Mike Williams, wasn’t just sitting on his arse while Jimmy Bower was off touring with Down – well, except for the time he was in prison. Amit Sharma caught up with the EyeHateGod frontman earlier this year when the band hit London.
Photo used with permission © Julien Dodinet
It’s fair to say that Mike Williams of Eyehategod has not had it easy these last five years. In that time, he lost his house, and pretty much all his worldy possessions to Hurrican Katrina. While staying in a motel in the aftermath of the hurricane, he was arrested for drugs offences and spent several months in prison. While there, Williams went through the joys of heroin withdrawal.
Yeah, he’s not had it good.
Suffice to say, the only thing that’s remained constant in Williams’ life is the band he fronts – the almight New Orleans sludge-titans, Eyehategod. However, barring an EP and a handful of split releases, it’s been nearly a decade since the band put out a new studio album – so when the band rolled into London earlier this year, we made for damn sure news of new material from the band was top of our agenda when we got a chance to interrogate Williams before the band’s ULU show.
We hear there’s a new album on its way. How is the writing and recording coming along, and when can we expect to hear it?
“There’s been no recording yet, I mean the actual recording of it, but we’re writing and we’ve got 6 or 7 songs written. Obviously working on getting some proper lyrics and things to fit round it. Its kinda bluesy and hardcore – just like we’ve been you know… So hopefully this year we’ll have it out. Hopefully – I haven’t promised anybody. We’ve been promising people for years you know. I don’t wanna make any promises!”
What is the usual writing process for an Eyehategod album?
“It’s different. I write my lyrics separate. Sometimes I may write from a riff I’ve heard or other times I might bring something I’ve written before into it. The guys sometimes go up to the room and brainstorm or somebody might bring something and say ‘Oh Check This Out’. So it all comes in different ways – whatever gets it done.”
Watch EyeHateGod playing live in London earlier this year:
Dopesick is one of the most seminal albums out of the Southern metal scene. What made you guys head in a more bluesy direction from your earlier recordings?
“Well, Dopesick was our third album after Take As Needed For Pain, and that’s the album that seems like everyone started taking notice and the one where we found what we wanted to sound like. In the Name of Suffering – the recording is strange – people like that album but that recording is crazy to me, we didn’t know what we were doing at all. The first album came out on Intellectual Convulsion, a label out in France and then Century Media picked it up later on. It originally came out in 1989 but it was re-released in 1992. But now I guess that’s a cool sound. I guess the second album is when we found our sound. We always wanted to put bluesy stuff in it, like Lynyrd Skynyrd-type southern rock influences. I guess we learned how to play a little better and it came together.”
Can you tell us a bit more about that Dopesick session when someone wrote in your blood on the studio wall and what we hear in the opening track ‘My Name Is God (I hate you)’?
“I don’t know whose idea that was. That whole session was bizarre. We got a garbage can and thought lets scream over it for the intro, but it got outta hand. I was probably intoxicated and I ended up cutting my hand open and dripping blood all over the studio. I don’t know if it was Joey [LaCaze, drums] but someone started writing ‘Helter Skelter’ or some kinda Manson stuff. The guy from the studio was this huge cocaine addict and the guy who owned the place didn’t know what to say and freaked out. He called our label saying ‘These guys are insane, you gotta get em outta here!’ But it’s a good story.”
___Photo used with permission © Richard Aldred
You guys have used some great ‘shock-art’ images in your album sleeves. How did that come about it and who is usually responsible for it?
“Well the first two albums are all my artwork for the most part. I just liked ideas that came from bands like Discharge, they used pictures of war – very stark black and white photography. Then I was also influenced by noise and industrial bands like SPK who had pretty much the same style like real graphic in your face types of art. That’s where that basically comes from – I really love the cut and paste style. Dopesick was mainly Joey, he did a lot of that – we have similar styles.”
Eyehategod has been kicking and screaming for over 20 years now. How did it feel to celebrate the anniversary back in 2008, and what did it mean to you?
“It was great. It was amazing we were actually still together you know? All the shit we’ve been through and all I can is it was a good feeling to have people that still wanted to listen to us. Cos we don’t really even know if people like us, we’re pretty oblivious most of the time.”
Watch more of EyeHateGod playing live in London earlier this year:
It’s great to see the brotherhood still strong between bands from the NOLA scene. How is it different now to when you started out in the late 80’s?
“I don’t know, I guess a few bands have had success. There’s also a lot of new young bands that are coming out… there’s a band called Harp right now that are really good, and Gary [Mader, bass]’s other band Hawg Jaw. It’s really not that much different except for the success some people have had but everybody is still like family, we’re all like brothers.”
You guys are all very productive musically with numerous other projects on the go, is it hard getting everyone together to write, record or even just hang out?
“Well, they practice a lot. I live like an hour away from New Orleans right now. After Hurricane Katrina hit and all that, I’ve been living across the lake, which is an hour from New Orleans so I don’t get out that often. But they practice quite a bit and write, or even just hang out or whatever. But Im planning on moving back to the city soon.”
I’ve always found your lyrics deeply intriguing, very cryptic and hazy yet they still somehow make sense. What are your influences when writing?
“So much different stuff. Certain writers like Burrows, of course, and Charles Bukowski. I guess the abstract, cut and paste style of Burrows but with Bukowski’s bleakness. You know that alcoholic view of things, so that’s a big influence. Also there’s singer/writers like Nick Cave and Darby Crash and the Germs. Then there’s other things like walking down the street of a city, things like that can be an influence too.”
___Photo used with permission © Taylor Keahey
Some of your lyrics and material in your book, Cancer As A Social Activity, must have been written when you were in a much darker place. Has your writing style changed at all since?
“I would say no, it hasn’t you know. I’m still the same psychotic mind, I would say. I will admit with some of my newer stuff, there’s a glimmer of hope in there sometimes. It’s not completely desolate. So sometimes I’ll say something positive and you know what, it’s not a bad thing to be positive. I’d still call it dark, negative poetry – but with a little positivity. I decided I’d rather live a little bit, I used to not really care if I lived or died but now Im kinda excited about getting old.”
You were once the associate editor of Metal Maniacs, how much are you still involved music journalism?
“Yeah I write for this magazine from Argentina called Jedbangers. I do a column there, so at the moment Im doing a tour diary with Eyehategod for them. I write for a local New Orleans magazine called Paranoize, I do record reviews or interview local bands. I also write for a magazine called Unbelievably Bad from Australia. Anything I can do like that I love to do. I’ve done stuff for a bunch of different magazines, you might see an interview with a band, a record review or tour diary for Eyehategod or something. To stay outta trouble I have to keep busy!”