Eyehategod’s Mike IX Williams Talks Touring, NOLA Metal Scene, Genre Labels & More
As non-conformists amongst an already non-conforming scene, you could say that New Orleans staples, Eyehategod, are pillars of a community defined by outsider rock and outside-the-box thinking.
Operating through laconic wit and generally bucking the confines of the claustrophobic mainstream, led by Mike Williams (vocals) and Jimmy Bower (guitars), Eyehategod has amalgamated metal, punk, and various other sounds to the delight of an undying cult fanbase.
Williams and Bowers have been joined by Gary Mader (bass) since 2002 and Aaron Hill (drums) since 2013, forming a ten years-strong core and one of the veteran band’s strongest lineups yet. Indeed, A History of Nomadic Behavior (2021) remains Eyehategod’s latest studio record. And while there doesn’t appear to be new music on the horizon just yet, an upcoming jaunt with fellow NOLA staples, Goatwhore, is.
As he prepares to hit the road, Mike Williams beamed in with MetalSucks to dig into the history of Goatwhore, his memories and opinions on the NOLA metal scene, the idea of adhering to genre labels, and what sorts o venues he enjoys playing most.
Tell me about your upcoming tour with Goatwhore. What makes them perfect partners on the road?
Who said they were perfect partners [Laughs]? The combination of two heavy New Orleans bands on the road together could lead to a lot of trouble for anyone in our way, that’s for sure. I’ve known those guys forever, since their first bands and from hanging out at gigs and parties.
So they are good friends, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be drunken fistfights. I don’t know, look, this has been a long time coming, Goatwhore are our buddies, so the general public is in for a great time.
How do you go about building a set list? Is it tough to balance what the fans want to hear vs. what you want to play?
No, it’s not tough. We don’t use a set list; it’s ingrained into our brains. Also, we play what we want to hear, we know what the kids wanna hear too, so I think we are all on the same page. We have a set somewhat remembered, and depending on the crowd and how we feel, we may throw in a few surprises.
Do you feel more comfortable in the live setting or in the studio? What are your favorite parts about each?
I love playing live, but I also love putting an album or whatever together in the studio. I like the energy and chaos of our live shows a bit more, but they are two incomparable things, honestly. The studio is a structured setting, and it’s a lot of fun, but live is where we can go wild, and mistakes and fuckups are a part of reality.
Many bands are using backing tracks these days. Would you ever consider it? How do you keep your voice so strong?
Backing tracks… in EyeHateGod? No fucking way. Like KISS has been doing for the past 15 + years? NEVER. That’s a weird question [Laughs]. Samples in between songs are a different thing, and that may happen because we have samples on “Take as Needed For Pain,” but EyeHateGod is a real band; what you see is what you get; warts, fleas, lice, and all. Nothing fake here.
Going back, what are your memories of the NOLA metal scene?
Well, I don’t really see that we are part of a metal scene or any scene. Also, none of us really listen to metal or call this band metal. I grew up listening to and going to punk and rock ‘n’ roll shows, and still do. I do dig a lot of older metal and hard rock, but we listen to everything everywhere. Jimmy [Bower] is a huge country music fan; I love some of that outlaw stuff myself.
We refuse to be typecast and go down that narrow road. EyeHateGod has always been an outsider band playing outsider outcast music. We’ve received a ton of attention and love from metal and punk fans worldwide, and we are thankful for anyone and everyone who loves what we do. As far as musical memories in NOLA, there are millions stuck in my head; that’s a book in itself.
How has that scene shifted, and how do you measure its significance on metal on the whole?
I don’t know how to answer that because I’m not sure what you mean by shifted. New Orleans has finally received well-deserved attention and deserves to have much more attention. Bands here work really hard, and we tour our asses off, which I love. I see the influence of NOLA heavy music nationally and internationally. Bands from here have inspired people all over the world.
How do you measure EyeHateGod’s importance over the sludge metal scene? Do you feel that niche of metal gets the attention it deserves?
I don’t know anything about the sludge metal scene… I’m just being honest; I don’t keep up with any such scene or listen to any bands with that label. I understand what you mean, though. The spread of any kind of extreme underground music is a great thing, but it will never become a household name; if it did, that would be very strange.
We don’t like being labeled “sludge.” Labels like that are made up by journalists, and I’ve done journalism, so I get it. It is what it is; it’s needed in descriptions for similar-sounding bands lumped in a singular category. EyeHateGod was doing this music before that term was ever even in existence. Most society is robotic and brain-dead to real music; they will always listen to what’s fed to them on the top-40.
How has the music of EyeHateGod evolved over the years, and how has it remained the same?
We learned how to play our instruments better. We’ve always just played what we wanted to hear, we never set out to please anyone, but of course, we love when people love us. We’ve evolved and matured as far as songwriting and getting a sound we like in the studio, but it’s really primitive music, so it’s basically the same band as always, just this is us 30 years down the road.
Jimmy still only has four strings on his guitar because that’s all we need. They’ll be no intricate technical songs ever coming out of this band. We love to make primal and passionate music for mental patients, so it all works out.
Which albums and songs have you done that are most meaningful to you over the years, and why?
I mean, they all are meaningful and personal to me. I love the song “Medicine Noose,” it’s got lyrics that mean something deep to me; drugs, love, suicide. “Shoplift” concerns my lifelong passion for thievery so that one is close to my heart always. The albums in themselves are photographs of our music, and each one we’ve done brings back memories of where I was and what was happening in my life at the time. All of our records are like documents filled with thoughts, ideas, pain, happiness, anxiety, depression, and relationships. All of that is very important to me.
You and Jim have been in the band together for a long time. Describe your songwriting partnership.
Me and Jimmy are like brothers. We love each other, but we’ve been in fistfights and arguments at different times. That’s family shit right there and comes from being friends and coworkers for over 30 years. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Everybody in the band contributes to songwriting when we actually do write new songs.
What stops on this tour are you most looking forward to? Do you prefer smaller or larger venues?
Small, packed to the rafters, sweaty, drunk, and crazy shows are the best by far. Tall giant stages really don’t feel that comfortable to the boys and me; it sucks when the band is spread 50 feet apart. I like to be right in people’s faces. That’s where the real fun is.