Mike IX Williams’ misanthropic screams and Jimmy Bower’s abrasive feedback have resonated with more than just a few people since they played their first gig together in 1988. Eyehategod are far from role models, but that hasn’t kept them from amassing a cult following across the planet. For better or worse, they’re the definition of hometown heroes, having inspired generation after generation of those on the verge of going down and out.
I initially became aware of their dedicated local following firsthand during high school when I squeezed into Webb’s Bywater Music for my first ever DIY show. On a brutally hot June afternoon in 2010, the band set up against the back wall to commemorate the shop’s first anniversary. Downright biblical amounts of sweat poured off everyone as they pummeled against each other. With no space to go anywhere, the hoard pinned Williams against original drummer Joey LaCaze’s kit. The heat became so unbearable that Williams eventually had to seek shelter next to the room’s only box fan just to narrowly avoid passing out.
I only began to truly understand the far-reaching fanaticism for the band when I moved to Japan. When I would tell people at shows there that I was from New Orleans, sometimes the first thing out of their mouth would be “I want to see Eyehategod.” I couldn’t even escape the Superdome halfway across the world because it was plastered on one of the band’s shirts. In 2019 alone, Eyehategod toured in over 20 different countries. Much to the probable dismay of the tourism bureau, this band, eternally representative of New Orleans’ darkest side, is the first thing that comes to many people’s minds when they think of the city.
Eyehategod releases A History of Nomadic Behavior on March 12, exactly a year after the pandemic forced the band to cancel their European tour early and flee for home. Despite over three decades together, this is only their sixth studio album. It embodies the seasoned veterans’ signature sound, while also showcasing the growth that has occured in the seven years since releasing their self-titled album. To mark the occasion and do something on an otherwise uneventful Lundi Gras, Williams opened up about his developmental days in New Orleans’ early punk scene, his dream replacement, and his insight into what makes EHG a global phenomenon.
You’ve lived a pretty wild life. What has the past year been like for Mike Williams?
It’s been pretty boring, going from touring so much to being at home, but I also like to be at home as well. Like everybody else, I like to read, watch TV, and things like that. We had planned to take the rest of 2020 off anyway. We were on tour with Napalm Death in February and March. We had a bunch of headlining shows after that, which we had to postpone because of the pandemic. We kind of panicked because we didn’t know what we were supposed to do. The message that the stupid president said about what to do wasn’t clear, so we just figured it was best for us to come home. We had planned to take the rest of last year off to do the vocals for the record and stuff like that. It kind of worked out… but it’s just been too long now. It’s been way too long. We should’ve been back on tour. We were trying to go back on tour last November, but obviously there was no way. Then, they were trying for June of this year, but I don’t think that’s going to happen either. It’s too soon.
The band is tied up. You don’t even know what you can do or when you can do things.
I think people should realize too that there’s lots of bands in the world not being able to play. There’s also the roadies, the bartenders, managers, lighting guys, tech guys, and soundmen. All these people are just out of work… It’s not just a bunch of bands screaming, “We want to play, scream, and make noise!” It’s a whole industry. I’m not complaining because I understand the seriousness of this thing. We have to do this. I’ve seen people bitch and then do basement shows. [shakes head] You don’t want to draw people into an event right now! It’s just silly!
Yeah. I know one or two bands locally have been doing DIY shows and I’m kind of in disbelief.
It is unbelievable. I think all over people are sneaking in these basement shows or underground house shows. You could say that’s punk rock or something but it’s really not. It’s just stupid. There’re so many selfish people that just don’t care, the anti-maskers and whatnot.
You were a part of the local punk scene growing up. How did you initially get involved with all that?
