MIKE WILLIAMS INTERVIEW IX
I interviewed Mike Williams IX via-email for UNBELIEVABLY BAD magazine. I like this exchange. Mike has a very captivating writing style-short sentences, effective descriptions and that distinct southern drawl. This is an example of an email interview that actually works.
Where to begin with a band like Eyehategod? They are perhaps one ofthe few bands left on the planet that truly live their music and lyrics. Infact, it would be almost too easy to detail the decade plus of riffs, fights, substance abuse, misanthropy, failure, despair,alcohol, alcohol, alcohol. So rather than endless babble regarding the band's importance in today's limp musical climate, we'll let this recent communication from vocalist Mike Williams IX inadvertently do it for us, ''hey man--just got outta jail AGAIN.long story,but im free--so all is good''. Case closed.
1 - NOLA seems to be a major load star in the existence of EHG. Not just the band's home, but an underlying influence on the band's sound, aesthetic (etc). Is there equal parts love and hate in your relationship with the city?
Oh of course, New Orleans has been inspirational to us in a number of ways, musically, (un)hygienically, artistically, historically,chemically…We are a product of the streets, the people, and the culture of this city's gloriously hedonistic and debauched lifestyle.On the same coin, NOLA's inept local government corruption, police manipulation and brutality, urban blight (especially after Katrina)and general apathy and malaise can infuriate someone to their boiling point, but then again, that is stimulating on its own. So as well as 'love/hate' I'd rather say 'passive/aggressive'. I like to talk to our sprawling, mentally disturbed metropolis and say stuff like; "Oh, you look great today! You finally got those rotten teeth fixed, huh? What?Oh, you got a few still giving you trouble? Well that's O.K., you still look kind of good for your age."
2 - How much did growing up in New Orleans contribute to you embracing punk and metal?
Which bands "fed the fire" so to speak and do they still hold as much weight after all these years?
I'm from a small town in North Carolina. A long line of backwoods redneck farmer types. Moving to NOLA in 1977 played a major part in my musical education. I was into Kiss, Sabbath, and Alice Cooper back then. Living in a big town definitely opened my eyes to a whole nuvva level. The early N'awlins punk scene completely tarnished me forever around '79 or so. My brother worked in a bar and would sneak me in to see bands like The Normals, Contenders, Hostages, The Cold, Men In Black, Wayward Youth, Savage Saints, Legionnaire's Disease etc… Lateron, I broke away (literally!) and ran off from home, I was eventually put into a boys home for the next 3 or so odd years. We'd sneak out in the middle of the night and walk miles to stand out side of clubs and peek in through the opened doors. During this time and later, I saw the second wave of the more Hardcore local New Orleans acts such as Red Rockers, Goners, Sluts, Shell Shock, along with tons of out-of-town acts such as Black Flag, Die Kreuzen, Misfits, Circle Jerks, Dicks, Minor Threat, Gun Club, Bad Brains, et al, I lost my mind. That was the sound I'd hear in my head when I closed my eyes. I started my 1st group around that time, called Teenage Waste, with some school buddies. I was 15 years old. Years passed and metal & punk melded and became thrash. Then local groups Exhorder, Blatant Frustration, Flagrantz, and Graveyard Rodeo set a new standard. I had a formed a new band by then, called Suffocation By Filth, taking influences from Discharge, Exodus, D.R.I, Sodom, Bathory, M.D.C. etc…Those were the fuckin days, and almost all of these bands I'm still into to this day.
3 - The band has such a distinctive sound. You cannot confuse an EHG record with any other band. Has having this degree of continuity always been an objective of the band?
Not necessarily an objective, but we're for sure NOT one of those bands where you'd use the word "eclectic" in a magazine review, I tellyou that. We sound like we sound and we've never thought much about varying it to any degree. AC/DC , Ramones, Motorhead… All these groups never much cared about variation to any certain level, they kept itreal. We ain't looking to change the world through technical masturbation, it's all the basics of rock and blues baby….
4 - Explain the writing process. Are a lot of the riffs plucked from various jams and then pieced together, or do one or two band members take care of most of the song writing?
Both. Hopefully, you can't tell when a song is pieced together, but that's how it happens sometimes. Everybody writes riffs though, not so much myself but Brian, Jimmy and Gary have all written fully constructed songs. Even Joey, our drummer, wrote some of the faster guitar tracks on Dopesick. I come in later, pass out in the practice room, and forget all the lyrics that I've written.
5 - Your lyrics are conceptually similar to perhaps some of the sleazier works of the Beat generation. Pieces of that era were based just as much in the realms of life experience as they were literary entertainment. Could the same be said for your lyrics?
I take that as a compliment of the highest degree. My reading tastes vary, but reading the Beat era stuff was probably where I realized that I could take everyday experiences, throw in some Marvel Comics references, cut 'em up, and I had writ me a poem, dammit. Obviously those nights spent soaking in Kerouac, Bukowski, Burroughs, Kesey,etc… played a subliminal part in my life and that's a good thing Ithink. Later on it was literature like Lovecraft, Vollman, Vandermeer,Sartre, Poe, and Clive Barker that would prove to be influential on mylife. But yeah, life and the sidewalk outside my windows gives me an unlimited source of material. Then as you watch everything around you crumble, the words never stop coming.
6 - I'm sure it's frequently stated, however drugs seem to have played a significant role in the world of EHG. In a band situation, when do they cease to be a source of inspiration/stimulation and just become counter-productive? Has this been a contributing factor to the on/off nature of the band? When did you begin dabbling in illegals?
