PRAYER FOR THE SICK: A FAN RETROSPECTIVE ON THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF EYEHATEGOD


“A horrible God, this God of yours, a monster! Is there a criminal more worthy of our hatred and our implacable vengeance than he!” —Marquis de Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom (1795)


QUITTER’S OFFENSIVE

I’m sitting at Barrel Proof on lower Magazine Street, having just ordered “Anotha One,” an $11 cocktail that consists of rye whiskey, Madeira, vermouth, and mole bitters, served “up” with a lemon twist. A hint of the warm Sunday sun leaks into the cavernous room. Across one wall stretches a long banquette, upholstered in fresh black vinyl, the chairs opposite clocked at playful, symmetrical angles. As I swirl the lemon peel around this earthy, darkly sweet drink and take in the room, I pause at the floor. Though it fits in with the tasteful distress of the corrugated tin and heavily lacquered reclaimed wood of the bar, the cement floor shows pock marks and cracks, the only hint of this building’s true age.

Beneath this cosmopolitan veneer, along this tony corridor of Magazine Street, loom the ghosts of New Orleans hardcore past—and possibly still the faint mist of blood, spit, urine, and god-knows-what-else hanging in the air. Somewhere underneath the layers of ultra-modern gray paint and friendly afternoon chatter lurks decay and death, sickness and madness, Nature at her most unfettered. Underneath all of this civilization is the origin story of New Orleans’ most depraved and degenerate band of all time, Eyehategod.

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The following narrative is a very loose, very personal, highly biased, and unauthorized journey through the overgrown woods of one scene’s collective memory to rediscover just some of the dark magic that made Eyehategod one of New Orleans’ most influential bands, their impact on popular music as widespread as the likes of The Meters or Dr. John. This narrative is not meant to be comprehensive, exhaustive, or even 100% true, though I’ve tried to the best of my ability, along with others’ memories and memorabilia, to reconstruct these stories as accurately as possible.

CRIMES AGAINST SKIN

My first memory of Eyehategod comes from the year 1992, after they had already been around for several years. I was at the house of my friend Joel Hopkins. We went to different schools, but we were in the same Boy Scout troop (#48), though our uniforms were starting to feel a little constricting. He was getting into punk thanks to his brother Tom, and Tom’s girlfriend Stacy (the two would eventually marry), who booked what could now easily be considered legendary bills, like Operation Ivy and Green Day, though at the time the venues were little more than rickety plywood stages in cinder-block bunkers. Like any young obsessive punker, Joel collected the fliers for these shows and posted them up on his bedroom walls. I would stare at those walls in awe as we hung out late into the night, listening to records and flipping through copies of Maximumrocknroll (MRR). One such flier especially taunted me: Born Against and Eyehategod at R.C. Bridge Lounge. At the time, I had no idea who EHG was but I was a rabid fan of Born Against, and I was heartbroken that I hadn’t been inducted into the New Orleans underground in time to see this show.

Looking back, these two bands are a classic study in American hardcore, both emerging from the smoking carcass of the Reagan years. While each group drew from the same palette—cranked distortion, pummeling rhythms, painfully screamed vocals, and rough-cut collage aesthetics—they couldn’t be more different in temperament. Born Against were good boys, practically Boy Scouts themselves. Politically hyperaware, lead singer Sam McPheeters could scream eloquently about everything from women’s reproductive rights to the CIA death squads in Central America. Born Against was as pissed and confrontational as any hardcore band, but there was still a glimmer of hope in their message, or at least a desire to create awareness in their audience. With Eyehategod, there was no message, only oblivion and pain. Their only politics seemed to be a wholesale rejection of “Just Say No,” espousing instead an unflinching, literal endorsement of drug use and abuse.

That show at R.C. Bridge Lounge (the building Barrel Proof now occupies) looked over a very different Magazine Street in 1992. Rather than the tidy, tourist-friendly stretch of today, lay a barren, industrial corridor, the bar’s namesake bridge looming like a steel mountain on the near horizon. The night of that show with Born Against, half of Eyehategod was absent due to either incarceration or being out of town (there are always at least two versions to every EHG story), which left guitarist Jimmy Bower and vocalist Mike IX Williams to improvise a noise set. Though it was short (they may have only played one song), EHG managed to get their hands on a box of raw chicken and some plate glass that Mike had dug out of the trash, and threw it at the crowd. In what would become a signature move, Mike rolled around in the glass and meat, bloodying himself up in the process. In the documentary Unheard Of, Jimmy Bower recalls that night with a few aberrations, namely that the meat in question was 30 pounds of cow fat.

