the newly added second show on 7/23. The support band is Dylan Carlson, the solo project of the main man behind the innovative drone band Earth. Now check out these tunes by Sleep and Dylan Carlson and leave a comment telling me what your favorite stoner metal album of all time is.

Sleep – Leagues Beneath

Sleep’s Holy Mountain full album

Dylan Carlson – Conquistador full album

Obiligatory Maryland Deathfest XVI post

Maryland Deathfest XVI starts Thursday and while I’m not doing my Survival Guide this year I still wanted to make a post about MDF. This year I’m going to focus on things you don’t want to miss, including a big section and the end highlighting two bands from each venue on each day of the fest. None of the highlighted bands are headliners so hopefully you’ll check out some bands that you might not have otherwise.

First things first, below you’ll find the most current set time schedule I’ve got. It’s a link so click/tap it to see it full sized. Of course it’s subject to change but as of this writing it is the most up to date.

Be sure to check the official Maryland Deathfest Facebook page (here) which is usually the first place they post updates on things like cancellations, though I really hope there aren’t any more. Also be sure to follow their official Instagram account (@deathfests) for beautiful live photos of the bands while the fest is still running. And of course be sure to follow my Instagram account (@dcmetalchris) and/or Twitter account (@MetalChris) for unofficial photos and commentary throughout the fest.

The official Maryland Deathfest Pre-fest show is tonight at the Ottobar! Headlined by the meme-tastic Mortician, an old school death/grind band originally from Yonkers, New York. Their sound is defined by its ultra downtuned guitar tone, programmed drums and the extensive use of clips from horror movies. However the band is having a recent resurgence in popularity, if you want to call it that, due to the massive amount of memes that have sprung up around the band (you can get in on the fun here). The pre-fest show is already sold out but you can get all the details about it on the Facebook event page here. Just know that if you are in town and don’t have a car, the Ottobar is not within walking distance of the other venues that MDF will be happening at so you’ll need to get a ride/cab/Uber to get there.

If you’re not going up to Baltimore a day early for the pre-fest show but still want to see a metal show tonight be sure to head over to Atlas Brew Works and catch Howling Giant, Borracho and Caustic Casanova. Howling Giant is a doom/stoner band from Nashville, Tennessee and this is the DC stop of their tour. Also, it’s a rare chance to see Borracho live. You may have noticed they haven’t been playing as many shows lately and that’s because their drummer moved to Peru for work. On the rare occasions he’s back in town they tend to play a show so see them while you can! It should be noted that the brewery will have the Capitals/Lightning game 7 on the TVs so you won’t have to miss the game if you’re at the show. Get all the details about this show on the Facebook event page here.

Pentagram Pancake Brunch is back this year! Nurse your bangover on Saturday and/or Sunday with brunch at Baltimore Soundstage starting at 10am and running until 1pm (Sat) or 2pm (Sun). It’s an all you can eat breakfast of bacon, pentagram pancakes and eggs plus bottomless Bloody Marys, blood orange mimosas or Irish coffees. There will also be guest DJs playing metal. Each day is $20 or for just $30 you can get a 2 day pass. Buy at the door or in advance. Tickets for Saturday can be purchased here and tickets for Sunday can be purchased here. Both links will let you buy the 2 day pass if you’d prefer. More details about the Pentagram Pancake Brunch can be found on the Facebook event page here.

Speaking of food, there’s plenty around the venues but if you want some of the best craft beers and American food in town try walking over to the Pratt Street Ale House at 206 W Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21201. They’ll be giving a 10% off all food and drinks discount to all Maryland Deathfest attendees during the entire fest, just show them your wristband for the discount.

On Saturday Goatwhore will be playing a free show at Angels Rock Bar, located inside the Powerplant area across from Rams Head Live and just upstairs from the Leinenkugel restaurant/bar. It’s a matinee show and the local Baltimore band Emerge A Tyrant will be performing as well. It will be ages 21+ only. The doors open at 4pm, Emerge A Tyrant plays at 5pm and Goatwhore will go on about 5:45pm. If you RSVP to the Facebook event page (here) you can get $3 Miller Lite drafts, $4 Smirnoff cocktails and $5 Smirnoff bombs from 4pm to 7pm on Saturday.

Maryland Deathfest XVI ends on Sunday night but Monday you can still catch a few grind bands that played the fest doing a post show at Atlas Brew Works. Sublime Cadaveric Decomposition, Viscera Infest and Pulmonary Fibrosis will be goregrinding the night away with support from Myxoma, a band fronted by Evan Harting, one of the MDF organizers. SCD and PF are both French bands and VI is from Japan, so it’s a rare chance to catch these international bands here in DC.

Thursday Band Suggestions

Gateway to Hell Thurs 5:25pm Rams Head Live – The first band to go on stage at this year’s MDF is a great local stoner/doom band called Gateway to Hell. They band has a real sense of rhythm and they jam out some sweet riffs. Don’t miss the chance to see this local Baltimore band on such a big stage. Check out their song “Scorched Earth” from their 2017 EP Clovers.

Khemmis Thurs 6:20pm Rams Head Live – Khemmis is a band from Denver that really broke out in 2016 with the release of their sophomore album Hunted. The band sounds like something of a cross between older Opeth and Pallbearer. Their songs use both clean and harsh vocals, like Opeth, and they play some really great doom riffs too. Also of note, their drummer, Zach Coleman, is the head brewer at the black metal themed brewery Trve Brewing out in Denver. Khemmis has a new album coming out in June titled Desolation but for now give a listen to their song “Three Gates” from Hunted.