There was a record store called Leisure Landing on Magazine Street. That’s kind of where everybody would meet on Saturdays—or at the Mushroom, which is still there on Broadway! I used to live on Birch, right around the corner from the Mushroom… Later on, there was a record store called Metronome and another one called Underground Sounds. But the early, early stuff was Leisure Landing and the Mushroom. You would go there and there would be punks hanging out. This was a new thing! I got into this stuff in 1978. I was a child! I won’t reveal my age here, but I’m getting up there. I was still into KISS at the same time I was into The Normals—who were mostly playing bars, but I saw them at the Contemporary Arts Center and Tulane’s campus. On Friday afternoons, they would have shows at the quad. It was bands like The Contenders, who we also called The Backstabbers, and Totally Cold—who went and changed their name to The Cold and got pretty big in the city. Also, there was a fanzine, Final Solution was the name of it. I wrote some addresses in there and got in touch with some local people just because I was into this music. I probably found out about punk from KISS magazines. I would buy everything KISS. I was really into Alice Cooper and Aerosmith at the time. I still love old Aerosmith. It’s great, man! There was a magazine called Rock Scene that would do the New York stuff, which was Dead Boys and all that. That’s my favorite stuff. I started reading those magazines and checking out more: the Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash, and the Ramones, of course. I tried going to any show that I could, being that young. There was a club called Jed’s on Oak Street and my brother worked there. I still don’t really know what he did, but he was a custodian or something. He had the keys to the place and everything. Jed’s was kind of this old man drunk bar, but people started having shows there. The first time I saw The Normals was there. My brother got me in because he worked there. He was like, “Oh, that’s my little brother.” That was back when people were pogoing. There was no slam dancing or anything like that. I was just fascinated by the whole thing: the freedom of it, the rebellion of it (of course!), the extremity of it, coming out of KISS. I was just checking out all this crazy stuff. Plus the whole DIY thing with people doing it themselves and putting out their own records was cool.
You’ve told me a bit about how Dave Turgeon and The Sluts were sort of role models for you. Can you tell me a bit about some of the local bands that helped shape what you later went on to do?
To say that Dave’s a role model… I don’t know. He was pretty wasted most of the time. It was more so his stage performance. As a band, The Sluts were the rawest. They had three chords. They actually had a song called “1 Cord City.” They were kind of fast for back then and they were just raw. They were sloppy and Dave would scream. He had this hundred-foot mic cord or maybe more than that, like 200 feet. From the club, he would go out into the street and be screaming into cars driving by, which was fantastic. That spectacle and the energy of that music was just in your face. The other band that super influenced me was Shell Shock. I had written to this guy who was called Hatch Boy, their guitar player, in Final Solution. I wrote him and he wrote me back! He was telling me what bands he likes and we were trading letters. He lived in Metairie and I lived Uptown. We were writing each other so one day we said let’s meet at Leisure Landing. We met there and I became friends with his brother who was the singer, plus Scott Oz, who was the bass player at the time. I started hanging out with them and going to every show anywhere that I could sneak in. I was still young at the time. It took years for me to be old enough to actually get in legally. We would just go see everything and anything. Bands would come here like Black Flag, Minor Threat, D.O.A. There’s so many bands—Bad Brains! All these bands would play New Orleans and we would go… I was in a band called Teenage Waste. We had a residency at this bar called the Rose Tattoo on Tchoupitoulas. We played mostly with The Sluts, playing Tuesday and Friday at this bar across from Tipitina’s. I think the building is still there. That band was my first [time] getting on stage and playing shows. We played other shows. We played this club called the Beat Exchange. They used to have a lot of new wave and punk rock stuff. We used to do a lot of shows with the Red Rockers too.
Of course, there’s the infamous story about you and the Misfits at Marie Laveau’s tomb.