When the set was over, EHG vanished, leaving the members of Born Against (who were all, of course, vegetarian) to dutifully sweep up the mess before their set. They would be just one of a legion of bands that learned the hard way not to let Eyehategod open the show.

I asked Stacy, who had booked that show (at Born Against’s request) about that night. I wondered if she had been pissed or upset about it, but she nonchalantly describes the night as “less eventful than it might have seemed. I was just trying to deal with it.” When I asked if she still had any animosity (if ever), she said, “I’m sure I was aggravated but I think that Jimmy was pretty apologetic, from what I recall, so it’s hard to be super mad.”

Promoting shows in the underground has always required a heavy dose of grit and cunning. Punks never want to pay for shit. That night was no different, as Stacy describes: “A bunch of people had gone to the show because they wanted to see Eyehategod, and were asking for their money back.” In true chessmaster form, Stacy made the crowd a deal: “I’ll give you your money back if you stay and watch Born Against.” When the show was over, no one took her up on the offer.

STORY OF THE EYE

“Let’s start up a band that doesn’t give a fuck about nothin. And not even take it seriously.” —Jimmy Bower (from the Peace Through Addiction documentary, 1993)

EHG at the Faubourg Marigny Community Center (1994); Brian Patton (far left), Vince LeBlanc (bass), Jimmy Bower (far right).

The genesis of Eyehategod is literally a joke. Formed in 1988, the original lineup features almost none of the members who would turn this afterthought into a global phenomenon spanning decades. The band’s original singer, Chris Hilliard—who came up with the name (originally as “The Eyehategod”)—was quick to drop out after they released an early cassette, recommitting his life to Christ soon after. EHG’s original drummer, Joey “The Hat” DeLatte—who played their first show at Storyville Jazz Hall—would soon be replaced by Joey LaCaze, the band’s rhythmic beast, noise aficionado, and joker supreme until his untimely death in 2013. Steve Dale would be the first of a handful of bassists to serve in the band over the decades, making it only to their first album, 1992’s In the Name of Suffering. Brian Patton wouldn’t join the band as its second guitarist until years later.

That first show at Storyville on Lower Decatur (which later became a Margaritaville before its current incarnation as a B.B. King’s Blues Club), was overwhelmingly panned by the crowd. Expecting more of the same thrash-paced guitar calisthenics and proficient chops as the bands sharing the bill, Exhorder and Soilent Green (who also made their debut that night), the crowd was disappointed with the slow and sloppy pace of Eyehategod’s set, as well as Mike Williams’ belligerence. Besides throwing glass bottles at the ceiling fan, Mike also threw records into the crowd as he berated them: “We know we fucking suck, but we want you to come up here and pretend like you’re enjoying what we’re doing.” Bobby Bergeron, who has put out Paranoize fanzine since 1993, was there that night: “Some of the crew I was with was just bitching the whole time that they sucked, and I was sitting there with a huge grin on my face saying ‘we need more bands like this!’”

M. Bevis, another PhD of the New Orleans hardcore scene (and contributor to Paranoize and ANTIGRAVITY) was also there for the beginning. I visited him at Skully’z record shop on Bourbon Street to revisit some of those early days. “Mike was already a legend in the city,” M. Bevis told me, “the original 12 year-old runaway guy in the hardcore scene.” Already famous for going to jail with the Misfits when they passed through town in 1982 (a tale that makes the rounds every Halloween), Mike was a prolific presence in the New Orleans underground, having fronted bands like Teenage Waste and Suffocation By Filth, as well as hanging out with Black Flag, DOA, The Sluts, and Bad Brains. As Jimmy Bower recalls in the documentary Slow Southern Steel, one of his early impressions of Mike Williams was at a Suffocation By Filth show: “He looks like a little 13 year-old kid, going, ‘All y’all think y’all are all cool, huh? Who’s got some drugs?’”