Gutted Thurs 7:45pm Baltimore Soundstage – Gutted is technical death metal the fast and brutal way. This relentless Hungarian band gets their name from the Cannibal Corpse song on the Butchered At Birth album. Maryland Deathfest XVI gives us a rare chance to catch this underground band live. Check out their song “Into Oblivion,” featuring guest backing vocals by Attila Csihar of Mayhem, from their 2016 album Martyr Creation.

Defeated Sanity Thurs 10pm Baltimore Soundstage – Defeated Sanity is a tech death band from Germany that is really brutal yet they’ve also got a very strong Focus era Cynic influence. The influence is so strong that they even have former Cynic vocalist Max Phelps doing vocals for them now. You may also recognize Max from his days filling Chuck Schuldiner’s role on the Death To All tours or from his locally based band Exist that was direct support on the 2017 Gorguts tour. Check out the song “The Mesmerizing Light” from the Dharmata section of their 2016 release.

Friday Band Suggestions

Sublime Cadaveric Decomposition Fri 6:25pm Baltimore Soundstage – SCD is a death/grind band from Paris, France. They manage to write catchy songs despite being so fast and heavy and you know that’s going to result in some crazy pits at MDF. Note that they are also playing Atlas Brewery in DC on the Monday night after Deathfest. Check out the song “Apostate Angels (Ritual And Taboo)” from their album Raping Angels in Hell which was released in September of 2017.

Blood Incantation Fri 8:45pm Rams Head Live – The new style of “cavernous death metal” is all the rage right now in the world of underground metal and Blood Incantation is one of the hottest bands of the trend. Rightly so I might add, they have managed to blend that crushingly heavy gloominess of the cavernous style and combined it flawlessly with the technicality and excellent songwriting that every death metal fan craves. Check out “Chaosplasm” from their 2016 instantly classic album Starspawn and do not miss these guys live, they always put on an excellent performance.

Integrity Fri 10:30pm Baltimore Soundstage – Integrity rose out of the Cleveland hardcore scene in the 90s and is noted for being one of the pioneers of blending hardcore with heavy metal. Locals will recognize Domenic Romeo, formerly of the band Pulling Teeth and the owner of A389 Recordings, on lead guitar for Integrity these days. It should also be noted that Integrity worked with Baltimore brewery Oliver Ales to make an official beer (that you might still be able to find cans of at Pratt Street Ale House during MDF). Check out the song “Die With Your Boots On” from their 2017 album Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume, showing that they still got it!

God Dethroned Fri 11pm Rams Head Live – The Dutch band God Dethroned was a rather middle of the pack death metal band in the 90’s. Then in the late 00’s they shifted their focus from blasphemy to military history similar to fellow Dutch band Hail Of Bullets. In 2009 they released their album Passiondale about the bloody World War I battle of the same name. This was a massive shift for the band, in all the right directions as the album marks not just their change in lyrical direction but better songwriting and production as well. Listen to “Poison Fog” from Passiondale, a song about the horrors of mustard gas in trench warfare during WWI.

Saturday Band Suggestions

Blurring Sat 5:05pm Baltimore Soundstage – Blurring is a death/grind band from Rochester, New York, that is the current project of a quite familiar face at Maryland Deathfest, Dan Lilker. Dan has graced the MDF stage with bands like Nuclear Assault, Autopsy, Brutal Truth and probably others I’m not remembering right now. Blurring might be the most intense of all these bands, their speed and brutality make them a stand out even at Maryland Deathfest. Check out their song “November” from their 2017 EP Cloud Burner.

The Ruins of Beverast Sat 7:40pm Rams Head Live – The Ruins of Beverast is a German black metal band started in the early 00’s. The band has a dark atmospheric and shamanistic bent to their sound. They have played MDF before back in 2014 but they played on the outdoor stages and I’ll be honest, their sound mix was pretty awful that day. It will be great to see them on a proper stage this time around and I’m sure it will sound better. Check out the long build up in their song “Towards Malakia” from their 2017 album Exuvia.

Pig Destroyer Sat 9:20pm Baltimore Soundstage – Local band Pig Destroyer became one of the premiere grindcore bands with the release of their boundary pushing 2001 album Prowler in the Yard. The band has continued to innovate with each new album and the intensity of their live shows is legendary. They’ve got a new album coming out later this year and while I don’t have any insider knowledge of their MDF playlist, maybe we’ll get lucky and hear some new material. For now check out their song “The Diplomat” from their 2012 album Book Burner.

Master’s Hammer Sat 11:10pm Rams Head Live – Master’s Hammer is one of the oldest black metal bands from eastern Europe, they predate the 2nd wave from Norway. The Czech band formed in the late 80’s and is one of the first bands to bring symphonic elements to black metal. They also incorporated Czech folk elements and their lyrics are still entirely in Czech. I don’t think they’ve ever been to the US before and this is a rare chance to catch one of the genre’s early underground innovators live here in the US. Check out the song “Geniové” from their classic 1991 album Ritual.

Sunday Band Suggestions

Neolithic Sun 4:40pm Baltimore Soundstage – Let’s face it, Neolithic is probably on this bill because their vocalist is Evan Harting, one of the two main organizers of Maryland Deathfest. However Neolithic actually fucking rips and this new death/crust band is definitely worth seeing at MDF regardless of their ties to the organizers. Check out their song “Cult of Ignorance” on their just released EP of the same name.

Thantifaxath Sun 6:40pm Rams Head Live – Thantifaxath is a mouthful to say but the Toronto based black metal band that is just… eerie. They were added to this year’s MDF line up when Darkspace was forced to drop off. Even so, they’re a great band that is worth seeing even if they weren’t originally meant to play MDF this year. Be sure to check out their song “The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel” from their 2014 album Sacred White Noise.

