Tombs’ Mike Hill: Hot Coffee Machine

Because Tombs frontman Mike Hill loves work and HATES sleep, he recently started his own company, Savage Gold Coffee, in an effort to completely eradicate the latter from everyone’s life. Their inaugural brew, Savage Gold Prime, is available for order here now. While presumably starin’ at the walls, Hill gave us the scoop.
I’m guessing you are a daily coffee drinker, correct?

Mike Hill: Absolutely. Yeah, I’m a huge fan of coffee, and for most of my life I’ve been a huge fan of coffee. It’s sort of synonymous with a lot of the activities that I do, you know, as far as… I’ve always pounded coffee when we’re driving across the country, I’m always drinking coffee during band practice. To me, coffee always sort of is synonymous with our activity, so that’s where I guess the connection, I guess, started.

What do you look for, in particular, in a cup of coffee? I’m guessing that you’re a guy who’s into richer, darker blends, not the weak stuff.

No, I like it all, actually. Sometimes, I definitely like the bolder flavors, but also I like lighter coffee as well. I mean, if I’m in the sort of mood for a lighter coffee, I’ll go with that. I like a wide variety of different flavors: you know, espresso, you know, the South American beans vs. the African beans, all that sort of stuff. But specifically some of the things that I’m really interested in are organic and fair-trade and. And relying on consumption, I usually stay with those varieties of coffee.

So, tell me about the experience brewing coffee. I mean, had you had any experience with that up to a point, up to this point?

No, and like everything else in my life, I just jump in and try to do it.

How did you figure this out?

Actually, Jesse Daino, the guy who used to be the drummer with Ed Gein, he runs a coffee operation up in Syracuse. And he and I have been sort of consulting on this whole thing for like the last six months or so. He has been my guru in the coffee-roasting business, and he’s kind of helped me get a source of beans and, you know, pointed me in the right direction as far as doing things cost-effectively and yet still maintaining quality. So, he’s really been my point man on that, and I owe a lot to him for sharing his knowledge.

Are you physically involved in the roasting process? Or is he kind of handling the back-end stuff like that?

Yeah, actually Jesse’s handling the back end. He’s got four guys that he has under him who are roastmasters, and we specifically figured out what the roast profile is, and he’s been handling all of that to date. But down the line my future plan is to actually get my own roasting facility and start doing different beans, different varieties of coffee, but still keeping the Savage Gold Prime coming from Jesse.

So, how much preliminary work have you done on being able to get your own facilities and start that arm yourself?

Well, I’m actually looking at doing it, looking at what the requirements are, because you have a certain requirements for the machine, you have a certain gas requirement that you need for those things that run on gas. So, actually trying to find like a physical location in New York City is starting to become very difficult. And I’m looking actually up the Hudson for the possibility of relocating everything up there and opening up a facility.

Do you have any aspirations to do a retail coffee shop along with this, too?

I don’t see myself actually ever working behind the counter of a retail coffee establishment. [Laughs]

So, tell us about the Savage Gold Prime blend. It’s an Ethiopian coffee, right?

Well, it’s not a blend. It’s this whole… the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and that, you know, it’s coming from a farmers’ co-op in Ethiopia, it’s harvested between 6,000 and 6,500 feet above sea level and it’s wet-processed, and that sort of cuts down on the mold and toxin content of the coffee. Because a lot of the sort of lower-quality coffee that you may run into will run the risk of having molds or toxins growing inside of them. So, that sort of angle is what I’ve been looking at, you know, trying to keep pure, organic, fair-trade… you know, that sort of trip is definitely part of my whole plan with the business.

What do you think of people who put cream and sugar in their coffee?

I think they’re not drinking coffee. I’m sort of against sugar in general. But, you know, you wanna put cream in your coffee, that’s your thing, man. I would never stand in anyone’s way of expressing themselves. So, I mean, if that’s how you want to express yourself, I say go for it. But you will never catch me putting cream or sugar in my coffee.

It’s a desperate moment. You’re on tour and there are only two coffee choices available to you: Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Where are you going?

I would go with Starbucks. Though I never drink Starbucks at home, I oftentimes find myself in line at Starbucks on tour. Dunkin Donuts is just unacceptable to me.

You are a noted Henry Rollins enthusiast. Henry Rollins is a noted coffee enthusiast. Are you going to send him a bag of Savage Gold Prime or what?

You know, I thought… that sort of idea has been posed to me by a couple different people. I just feel like it’d be a little corny sending Henry Rollins a bag of coffee, you know? But then again, you never know.

There’s also a Savage Gold beer as a result of a collaboration with Tired Hands Brewing. Decibel hasn’t tasted it, so tell us about it.

Ben [Brand], our bass player, was really the point man on that.  He lives in Philadelphia, and Tired Hands is located in Ardmore, which is a neighborhood, I guess, in Philadelphia. And, you know, Ben is a beer enthusiast and knows a lot about that whole process, and he just talked to Jean [Broillet IV], the owner, and [Ben] was like, “Hey, you know, do you have any interest in doing a Tombs beer?” And Jean was like, “Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. You can all come out and it would be a really cool thing to do at the brewery here,” and then sort of independently, I guess, he’d been aware of the coffee company and, literally, as we speak during this interview, it’s less than a month since it’s been available, since I launched the website and the store and all that sort of stuff. So, Jean asked Ben if I would be interested in providing a pound of coffee for him to use, you know, extract into yet a second brew. So, there’s actually Savage Gold, and then there’s the Savage Gold Prime brew, which has coffee in it.

So, have you tried the beer?

Yeah, I have. I mean, I’m not a huge drinker, but I’ve sampled it, and it’s pretty tasty.

The alcohol content in it is pretty modest, which I think is cool. It’s not a beer that is gonna get you hammered after a couple sips. Do you generally prefer that kinda stuff when you have a beer?

I just like to go full-on, man. If I’m gonna drink a beer, I want something with a lot of alcohol in it.

So, we’ve got Savage Gold beer. We’ve got Savage Gold Prime coffee. When can we expect Savage Gold energy drink?

Never. That stuff is poison, honestly. There will definitely be more different types of beans available. There’ll be some more products on the site. I’m looking into do other nutrition and health-related stuff on the site. And also there’ll be some merchandise, some T-shirts and stuff like that. Mugs, you know, travel mugs, which are very useful. I find myself traveling a lot and I always like to bring my own coffee with me because I’m very particular about that sort of stuff, so having a nice travel mug with that killer Savage Gold emblem on it, I think, would be a cool travel accessory for a lot of people.