Jimmy Bower himself was established as well, due to his stint as the drummer in Shell Shock, perhaps New Orleans’ most legendary hardcore band of the ‘80s. This was part of Eyehategod’s problem in those early days. When I asked Danny Nick (who would become EHG’s fourth bassist) about that time, he remembers thinking, “Why is Jimmy Bower playing guitar? He’s a drummer.” King Louie, who busted in the door at Skully’z midway through my conversation with M. Bevis, had a similar review of that first show: “They were a Melvins rip-off, pretty bad, wasn’t good.”

Of course it seems silly now, but back then the metal/punk divide was very real, and very violent. If you had long hair (i.e. a metal fan), you didn’t go to punk shows, and vice versa. Eyehategod was not the first band to seize on this divide and force the two together—they will gladly list a horde of influences from Gluey Porch Treatments-era Melvins to St. Vitus—but they were perhaps the first to truly unite the DIY ethos and aesthetics of hardcore and the demonic spirit of metal.

Mike IX Williams

Bridging that punk-metal gap was special, but what truly set their sound apart and established a template that would last 30 years (so far), was a deep reverence—buried beneath all of the distortion and feedback—for that most traditional American genre, the blues. One treat at an Eyehategod show has always been the occasional jam between songs, when the band kicks into a mellow blues sizzler before blasting back into the set. You’ll find a lot of impressive chops and riffs throughout their catalogue and live experiences, but you won’t find any gimmicky bullshit: no elaborate pedal boards, no smoke machines, no light shows, no long-winded solos. “We don’t have leads in Eyehategod,” Mike told the Metal Hand of God podcast in 2014. “There’s maybe one lead that Jimmy barely plays.” They’re not even huge fans of reverb. Gary Mader, EHG’s bassist for the past 17 years, wrote a tour diary for ANTIGRAVITY in July 2010 (“Death Trip Through the Heartland”), in which he relays this tale about a soundcheck in Detroit: “Mike called out the sound guy for putting some kinda reverb effect on his vocals. Something like ‘Hey assholes, would you take that fucking effect off?’ Come to think of it, he called out the lighting dude too. ‘Hey assholes…’”

As with a lot of things Eyehategod, there is way more to the story of the name itself. Obviously, provocation is the first note sounded, a psychic slap to the face of the Moral Majority—and really anyone who lives comfortably in this eleventh-hour society. But it was also meant as a Zen koan, a “Meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha” kind of riddle. What is God to you? What do you worship like a God that maybe isn’t a God? In the Peace Through Addiction documentary (which, by the way, in its online version, clearly dubbed many times over on VHS before making it to Youtube, is a glorious eleven minute time capsule of EHG’s early days), Mike puts it bluntly: “God could be money or drugs.” Jimmy follows up with, “It really doesn’t have anything to do with religion at all… It’s just all addiction.”

In a 2014 interview for ANTIGRAVITY, M. Bevis asked Mike Williams if the name still had any shock value. “The name is just not shocking anymore,” Mike admitted. “Maybe it’s shocking to people in middle America; the Christian fundamentalists probably still get freaked out by it.” Elaborating on the effect the name had on some devout Christians, Mike elaborated: “We have people that write to us saying ‘I’m praying for you, man.’ Or, ‘Why do you hate God?’ And I write them back and just tell them thank you, thanks for praying for me because I need all the help that I can get. For real, help me out here because I’m a miserable psychopath; I need to be prayed for.”

SISTER FUCKER

When discussing the early history of Eyehategod, all roads eventually lead to Jessica Goldfinch, another prolific show promoter and stalwart scene supporter of that era, and one of the first people to take the band under her wing. She has known Mike since his days as a junior high student at McMain, describing him as a young punk kid with spiky hair and a happy personality.

In the ‘80s and early ‘90s, punk rock was still considered a truly toxic commodity, so it took a creative spirit to find venues willing to host shows like that. “We would go to any old man bar and tell them, ‘you take the bar, we’ll take the door,’” Jessica says. “We lied many times about what the bands sounded like. Sometimes the bar would keep us for a while; sometimes they’d freak out and call the police the first night.”

