Eyehategod: 25 years of survival

They’ve been around for 25 years and they’ve never stopped performing on stage – and yet it took the band 15 years to release a new record. Eyehategod has been through a lot in their career, most recently with the passing of drummer Joey LaCaze due to respiratory problems. But as singer Mike Williams IX tells us in the following interview: “We are survivors”. It is that state of mind that drives the band forward and makes its members indefatigable. It’s also what life has offered, or rather thrown at them through the years (in Williams’s case, the list goes on forever and would have precipitated a less resilient man into complete neurosis) that makes Eyehategod’s music so vicious and so tormented.

The self-titled album is out, so enjoy it, people, because Eyehategod’s offerings are rather scarce. It was a one-of-a-kind opportunity to ask the singer a few questions about the album, the death of their drummer and everything else.

« Back in the days no one knew what to do with a band that sounds like us. It’s understandable that it was on both side. »

Radio Metal: This self-titled album is the first Eyehategod full length album in nearly 15 years. Why did you wait such a long time?

Mike Williams IX (vocals): Well a lot of things happened. It wasn’t our fault. I mean there were a lot of things that got in the way, you know, life situations. Life hasn’t always been that easy for us. It’s been kind of a bumpy road, if you know what I am saying. It’s something that we’ve been trying to do for a long time and we finally got it done. So this album being self-titled, it kind of like defines the record for me, it’s kind of like a statement that this is a kind of new beginning. And it is our first record in a long time. We’ve been touring the entire time. We’ve never stopped going on tour, you know, unless something really messed-up was happening so that couldn’t tour. But yeah that’s where the self-title thing comes from.

The recording process started with producer Billy Anderson but apparently things didn’t go well and the album was left unfinished. What happened? What went wrong compared to when you worked with him on Dopesick?

Oh yeah, he did Dopesick which is great. Billy’s a great friend of mine. Billy’s a good guy and he’s really a good friend. I consider him one of my really good friends. But working together in that studio just wasn’t happening. I mean it was everybody’s fault. It wasn’t his fault or anything. There was a documentary film crew in there, for one thing. They were filming this documentary about Billy and his work and at the same time we were just trying too hard as a band to rush the record and to put it out too fast. We were trying to hurry up and record and do everything like in a week’s time, and it was just not possible, it just wasn’t gonna happen. Besides there were some personal problems with members in the band, things like that. So we ended up scratching everything except for Joey’s drums. We kept the drum tracks and we ended up re-recording the guitars and the bass. Then I did the vocals later on.

You mentioned the film crew. Were you distracted by it?

Of course. They were in the way. They were bothering us and it was annoying. It wasn’t there to film us. It was there to film Billy. We could be like talking about something really personal and when I turned around there was a guy with a fucking camera standing there filming us. And we were like: “this sucks!” We didn’t ask for that. It just happened. It kind of pissed everybody off a little bit.

Didn’t you tell that to Billy, that was bothering you?

Sure! Of course, yeah! We fired one guy. We told one guy he had to leave. Jimmy (Jimmy Bower) fired the guy. Jimmy wasn’t even the one who hired the guy, but he told the guy he had to leave and the guy left. And they brought another guy who was cooler, definitely a cooler guy, but still the cameras were just annoying. You can’t record a record when that’s going on; unless we had planned it ourselves and we knew it was going to be happening.

You finally finished the album at Phil Anselmo’s home studio. Was it important to be at a friend’s place, someone you can trust and be comfortable with?

That’s where we did the vocals. That’s not where we finished the record. I mean that’s where we did the vocals tracks. The album was mixed in Chicago by Sanford Parker then mastered in Chicago. That’s where the album was finished. But yeah, I mean Phil’s one of the most successful metal vocalist in the world. So, you know, to have him – and he’s my best friend as well – being in the studio with me as I do the vocals was… Nobody would pass that up. Of course he had advices for me and it was just good being there hanging out with him as well. He has good ideas.

Look around. I mean it’s not a pretty place 99 percent of the time. There’s a lot of ugliness in the world. […] But honestly we have a lot of fun [laughs]. »

The album was entirely put together and financed by the band. You obviously wanted full control. Why? Did you have some bad experiences in the past with labels and more generally the music business?

Of course. I mean who wouldn’t? Any band in the right mind would want to own their own music. Even if we haven’t had bad experiences I’ve always wanted to have my own record label and own my own music. So that was a no-brainer. That totally makes sense. But yeah we’ve had bad experiences in the past. I mean our first time at Century Media, we didn’t have a good time. You know, we licensed it out to them this time because it’s a whole different record label. There are new people. Back in the days no one knew what to do with a band that sounds like us. It’s understandable that it was on both side. We just didn’t get along at that time. So we ended up not trusting… We never trusted anybody to begin with. We still don’t. But it’s a lot better relationship and it’s a good way to own your own music and then license it to Housecore, Century Media and Daymar which is in Japan. ,

Have you thought about self-releasing the album?