I've been drinking alcohol and eating pharmaceuticals since I was 15 years old. Mostly speed tabs back then, though. Everybody has their own vices in EHG, some more illegal than others to this day, but that's life. Anyway, it really depends on the drug and the person in regards to the counter-productivity part of the question. Truth be told, it actually overlaps. Even when its non-productive, it can stillbe inspiring and stimulating, albeit in a completely negative fucked-up way. Maybe that's just me. I think that misery can bebeautiful. We've cancelled shows, tours, records, broke up, got into fights, fuck all. So what. We don't care. We're just this. This is what we are, one of a billion other groups on this planet. I know fora fact that this band would sound like we do, substance abuse or not.Black holes, string theory, worm holes, narco-terrorism, and alchemy all contribute to our sound in one way or another.
7 - The government's lax reaction to Katrina has become a serious bone of contention in world politics. What are your thoughts on the whole situation after literally being in the eye of the storm?
I could write a fucking book about how I feel on this subject, and I will one day, but for now… well, it should be a thorn in the Bush Administration's side, as it was really just jaw dropping how long it took for them to respond to the disaster, and the level of violence that occurred with the looting and subsequent house invasions,burnings, shootings, car thefts, etc.. You probably don't hear much about all that in the media, though. You could call the local emergency hotline, 911, and would get a busy signal, and believe me, I called it more than a few times. One of my main beefs with the entire fiasco is the sheer confusion and playing of the race card by certain people, civilian and government alike. Some folks are saying "it's cos they're black, that's why they didn't respond." Hmmm, I'm white, and so are a lot of people that I know that were screwed by Katrina. Why can't they see that it's a class issue, not a race issue? Poverty was why we all stayed. That and the chance to rob drugstores. But seriously kids, the other side is saying things like "All the whitepeople in NOLA got new houses and cars from the government after the storm," which is what I heard this racist redneck say the other day,and is complete Bullshit. Nobody got shit, black or white. We all gota little bit of "ass kissing" money from FEMA to placate us, shut us up, and provide them with photo ops thru media spin-doctoring. Look man, I saw scenes that looked like stuff outta the movies. Bodies floating, "hurricane zombies", people rioting, wanderers dazed and bleeding, out of their minds, people pulling poker machines and ATM cash machines behind their cars, fighting, guns (more than usual),burning cars and buildings, soldiers marching thru the street, mass hysteria, attempted rapes, and on and on and on, all happening while the cops stood by smoking cigarettes and, in some cases, joining in the madness as well. If I hadn't gone to jail in the days following August 29, I probably wouldn't be alive now.
8 - After such a tumultuous few years, it would be almost criminal for the band not to come out with it's ugliest, most misanthropic material yet. Anything in the works?
Yeah, it's gonna happen. Members have been scattered to and fro since the storm. I just did another two months in Orleans Parish Prison fora previous probation violation, our drummer is in rehab, our bassplayer is awaiting a trial date, Jimmy is doing Down, Brian is inSoilent Green, etcetera etcetera. 2008 is our 20th anniversary, so me& Bower have been talking about doing shows, recording a new LP, etc…It's all a matter of timing right now. There's a lot of other shit happening as well: Down LP in September, Arson Anthem LP in January,Soilent Green and Hawg Jaw as always working, Outlaw Order looking torecord an LP, I'm doing an art only book silk screen project, a spoken word 7 inch, plus my 2nd book is coming together. The 1st one, "CancerAs A Social Activity," is almost sold out and a few are still available from southernrootspub.com and emeticrecords.com.
9 - You play in Arson Anthem with Phil Anselmo. How has the reaction to that band been? Phil being in the band must have garnered you some serious attention by now?
A little. We've been laying low as of late, so when the LP is released, things should blow up quite a bit. Hank III will be coming down in October, so hopefully we'll be able to record some more songs.
10 - Your book has received good reviews. Have you any intention to pursue that further? Explain a typical Southern Greyhound bus journey/station to the uninitiated reader.
Hell yeah, I wanna pursue my writing career as far as I can. Like I said, I have a second book written and I just need a publisher. Also,we'll be re-printing the "Cancer …" book for Europe and Japan eventually. Publishers, get in touch at Southernnihilismfront@hotmail.com. I like to get cheap Greyhound bus tickets and just head out in the wild. I use to do it to escape people, places, things, but now the urge to just travel to nowhere in a hot, sweaty bus full of losers just appeals to me for some reason. Iguess I like the uncertainty of it all. I'm especially fond ofchecking out the older bus stations down south and out west where nothing has changed in 40 or 50 years. It's really enlightening and amazing to see this side of Americana. The people you meet, too, are a whole sidebar unto themselves. Drifters, runaways, pregnant daughters,scared sons, wishful moms, defeated dads, immigrants, thieves, god-fearers, god-lovers, god-damners, ex-cons, self proclaimed preachers, old ladies, young gentlemen, dirt dogs, Mexican nationals,highway patrolmen, drug abusers, militant cowboys, liberal rednecks,the homeless, house niggas, horse breeders, stick figures and silver-tongued devils. To hop on a Greyhound, holding your one-way ticket, a knapsack, and a pocketful of change, is to be in heaven.Reality in capsule form.
Thanks to Rhys and Unbelievably Bad for this interview.Peace through Addiction