Wormrot Sun 10:40pm Baltimore Soundstage – Wormrot is a band that came out of left field, or more accurately, they’re from Singapore. To date they’re released three albums of some top notch grindcore. It’s kind of amazing how they keep this level of quality up in their releases and right now I think it’s safe to say they’re one of the premiere grind bands in the world. You won’t want to miss the rare chance to see them live here in the US. Listen to their song “Fallen into Disuse” from their 2016 album Voices.

Opera IX Sun 11:15pm Rams Head Live – Opera IX is an Italian melodic black metal band once fronted by the enigmatic Cadaveria before she went solo. The band continued on and added folk elements to their sound over the years. I remember going to the Tower Records in Tysons Corner in 2000 to pick up the Behemoth album Thelema.6 and I picked up this Opera IX album on a whim. I have been a fan ever since and to say I’m excited to see them at MDF is an understatement. Check out the epic song “Act I: The First Seal” from that album I bought in 2000, The Black Opera: Symphoniae Mysteriorum in Laudem Tenebrarum.

Alice In Chains ticket give away

Alice In Chains at the Anthem

Taxes are due today but even if you owe money we’re giving you a chance to win big! Alice in Chains is going to be playing at the Anthem on Thursday, May 3rd and we’re going to give a pair of tickets to the show to one lucky DCHM reader! To enter just leave a comment on this post telling me the name of your favorite Alice in Chains song (use this link to their discography if you’re having trouble remembering the name). Then this Friday, April 20th at 5pm EST the contest will close and a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries. The winner will get two free tickets the show! Be sure to enter using an email address you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that, I hate spam too. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Ticket Fly for $50 here.

Alice in Chains has been pretty quiet about their new album that is coming out soon, they haven’t even released the name of it yet. It will be the band’s first in almost five years though and I’m betting they’ll be playing some new material from this upcoming release on this tour. Their DC date is going to be at the newly opened venue The Anthem in Southwest DC’s redeveloped District Wharf area. The 6,000 person venue is run by IMP, the same company that runs the 9:30 Club and Merriweather Post Pavilion. The openers for this show are Walking Papers, a Seattle based band featuring Duff McKagan of Guns N Roses as well as Jeff Angell of The Missionary Position and Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees. Their second album, WP2, was released in January of this year. Now check out these videos of the bands below and leave a comment telling me what you favorite Alice in Chains song is!

Alice in Chains – Hollow

Alice in Chains – Your Decision

Walking Papers – Leave Me In The Dark

Cradle Of Filth ticket give away

Cradle Of Filth at Baltimore Soundstage

This Friday, April 6th, the infamous Cradle of Filth will be performing at the Baltimore Soundstage! To help get you guys pumped for the show we’re going to give away a pair of tickets to the show to one of you lucky DCHM readers. To enter: just leave a comment on this post telling me who your favorite band or musician from the UK is. Then this Thursday, April 5th at 12pm EST the contest will close and a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries. The winner will get two free tickets the show! Be sure to enter using an email address you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that, I hate spam too. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Ticket Fly for $30 here.

Cradle of Filth really stepped up their game with the release of their 2015 album Hammer of the Witches. The come back has kept up with their follow up album in 2017, Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay. If you haven’t listened to the band in many years I highly suggest you check these albums out as they’ve brought the band back to relevancy. Also performing is Jinjer, a Ukrainian band that reminds me of something like a cross between Arch Enemy and Periphery. The opening act is Uncured from New York City. They play a somewhat proggy style of deathcore and should bring some good energy to get the night started. Now check out these videos of all three bands and leave a comment telling me what your favorite band from the UK is!

Cradle of Filth – Heartbreak and Seance

Jinjer – Cloud Factory

Uncured – Opium Den

Interview with Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Most of the people I interview on DC Heavy Metal are in metal bands but when I found out that one of the Washington Nationals is a fellow metal head I just had to reach out and try to get an interview. Sean Doolittle found time in his busy schedule to record this interview with me on March 20th, 2018. We mention a metal playlist he put together for the Nats players and you can see that in iTunes here. Sean and his wife, Eireann Dolan, also work with several charities that involve military veterans and while he talks about one of them in the interview, a lack of comprehension on my part led me to not mention another that he works with, High Ground Veterans Advocacy. This organization helps train veterans to professionally advocate for issues that benefit veterans. If this is your first time at DCHM be sure to visit our calendar of all the upcoming heavy metal concerts in our area here and if you’d like to check out more of my interviews you can do that by going here. You can listen to the entire 35 minute interview with Sean Doolittle by clicking the orange play button below or you can download it as a 49mb mp3 here. The entire interview is also transcribed below, as usual my words are in bold. Bonus metal points if you read along while you listen!

This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and today I’ve got a special guest on the phone with me, Sean Doolittle of the Nationals. In addition to being a metal head, Sean is also a closing pitcher on the Nats. He attended college at the University of Virginia, was drafted by the Oakland A’s who traded him to the Washington Nationals in July of 2017 just a couple weeks before the trade deadline last season. This will be Sean’s first full season with the Nationals and the team’s home opening game will be on Thursday, April 5th against the New York Mets. Now Sean, I first found out that you were a metal head a couple of weeks ago when my friend Lars Gotrich over at NPR @’d me in a retweet of a playlist you posted on Twitter that was full of metal songs that you played for the rest of the team during practice. You had a wide range of bands on there from old classics like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden to newer bands like Khemmis and Power Trip. I could tell right away that you are really into metal. So to get started here can you tell me how you first got into listening to heavy metal?

Oh man I guess I was introduced to it by my dad. I remember when we were kids I was playing Little League or travel baseball as early as 8 or 9 years old. When we would be going to the games in the minivan we would be blasting Black Sabbath or Ozzy Osbourne or AC/DC or Metallica and that was my introduction to it. That was a lot of the music that my dad was into and [on] those long car trips playing travel baseball that was pretty much all we listened to and then as I got older I really started to branch out from there and explore a lot of really different kinds of metal.

Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Sean Doolittle photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

I saw that you had some heavier stuff on that playlist like Death and At the Gates. Do you get into a lot of death metal bands?

Yeah I do. So like, a little about that playlist. We have these big portable speakers at practice that we take out onto the field with us and the strength coach will essentially tell a guy the day before, “hey put together a playlist for practice tomorrow” and it’ll be playing over the speakers as we’re going through our day on the field. And I had politely declined like three times because I was like I don’t think anybody is really going to want to hear this. I don’t know if guys will be able to really get that much done in practice with their faces melting off or if they’re headbanging and they miss something the coach just said or something like that.

Haha.

So I tried to make it like a crash course. Like an introduction to metal starting with Black Sabbath and Judas Priest in the late 70’s and early 80’s, kinda going through thrash and New Wave of British Heavy Metal and then being in Florida right now for spring training I had to make sure that I put Death on there. I kind of go through phases of different kinds of music that I listen to but Death and Obituary are two of my favorite death metal bands and I always come back to [them] so I had to make sure that Death had a spot on that playlist for sure.

Now I noticed you didn’t have any black metal or grindcore on there. Are those genres you don’t really like that much or you just figure that might be too much for the other players to handle?

A little bit of both I guess. I don’t really dabble in grindcore too much. Agoraphobic Nosebleed, which is just one of my favorite combinations of words to say, their earlier stuff was really grindcore but the most recent release that they had…

I think it was called Arc, yeah.

Yeah. That was extremely my taste. That was really cool. I’m not exactly sure what subgenre that would fall into but black metal… that playlist was an intro to it but Tribulation. I love their new album [titled Down Below]. That would have been a worthy addition to the playlist but no I would say I tend to spend more time with thrash, death metal and doom metal probably.

So what is your favorite subgenre of heavy metal then?

Heh heh. It rotates man. I’ll be honest I was spoiled. I played six years in Oakland and the bands that came out of the Bay Area that were all from right around there. That Bay Area thrash sound, obviously Metallica, Testament and Death Angel and Exodus, I was spoiled over there and I got really into some of that stuff but it rotates. I come down to Florida and for the first like half of spring training I was listening to a lot of Death and Obituary and Monstrosity and Malevolent Creation, you know that Tampa scene in the early 90’s. It also kind of depends on what I’m doing at that time. If I have to do a workout or if I’m trying to get cardio in I might listen to different things. I guess my tastes are really all over the place.

So I also noticed you had a couple of bands [on the playlist] with ties to our area like Periphery and Animals As Leaders. So are there any other bands from around here that you’re into?

Yeah I love Periphery. I’ve actually been listening to one of their side projects, Haunted Shores.

It’s like instrumental right?

Yeah it’s all instrumental. I really like it, I’ve been listening to that a lot during spring training. The other DC band, the Agoraphobic Nosebleed EP that we talked about, Arc, I listen to that a lot. I listen to, I don’t know how to say it because I’ve never heard it pronounced, is it Ilsa?

Yeah, Ilsa.

Yeah. That new, heh, Corpse Fortress, which I think is a amazingly good metal name for an album.

So there’s a story behind the name of that album actually. There used to be, in Silver Spring, a little DIY house show venue and bands coming through on tour would play the basement of this place all the time and it was called the Corpse Fortress. And I think one or two of the guys from Ilsa actually lived there back then and at some point the landlord found out and kicked everybody out kind of thing. But there’s probably a good four or five years there where I saw some awesome bands play there that later were getting signed to these labels and stuff and Ilsa is one of them. So it’s kind of a nod to the local metal heads here I think. That they named it Corpse Fortress. That wasn’t a coincidence I’m sure.

That’s awesome actually. That’s a really cool story. That makes me like it even more. I’ve been playing it nonstop for the last week but that’s really cool.

So Bryce Harper has been seen hanging out with the local rapper Wale before. Is there anyone from the DC area music scene that you’d go hang out with, maybe catch a show at the 9:30 Club or something?

Shoot man, any of those guys from those bands that I just talked about. I have talked a very little bit with Mark Holcomb of Periphery and would love to cross paths with them at some point. The guys from Animals As Leaders are one of my favorite groups. I’m not a morning person but in the morning I’ll get to the field, I’ll throw on some Animals As Leaders and just go really get lost in my morning routine, my stretches and some of the exercises that I have to do every day. It’s a really good way to start my day. But no man, any of those guys from those DC bands it would be really cool to hang out with or have them out at the field or something. That would be really neat.

Well I do know a few of those guys so maybe I’ll pass it along. Hopefully they’ll read or listen to this interview anyway, haha. So before you were on the Nats you were with the Oakland A’s for several years and every metal head knows of the Bay Area’s famous thrash scene like we were already talking about bands like Metallica, Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Forbidden, all these bands came from there. So while you were out there did you ever get to meet any of the members from any of those classic thrash bands?

