Archive for the ‘Eyehategod’ Category

Interview: Mike IX Williams of EYEHATEGOD

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

You’d be hard pressed to find a band out there that is as engaging as EYEHATEGOD. If the emotional boilover that their sound embodies isn’t enough, certainly the character and gritty nature of the musicians’ stories are as powerful as they come. When you know the energy and words of songs bear a sincerity that only the roughest ride in life can provide, the music becomes that more amazing and vital an experience. I was lucky to chat this morning with the band’s frontman, Mike IX Williams, in anticipation of their forthcoming tour of Australia in early 2015.

Black Captain: Hey Mike, how’s everything with you today?

Mike IX Williams: Everything’s fine, man. Just doing these interviews, a couple so far, and hanging out. I just got home from being on tour, but leave again in a couple of days to go out with my other band, Corrections House. So, I’m exhausted. But, besides that, I’m good.

BC: The EYEHATEGOD album has been out for about half a year now. How has the response to that and your feeling about it been, particularly given the amount of time since your last LP?

MW: I’m super-excited, man, of course! The whole band were really excited. I mean, we’ve been active this whole time, for the past 14 years. We’ve done some 7-inches and done things like that, recorded some demos here and there, but never got as far as putting out the whole record and doing it all right. So we’re excited that it has all been happening. We’ve been touring. There’s people who think that just because we didn’t have a new record we weren’t together. I’d see articles that are like, “EYEHATEGOD’s back together!” But we never were away. We’ve toured Europe, and America. You know, we were in Australia like maybe three or four years ago, I’m not sure. We’ve just constantly toured. It was just a matter of putting out that full-length that people want to see.

BC: As you say, you’ve been really busy. And it’s been such an eventful period, too. Obviously, the biggest thing was the loss of such a big personality in the band when your drummer and founding member, Joey La Caze, passed away. It’s not been unknown to happen that when a band loses such an iconic person, a part of who they are both on a creative and a personal level, that replacement members have difficulty working out. It’s really admirable how different this has been in your guys’ particular case with Aaron.

MW: Yeah, man! I think we really lucked out, man. We got super lucky with that. You know, like, we tried out drummers from bigger bands, bands on our same level, or guys who really wanted to join. But nobody had that, like, that real New Orleans swing sound like Joey had. Aaron’s from here. So, he has it naturally. Besides that, he was right under our nose. We were looking outside of the state. But he was right here. And he’s been working out great, man. He fits right in. He’s a weirdo! (laughs) So he fits perfectly with us. And he’s an amazing drummer. He likes the songs. And… he likes being on tour with us… I think! (laughs) We’re a little bit older than him, some of us. So, we kind of mess with him sometimes. But that’s part of him being a new guy in the band. But, yeah, he’s awesome! He’s working out great. Not to mention, I know he likes getting paid, so… he’s going to stick around for a while!

BC: You’ve described him before as bringing in a breath of fresh air and really setting you guys off on a roll with writing new material. How has that been going? Are you still going strong with that, even so soon after making the new record?

MW: Yeah! I haven’t written anything yet; because, they’re still putting the songs together. And things always evolve as they are initially written. I think there’s, like, six songs written or something, you know. I’m sure they’ll change a bit in the process; and, then, of course, I’ll put my vocals on later. That’s usually how we work. But I mean, yeah, it’s awesome. Aaron’s a musician. You know, he plays guitar. He plays mandolin. He plays banjo. He plays drums. He’s like an all-around musician type of guy, you know? Mandolin is like a big instrument down here in the south, because a lot of, like, Cajun music has it, you know. He learned it from his grandfather, which was really cool. He’s got video of him and his grandfather playing together; and, it’s really neat to watch. So, he’s a real songwriter and he loves music. He’s definitely a breath of fresh air for (the other) guys too, to be able to bring in guitar parts and that sort of stuff, too.

BC: Wow. Like you say, it sounds like you guys were really lucky and that you’ve really hit it out of the park with finding this guy.

