Thursday 25 July 2019

Time To Feel The PAIN - An Interview With Mona Miluski of HIGH FIGHTER

Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metallers – HIGH FIGHTER – have always been one of my favourite current bands within the scene. I’ve been a long time supporter of the band and they have gone from strength to strength since their inception back in 2014.

The band released their celebrated debut album – Scars & Crosses – back in 2016 which was acclaimed by fans and critics alike.

Fast forward 3 years and the band are back with their heaviest and most brutal release to date. CHAMPAIN is a more daring sound with lead vocalist – Mona Miluski – showing off her impressive vocal range. This is an album that will send chills down your spine.

The band are now singed to Italian Powerhouse Label – Argonauta Records – and I managed to catch up with Lead Singer – Mona Miluski – who also runs the excellent PR Label – ALL NOIR PR.

Read on for a cool and fascinating interview with one of my favourite people within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal Community.

Hi Mona. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today.

Hey Steve, thanks for having us again! Things are well. Our album release plus some great tour dates are close, summer is here too, so life could be worse.

Congrats on your upcoming new album CHAMPAIN. Fantastic album and even better than your debut album. You excited for people to hear the new angrier and pissed off HIGH FIGHTER.

Thank you, that means a lot. Yes we are, and it seems so far people even liking that heavier side, which is amazing to hear! We appreciate our listeners being so open-minded when it comes to music, as so are we.

CHAMPAIN is quite a dark and daring release compared to your celebrated debut album. Was that an easy decision by the band to release something different.

Yes. Because it's never been a decision. We already started writing new material shortly after the release of 'Scars & Crosses', but in the end we had a lot of different parts. We even thrown many of them aside, and started into a new songwriting flow during 2018, when it naturally turned into a heavier and more fast-paced direction. We felt very comfortable with it, and I think this record is kind of more focussed and following a central theme than any other record we did before.

Are you scared how you fans may react to CHAMPAIN. Or is this a risk worth taking for HIGH FIGHTER.

No, whether it's a risk or not, we don't write our music to satisfy others only. That has never been our main goal, otherwise we would have written previous records in another style. We are aware of how to please genre fans and for sure we would be able write “the” classic stoner rock, doom or metal song, but we never feared any genre borders. As you know Steve, we have always mixed a lot of styles into one High Fighter sound, and it's not always easy to please everyone.

You play a metal festival, and you're too stoner; you play a stoner festival, and you're too metal. We have somehow became kind of exotic in the heavy music scene, and that's fine for us, we got used to it! (laughs)

We write the music we dig and how we feel comfortable with. We have never cared about fitting into one genre, and we probably never will. Like Brant Bjork once said to us, “don't care too much what others say about you, do your thing, and one day they will get it.” Right on.

What was the recording of CHAMPAIN like. Was it an easy or hard experience compared to your debut album.

This time we were 100% prepared. We took a few months for the pre-production. Aside rehearsing 2 times a week, we spent every weekend recording all tracks live, over and over again, for months. Again we taped all instrumentals live. Recording with our dear friend Jan Oberg was super relaxed and he helped us with a lot of creative input, which also definitely gave the album a few more great highlights. This time we did not feel a rush as on the last record due to the booked studio time was running out, but recordings went pretty quick this time. Thanks to the months of spending every weekend for pre-recordings!(laughs)

The album touches on some hard-hitting themes on the album. What inspired you when writing the lyrics and recording the vocals as well.

Life and personal struggles is what always inspires me the most. I would call myself a “happy depressive” person. Life could be actually good, great job, amazing friends, but sometimes and over a long time recently and while we have written the album, there has been some inner emptiness. You're surrounded by actually an OK life, but you're alone, you know that feeling?

Champain tells the story of an anti-hero, it can be you, me, anyone who reads this. Someone who always falls down in life, who is dealing not only with depressions but also personal disappointments by relationships and people you may have trusted, about not feeling lovable, about your inner demons and daily struggles. But this “Champ” creates a power out of this situation, due to being almost angry, pissed or desperate about the ever falling in life, and always finds a way to move on. This album is power and weakness, it's dark and light, it's strength and pain.

Mona, you’ve changed your vocals quite considerably for this release. I’ve never heard you sing harsh vocals such as this. Some of them even go into almost DEATH METAL style delivery. Is this something you’ve always wanted to do and never had the chance to.

Yea, I have worked on my vocal skills and tried out myself over the years, especially live. And I learned a lot about my vocal range and colortones. While we write songs, it's always an inner feel when I hear a riff, if I will scream or sing clean on it. Naturally on this new record, the riffs and grooves all turned out to be very heavy and straight forward right from the beginning, and build me a ground to add more brutal vocals on it, while not losing my blues and grunge roots. I really appreciate and enjoy the freedom my band mates create, as it gives a lot of freedom to show the variety in each one of us.

Is this how HIGH FIGHTER will sound on future releases.

Who knows. (smiles) Maybe yes, maybe no – may happen our third album will even share further sides of the High Fighter.

I know you’ve performed these new songs LIVE recently. How has the response been by people from a LIVE Perspective. Did people enjoy hearing the new songs with the old songs.

We totally love playing the new tracks live! Such a good and intense energy with the crowd, just recently at for example Desertfest London or Freak Valley. Insane!

We will play a few festivals this year and also hit the road with Dopethrone in August. This run will be crazy, and we can't wait!