I don’t know how true the Marie Laveau’s tomb part was. It could’ve been made up by somebody else who was there that night, or the newspaper. I’m not really sure. I don’t remember anybody saying, “Let’s go find Marie Laveau’s tomb!” We were at the show and we had actually seen them the night before. We drove to Houston so it was the Necros and Misfits in Houston. We drove to Houston and were hanging out with the Misfits and Necros and became friends with them. We wound up following them to New Orleans for the next show. We drove with them on the highway to New Orleans from Houston and even stopped at a Denny’s together with the Misfits. They weren’t wearing their clothes from stage but their hair was still like that. We were in this redneck diner in somewhere like Lafayette. It was crazy! I’m just a little kid sitting there with a shaved head and a Black Flag shirt or something, hanging out with these dudes. The next night, we went to the show. It was great, of course. Glenn [Danzig] wanted to see the above ground cemeteries. I guess they wanted bones or something is what they were saying. Apparently, he collected human bones, which I did too. I think it was kind of a thing when I was a kid: cat skulls and stuff. We went there and, of course, it was like the middle of the night, two in the morning maybe after the show… The thing is it was supposed to just be me, Hatch Boy, Greg [Hatch] from Shell Shock, and a few other people. Somehow, people got word of this thing and followed us there and went there in all their cars… There’s projects right next to the cemetery so it’s not very safe there at two or three in the morning. The next thing you know there’s 20 people there, maybe 25 or 30. I think only 18 or 20 got arrested, but there were more people than that. People were just wandering around and showing Glenn these tombs. People break into these tombs and take people’s gold teeth and gold chains. There’s a lot of that. We were showing him stuff like that. The next thing you know, someone had called the cops, I guess. They caught who they could. Some people got away. Some people didn’t. There was a guy named Fish who used to hang out. He had a motorcycle that night so it’s possible that he attracted a lot of attention to that. I’m not sure. Rest his soul. He passed away. Old Fish might’ve gotten us all arrested. They lined [up] the ones they caught, which was me and a bunch of people. Hatch Boy got away. A bunch of people got away, but this guy Otto got caught with me. [Same with] my friend Yvonne [Ducksworth] who was the singer for this band called Jingo de Lunch in Germany. They’re a great band… We were juveniles. That’s us they talk about in the article. The 16 year-olds—I was actually 15 then—wearing shirts depicting skeletons because I was wearing a Necros shirt and my friend had on some other skull shirt. They ended up hitting my friend Yvonne in the face with a flashlight. I know she doesn’t like to relive that. It wasn’t fun for her. Obviously, a girl was going to get worse treatment, knowing NOPD. I got bailed out. I was a runaway at the time from a boys home. I used to be at Waldo Burton boy’s home over on [South] Carrollton. If you ever see that big giant building over on Carrollton by Earhart, it’s the boy’s home I used to be in… I didn’t mind that place, but I didn’t want to get caught obviously. My friend’s parents bailed me out so that was lucky. I remained an escapee and went back to his house and stayed.
Did you ever wind up having to go back to the boy’s home?
I did go back there later. I would do all kinds of crazy stuff. I took a Greyhound to Texas to see this band called Verbal Abuse from Houston. I was friends with them and we’d go see them play. There was a band called the Ghetto Blasters. I used to go hang out with them. My friend Carol lived down there and we would hang out. I went to L.A. once. This was all being a runaway. I went out to California and checked it out but kind of realized I wasn’t going to make it out there alone being that young, so I wound up getting a Greyhound back. All that happened while I was in the boy’s home. When I got caught, I got arrested again for something and they took me back to my brother, who was my legal guardian since my parents passed away when I was really young. They took me back to his house, which, I would’ve rather gone back to the boy’s home, to be honest, because they would’ve treated me better than my brother.
Eyehategod briefly had another singer. What was going through your head as you were joining this band?
The whole idea was basically mine and [Eyehategod guitarist/Shell Shock drummer] Jimmy Bower’s idea. I think it was early 1986 and I went on tour with Shell Shock. They were doing a U.S. tour and I was their merch guy roadie. I did a terrible job. I was awful, but I was kind of like their mascot anyway. We went on tour and, the whole time, Jimmy was getting tired of being in that band. The two brothers were kind of controlling. I love them. They were great. Greg’s still with us. Hatch Boy passed away though, not long after that tour. They were great guys, but they were a little bit controlling about the band. They wanted it focused on what their vision was. Jimmy and I were getting a little bit bored of that. We were listening to a lot of Trouble, Saint Vitus, and so much stuff. Early Melvins! I don’t know if there was Gluey Porch Treatments but it must’ve come out sometime around then so we had the first EP or something and we loved it. We blatantly ripped them off. We wanted to be like that, but make it more aggressive, more hardcore, more extreme. I like extreme things. It was me and Jimmy’s idea on that tour in 1986. It took two more years to get to where there was a band that actually did shows. In the years before that, there was another singer named Chris. I believe he was only there for two or three practices. I was in another band at the time called Crawlspace, more of a thrash metal band doing Voivod-ish type stuff. It was not that good, though. I was in this other band and I loved this idea that Jimmy and me had to start this slow band we were hearing in our heads, mixing hardcore punk with slow, doomy stuff we were hearing. He had the other singer and they were doing their thing and that kind of [ended when the singer] had a mental breakdown once. We wound up taking him to the hospital and left him. Jimmy would know more about what happened to him. After that, I was like, “I’m definitely going to be the singer now! Me and you thought of this band so I’m the singer!” He was cool with that so we started practicing and actually booking shows. That was in ‘88. The other guy wasn’t in the band very long, but he did think of the name… but it was originally The Eyehategod.