Finding the R.C. Bridge Lounge was a stroke of fortune—either good or bad, depending on who you talk to. “They hadn’t had a customer in there since the World’s Fair in ’84, I don’t think,” Jessica recalls. In the lawless, anarchic days of that era, it was the perfect place to host punk and hardcore shows. If the show was especially “out there,” as Jessica says, something along the lines of GG Allin or Eyehategod, “We’d do a bunch of shots with Chuck the owner before the show. He’d go upstairs and pass out.”

Jessica would use a savvy approach to show production, a hallmark of her style and how she would approach Eyehategod, or “The Torture Band” as she would sometimes refer to them. “I would try and tell them how not to get screwed. A lot of what I remember with Eyehategod is just trying to get them to not hang out outside before the show because everybody was their damn friend and wanted to be on the guest list, and they were too generous with that.”

One thing that becomes pretty clear during my conversation with Jessica is how much the New Orleans underground owes to women like her and Stacy Hopkins, genuine matriarchs who sustained and nurtured this small but diehard scene, especially in an era dominated by macho bullshit. When I ask Jessica about her relationship to Eyehategod as it related to her being a woman in a male-dominated scene, she is quick to respond: “They treated me with the utmost respect, always.”

TRYING TO CRACK THE HARD DOLLAR

Eyehategod, throughout most of their early career, would find themselves dogged by money issues of every variety, from record label troubles to street beefs. One story relayed to me a couple of times by different people had J. Poggi (a.k.a. MC Trachiotomy) coming to collect payment from Mike Williams—on stage, forcefully, in the middle of an EHG set at R.C. Bridge Lounge—for a window Mike broke at an earlier show J. had promoted. Other, better documented stories include the many battles EHG would fight with their label, Century Media, over the years.

Money has always been considered a toxin in the underground, but never more so than in the early ‘90s, when Nirvana’s meteoric rise and the ensuing mad dash of major labels to sign similarly-disposed bands created huge rifts in the scene. A lot of confusion was generated by this. For the hardliners and devotees to the Maximumrocknroll ethos, selling out was a mortal sin, and any band committing even a whiff of such a thing would be forever shunned. Other bands were just looking for a way to not have to wash dishes for the rest of their lives anymore. Eyehategod, as with so many other opposing societal forces, found themselves jammed firmly in this divide.

By 1993, after the release of their second album Take as Needed for Pain, the joke was over and the band had cemented its status as a serious force to be dealt with. They knew they had something people wanted. The aggressive interest of promoters, coupled with EHG’s copious money troubles, made them fiercely protective and unyielding in their demands for payment. I asked Bryan Funck, singer of Thou and a longtime DIY show promoter, about that. Like Born Against, the Virginia hardcore phenom Pageninetynine had requested shows with Eyehategod in the early 2000s. Bryan remembers EHG demanding a lot of money to play (if they responded at all), something in the realm of $500—a prohibitive amount at the time. They might as well have asked for $5 million.

To the MRR acolytes in the scene, EHG’s hardball approach rubbed them the wrong way. In a July 2002 New Orleans scene report for MRR, one writer quipped: “I really don’t want to mention EYEHATEGOD, but I know those of you reading are probably scanning it for their mention. EHG just returned from Japan with their new bass player, Gary Hawg (no they didn’t get him there). They seem to be resting on their laurels and too busy name-calling and taking all the door money to be interested in much else.”

As was the pre-internet custom of the time, Mike Williams responded via an interview in Paranoize: “As far as ripping off bands for money, do you mean, like, going through their wallets while they are onstage playing (that’s a joke) or bands opening with the notion that we are rock stars and we didn’t give them enough money for playing with us? Because the latter is usually my experience. Look, we’ve been jerked around by promoters, clubs, and bands alike, so it’s not like we haven’t paid our dues… I wonder what’s up [that writer’s] ass to diss us. I just think it’s sad for them. WE don’t give a fuck. Keep talking shit behind our backs.”

And just who was that sniveling toad of a scenester fuck who penned such a dismissive, throwaway thought and sent it off to be published in an internationally distributed publication? Yours truly.