MW: Yeah, man, I think we did really well there.

BC: Just talking about that newer stuff. some bands prefer to keep new stuff completely under wraps until a record is released. Do you ever give any of your new stuff a whirl when you’re out on tour before you’ve recorded or released it?

MW: Um, not this brand new stuff that we’re writing now. But, like, with the new self-titled album stuff we did play a lot of those songs live before I even had vocal patterns ready for them. Some of those cases are where I even learned the songs. We’d dealt with them in sound checks, and if we thought it sounded decent we’d do it in the live show. Of course, nobody knows what it is, because it’s new and they just kind of, like, stare at you! But it’s good to work that kind of thing out live, especially for me, because I can think of vocal patterns in my head and it comes to me like at the spur of the moment. It works out well for me like that.

BC: I see EYEHATEGOD referred to by writers quite often as the progenitor of “sludge” but I know that’s a term that you have a lot of disdain for. Especially as a lot more hybridization and experimentation appears to go on in less mainstream music, do you think these tags are losing their relevance more than ever or that they were never really that relevant beyond being a marketing tool?

MW: Yeah, you know… (pauses) I mean, it’s like, for journalists… I mean, I used to write for Metal Maniacs and write for websites; so, I understand that people have to come up with these descriptions like this. Because, that’s what doing record reviews is all about. You’ve got to try to describe what something is like to people who might like a different kind of band or music. So, yeah, those things come up. But I do think it is over-used nowadays. There’s so many subgenres. And, I’m like, where does all of this come from? Why can’t it just be all under one banner? I mean, we just call it, like, rock’n’roll or heavy blues, you know? To me, that’s more intelligent that saying something like “sludge”. Besides, the fact is that EYEHATEGOD was around well before that term was even invented, so… people might say it about us, but… people have asked me, “So, who are your favourite sludge bands?” and I’m like (with an irritated tone) “What does that even mean? What is that? What is it?” I’m thinking, is it bands that sound like us? Is it bands that play, like, you know, all slow songs. It’s just one of those things that just appeared and it’s kind of annoying for me. I’d rather just be a heavy blues band.

BC: “Post” is the one that really gets thrown around a lot now! I was talking about this with a friend recently and he asked “how long is it going to be before we start hearing about post-post-metal and post-post-hardcore bands?”

MW: (laughs) Yeah, I’m sure there will be, like, post-sludge. Post-black metal-sludge, that’ll probably be something. You know. But, hey, you know I suppose of course I use some of these terms. Like I’ll say, “indie rock”, or… I just hate using words like “grunge”. It seems silly to me. It’s just another form of punk and rock’n’roll, you know. But, when you get to like black metal or thrash metal, that’s something where it’s like the best way to describe those things; so, you fall into that trap.

BC: I knew you’d worked as a music journalist in the past and was thinking about that in the context of your writing style. Do you think there’s a point to trying to be more poetic and lyrical in reviewing music rather than going for the simplicity of these marketing buzzwords?

MW: Yeah. Like, when I used to write for Metal Maniacs… my style of writing lyrics is really abstract and cryptic. So, sometimes, I would do a record review that was like that. And to me, it would make total sense. But, I remember some of the editors just being like, “You can’t! Nobody knows what you’re talking about here! You’re being very vague and cryptic.” But, in my head it made sense, describing a certain band like that. So, I don’t know. It depends on the intelligence of the largesse of people reading it, you know. Some people need to be told just like, “Ok. This sounds like Slayerrrr. This sounds like Black Sabbath.” Some people just need to be told that, or they will never figure it out. I mean, the weirdest thing I think I ever read about EYEHATEGOD was somebody writing that “it sounds like Carcass meets The Circle Jerks”. That’s not even close to anywhere…. What does that mean, man? I don’t get it! That’s some really absurd references right there. Maybe they are geniuses and they hear it and I don’t. Maybe they’re smarter and they hear some kind of crazy, you know, alignment to those two bands. I don’t know.