I mean it is THE Eyehategod! No other!
It’s like the first Pink Floyd album was [credited as] The Pink Floyd. It said that on the spine of the record. I don’t know what his whole concept for that was all about: The Eyehategod. There was a whole logic to the thing, a deep thing about how what you see are your vices and your vices are god—like sex, drugs, gambling, whatever you’re into. The eye is what you see your vices are and you hate them because you’re a human, but these are temptations that you can’t stay away from. It’s a whole concept for that, which we’ve tried to explain like I just did, but he explained it. He’s a born-again Christian now.
It’s a whole explanation that’s sort of lost to history in some regards. You took it and went off with what you were going to do with it.
We just took it to a whole other place. He did not like that he had invented that name and he was not happy with the name. Like I said, he’s Christian or he was born again at some point in his life… To me, it’s just a cool, strange name. The stranger the better for me. I like weird stuff and I like confusing people, too. So I always loved that name because people are always like, “What is it? What does it mean?” And I’m like, “It’s a secret.” It’s funny. Some people have thought the name is satanic.
It’s crazy to think you started gigging with this band in 1988 and are still going over three decades later and have even had [Melvins drummer] Dale Crover drum for you on a couple of occasions.
Yeah. Well, just the once, when our drummer Joey [LaCaze] passed away in 2013. We had this show booked at the Housecore [Records] horror fest thing Phil [Anselmo] did every year. Joey passed away and we were like, “What do we do?” I don’t know if it was Jimmy, but someone got in touch with Dale. He was like, “Of course. Sure, I’ll do it!” He knew Joey. We knew Dale from before. Dale was one of Joey’s favorite drummers. He loved Dale’s drumming so that was a cool thing as well. We were honored. Dale is a great guy anyways. It was cool for the show. It was an honor.
At this point, Eyehategod has been your life’s work. How did it feel when other people were fronting the band during your big health scare before you received your liver transplant in 2016?
Well, that was partly my idea. It was a group idea, but I agreed that it’s fine. Through the career of this band, there’s been instances where one person was missing, like we did a tour of the UK without Jimmy a long time ago. Gary [Mader, current bass player] wasn’t at that one either so it was just me, Joey, Brian [Patton, former guitarist], and this guy Marvin [Gauntlett] who is in The Varukers and this band Chaos UK. Seth [Putnam] from Anal Cunt sang once because I was in jail back in the ‘80s. Different people have done that. It’s been kind of like a tradition for people to step in and sit in so it was no problem at all. I was just glad that they were still touring. I didn’t want them to cancel a tour because of me. The tour I was talking about was with this band Discharge. Discharge is one of my favorite bands. To have Eyehategod as a family cancel this thing, it [would have] made me feel bad. I just couldn’t do it. I was in the hospital so to have them continue and go and do it was really cool. That’s the one when [Lamb of God vocalist] Randy Blythe sat in. That was a week worth of shows or something. I’m just glad to this day that Eyehategod got to tour with Discharge. I wasn’t there but it’s still cool to me.
Hollise [Murphy, Fat Stupid Ugly People vocalist] even sat in!
Hollise was on the benefit they did to raise money for my hospital bills. A bunch of people sat in that night. I always tell them, “Man, if something ever happens to me, get Hollise in the band!” He will be the new singer if something happens to me.
So Hollise is your number one pick if someone has to be your replacement?
Definitely! He is such a presence and he is so fucking cool! You guys can tour with him easy! He’ll be so laid back and chilled out the whole time.
I feel like you have a fanbase everywhere except for maybe North Korea.
