The result is a wicked set of stoner-rock songs that combine a deadly combo of crunch and groove. Their debut EP, The Goat Ritual, shows a deep well of potential just waiting to be mined. Indeed, the five songs that make up the EP have already torn into my frontal lobe and are tossing aside old memories to make room for newer favorite songs.
Mixing stoner-rock with a touch of blues and some hardcore, there is enough variety to keep you spinning these tracks for the foreseeable future as I'm finding new things to like about each song after every listen. Mona switches from growling to clean vocals, sometimes in the same line and it's her smokey delivery mixed with a veneer of soul that never fails to grab my attention.
It was a pleasure to speak with Mona after the release of the record to find out about the new band and what they're all about.
antiMusic: Before we get to the new band, A Million Miles was one of my favourite bands of the last few years and yet soon after the debut record was released, the band broke up. Since the roots of what you're doing now lies in your past, what happened to this promising band?
Mona: Hi Morley. First off, thank you for your constant support as well as for my previous band A Million Miles. I appreciate your words and you taking time to talk to me about our new band High Fighter which I am feeling very excited about.
To be honest it is still hard for me to talk about A Million Miles, since this split up in April 2013 was deep and very painful for everyone involved. But life is all about relations, isn't it? If it's your family or band, which in the best case your band is your family, your wife, your husband, your best friend. But relationships change. We had been together for years, touring heavily all over Europe and it became more than just 5 people sharing a stage and their passion for music.
For me it always felt that we have became a very strong and tight unit, a deep relation and nothing could break us apart. But I was wrong. Because relationships change, goals and visions of your relation change. And the most saddest part of this story may be that we lost our trust and respect to each other --- the strength and power to go through all ups and downs together as a unit. We lost our same vision and to look after everyone in this band as a unit and the way a true family would have done. Sadly we were so focused on our band career, that we did not notice how the band already broke apart inside itself.
All roots lie in your past and mine are in A Million Miles as well, since this band was a huge and extremely important part of my life. It took a hell of a time to get back on my feet, too deep was the split up. 2013 was the toughest year of my entire life. I totally lost my ground. However, I am very excited and proud to share our new band outfit High Fighter with you. I'm feeling much more confident and stronger today, as well as in the music we play today, I found my place and home. But you also always learn from your past. You always learn from relationships in your life. What is most important for us in High Fighter is to always look after the family that is your band, and to never lose the fun. A Million Miles tragically lost it and we were too blind to recognize it before it was too late.
antiMusic: How did High Fighter come together and who is everybody?
Mona: High Fighter is me on the vocals, Christian "Shi" Pappas and Ingwer Boysen on guitars, Constantin Wüst kills it on the bass and Thomas Wildelau on drums.
After A Million Miles split up in April 2013, we took some well-deserved time to get back on our feet, reflect on what happened, and get our personal and private sh*t together. It has always been clear to me that I wanted to continue playing in a band with my best mate and former A Million Miles guitarist Shi and it was in January of 2014 when we decided to form a new band. We got joined by guitarist Ingwer, who played in awesome stoner rock group Buffalo Hump for years. We jammed with him and a friend of ours on the drums for a couple of months, until Ingwer mentioned that Buffalo Hump`s singer left his band so it was just him, the bassist and drummer remaining. High Fighter was still in need of a permanent drummer and bassist. So Ingwer brought two half bands together, and from the very first minute and jam, it felt that we had been playing together for years. It became an awesome fusion and perfect symbiosis of 5 people who just love having a good time and playing loud and heavy tunes.
antiMusic: Where did the name come from?
Mona: Actually when we formed the band we had another name in mind, but we changed it at the last minute and before we made the band public. Thomas came up with High Fighter, and we totally loved it! Sounds very unusual to the style we play or what you would expect, and it's a very strong and powerful name.
I cannot tell you who that High Fighter dude is, as I don't know. It may be a very strong, mighty or tall fighter, or he is probably just super stoned, I can't tell you who he or she is, but this can be all created in your very own imagination and what a High Fighter could mean to you...
antiMusic: The stoner vibe is front and centre but there is also a blending of other styles in your sound. Was the musical direction (which sounds like a logical continuation from A Million Miles) clear to you from the beginning?
Mona: We definitely did not want to have any logical continuation from A Million Miles, since this is a total new band with different members and a fresh start right from the beginning. Every band has its own spirit, and so does High Fighter. It has been clear that our direction goes more into the heavy Stoner vibes, but since we all bring our own influences into this band, if it's my bluesy or hardcore vocals, a metal riff or some very doom and sludgy vibes, we naturally have other styles combined into our music. I think since we all come from different musical backgrounds but have always been more familiar and comfortable with tunes of the Stoner, Sludge and Doom scene, High Fighter is just a logical result and fusion of where we all came from and where we belong.
antiMusic: These five songs are tremendous. Are these the only five written so far or did you have some that fell by the wayside that we might hear in the future?
Mona: Since our band line-up was complete in summer 2014 and until we recorded this first EP The Goat Ritual in early October of 2014, live and in our rehearsal room, we just had these 5 tracks. We played them over and over again and rehearsed very heavily, since it's not that easy to record live. Everything needs to be super tight. So we were totally focused on these 5 EP tracks, but after the recording session was done, we could finally start writing new material. And we did. There's so much creative energy in this band, we are almost ready for a full length album that we plan to record in 2015.
antiMusic: Let's talk about the songs. "2Steps Blueskill" is a strange name. What can you tell us about this song?