Yeah I did actually. I got to meet the guys from Metallica a couple times because I’ve used Metallica‘s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” as my intro song since 2012, since my rookie year. You know at the time I just felt like there was a cool connection between Metallica and the Bay Area, especially an older Metallica song like that and we also had another pitcher in our bullpen, he came out to [another Metallica song] “One” so we had a couple guys with Metallica songs that were pitching back to back in the later innings of the game which was really cool and the crowd would headbang. They had this kind of choreographed headbang dance that they did to the song which was really neat but I ended up getting to meet them a couple times. One time they did a show in Berkeley at, I believe it was Amoeba Records, for Record Store Day. They played a full set in this record store. They threw up a stage in the corner and they closed the place down. It was tough to get into. I had to pull the Major League Baseball player’s card to be able to get in but I’ve gotten to know their manager a little bit and he’s become a really good friend and he’s hooked me up more than once and I really appreciate it. So they play this show for maybe like a couple hundred people and then they threw this party at the house they used to live in, I believe it’s [in] El Cerrito, over by Berkeley. They found the house they used to live in when they were first starting out in the early 80’s and they paid the people that live there now to kind of take it over for 24 hours and then they redecorated it like it used to look and there were a bunch of people there that they were friends with, especially early on in their careers but it was such a surreal experience. My wife and I were there. I brought another teammate of mine along and kind of just tried to stay out of the way for most of the night and just watch but I got to meet the guys from Metallica were there and that was really cool. I also got to meet Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel from Machine Head which was really cool. They’re big baseball fans and they came to several games and we had Robb’s son and his Little League team, we had them out and had them on the field one day before a game. That was really, really cool. Robb hooked me up with one of his signature guitars which is one of the coolest things I’ve ever been given. So yeah, like I said, I was pretty spoiled in the Bay Area but I’m looking forward to learning a lot more about this DC metal scene.

Sean Doolittle Bobblehead

Bobblehead photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

On Friday the 13th of April the Nationals play a home game against the Colorado Rockies. The first 25,000 fans that enter the stadium will be getting a bobblehead of you, and don’t get me wrong that’s pretty cool, but in 2016 when you were on the A’s still they gave away a lawn gnome of you that had you throwing the metal horns and wearing a black Metallica shirt and when you pushed a button on it it would play segments from “For Whom the Bell Tolls” which as you said was your intro music. Now how did that come about?

Hahaha. That was really cool man. That was a fun project to work on cause they let me have some input on the design of it and I said I wanted something different and they said “well what about something that had audio?” The fans had really taken to my intro song. Like I said they had this really cool kind of headbang. Oakland has a group of fans in the bleachers who got really into it and kind of made a thing out of it and so they wanted to tie that in somehow and in order for me to be wearing a Metallica shirt we had to get permission from the band to wear it so that was the beginning of getting hooked up with Metallica and meeting their manager. I ended up being able to go to their headquarters in San Rafael and kind of get a behind the scenes look at their metal laboratory/hang out which was really, really cool. Yeah and like the beard, the ginger beard that they threw on there had almost like Troll Doll hair. This thing was really cool. The bobblehead that they have now, the Nationals one, it, heh, it’s eerie how much it looks like me. I was involved a little bit in the process of making it and this one, I’m in a Nationals uniform and it doesn’t have noise but it’s so well done I hope people don’t give it to their dogs as like a dog toy or something like that. Haha. I hope they at least find a spot for it on their desk or something.

Well I’m wondering, do you think there’s a way we’ll ever get something that metal for the Nats to give away?

I hope so man, I hope so. Man the fans in DC have really welcomed me and they’ve supported me so much. I feel like I’ve played here for a really long time. When I come into the game now and they play the intro song they have these bells that look like they’re ringing on the video board. They’re starting to expand that and kind of take it and run with it a little bit and you know the fans I think if I can continue to pitch well and they continue to like me, then yeah we might be able to come up with something like that. Something a little bit different and a little bit more metal.

Yeah it seems like metal, slowly but surely, is starting to become something a little more visible in the sports world and hopefully the rest of the world. Did you happen to catch the Hungarian figure skater Ivett Tóth at the Olympics cause she came out in a studded leather battle jacket with a back patch on it for her performance at the Olympics and was skating around to “Back In Black” and “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC and I’m not a huge fan of figure skating but that was pretty amazing I thought. Do you think there’s anything about heavy metal that some athletes would really be drawn to?

That’s actually awesome. I did not know that about the figure skater but as soon as we’re done here I’m probably going to YouTube it. I think there’s a lot of parallels between metal music and sports. When my playlist was playing there were a lot of guys that this was new to them, right? They [had] never really heard any I guess extreme metal and they were like “well why do they sound so angry? This song sounds exactly like the song before it. What is going on?” The more you listen to it the more you can get a feel for the vocals and you can actually hear the lyrics and you can learn what they’re singing about and a lot of the songs there’s a substance to the lyrics, right? They’re telling a story or there’s some kind of social commentary there or there’s some weight maybe behind it. And then as far as the instrumentals go, the music itself, being able to play that fast or that loud or multiple guitar parts interweaving or overlapping over each other or the drum parts, that’s what sports is all about. You have all these moving parts that come together and they fit perfectly together and it forms a really cohesive product at the end and you spend a lot of time right on the verge of being out of control but you still are able to do all these really specific, really intricate movements. I think there’s the team aspect. If you’ve got one of the musicians in the band that’s not pulling his weight [it’s] gonna bring the quality of the music down. Same thing is true in sports. I feel like there’s a lot there. It also just gets me a little bit more fired up than some other kinds of music.

I know Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson is a big fan of music and now that he’s retired he’s taken up photography including something that I love to do which is concert photography. He’s shot bands from several different musical genres including some metal bands like Slayer, Lamb of God and Judas Priest to name a few. Have you ever met the Big Unit and if so have you ever asked him about his tastes in metal at all?

I’ve never actually met him but a few years ago in spring training I was at a concert that he was at, working. He was there to take pictures of it. You talk about like your two interests at the center of a Venn diagram I have Randy Johnson Hall of Fame pitcher taking pictures of this concert that I was at. It was an All That Remains concert in Tempe a few years ago and it was just really cool. His work is really, really good but because he’s so tall, he’s 6’10” he kind of sticks out you know? During the show it was funny to see him. He would all the sudden just appear and like rise up from above the drum kit and take a picture and then slowly just kind of crouch back down behind it. And then you wouldn’t see him for a little bit and then [during] the next song all the sudden he would pop up from behind the amplifiers on one side of the stage and you were like, “oh my god there he is again” and then he would go back down and then he would come out in front of the stage and shoot and it was just funny because we were watching the show, right cause I was with a group of baseball players, and we were watching the show but we were also mind blown by the fact that Randy Johnson was taking pictures like this and we were trying to figure out where he was going to go next. We were off to the side of the stage before the show and he was walking around back there. I didn’t want to bother him. We didn’t want to like fanboy and bother him but it was funny to watch him interact with members of some of the other bands that were there and wonder if they really had a concept of who this guy was. They might know that he played baseball before but do they really know that this is one of the best pitchers of all time? It was really neat.

Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Sean Doolittle photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

So do you know any other Major League Baseball players that are really into heavy metal?

There’s a few that I’ve played with over the years. There was a team that I played with in Oakland in 2012 and ’13 that had some pretty serious metal heads on it. A guy named Travis Blackley. He’s an Australian and he was into all kinds of metal. He gravitated a little bit more towards some of the bands from his home country. Parkway Drive and bands like that and we had another Australian guy in the bullpen, Grant Balfour, and he was super into heavy metal. He was the other guy that used a Metallica song to come out from the bullpen. Pat Neshek, he’s with the Phillies now but he was a metal head. John Axford, I played with him in Oakland. Now he’s in camp with the Blue Jays. He’s a big metal head. He was actually helping me with my playlist. He was making sure that I put Meshuggah and Sepultura on there. Those were bands that he played a lot in the weight room when we were in Oakland together so there’s a handful of us out there. We’re kind of few and far between but it’s a good fraternity for sure.

So when you did play that playlist at that practice did you make any conversions? Did any of the other players actually find a band or two that they really liked or anything like that?

You know, ummmm… not really haha. Like I said the playlist was kind of in chronological order and as we got towards some of the songs that I had put on there from the mid 2000’s, I had a Slipknot song on there, I had a Disturbed song on there, a Killswitch Engage song, an All That Remains song. Some guys recognized that stuff. I put a Volbeat song on there and a Five Finger Death Punch song on there. Those are bands that get played in the weight room right now. Actually we had a pitcher last year, and he’s still on the team now, a guy named Ryan Madson, who came out to a Khemmis song last year so I put a Khemmis song on the metal playlist and guys liked that. They seem to like when they can clearly understand the words and would prefer clean singing to some of the screams and the growls but we get some heavier stuff that plays in the weight room but it’s usually in the vein of a Volbeat or Five Finger Death Punch or Disturbed or something like that. I kind of took it to the next level and definitely blew some people’s minds.

So when do you usually listen to music anyways? Sort of like driving in the car or is it mostly when you’re working out or doing warm ups or when do you like to listen to music?

Yeah it’s mostly when I’m around the field. In the weight room I’ll put my headphones on and when I’m doing my warm up before practice or working out after practice or getting in some kind of running I feel like I gotta have my music to get me through some of that stuff. Right before the game I actually go the complete opposite direction and I’ll meditate and put on something like instrumental. I’ve realized, maybe I’m getting older but, I’ve realized that I pitch better when I’m a little bit calmer and if I get super jacked up before the game sometimes I take the mound and I’m a little bit over amped but then right after the game while the adrenaline is still flowing I’ll put it back on to do whatever post game stuff I have to do or if I pitched that night a lot of times I have to work out or do some kind of arm exercises to kind of shut it down after I throw. So I mean, pretty much when I’m at the field but one of my favorite things to do, my wife can attest to this, is just to throw my headphones on, grab my laptop and just sit on the couch and listen to music. I’ll have the tv on but I obviously can’t hear it and whether I’m on iTunes or Spotify, just trying to find new bands. I like listening to new stuff that I haven’t heard before and kind of exploring a little bit and that’s one of my favorite things to do. Calm down and just maybe get away from baseball for a little while and just listen to music.

Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Sean Doolittle prefers Metallica

I’ve got a few typical metal questions that I’d like to ask. I think I know the answer to the first one but who do you prefer, Metallica or Megadeth?

Metallica, hahaha.

So what do you think about in Black Sabbath? Do you like Ozzy [Osbourne] or [Ronnie James] Dio better?

Ozzy just because that was kind of the original and that was also what I heard first. You know like how whatever you hear first is kind of like the thing that you associate it with the most whether that was actually the thing that came first or not. So I love Dio and I made sure that I had some Dio on that playlist but I have to say Ozzy.

Alright so how about with Anthrax? Do you prefer Joey Belladonna or John Bush era?

I haven’t gotten into Anthrax and I’m from New Jersey. I’m from close to where they’re from. I need to get on the train. So actually I’ll flip this on you and ask, where should I start with their catalog? Cause that’s part of the problem is that I don’t know where to start and it feels pretty overwhelming. If I’m gonna start, where should I start with?

I think most people would say Among the Living is probably where you would start with Anthrax.

Ok.

That’s sort of their classic album. When they play an album straight through it’s usually that one.

Ok.

Now currently they’ve got Joey Belladonna back in the band so that might be part of it too cause I do not believe that he does the songs with John Bush. John Bush is now the singer for Armored Saint so he’s still doing stuff too just not with Anthrax.

Ok.

Another question then is, what’s the best metal concert you’ve ever been to?

Oh man, uhhhhh… let’s see. I don’t get to as many as I really would like to because we travel so much and in the off season I tend to be a little bit of a homebody and just kind of recharge my batteries for a couple months but in 2016 I saw Corrosion of Conformity and Lamb of God at the Fox Theater in Oakland and that was awesome. That was really cool. That was actually the last one that I’ve been to, geez Louise, so I would probably say that one. I got to talk to Randy [Blythe, vocalist of Lamb of God] after the show which was really cool to just even meet him. That was really awesome.