Right! We actually played in South Korea last year so we were close. I wanted to go to the border to get close and see what you could find. You can’t cross it obviously, but it’d be cool to check it out. There’s this algorithm on Instagram that shows you where your fanbases are and it’s like Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and we’ve played all those places! Southeast Asia was probably the most interesting to me. We did five shows in Indonesia and then from there went to Thailand. We had done Malaysia and Singapore the year before that.
Are you ever surprised, like “Oh, I’ve got a following in this country?”
Not anymore. I used to be, but that was always kind of my goal back in the day. I would hear about bands going to somewhere like Indonesia and I’d be like, “How did they pull that off?” It seemed like such a far-reaching thing back in the early ‘90s. How do you do that and come back, not starving? To go over there and have a place to sleep and eat was just amazing. I’d see certain bands doing things like that and I was like, “That’s my goal! I want to play the most obscure places ever!” We played Vietnam, which was bizarre.
Especially because the band has the song “New Orleans Is The New Vietnam.”
Yeah. I guess the joke that day was “Vietnam is the New Vietnam,” which is stupid. We want to go back to South America. We’ve done Canada, Mexico. There’s been so many places. You can only tour America and Europe so many times and I recommend bands start trying to go to these places because it’s educational. It’s a learning experience. Travelling is education. I think people would learn a lot and be more open-minded people if they’d do these things. And not just bands! Everyone!
Y’all even got bootlegged in São Paulo!
Yeah! Mexico as well! We get bootlegged in a lot of places. If you look on Etsy or eBay, there’s stuff, either shirts or patches. I was actually on there last night, looking at some of the stuff. There’s not much you can do about it. Sometimes, we’ll have a lawyer write these people and tell them to cease and desist but they just start up under a different name. They’re gonna do it. But in places like South America—São Paulo, Brazil and Mexcio, they put the bootlegs up on the wall with a price and they’re just like “Fuck you” if you don’t like it. They really just put them up there and they don’t care. The only thing we can do is go and be like, “Can I have one? I’m in the band. Can I have one of those bootleg shirts?” What else can you do?
What is it about Eyehategod that allows it to transcend all these cultural and language barriers to become such a global phenomenon?
We’re a very basic band. There’s no technicality about it at all. This band has very simple songs. I think when people hear it, it is like when people heard some of the old punk bands or old hardcore bands. They’d go, “Oh, I can do that!” Plus, we have a lot of passion when we play live. We’re a live band no matter what. We put out albums because people want us to and that’s fun. Recording is OK. It’s not my favorite but it’s fun. But we’re a live band. When people see us live, that’s when it brings people together. There’s that passion, this aggression, and this feeling of overwhelmed loud guitars and feedback and screaming. It’s very cathartic for other people as well as us. I think that’s kind of what does it.
I respect how much Eyehategod represents New Orleans no matter where you go.
I was born in North Carolina so I wasn’t born in New Orleans. But I moved there when I was like ten years old so it’s been embedded in my heart. It’s just one of those cities that does that to people. It’s hard to leave sometimes. You still miss it a lot. We like to put the vibe out there. I think we kind of do that without even trying because all those guys were born there. It’s definitely a part of my life. It’s a major influence. People ask us why we sound the way we do and I think it’s being from New Orleans. I don’t think we could sound this way being from anywhere else or if we had grown up in some other city. It’s the environment and the summer and the heat. Everything about New Orleans goes into the gumbo of the music.
Yeah. That’s why I thought it was really good that the band got Aaron [Hill] after Joey passed away. It kept it within that New Orleans family.
Yeah. That’s something we really wanted: to have a New Orleans person in the band. I won’t mention names or anything but we tried out some people from other semi-bigger bands. They were from other cities in Florida and here and there. They’re cool people and we love them, but it didn’t fit. They didn’t have that groove and Aaron has that! He told me he used to watch Joey play. The times he saw Eyehategod play, he liked Joey’s drumming. That made a big impression on me. I was like, “Wow, that’s great.” I don’t want him to play exactly just like Joey but he’s in there! He’s in the pocket, as they say. He’s just got that groove and that swing.
And now he’s finally on his first Eyehategod album.
Yeah! I think he’s excited. He’s just as weird as we are too so it works out perfect. Everybody from New Orleans has something dysfunctional going on. It’s that type of city. He fits in perfect!