BC: Ah, might have put the wrong record on, I reckon.

MW: (laughs) It’s just a very strange comparison.

BC: Those succinct phrases or words that are meant to be loaded with influence… that leads me on to something I’d read from you once that I connected with. This opening track of the new album (“Agitation! Propaganda!”) is a favourite of mine, at the very least just for its title and lyrics, as it’s a topic I’ve always been fixated on. So it was exciting to read that you also have a pretty deep fascination with propaganda and its function. What did you think of Orwell’s stuff on this, and what he had to say about the function of words when it comes to control?

MW: Well, I’ve read 1984. That’s the memorable one. To me, that whole book is just incredible. I’d have to go back to it, though. I don’t think I’ve read that since I was, like, in my 20s. Yeah, I think it’s very powerful. And, yeah, I love (propaganda). I don’t love what happens as a result of it. But the way that they used propaganda in World War II. Even the Americans, of course. It wasn’t just Nazi Germany. There was propaganda being thrown all over the place. And, of course, the Russian movements in the early Stalinist period is a great study in propaganda. But then you think about modern days, you’re going down the highway, especially here in America it just seems to be cluttered with advertisements. “Smoke this! Drink this! And eat this! Trust Jesus!” You know, these big signs that will just say “TRUST JESUS”. That’s propaganda too; it’s just wild. A lot of people are just subliminally falling into it, too.

BC: The massive preoccupation with celebrity. “Justin Bieber got arrested! Kim Kardashian can hold a champagne glass with her arse!”

MW: Yeah, that’s “news”, but you have to go back three or four sections deep into the newspaper to find out what’s going on in Somalia or a war in some other country. It’s just crazy, man. I don’t know what they’re trying to do with us; but, they are controlling a lot of people with it.

BC: As you say, you write your lyrics being abstract and non-specific, a reflection of your commitment and love for poetry As a writer, do you feel that lyrics lose their ability to be more resonant or powerful if they are becoming too direct, or closely linked to a story or a topic?

MW: Yeah, I do think that. I mean, a lot of people have asked, “Were you forced to write lyrics after Hurricane Katrina?” Yes, but you won’t really figure out which ones. It’s kind of hidden. There are things that I felt, or saw, or did that are in the lyrics. But, it’s not literal. It’s not like I’m saying (in a sort of country/western cadence) “’til the hurricane hit and then this hap-pened”… it’s not literal like that. I don’t think I could do lyrics like that, you know? Even if the topic is obvious, like being hateful. I don’t know if you’ve heard one of my other bands, Arson Anthem, it’s like 80s hardcore stuff. It’s all pretty pissed off. So, you kind of know what the songs are about but the lyrics are still kind of weird and vague. I just like for people to think, too. I think it’s kind of cool to make people give me their interpretations of songs, sometimes. Sometimes, I’ll write something that I don’t even know what it means,; and, somebody will write to me or tell me in person, “That song made me think of this.” And, I’m like, “Wow, that’s actually pretty cool.” Because I didn’t think of that and it’s very cool. Like they’ll give me the answer. So, it’s cool that the lyrics can mean different things to different people. If they were real focused and forward like that, then they could only mean that one thing.

BC: Keeping it open like that makes for much more powerful potential.

MW: Yeah, I think so. And I’ve never been a fan… I mean, when I was a teenager, when I was a kid, of course I was into punk rock and hardcore. And some of those lyrics were pretty cheesy back then. I got out of that quickly and just started thinking that things didn’t have to rhyme all of the time, that you don’t have to care about all of these “laws” of lyric writing or poetry writing. You make up your own rules and ideas.

BC: You’ve spoken of your love of New Orleans and how it’s a part of your very being and how you express yourself. I’ve not had the chance before to talk with someone from there about Katrina and what happened afterwards and how it was responded to so poorly by emergency services and relief efforts. Do you agree with the notion that there was something ideological being directed at that part of the country, sort of an expression of resentment and contempt at its European and iconoclastic, hedonistic nature? Or was it simply just that old chestnut of government not being able to even organize a fuck in a whorehouse?