MAN IS TOO IGNORANT TO EXIST

Trudging through the history of Eyehategod is no casual feat, and in digging into their catalogue, speaking with people, and falling down endless internet wormholes, it was only inevitable that I would raise a few demons, even some from my own past.

As I asked around about the band, I certainly provoked a lot of fond memories, but I also got a few thousand-yard stares, a lot of “won’t go there” types of responses, as well as replies to queries that all read something like, “Stories? They all involve drugs and police, so I dunno.”

Jimmy Bower

Lest this retrospective suffer from the narcotic surge of nostalgia, revisionist history, or pure sycophantic fandom, now might be a good opportunity to briefly delve into how fucked up the 1990s were for New Orleans. And while plenty of people not only survived but thrived in that era, there were many dark and what we would now call problematic moments. Jessica Goldfinch recalls the story of one poor woman, more than likely wracked with mental illness (considered little more than a mere nuisance then), who jumped on stage naked during an EHG set, only to be kicked back into the crowd, where no one caught her. The bar manager threw her out, still naked and passed out. (Jessica had to convince them to bring the woman back inside.)

New Orleans as a whole was a pretty bleak place in the 1990s, and the underground was no exception. Skinheads had an active presence in the scene and “dope was king,” as M. Bevis puts it. The crime rate was out of control. In 1994, over 400 murders were committed; the year before: 395. (for reference, the 2017 murder count in New Orleans was 157.) In 1995, Antoinette Frank, an active member of the NOPD, robbed and murdered the family proprietors of the Kim Anh restaurant in New Orleans East, killing a fellow cop, along with most of the family, during the heist.

The suburbs were no exception. In the anthology Precious Metal: 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces (published by DECIBEL magazine), Joey LaCaze described living in Harvey, a Westbank suburb: “I was living at my mom’s place, and across the canal are some really fucked-up areas, and every night we’d hear gunshots. I mean, like, automatic weapons and shit… it’d be totally quiet and in the silence of the nighttime, you’d just hear gunshots and you’d think, ‘Someone probably just got fucking killed.’”

“Help me out here because I’m a miserable psychopath; I need to be prayed for.” – Mike Williams

Eyehategod was the perfect soundtrack for this era, for better and worse. These days it’s hard to justify some of their early choices, like the unchecked violence at shows, the band’s flirtation with the Confederate flag, or song titles like “Hit a Girl” and “White Nigger.” As for that latter song, Mike explains the root of the title in the Precious Metal Q&A, in his signature circuitous and contradictory style, once again peeling back the ever-present veneer of nihilism to reveal a pretty broad depth of music history: “The title was just meant to be offensive. It’d be bullshit to say there was a deeper meaning behind it. There’s this ‘70s punk rock band called the Avengers… I totally took the title from them… I mean, Patti Smith had a song called ‘Rock N’ Roll Nigger.’” Towards the end of the explanation, Mike admits, “We enjoyed the negative publicity, of course, but honestly, I have regretted that title. I stick by it, and I’m not gonna take stuff back, but there’s times when I think it’s not worth all the bullshit. And I definitely don’t want people to think I’m a racist—that’s horrible.”

KILL YOUR BOSS

Chances are, if you’ve eaten a meal out in New Orleans in the past 30 years, someone from Eyehategod either made it for you, served it to you, or cleaned the refuse from your plate. On the Metal Hand of God podcast, Mike talks about his time working at Maspero’s: “It was full of bikers and punks… I’d come in and wash dishes and at the end of the day you’d get $40. And we’d just go spend it on drugs and booze anyway.” Joey LaCaze had an impressive resume, working everywhere from Frankie’s Cafe in Carrollton to the Palace Cafe on Canal Street.

No one appreciates Eyehategod’s penchant for the service industry better than Jay Morris, a co-owner of the Juan’s Flying Burrito empire (and for trivia’s sake, a fellow alum of Boy Scout Troop #48). Around the time that Jay had started working at the original Juan’s on (where else?) Lower Magazine Street, he also worked at Nine Muses (the precursor to Surrey’s Cafe and Juice Bar), which was just down the block. Mike Williams was the dishwasher at Nine Muses, and Jay was already impressed with how smart he was: “I started teaching him how to bake and he was really getting into it,” Jay says.