That is the thing. I lived outside of the country and there is this certain weirdness when you’re living outside of New Orleans. I can’t really quite explain it.
I always kind of feel like I don’t fit anywhere else. I lived in Brooklyn for three years, which was OK. I tried to go to San Francisco but that didn’t last very long. I’ve stayed in Houston, Texas for periods of time. I just wind up wanting to get a house in Lakeview or something. The city just draws you back in… My brother travelled a lot and had been all over the place. He was like a hippie and used to hitchhike around. He loved New Orleans and was like, “We’re going there! I’m taking you down there! It’s better for you than growing up in this small city in North Carolina,” which had nothing. The city I was from [High Point, North Carolina] was the furniture capital of the world, supposedly… It was scary being a kid moving to a weird big city. And then my first Mardi Gras, I’m just like [makes a big-eyed expression] “This is crazy!” but I loved it! It stuck with me the rest of my life. It will stick with me… I went to McDonogh 15 in the French Quarter. I’m not sure what years that was. I’d have to figure that out but it was an open school. They give you your assignments at the beginning of the year and then, if you finish them in a month, you’re done for the year. So I just did all my work immediately! And then the whole rest of the year, I would leave school, walk around the French Quarter, do anything.
With Eyehategod going around and always repping the city so hard, do you guys see yourselves as international ambassadors?
[Shakes head] I wouldn’t go that far! No! I wouldn’t say that at all! …I don’t think we’re spreading the word like a tourism board or anything like that, but we love to brag. We brag about the city. It’s just what you do. You brag about the city and you brag about how cool it is and how you grew up. It’s the most different city anywhere, especially in America. There’s a lot of great cities like that, but New Orleans just has its own thing. We do tell people how great it is and we’re obviously proud to be from there but I wouldn’t say ambassadors. We’re definitely not role models for anyone.
Eyehategod’s 30th anniversary show, June 2018 at Tipitina’s (photo by Adrienne Battistella)
With Eyehategod’s pro-drug reputation and the stories, you guys are probably seen as a bad influence on kids. What advice do you have for kids if they’re reading this?
I don’t know. I wouldn’t say that we’re pro-drug. This is a band where we always talked about what we did. We didn’t keep secrets about these things. Yeah, we get high and people knew it. In interviews, we talk about it. I wouldn’t say we’re pro-drug at all because people have also seen the downfall of how bad that is. I was in the hospital. Different things happened to different people and smaller things in life, like trying to stay on a record label but you’re having a hard time with life itself because of drugs. Those are the bad sides of it, so I wouldn’t be pro-drug at all, but I think people should be free to experiment if they want. I think LSD is something that people should take at least once in their lives. I think if more people did ketamine or LSD or MDMA just as a therapeutic type of thing or mushrooms, I think it would change a lot of people’s minds about their ego and just the way they are as humans—maybe not be so selfish. There’s that. I would tell kids: wait ‘til you’re old enough and, if that’s something you want to do, you should go at it in a responsible manner. It took us years to realize! You’re being a young kid, doing stuff and you’re like, “Fuck everybody! Fuck society!” You drink beer and you smoke weed. Something else comes along and you do other things. Before you know it, you’re off the deep end. That’s the horror part of the story that people need to know also. That’s not how you want to live. You don’t want to be a slave to any drug either. You don’t want to have to rely on it every day. That’s not a good way to live.
Having done Eyehategod for over three decades, do you ever see a day where Eyehategod won’t be a part of your life?
It’ll always be a part of my life because it’s been over 30 years of my life. But, no, I can’t do this when I’m 70 or nothing. I’ve written a book of poetry [Cancer as a Social Activity: Affirmations of World’s End] and stuff like that. I do art. I’ll keep doing this style of art. I’ve done the record covers for Eyehategod. Me and Gary do those. That’s still the concept of Eyehategod as an entity. People ask me and I like to say, “Eyehategod is a part of the universe.” It’s kind of this thing that is just there. It’s not just the band. It entails and combines other aspects of life, so I can still be a part of Eyehategod when I’m 70 and do writing or painting or other types of art. I don’t know about being on stage then. Charlie Harper from the UK Subs is 76, which blows my mind. Who knows? We may still be doing shows! That’s really something you can’t predict. It’ll always be a part of my life though.