What was your first metal concert then?

I didn’t go to a metal concert for a while. The first one I went to was, I think it was in 2012. I went to a show in Tempe called The Ghost Inside. I went with aforementioned Travis Blackley, a teammate of mine who was on the A’s, we were on the A’s together and yeah we saw The Ghost Inside and Stray From The Path. I guess that’s hardcore, post punk hardcore, whatever you want to call it but it was heavy and it was fucking awesome.

Do you play any instruments?

No I don’t. I, heh heh, want to but I played the piano growing up and I played it all the way up into high school but shoot, I don’t even think I could do that any more. I don’t even know if I could still do music but no I don’t play any instruments. I don’t really have that much rhythm.

Alright so what’s your all time favorite band then?

All time favorite band, I have to start with Metallica and from there I don’t know man like you could ask me this question next week and it could be totally different but the ones that I come back to the most, I would say, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Death, Machine Head and Meshuggah.

Alright, alright. That’s a pretty good selection there.

Yeah I think that would be my top five but after it a disclaimer, subject to change.

So what’s the most influential album to you? You know everybody’s kind of got an album that really just means something to them or changed the way they looked at music or something like that.

For me I think it’s Metallica‘s Ride the Lightning. I know this is turning into a Metallica podcast and I apologize for that.

It’s alright man, it’s alright.

That was the first album that I bought with my allowance money when I was a kid. I remember if I was like shopping with my mom and I was good I got to go to the music store. I think I bought it when I was in maybe fifth grade, no seventh grade. It was seventh grade. I had some friends in school that liked Metallica and I had listened to the black album [officially Metallica‘s self titled album] a lot. My dad would play it in the car and stuff but I wanted this one. I was super drawn to the album artwork and I remember I bought it. I’d never heard it before. I just thought it looked really cool and I knew it was Metallica so I wanted it. I bought it. I brought it home. I put it in my boombox in my room and I pressed play and the [first] song opens with acoustic guitars. And I was like, “oh shit. I bought the wrong album. What is this? I don’t understand” and keep in mind I’m in the seventh grade. I’d never heard “Fight Fire with Fire” before and they start with these hauntingly beautiful acoustic guitars and then all the sudden this thrash just hits you right in your face and I was like, “yes! Yeah, this is what I need!” and then by the end of that evening my parents were throwing stuff at the ceiling cause I was playing my music too loud in my room.

Cover of Ride the Lightning by Metallica

Cover of Ride the Lightning by Metallica

Hahahaha. That was one of my first metal album purchases as well. I remember showing it to my dad being like, “hey I’m going to buy this, ok?” and I remember him flipping it over to look at the songs on the back and I was like, “there’s no way in hell he’s going to let me get this album with these songs like ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ and ‘Trapped Under Ice’ and things like that on it” and he read them over and he’s like, “alright, you can get it” and I was like, “oh no way.” I just remember being so excited that he even let me buy it, you know with my own money but still. And I found out years later that the real thing he was looking for at that time was he just wanted to make sure the songs weren’t all about sex. You know he didn’t mind that there was some electric chair on the cover of this thing and it was called Ride the Lightning so somehow I ended up getting that and I played the hell out of that tape. It was one of the first tapes I had that actually wore out from how many times I’d played it.

That’s awesome. And it didn’t have the parental advisory warning on the front.

Exactly.

So like how bad could it be, right?

You talked about it a little bit earlier but I’d like to know how do you find new music, new metal bands to check out? Do you have certain websites or magazines or what do you use to find new stuff?

I read Decibel. I’ve found a lot of stuff on there but really one of my favorite things to do is on iTunes, I’ll go to the iTunes store and they always have albums in the metal genre section. There’s albums that are featured, there’s new music, new releases and I’ll just click on one and I’ll start listening to it and then depending on how I’m feeling I’ll go to related and scroll down and check out other bands that are either related or other songs that people bought. You know, people who bought this also bought this, and just kind of check it out and the next thing I know I’ve gone down this metal rabbit hole where I’m listening to stuff I’ve never even heard of before and then sometimes I’ll Google an album to look at for review to see is this really as good as I think it is? But most of the time I just bounce around iTunes for hours listening to different stuff that I’ve never heard of before or I’ll start with an album I have in my library and go from there. It’s a good way to kill three or four hours.

Yeah I do some similar stuff like that. I’m always digging for new stuff too. So what have been some of your favorite albums of late, in the last say year?

Let’s see I really, really, really liked the new Power Trip album. I guess that came out last year.

Yeah, Nightmare Logic, that’s a great album.

I thought 2017 was a really good year for metal. I have no idea what other people thought about it but the newest Pallbearer album, Heartless, I really liked. The Haunted came back with a new album that I really liked, Strength in Numbers. I played the hell out of that. I don’t listen to a ton of new stuff. A lot of the stuff I listen to is older. I played those three a lot. I know Obituary had a new one last year that I thought was really good. Thy Art Is Murder, I liked that one. Dear Desolation I think it was called. Fit for an Autopsy, Jersey guys. I’m originally from New Jersey so I like that one a lot. Those are ones that I listened to quite a bit.

Now you’re saying you were from New Jersey before. You’re down from like the Philly area right? So you probably grew up a Phillies fan and now you’re on the Nationals. How’s that going? Hahaha.

It’s awesome actually but one of the coolest things is now I share a bullpen with Ryan Madson who we talked about before. He was a really big part of those Phillies teams in ’08 and ’09 that went to the World Series so now to play with him, to share a bullpen with him and learn from him everyday is such a cool experience. By the time those teams, they went to the World Series, I was already in the Oakland Athletics minor league system but growing up in the Philly area and having friends from there and having been a Phillies fan before I got drafted I was paying attention to it and I knew how much that run that they made mattered to Phillies fans and the city of Philadelphia and stuff like that so for that part of it to come full circle was really cool and I finally got to play in Citizens Bank Park last year for the first time since I was in high school. I played in a high school tournament that we got to play one game at Citizens Bank Park but to be able to play there in the major leagues was, it was really cool. It was one of the only stadiums I hadn’t played in in my career and I get goose bumps just thinking about it. It was really a special experience.