Mona: Ha-ha yes it is, and I'm glad the name turned out like planned, namely to confuse you! "2Steps Blueskill" is definitely one of my favorite tracks. It has this awesome down tempo and heavy riffs with a hint of blues, stoner and sludgy vibes. I love the blues parts in this song, but that is also gets very heavy in the middle part. I have chosen this very confusing title, since in a mainly important part of my lyrics it says "One step closer, you'll get what you need, hell awaits, they take all you need...". I decided it is 2 steps to kill with our blues.
antiMusic: "Breaking Goat Mountains" is another curious title. Tell us about this one.
Mona: This track has some very powerful riffs, so strong it could even break mountains where the mighty goats live on. Especially in the middle part, when it gets more into a hardcore vibe. "You will lose it all, I can feel your fall" were a part of my lyrics in this song that brought me to the idea of the title combined with the heaviness of riffs, that could destroy mountains, at least in my fantasy, haha!
antiMusic: All of the songs are riff heavy but "Black Waters" is majorly crunchy. Give us a low-down on this song.
Mona: "Black Waters" is definitely one the heaviest, darkest and meanest tracks of our EP. Aside from the chorus, which is very clean, melodic and with backing vocals by our drummer Thomas, I love to scream my lungs out in the verses and from my very deep and darkest side. This track with its clean chorus and so very dark verses, is almost schizophrenic on the vocal side, and I love that darker and mean side of us on this track. It even has death and black metal vibes, as well as in the lyrics, but on a very down-tempo and heaviness of doom.
antiMusic: One of my two favourite songs is "Fire in the Sun". It's simply relentless. How did this one come about?
Mona: This is actually the very first song we ever wrote with High Fighter and I love it! "Fire In The Sun" has a southern rock vibe and groove, but gets very heavy and mean in the end. On the lyrical side of things, this track definitely closes a chapter of mine in the past, no more regrets since life is too short, and it burns this chapter like a fire in the sun...
antiMusic: My other favourite track is the last one, "In Veins", heavy but with a wicked groove. Tell us about this song.
Mona: Yes, "In Veins"... definitely my personal favorite track of the entire EP as well! It rounds up the record perfectly, with a very southern rock-ish groove in the beginning, a dark and soulful chorus with such a massive highlight in the end! I especially dig the harmony in the end part with the backing vocals, that our drummer Thomas is doing live as well, by the way. "In Veins" personally means a lot to me, it deals about some very dark sides everyone has in life and that show up someday --- a dark side that needs to get out, and you just can't help since it's in your veins. Love this song, and it rounds up this EP perfectly. But I do see this record as an entire picture, each track belongs to each other, and I suggest everyone to listen to The Goat Ritual right from the beginning until it ends, as each track belongs together to accomplish the picture of sound.
antiMusic: You alternate between growls and clean vocals on all of the songs. When you're writing the lyrics do you know immediately what you'll use where or do you have to sing it through a few times first?
Mona: I don't plan how to use my vocal range when I write the lyrics. I feel and know it when I hear the riffs and vibe of each song and its parts. I have a bunch of lyrics already written, some of them are waiting for the right song, and sometimes when I hear the riff of a new track and I already know none of my already written lyrics would fit to this vibe, I write new lyrics specifically for this new song only.
It depends on the riffs and vibes the guys come up with, sometimes I hear a riff and we all say "You need to scream on this part Mona!!", haha, and so I do and it feels right. For most parts that I hear for the first time I already know what to use. If it's clean, growl, shouts or just some heavier clean rock vocals, I do that but I also do change sometimes, when I first screamed on a part and change it into clean singing, or the other way. Totally depends on the riffs and vibe of a song.
antiMusic: I get a bit of Angela Gossow in your growling. Is she one of your influences and if not, have you patterned your vocals after anybody in particular?
Mona: Thanks Morley, this is of course a huge compliment since Angela Gossow is such a rad singer and definitely one of the best women in metal. Gender-issues simply doesn't matter here, what I like and prefer. I don't think you even need the description of that "female fronted" stuff, you don't need to highlight that you're having a female singer, it just doesn't matter and I don't give a sh*t about any gender-related discussions in music. High Fighter is not a female fronted band. It's simply a loud and heavy band.
But I have never been influenced by Angela Gossow and sadly never much by any female singers. It has been probably vocalists such as Phil Anselmo of Pantera and Down, who have inspired me the most, alongside bands such as Kyuss, Crowbar, Eyehategod, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden (although I will never be able to sing that high, haha!), and a lot of desert rock & stoner bands, doom and old school metal.
I wish there would be way more female singers that will finally make it happen someday and that gender doesn't matter in metal and music at all and any longer. I currently do love listening to bands such as Alunah, Kylesa or Nervosa. These ladies kick some ass. But in the end I would not care who is singing, if it's a man or woman, if it's simply just good.
antiMusic: You have a regular gig with your PR company in the music industry. Will High Fighter be a touring band also or just a recording unit with the odd local show?
Mona: High Fighter is definitely here to stay. We are currently getting ready for our first show in our hometown Hamburg in a few days. We are very excited about it and we are already working on way more shows. We hope to play live as much as possible, tour a lot, meet many lovely people and other bands, and kill it on stage.
antiMusic: What's in the cards for High Fighter in 2015?
Mona: Playing live as much as possible, recording a full-length album, getting drenched into more smoke, whiskey, beer and heavy tunes, and having just some good times inside the band. We are currently working on our first live gigs and enough material for a full album, so we hope to see you more than soon and on the road in 2015!
Morley and antiMusic thank Mona for taking the time to speak with us.