Do you ever feel boxed in by what Eyehategod is?
No, because I do other things. I’ve done other side bands. I do power electronics and noise stuff. I’ve put out records with that. Like I said, I do artwork as well. I’ve done this band Corrections House, which is totally different than Eyehategod. I can express myself in many other ways than just Eyehategod. I want to expand and I have since the ‘80s as far as being in this band. I don’t feel boxed in by it. It’s my main thing, everybody’s main band, because we’re just active a lot. Me and Jimmy always say, “When it’s not fun anymore as a whole, it’ll be time to just wrap it up and be like ‘OK we had a good run!’” Because that’s what happens to bands. Some bands don’t last this long! I never thought that we would be around still. We were just a side project, kind of like a goof: “Let’s play Melvins riffs, but make them heavier!” Then we started writing our own songs. The first album was that stuff and then [for 1993’s] Take As Needed For Pain, Jimmy and Mark [Schultz, former bassist / guitarist] and these other guys are writing these killer songs! It was actually songwriting! We’re actually writing good songs as opposed to just putting riffs together like on the first record. I think this last album is some of the best songwriting we’ve done. The self-titled album that came out in 2014 just blew me away. Listen to the first album and then listen to that one. It’s so much different! There’s been that progression that’s made me realize there’s a lot more stuff we can do as far as Eyehategod.
The vocals on this record are very concise. If you sit down and listen, you can actually hear what you’re doing but you didn’t lose any of the grit at the same time.
Thank you for saying that. I was kind of worried about that part. I scream so some of the old records were really just drunken, nonsensical speaking-in-tongues lyrics. You can’t understand anything I’m saying on those old records. On the self-titled, I started doing it more clear: vocally and lyrically. In this band Arson Anthem that I did, I started pronouncing my words more. This is something I’d never really done. I’m a big fan of the Germs and, if anybody knows the Germs, Darby Crash’s vocal style, he had great lyrics but he was so sloppy and drunk that you didn’t get the jist of the lyrics. You got the power and that part of it, but their live shows were just a mess. I just wanted to pronounce things a little more, but still keep it aggressive, hopefully, and just see what people think.
When Randy Blythe sat in, didn’t he have to ask for lyrics because he couldn’t understand them and you essentially had to say, “I don’t even know?”
Definitely. There’s some songs where I have no idea what I’m saying. I used to record in the studio and then, when we’d get on stage, I’d have to reference the tape or the CD to know what I said. I would learn the songs back! We’ve always just thought of the vocals as part of the whole group. I’m not preaching any issues. We don’t have stories. We don’t write songs about certain subjects. The song title might be one thing, but then the music or the lyrics might not be anything. Or they might be something totally different that doesn’t match up with that.
I like that Eyehategod has never been a singles band. I guess some people latch onto “Sister Fucker,” but it’s not like you’re a band where it’s like, “Play the hit! Play these specific songs!”
People scream out “Sister Fucker” live. They want to hear that. I don’t know. The same people who want to hear a new album scream out the old songs from the crowd always. “When are you going to do another album?” and then we do one and they’re still like, “Sister Fucker!”
Yeah. You guys can only play a set for so long.
Yeah. We’re going to change the set up a bit now. We’ve been doing the same songs so we do the same set. We change it around here and there and improvise a little here and there but, for the most part, people want to hear those songs from Take As Needed For Pain. I’d like to learn some more obscure ones, try to get Jimmy to learn some of the more obscure stuff from anything in the past.
I think that’d be cool. Throw in some b-sides and stuff like that.
Yeah. For sure. It would just make it interesting. People would complain but I’ve realized you can’t make everyone happy. You can’t. Just no way. Somebody commented on YouTube or somewhere that “Man, you can understand what Mike’s saying now! It sucks!” Now that they can understand me, they hate it. It’s incredible!
I do think that’s weird about metal people. They’re very anal about everything. If it’s the slightest bit different from the thing that they had idealized in their head, they will just go off on it.
Yeah. Especially YouTube! I try not to read the comments there but I end up doing it anyway like “Fuck these people!” People were like, “Oh, I can mix this album better than this!” These comments, I’m like where are you even coming from?