Sure we have. But no one has time to work that. You need people, you have to hire a publicity firm and you’d have to get distributors and all the stuff. We don’t have time or really the skills to know how to do all that. So to pay for it ourselves, own the record and then license it out, to me it is the smartest thing to do because that way they can help us promote it and distribute it while we still have the rights of the record.

Eyehategod’s music has always had a kind of sick or twisted feeling. Where does this come from? What inspires your music?

I mean everything. Life itself. I mean look around. I mean it’s not a pretty place 99 percent of the time. There’s a lot of ugliness in the world. There’s a lot of terrible things happening: hatred, even personal depression, misery, drugs and relationships and friendships that go wrong. You know, maybe that’s a negative way to look at things but the nihilism comes into play. It’s just a way I view things and I think the whole band does. But honestly we have a lot of fun [laughs]. We have a great sense of humor. We like to have fun with the band. We don’t sit around miserable or anything like that. That’s just going to happen no matter what. So we have as much fun as we possibly can.

Why do you think you put your bad experiences on your albums rather than the good ones?

Why would you want to put a good experience? I mean, nobody’s interested in that. I mean do you think that someone wants to hear lyrics about petting a dog [laughs] or here’s a song about me hanging out with girlfriend; nobody wants to hear that! People want something they can relate to the way they feel. And I think a lot of people relate to this band because they do have the same feelings, the feelings of isolation and desolation. I think it all goes hand in hand with people who experience these things. I know that because people tell me so. They tell that this band got them into a hard time in their life because they related to us and they can relate to the things we said. Even if the lyrics are very cryptic and abstract, people find their own meanings in them, which is good. I like that.

Does the band put itself in a special mood when making an album and do you put yourself in certain conditions when singing on an album?

No. It is just us. That’s just the way we sound. I mean there is no special mood or anything [laughs]. Everybody has a couple drinks, a couple of beers, cocktails, or whatever glass of wine here and there, you know. Besides that, there is no special thing. We would sound the same exact way no matter what, you know, that’s just how the band sounds. That’s what we do and how we sound.

« Do you think that someone wants to hear lyrics about petting a dog [laughs] or here’s a song about me hanging out with girlfriend; nobody wants to hear that! »

Drummer Joey LaCaze died last year of a respiratory failure. That must have been a shock for the band. I know he had asthma but wasn’t there any serious warning signs?

Not serious, I mean, not that he told us really. He told us he was having some trouble breathing and stuff like that. I mean I have asthma also and I was on the same tour. You know, we did a six weeks tour of Europe and that’s hard for anybody to do. We’ve had very few days off. We don’t like to take days off really. I mean it is good to have days off in the middle of the tour maybe. We’re not one of these bands that play two shows and ask to have a day off. We just keep playing and playing, and we did that for six weeks over here in Europe. It just took a toll on him, you know. He had complained about a few things but we all do, you know, whenever one gets older you have things that happen. There was nothing that would say he should hurry to go to the doctor or anything like that. That’s up to the individual really.

Quickly after Joey’s passing you continued touring and found a new drummer. It sounds like giving up has never been an option. What was the band’s state of mind at that point?

It wasn’t that quickly. I mean it was maybe four months before we got a new drummer. We tried out a few people but it wasn’t immediately early things. It was probably four or five months after. But the state of mind is always going to be there. We all are going to miss him, you know. I mean he was our best friend and the drummer for the band. So that’s pretty obvious, that’s a pretty obvious answer.

Did you think he would have liked you to continue without him?

Of course. That’s what he wanted. We talked about it before, you know, joking around with our sense of humor, we would say “Who is going to replace me?” Just being silly and name somebody completely absurd that would not fit in the band at all. That’s just some strange kind of sense of humor, but of course he wanted us to continue. I mean he wrote a lot of the songs on guitar, a lot of our older songs. So we are still carrying on his legacy, you know.

Joking about that, who would replace you actually?

Me? David Lee Roth.

Did Joey’s passing influence in any way the album? Did the band maybe put more anger into the album because of that?

No, because it was already recorded. Everything was recorded already before he passed away. It would have been out sooner… We would have put the record out sooner but it didn’t happen so it had to be pushed back again.

Can you tell us about how Aaron Hill was recruited?

Yeah he is awesome. He’s in a lot of the local bands in New Orleans. He’s a really good musician. He plays guitar in another band, plays drums and sings in another band. He’s just a good guy and a strange person just like we are. He fits in great. Besides being a good musician we wanted a person that we would want to play with. You have to get along with that person, you know. You have to able to tour with that person and he definitely fits the bill for all those things.

The band has been around since a quarter of century. What comes to your mind when thinking about this?