You’ve managed to bring in some big guns and good friends of yours - Anton Lisovoj - to provide vocals on When We Suffer and Jan Oberg of EARTHSHIP and GRIN fame to record the album. Were they easy to convince to be part of the HIGH FIGHTER journey.

One can say, Champain is a “family affair”. We became good friends with Jan when we toured with Earth Ship a few years ago already, and are also fans of his studio productions. Some of our friends recorded some killer albums with him, and while we moved into a heavier direction on Champain, Jan has been the perfect match for us. We had a great time in Berlin, Jan has been amazing in regards to our sound, common vibes and the creative input. Marcel Schulz alias Johnny Doe, who is also part of the Earth Ship and our Berlin family ( now playing in Praise the Plague ) was responsible for our artwork this time, and we took our new photos with Basti Grim of Earth Ship and Neander in Berlin after a long day in the studio.

It's the first time ever, we have a guest vocalist on the album. When we met the guys in Downfall of Gaia the first time, back in 2017 on our tour with Conan, we became close friends since then. Nowadays, Anton belongs to one of my best friends, I am also a huge fan of not only his band but also his vocal colour. When we thought about having a guest singer, I immediately had Anton in mind – and we are stoked he was up for it.

Especially since the track, When We Suffer, may be the only kind of a "ballad" on the entire record if you could even say so, all the more it's a perfect match having such a great Black Metal vocalist like Anton, who gave the song its very special vibe. So yea, you can definitely say this album was a family project, and we luckily not really had to “convince” someone to be a part of it.

Your now signed to one of the best labels currently out there – ARGONAUTA RECORDS. Why did you sign to Gero’s label. As you were with SVART RECORDS originally. Did SVART not want to release the new album.

Well, we told Svart about the heavier direction of Champain, and already felt we'd be more comfortable with a label that represents our style to 100%. So both sides, label and us, decided to split in good ways.

We're still super grateful to have released a first album with such cult label Svart is, but when we applied the new album to Argonauta, Gero was on fire right away. Argonauta is not only very passionate and professional to the same time, but also represents our sound perfectly.

I know you worked with GERO for a short time already with your amazing PR Firm – ALL NOIR. Did that help at all with signing to Argonauta Records.

Actually Argonauta has been the first label, among the great folks at Heavy Psych Sounds, who have been working me since I launched ALL NOIR more than a year ago. Gero and me just celebrated our first anniversary as business partners, and we make a great team. But, High Fighter is not getting any gifts, no matter what my job is about. We have to work as same hard as every other band on this planet, we had to sleep on many floors and sometimes still have to bother the venue for stage water. Not only my experiences may have helped, everyone in High Fighter played in bands before, naturally we built up an acknowledgement as well as network, whether to other bands we are friends with, to promoters, agents or labels. Aside maybe different tastes, but let's be honest, no one is giving you any gift when you suck.

We met Gero a few years ago already, long before we even worked together, and played a show in Italy with his band Varego. Great night and vibes. He followed High Fighter and kept an eye on us, and since he is aware that we are very passionate on a DIY-level, knows me as a musician and promoter, and since we make a good team nowadays – maybe things were easier for us on that view, but music-wise we also simply fit together perfectly. Argonauta represents everything you will find in High Fighter, maybe that's the main reason what helped us to sign with Gero.

Congrats on your recent and continued success with ALL NOIR. Seems it’s going from strength to strength. You’ve also have new partner to help you out. Dominik from Downfall Of Gaia. How did that came about. Have things become a lot busier for you to run the firm by yourself.

Thank you Steve. And I appreciate you have always been not only a supporter of High Fighter, but also for the music and bands I represent. Yes, things got busy when I left Napalm Records to start my own company last year, it's been crazy and I feel so grateful that I can live from what I love. After a year it was time to expand, otherwise I could not handle all the great bands and clients I cover as a 1-woman-agency, and I would hate to pass on future requests from killer bands and labels.

Dominik is a longtime and very close friend of mine I trust, but, he knows the flipside of the coin. Being an active and touring musician himself, while having released many records the DIY- AND major label way, he is the perfect team member for ALL NOIR. He currently covers some rad Black Metal and Sludge / Doom releases, and does an amazing job. I am really happy he joined my company.

I want to thank you personally for your continued support to my work on Outlaws Of The Sun. It means a hell of a lot. Especially over the last 4 years or so.

Absolutely, and I can only give this back to you Steve. Outlaws Of The Sun still belongs to my favorite blogs ever, I always enjoyed and enjoy your writing skills and articles most, started to read your thoughts about bands and releases, I sometimes discovered just because of you, back in your days at The Sludgelord. Not only have you been High Fighter's biggest supporter since Day 1 the band started, but I appreciate all you did and do for this scene in general. Please, always keep up the great work, the music world would be an empty place without your support.

Before you go. Do you have anything to say to your fans.

Cheers to all of you Outlaws Of The Sun, summer is here – so get some Champain and check out our new album! Stay high, and see you somewhere on the road hopefully sometime soon.

Words by Steve Howe and Mona Miluski


03.08. DE - Gößnitz Open Air 
08.08. PT - SonicBlast Moledo
18.10. DE - Metal Inferno Paderborn

w/ Dopethrone:
11.08. DE - Mannheim / 7er Club
12.08. DE - Dresden / Chemiefabrik
13.08. DE - Berlin / Zukunft am Ostkreuz
14.08. DE - Hamburg / Hafenklang
15.08. DE - Wiesbaden / Schlachthof
16.08. FR - Colmar / Le Grillen