And it’s probably some twelve year-old on their mom’s laptop!
Yeah! These kids that don’t even know what’s going on! That’s young! We have a history here. Twelve year-olds, I respect them for getting into this type of music but you don’t know everything yet. Give it a while. We just want to play. That’s all. We just want to play live. We can’t wait to play live again in front of people, real people, humans. It’s going to be great when it finally comes back because it has almost been a year! Can you believe it?
Right when the pandemic started, I think Cro-Mags was one of the first bands to do one of those free live streams. It was so weird to see them shouting stuff like, “Show me your emoji!”
Oh no! Did he say that? Oh my god! [laughs]
And it’s Cro-Mags!
That’s fucking crazy! That’s ridiculous. We’ve thought about doing a live stream. It’s been tossed around, but I can’t really see doing a great show. I could fake it, but I don’t want to do that. I want to be real in a live setting where people are drunk and throwing beer and going crazy!
You feed off of the chaos! I’ve seen it. There’s this relationship with that energy.
It’s the best feeling ever! You have to feed off it.
Do you have anything you want to say to the folks in New Orleans in general?
I just love New Orleans and I just can’t wait to go on tour again. I’ve seen generations and generations of fans in our crowds—friends! I don’t like to say fans; I like to say friends. I don’t really have anything to say directly to people. People can buy our merch though because that’s the one thing keeping us going now during this pandemic. And every band, not just us. Buy merch from everybody! I’ve just been buying merch to do it. I’m not a big collector of that stuff but it’s cool to support people. That’s literally keeping us afloat right now.
I feel like the couple years leading up to the pandemic were the band’s busiest touring years of your entire history. You just didn’t let up!
I was in the hospital in 2016. I don’t know what month I went in there, maybe October or something. I didn’t get the surgery until December so I was in there straight for that whole time. When I got out, I had a little bit of recovery time, which was four months. In April, we were back on the stage and I just told Jimmy, “I’m alive. I survived this.” I’m paraphrasing of course but, “I got through this thing. Let’s just tour as much as we possibly can!” That’s what I wanted to do! Brian left because he wanted to take care of his family, but also I think the touring got to be too much as well. I didn’t want that to happen but I just wanted to stay on the road from 2017 until we would’ve taken some time off in 2020. But we had to stop on March 12, which, by the way, is when the new album comes out! That’s the day we had to cancel a show in Kyiv in the Ukraine and fly back home because of the pandemic. The day of our album will be one year from the pandemic so that will be pretty interesting.
Maximum Rocknroll, November 1989 | #78
And to think y’all almost thought this band was a joke when you started it.
Like I said, it was just kind of us playing slow riffs. Jimmy sometimes says it’s a joke but I think more of it as not one hundred percent serious as opposed to just a joke. We all had other bands! Like I said, I was in a band called Crawlspace and we were working on an album. We wanted to record and play more shows and tour with that band. I started doing Eyehategod when I finally became the singer. People liked it! We recorded a rehearsal tape and sent it to Maximum Rocknroll. They reviewed it and loved it! Chris Dodge, who is actually the guitar player in Infest, gave it a good review and we were like, What? We were a little shocked at the good reviews. A lot of other people, the metal people, thought it was too noisy. It was that time when the punks hated us for whatever reasons and then the metalheads hated us for different reasons in both crowds. So we were just on our own but we loved annoying people.
[Paranoize zine founder] Bobby [Bergeron] just made a zine called Lost in Reality. He recalls the first Eyehategod show in it.
Every single song we did was just super slow that day. There may have been one fast part in the middle of the whole thing just to be weird. I remember walking down Decatur Street and finding this big box of old vinyl that was shit, just old crappy vinyl, so I brought it into the show. When we played, I threw it up into the ceiling fan. The records shattered and flew all over the room! People were throwing them. That was actually our second show. We played in Metairie, but there was no one there really but a couple people. So that was our first show where people noticed who the hell we were, I guess. It’s been a long, crazy trip.
A History of Nomadic Behaviour is out March 12 on Century Media. For more information, check out eyehategod.ee.
illustration by Bill Heintz