MW: I think it’s both, really! A combination. New Orleans, it’s a liberal city in a Republican state. The whole state is like these gun-totin’, rich, redneck folks. Most of them. I mean, there’s a lot of poor people, too, but, in the rest of the state. New Orleans is, like you said, very hedonistic. You can drink 24 hours a day. But there’s also, basically, 85% African-American. There’s also a lot of poverty here, white people as well. So, I think it’s like, “We’ll go help ‘em in a couple of days. Let’s see how many of ‘em can die off.” I really kind of think that, you know? I mean, that’s what happened with me. I had no money, at the time. I didn’t have a way to leave the city. I finally did, but, it was hard to do without a car. Most of those people don’t have anything like that. Like you said, it is a part of Bush being an incompetent idiot, and… what was that other thing you said?

BC: Ideology. Far-right, racist, pseudo-Christian bullshit.

MW: Yeah! I totally believe that. I think a lot of people just think that we get away with anything down here. We are very European, and very liberal. So there are people who just really hate that. People are against that and can’t stand it. They want it all to be… rigid, and strict rules. If it was up to them there would be no alcohol or anything like that. It’s pretty crazy.

BC: I wanted to ask what are some ways that living life sober has changed your experience of being in EYEHATEGOD? By this I guess I mean is there anything you feel more in touch with now that you may have been, for lack of a better word, oblivious to before?

MW: Did you say sober?

BC: Yeah.

MW: Did you say… sober?

BC: Yeah. I get the feeling I’m off base…

MW: (laughs hard) I’m not sober, man. I don’t do hard drugs any more. That’s been for a while. But, I definitely love to have a little smoke or a drink here and there. I actually have to cut down a bit on my alcohol because of some health problems. I can’t really drink hard liquor now any more, either. I’m having a few things… as you get older, vodka every day isn’t exactly good for you! But, yeah, as far as that other stuff goes, I’m not into anything hard any more. That’s all over. But, you know, we all like to have fun. Especially drinking, or a little something here and there, nothing wrong with that! A little relaxation tool, you know? I think my problem has been with moderation. Like I say, I was on the hard stuff. I stopped that, so I started drinking vodka. After so many years, I can feel that it’s not doing my body well. So, I need to moderate things, you know. There’s nothing wrong with those things at all, smoking a little pot, or drinking. But you can’t be doing all that and expect that it’s good for you. And I definitely don’t encourage people to try any of those things. They’re definitely not missing anything by not doing heroin or coke. It’s pretty crappy, really. I would never want to see myself get back to that state of mind, where that’s all you do all day every day, where you’re just trying to get that next bag of heroin or something. So, I suggest people stay away from that. And I have. So, I’m glad for that. I’ve added a few years on to my life, I hope.

BC: Well, there should be sweltering heat when you kick off down here. It will be interesting to see how that adds to the unpredictable explosiveness your shows are notorious for!

MW: (laughs) Well, we’re used to the heat! That’s New Orleans, heat and humidity. So, we’re very used to it. It’s actually cold here right now and will be worse when we head down there. So it will be nice to be there. It never gets really cold here; but, it gets cold enough that we hate it. We prefer the heat!

BC: Thanks for that, Mike. It was really fantastic to talk with you and can’t wait to see you all down here next year.

MW: Thanks, man. I appreciate the interview and we see all of you soon!


Thursday January 29 — Rosemount Hotel, Perth
with Leeches and Cursed Earth
Friday January 30 — The Hi-Fi, Melbourne
with I Exist and The Ruiner
Saturday January 31 — Manning Bar, Sydney
with I Exist and Lo!
Sunday February 1 — Crowbar, Brisbane
with I Exist and The Matador

Tickets on sale now from lifeisnoise, and venue outlets.