You also are a UVA grad. You played for the Cavaliers there before you were drafted by the A’s. So I have to ask, how are you doing with that UMBC win the other night?

Hahahaha. Oh man. Hey this is good. Let’s see it took like 40 minutes to get to bringing that up so I appreciate that because there have been several people, mainly my teammates, that could not wait to bring that up. I’m doing ok. I’m doing ok. The second half it was so ugly that I think I went through all of the stages of grieving in the last ten minutes of the game and by the end of it I was like alright. I watched the UMBC game the other night cause I wanted them to win. I think objectively it would have been a really fun game to watch if you weren’t a UVA fan. I just feel for the coach, Tony Bennett. I feel for the seniors on that team for all that they’ve accomplished in their careers at UVA. They won 31 games and they won the ACC regular season and conference tournament but at the end of the day this is probably what’s going to define them and I just feel for them man. I feel for them but, shoot, there’s always next year and if anything it just shows how lucky we are to have Tony Bennett as a coach. The guy running that program has handled it better than [I] could have ever hoped for. You never think that’s going to happen but that’s sports.

Yeah I was actually at a metal show, the night of that going on, in Baltimore. So you know the people up in Baltimore were pretty excited about that. Nobody believed it was happening.

Haha. Oh my gosh. It was happening. Heh heh. It happened. Oh man. Sheez. Yeah I bet Baltimore was going nuts. It was probably a different vibe than my apartment. I was pacing around for two hours.

Operation Finally Home logo

Now there’s something more serious I’d like to talk with you about. Doing research for this interview I quickly discovered that along with being a metal head and a major league pitcher you’re also quite the philanthropist. In June of 2015 the A’s had a gay pride night which apparently got a lot of backlash from some of the team’s fans and you and your wife bought hundreds of tickets to that game and donated them to local LGBTQ groups. In November of the same year you two hosted 17 families of Syrian refugees for Thanksgiving dinner and you’ve done things like publicly denounce Donald Trump after his awful “grab them by the pussy” comments and you work for a charity that helps veterans called Operation Finally Home. Now I come from a Navy family myself and I’d like you to tell me what this charity does for veterans.

Ok so Operation Finally Home is an awesome charity that, they’re based in New Braunfels, Texas, kind of near San Antonio, and they help military families all over the country and they build mortgage free, brand new homes for wounded veterans and their families or families of the fallen. What’s awesome is they take into account the needs of the veteran, whether it’s the mother or the father of the family, and if there’s any specific things that they need for the house, if it needs to be wheelchair accessible or something like that. That way they’re not getting a house that’s retrofitted or something that’s been lived in already. They get a brand new house. A couple things that really stand out to me is the way that they get the community involved in the process of building of the house because they go into these communities, these towns across the country, and they find local contractors and builders and workers that are willing to donate their time or their materials so that they’re all kind of invested in welcoming this family into their new home and into their community and seeing the way that these families go from serving their country to serving their community, becoming really involved in some of the community activities that they have going on. This is like the biggest thing that they could have possibly taken off their plate is having a place to live. Having a new home. And it’s been amazing to keep in touch with some of these families and to see how involved they get in their communities and how much that they take this opportunity and make the absolute most of it and it’s a great organization. We’ve worked with them for several years and every Christmas my wife and I, it’s one of our favorite things to do. We go shopping for a couple of these families so that their first Christmas in their new home is a little bit more special and extra memorable and we make sure that there is plenty of presents under their tree and just let them know that there’s people that are thinking about them and with everything that they’ve been through we just want their first Christmas in their new home to be everything that they envisioned that it could possibly be. They’ve worked with a handful of families in the DC area as well and we’re looking forward to getting involved with them and doing some more stuff with them cause they’re really a special group.

Do you know how people can donate or other ways they can help this group?

Yeah you can go on Operation Finally Home‘s website and you can get a bunch of information there. You can check out projects that they have around the country. They have a map that shows some projects that are currently in progress and you can see if you can get involved or help out with any of those. You can donate on there. So I would just say check out OperationFinallyHome.org and you can learn a lot more about it there. One of the cool things that they do is they always surprise the family in like a weird way when they’re least expecting it. They might think that their surprise is that they got to go to a Houston Texans game or something like that and then the next thing you know they find out, while they’re at the game, they get surprised with the news that they’re getting a new house and to see their reaction to see how much it means to them, it’s pretty heavy stuff and it’s a good example of just how special of an organization it is.

Well I know it’s easy to talk about respecting and supporting veterans but you and your wife Eireann really do walk the walk and I do respect you a lot for that. So that’s pretty much it for my questions here. Thanks for taking the time to do all this with me. I know you guys had a spring training game today and I’m sure you get more and more busy as the regular season approaches. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the metal heads and the Nationals fans in the DC area?

Heh heh. No man just that I’m looking forward to getting back to DC and I’m looking forward to a fresh start to a new season and the Nats fans have been so welcoming to me and my wife since we’ve come over. We can’t wait to get back to work. I appreciate you having me on. I appreciate you letting me talk about Operation Finally Home and both my wife and I come from military families so veterans issues are something that are very, very important to us [and something] we try to stay involved in so we’ll probably be doing some more of that stuff this year as well.

Alright man. Well thanks again for coming on here with me and let’s hope the Nationals have another great run this year.

Thanks man. Thanks for having me.

Alright, take it easy.