[Laughs] A lot of stuff. I mean recall all the years of doing this and how it’s been something that we never thought we would be together for this long ever. We never even planned to. I mean when we started this band we were all in other bands, as we still are in other bands, we have a lot of other projects. But we would do this for fun because it was a band that we wanted to hear and it didn’t exist. I mean it was a sound of music that we wanted to make out the blue, you know, whatever, out the thin air. We wanted to make music that we wanted to hear because of the things that we were influenced by. So for 25 years, I mean, to be around, it’s pretty amazing. There’s a lot to think about when you think about how long that is. We’re all very proud of it, you know. We’re proud to still be here. We’re survivors, you know.

Does the band intend to celebrate its 25th anniversary?

I mean we started to do that the last year with the last tour we did in Europe, we called it “The 25th years of abuse and still broke Tour” something like that. I forget the exact name… “25 years of dysfunctional family abuse” actually was the name of it. But then, you know, with Joe passing away we didn’t really continue any kind of celebrating. But we’ll tour this year in America and hopefully we’re going to be back to Europe in November if everything works out properly, and that’s going to be part of the 25 years tour.

« You just don’t give up, you just keep going, no matter how annoying you can be to other people, maybe, by not giving up [laughs]. We’re just like that as a band. »

You’ve been through a lot in your life, whether it’s with dope, all that happened during hurricane Katrina with your house burning down, getting incarcerated or having a friend like Joey dying. From where do you draw your mental strength or health when going through all this hardship?

I don’t know. It’s just there. It’s just from being a survivor, like I said before, growing up at a young age and having to fend for myself since I was a young kid. My brother left me in an apartment when I was fifteen and he moved in with his girlfriend. So I lived by myself when I was fifteen years old until now, I’m still on my own. And before that, I’ve been in a boy’s home or homeless and things like that. You get stronger from things happening to you, you know. So I just continue on and on this cycle. You just don’t give up, you just keep going, no matter how annoying you can be to other people, maybe, by not giving up [laughs]. We’re just like that as a band. That’s how I am, especially. We all are, everybody in the band is like that. We’re all feeling the same way. You just got to keep going, you know. If you stop and give up… We’re just not used to that.

And I guess having a band and friends around you must help…

Of course, everybody in New Orleans is like a family, you know. There’s like a brotherhood and sisterhood thing in New Orleans. And besides that, now with the band, going on tour so many times all over Europe and America, we’ve got friends everywhere, you know, we’ve got friends all over the world. Of course that helps. The love is a good thing. It helps keep people motivated

Can you tell us more about your other more experimental project called Corrections House? How did the idea for this band come about?

Well it’s me and Scott Kelly from Neurosis and Bruce Lamont from Yakuza and Sanford Parker who mixed the Eyehategod’s record. He was in Nachtmystium, Twilight and a few different bands, he was in Buried At Sea also. The idea was just from me, Scott and Bruce to do a tour where we just did solos set because we all have been doing it before anyways. Like I do spoken words sometimes in book stores and record stores or wherever I can, I did it in the Museum of Arts in New Orleans. So I’ve been doing that. Scott has been touring with his acoustic thing. He does solo acoustic things. And Bruce had been touring doing his saxophone stuff and doing some solo stuff. So we were just going to all three go on tour because we all knew each other from different bands. I’ve known Scott since forever, since Eyehategod toured with Neurosis back in the nineties, you know. We did like a month on tour with Neurosis. So I have known this guy forever and after we decided to do the solo tour, we were just like “let’s write some actual songs to go with it.” We got Sanford involved, he wrote a bunch of beats and backgrounds stuffs and we built upon that with guitars and saxophone and vocals, and we ended up doing the Last City Zero album. We did a 7 inch before that we actually called Hoax The Systems, but yeah, that’s how it started.

How different is your approach between the two bands Corrections house and Eyehategod?

It’s totally different bands. I mean it’s entirely different. It’s easy to approach it because it’s the same as any other projects, I go in with the mindset « I’m in this band today, I’m up there in Corrections House”, and when I’m in Eyehategod, I’m in Eyehategod. So it’s pretty simple for me. There’s no technique when you are with different bands. You do what you do with each band.

Do you think there will be another album by Outlaw Order?

I have no idea. I mean I would do one but we’re too busy with Eyehategod. I would rather do an album by Arson Anthem before I did one with Outlaw Order. Arson Anthem was me, Phil and Hank III, that was just really fast, hardcore, 80’s influenced hardcore band. I love that band. According to me the album Insecure Notoriety, our second record, was awesome. That band, we’ll probably going to do it again one day. But everybody is so busy, you know, Phil has the Illegals now and Hank III tours constantly. But with Outlaw order, I don’t know. We’ve talked about it before but who knows? I have no idea.

Have you talked with Phil about Arson Anthem actually?

Yeah. That’s I was saying. We’re probably going to do that again someday. But everybody is just so busy right now. We’ve talked many times about doing something.

Interview conducted by phone on April, 7th 2014 by Spaceman.
Transcription : Thibaut Saumade.
Questions & introduction : Spaceman.
Photos : Dean Karr.

Eyehategod official website : eyehategod.ee

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