The management at Nine Muses soon fell apart and Jay found himself full time at Juan’s, eventually buying into the restaurant. He would go on to hire two members of Eyehategod, Gary Mader (who works there to this day, in between tours), and Joey, who worked on-and-off at the Mid-City location for years. On the few occasions I ate there while Joey was working, it was hard not to fanboy out while ordering pork and slaw tacos from one of New Orleans’ most accomplished drummers.

When Katrina hit in 2005, the band was scattered across the country, with Mike and his girlfriend at the time ending up in Morgan City, where he was arrested on narcotics charges and landed in jail for three months. The Juan’s in Mid-City had been destroyed by the floodwaters. “We couldn’t even get into the walk-in until three months later and it was disgusting,” Jay recalls. But eventually they got the building gutted. Before the renovations began in earnest, someone (it’s unclear who came up with the idea) proposed a show in the restaurant as a kind of “Welcome Home” to Mike and everyone else returning from the evacuation. Using a generator for power, Eyehategod set up in the kitchen space and played to a grateful and inebriated crowd rubbed raw from the storm’s aftermath, cementing the bond between band and restaurant.

Joey LaCaze was an “incredible salesman,” Jay recalls, and a charming coworker. He had earned a lot of nicknames over the years—the ubiquitous “Lil Daddy,” his onstage moniker “the una-drummer.”—but at Juan’s, he was “Pimp Shadow,” in reference to his (and the staff’s) love of New Orleans hip-hop, especially UNLV, an early group on the Cash Money Records roster. This is borne out in Gary Mader’s tour diary for ANTIGRAVITY, where he writes, “Our worthless nine hour ride to Louisville starts immediately after the show, featuring DJ Lacaze, aka Lil Daddy LLL (Live Life Loaded), jamming New Orleans’ own UNLV 6th and Baronne.”

Eyehategod’s trajectory would intersect often with the stellar rise of ‘90s era New Orleans hip-hop, when labels like Cash Money and No Limit were growing up in that same ultra-violent decade. During the recording of Take as Needed for Pain (as relayed in Precious Metal), members of EHG would bump into Cash Money artists recording at Studio 13, which was housed on the 13th Floor of the old Maison Blanche building (now a Hyatt) on Canal Street. “They’re all totally cool, but they were fuckin’ scared of Eyehategod, dude,” says then-bassist Marc Schultz in the interview. “These big ol’ gold-teeth, tattooed rapper dudes thought we were going to hell.”

Perhaps the oddest intersection of these two disparate genres would collide at the wedding after-party for Jay and his wife, Kendra, in 2009. Sharing the bill with other Juan’s extended family bands like Felix and Suplecs were Eyehategod and the King of Bounce Rap himself, DJ Jubilee (another staple of the Juan’s kitchen soundtrack). “Dan, it was the most incredible thing,” Jay recalls. “I personally was nervous about it. I paid [Jubilee] at the end of Suplecs and I said, ‘You can go.’ He was like, ‘What are you talking about? I want to stay and see Eyehategod. I’ve heard about them and I want to see what they’re about.’” Jay remembers Jubilee standing right by the stage, “totally in awe.”

CHILDREN OF GOD

Thirty years ago, “The” Eyehategod was started as a joke, a quick and dirty fuck you to the “Morning in America” spirit that foreshadowed our current MAGA hellscape. Today, the greatest joke of all is that the band has never been a tighter, more efficient machine. In June of 2014, Eyehategod charted for the first time on the Billboard 200 with a self-titled album, their first since 2000’s Confederacy of Ruined Lives, and the last album with Joey on drums. That same month, they were written up with a glowing review in The New York Times. And despite nearly dying of cirrhosis, Mike Williams was granted another round with a miracle liver transplant. Jimmy Bower’s Instagram is full of pictures of his children, whom he seems to dote on like a proud papa. In the hand-written notes included with the reissue of their first album, In the Name of Suffering, Mike Williams cops to the grand riddle before Eyehategod now: “Not knowing if you’ll live much longer gives you the freedom to take chances. Now if you do live longer than expected… well that’s another story.”

Eyehategod at the Hangar (2013) with Aaron Hill (drums), Gary Mader (bass).

