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Features FireBreather Festival 2018 Interviews It Goes To Eleven

It Goes to Eleven: High Priestess Nighthawk and Thunderhorse of Heavy Temple

So…have any of you loyal Vault Hunters heard anything about this Firebreather Festival thing that’s going down at Indiana City Beer this Saturday?

Just kidding. Of course you have – because we’re one of the sponsors of the Fest, and we’re geeked out of our skulls about all the sweet, sweet riffage that’s about to descend on Naptown courtesy of our Louisville homies Stonecutters, local bruisers Void King and Archarus, and heavy hitters like Horseburner, Toke and Telekinetic Yeti.

Anyone fortunate enough to have caught their set at the inaugural edition of the Doomed & Stoned Fest (which we’re also one of the sponsors for – what are the odds?), though, will tell you that the band most likely to steal the show on Saturday is Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple. On wax, the trio’s music is a blissed-out, bottom-heavy ride through Sabbathian lands. On stage, though, is where their songs truly come alive – and like psilocybin in aural form, you’ll be tripping balls from that heavy shit they’re laying down.

Ahead of the Fest, bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk and guitarist Thunderhorse were cool enough to talk gear with us for this latest installment of It Goes to Eleven. Check it out, and do not miss their set on Saturday.

Indy Metal Vault: Hey – thanks so much for agreeing to do an interview for our gear column. Before we get into the nerdy shit, though, I wanted to ask about the upcoming Firebreather Fest. This will be your second time playing a festival in Indianapolis – you were also on the bill for the first Doomed & Stoned Fest. What were your impressions of Indy and it’s stoner/doom scene? I’m guessing you thought we were at least okay if you’re coming back…

High Priestess Nighthawk: We had a blast at Doomed & Stoned. Everyone was super nice, and the crowd was great. I’m excited to come back with our new guitarist. We’re a lot tighter now and have a couple new songs for everyone.

IMV: Okay, so let’s talk gear. How old were you when you started getting interested in playing a musical instrument? And what do you consider to be the first “real” instrument that you had (i.e. not the recorder you were probably forced to play in third grade)?  

HPN: I started playing the piano when I was about ten. Then I picked up the cello, which was my primary instrument until I was about 19. I played with a few people on cello, and then decided I needed more balls in my sound, so I bought a bass and joined a band.

Thunderhorset: I was about eleven. I started playing on my dad’s acoustic. My first “real” electric guitar was a Silvertone Strat that I bought off a neighbor for fifty bucks. I barely knew how to play so I spent a lot of time just sitting and holding it.  A lot.

IMV:  At what point did you decide that you wanted to get serious about music? Was there one thing in particular that you can point to that made you say to yourself this is what I want to do for the rest of my life?

HPN: Probably the first time I went on tour. I went to school for music performance and then I realized that, even though I love classical music and am classically trained, the symphony life wasn’t for me. So I dropped out and here we are, haha.

IMV: They say that everyone remembers their first time: when did you first play before an audience? How much do you remember about your rig for that first gig?

HPN: My first real audience was just out of high school (not counting symphony). But my first electrified show was probably in 2006/2007. I was borrowing everything except my bass, which was an American Fender Jazz. I think I had a crappy 2×15 and a Peavey Delta Bass. Both ultimately crapped out, and then I started assembling my own rig.

T: I was about eighteen and had been used to playing in a bunch of crappy punk bands at house shows. But the first time I was on stage in front of an actual audience that had paid money to see a show was with this Metallica tribute I was playing in. I was told I looked like a deer in headlights. I had a Gibson SG and Marshall Jam 2000 DSL that I had saved all my pesos for while working at Guitar Center. It’s still the same rig I use from time to time because… can’t beat it.

IMV: What was the first piece of gear you can remember actually buying for yourself? Do you still have it?

HPN: Yep. My American Fender Jazz. A friend sold it to me to pay his rent. I love it, cherry red with a pearl pick guard and two active EMG pickups. In fact I’ll be playing it at Firebreather while the Bootsy bass is in the shop.

T: Gibson 61 SG reissue…bought it when I was 19 and still use it all the time.

IMV:  So what are you using right now in terms of guitars/basses and amps/heads. What made you decide on those particular pieces of gear?

HPN: I currently have four basses, two five strings and two four strings. I’ve had fun playing them all, but my number one girl is my Warwick star bass. I had an SVT and then realized that tubes are just silly, mostly because of maintenance. Went through a couple of Sunn heads, and now I’m using a vintage Acoustic that packs a lot of punch and gives me great low end. I have the staple cab of many bassists, an Ampeg 8×10.

T: I use Gibson guitars. My main jawn is the 2012 SG reissue. My back-up dancers are a 2008 SG Junior, 2005 faded Flying V, and I also have a 1978 Les Paul standard. I bought them because they all rule. Right now I’m playing through a 50 watt EVH 5150 head though an oversized Bandmaster 212 cabinet. I bought the head when I was playing a lot of thrash metal, but don’t really ever take it off the clean channel in Heavy Temple…I let the pedals summon the heavy sounds.

IMV: Do you all play everything stock, or do you like to modify your gear to fit your preferences? What are your go-to strings/gauges? Do you have a preference in terms of picks? 

HPN: I’m literally so dumb when it comes to the nerdier aspects of gear, so I just use everything how I got it.

T: For years my pick preference has been Dunlop Gator Grip .96 gauge. I find most picks to be real slippy, but these are cool. 

IMV: What’s currently on your pedal board? And of those pedals, what’s the one you absolutely could not live without?

HPN: I only use two pedals (aside from the tuner cause duh). I use an Electroharmonix Epitome, which has a POG and a Holy Grail. It’s a three-in-one but I don’t use the flanger at all. The other is a Big Muff, drive and sustain turned up to eleven.

T: To get the secret HT fuzz sauce, I use an Abominable Electronics Hail Satan Deluxe and Hate Stomper boost/overdrive. I also use a couple of regular old delays and boosts, but I have an Electro Harmonix Canyon that definitely stands out as a staple of our sound.

IMV: Most of the time, playing a fest means using a backline. Do you find it challenging to get your sound dialed in when you’re not using all of your own gear? How much of your own rigs will you be bringing to Indy?

HPN: We’ll be using nearly all of our own stuff in Indy with the exception of shells due to some last minute traveling accommodations. It’s been my experience that most festivals have it together, especially when they’re providing a backline for more high profile bands. Using a venue’s house gear can be tricky though. They’ll tell you they have a full backline and then you show up to a First Act drum kit, a 1×12 and a Line 6 Spyder guitar cab.

IMV: Is there any piece of gear you got rid of that you wish you hadn’t?

HPN: Not really. In fact the opposite. I need to sell some shit.

T: 1969 Gibson SG Melody Maker…found it in a trash can when I was a kid. It was real beat up but awesome, and I played the crap out of it. Then I sold it because it just wasn’t practical for what I was doing and needed the money to be an adult.

IMV: What’s your Holy Grail of gear? If money were no object, what’s the first guitar/amp/pedal you’d buy?

HPN: If I’m being honest, I’m pretty stoked about my current set up. But if I had to choose, probably the Gene Simmons axe bass. And I’d play fingerstyle to piss him off.

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