In my journey through Eyehategod’s past, one thing that has become painfully evident is how much life has spawned from their tenure. When I reached out to Adele Hunt, a longtime friend (we met in second grade) and fellow fan, she told me a story about watching Eyehategod deep into her pregnancy. It was at Bywater Music, the equipment and repair shop owned by longtime EHG associate and collaborator Paul Webb, who was celebrating his first year of business with a huge blowout show in the store itself. “I had heard that if you expose your child to lots of loud noise they won’t wake up easy,” she told me. So Adele stood right in front of the speakers during their set. “My hair was blowing back it was so loud.” If you’re wondering how the baby turned out, Phoebe is currently a healthy, precocious, happy nine-year-old. Does she like their music? “She’s not into it,” admits Adele.

And therein lies the crowning glory to Eyehategod’s legacy: if you reach deep into EHG’s full-throated devotion to addiction, sickness, blasphemy, offense, violence, and the black abyss of death herself, you might just find a reason to keep living. “Eyehategod attracted a lot of strange people; people with real problems, too,” Mike Williams told Metal Hand of God. “You know, somebody’s like, ‘you helped me not commit suicide.’ We get this all the time.”

Jessica Goldfinch, who now teaches gifted and talented students in Jefferson Parish, sees Eyehategod as a net that caught a lot of people on the fringe. “There’s people that think a bunch of people saying fuck everything is a problem. And actually, I totally believe it’s a way of getting that out of you. And being able to find people who have the same frustrations helps you deal with that in your life… they gave a lot of people an outlet for that kind of thing,” she says. “I think they gave a lot of people a sense of belonging.”

Joey LaCaze

Thanks to the army of devotees spanning generations and cultures, the internet has provided endless fodder for my quest, and I could never do justice to the hundreds of articles, interviews, and videos, many of them meticulously archived. I did stumble, however, upon Jenna, a blogger for drunkinagraveyard.com and a self-described “millennial Pamela Des Barres.” Following the completion of getting the EHG logo as a “tramp stamp” tattoo, Jenna wrote a brilliant discourse, a mashup of the MTV show Teen Mom and a treatise on “sludge,” one of many qualifiers used to describe EHG’s sound: “To me, sludge means beating on in the face of nothingness and believing in the resilience of whatever troubled city you may find yourself in, from New Orleans to Baltimore. Most importantly, though, sludge has taught me to always believe in my inner army of one, to be the woman I want to be, to go wherever, drink whatever, do whomever, and live every day like it’s my last. And if anyone tries to tell me to ‘have more respect for myself,’ whatever the fuck that means, I just tell ’em, ‘Go have a picnic life, bitch.’”

On the eve of their 30th anniversary, my ultimate wonder is if Eyehategod will extend itself infinitely into the future. Jimmy Bower, as the member who’s been there since the beginning, comes the closest to being a lynchpin for the band. But even he hasn’t played 100% of EHG shows, a feat no member can claim. Could they slowly, methodically cycle through members, creating a monster band that cannot be killed? I thought for sure the band was over with Joey’s passing. But that was five years ago, and Aaron Hill has proven a capable heir to that drum throne. When Mike was deathly ill, various vocalists stepped in, from famous legends like Phil Anselmo to hometown heroes like Fat Stupid Ugly People’s Hollise Murphy.

It’s possible to think of a distant future when Eyehategod’s albums lie entombed in the wood and marble halls of great learning—perhaps even a Jesuit institution or two—next to fellow torture masters like Nietzsche or the Marquis De Sade, their music and myth studied intently by future generations. And if you think that’s the most absurd thing you’ve read so far, all I can say is: laugh now, ye of little faith.

Eyehategod will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Saturday, June 2 at Tipitina’s, with Benni, Pussyrot, and Abysmal Lord opening. For more info, check out eyehategod.ee.


Top photo: Vocalist Mike IX Williams and drummer Joey LaCaze at Monaco Bob’s Touchdown Lounge (1993).  All photos GARY LoVERDE.  

Fliers courtesy From Staple Guns to Thumbtacks: Flyer Art from the 1982-1995 New Orleans Punk & Hardcore Scene (compiled by Pat Roig).