Arising from the New Orleans swamps in the late 1980s, Eyehategod are a true force of nature. Over the course of a career marked by controversy, misanthropy, and legal issues, the group, led by core members Jimmy Bower (guitar) and Mike IX Williams (vocals) have managed to flesh out a unique artistic identity, and achieved world fame as pioneers of the genre we know today as sludge metal.
Ahead of the release of the band’s sixth-full length album, ‘A History Of Nomadic Behavior’, we caught up with Mike IX Williams about the pandemic, Eyehategod‘s origins, and his unique approach to lyric writing.
DP!: How are you, Mike? What’s life like for you right now?
Mike: I’m doing great, man. I’m thriving. I’m fine staying at home.
DP!: Are you finding yourself especially creative during lockdown?
Mike: Yeah, I’ve done a lot of stuff. I did vocals with this band called Ho99o9, I worked with a band called Dead End America with Nick Oliveri and Steve Hanford from Poison Idea. There was an industrial/noise tribute cassette to Eyehategod and a few other bands I’ve been in, so that was something I was involved in. Just trying to keep busy, man.
DP!: Besides shows, what about the pre-COVID world do you miss?
Mike: That’s really it, playing shows and touring. I’m fine with being at home all the time, I don’t need society, I don’t need people. I’ve got my girl here, and that’s all I need. I don’t really like people that much.
DP!: Can we talk a bit about Eyehategod’s origins? Specifically, where did the name come from?
Mike: That’s something that you’d have to ask the other guy. There was a singer before me, who only lasted for two rehearsals. He’s a born again Christian now actually, he had a mental breakdown and left town. He had this whole concept at the time about how the things you see are God, but they’re also your vices and you hate those things, but only he really knows what it means. We’ve made up our own meanings for it, and we have a vague idea, but he’s the one who made it all up.
DP!: What was the reaction to your band back in your early days?
Mike: That was part of the reason for the name actually, we started this band mainly to piss people off. By the time I was in the band and we were doing gigs it was like 1988 and we were opening for thrash and speed metal bands, and the name didn’t go over well at all. People hated us, a lot of the shows ended up in fights and people throwing things. But we loved that, we wanted to provoke people.
￼DP!: I was reading a Facebook statement of yours from 2019 (after an incident in Arkansas where a poster for one of Eyehategod’s shows featured an image of a senator eating a baby) that you’d signed with “nihilists for life”?
Mike: No, you mean the Southern Nihilism Front. They’re a group of people that are going to destroy the Earth.
DP!: That’s it, my apologies. Can you tell me about them?
Mike: I mean, that’s a whole different thing, I can’t get into that at this moment.
DP!: Fair enough.
Mike: But, with that senator, I thought it was great that he attacked us back. If you read up on that guy he’s a total piece of shit. He’s anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, he’s just a total shit human being. So it was great that he picked us and was annoyed by us. We still thrive off that sort of confrontation.
DP!: Do describe yourself as a nihilist? You’re clearly very moral, very principled.
Mike: I don’t really describe myself as a nihilist. I like that philosophy, but I also like life. The Southern Nihilism Front is a whole different thing.
DP!: Fair enough, we’ll leave that there. Can we talk about your lyrics? The press release for the new album talks about you using the William Burroughs cut-up method to put together your lyrics.
Mike: I was influenced by that method and I like William Burroughs’ writing, but I didn’t actually cut stuff up on the floor in the way he did. In my head I do that, rearrange things after they’re written, as a form of editing.
DP!: What do you like about that style of fusing different images together?
Mike: I just like the confusion of it, the abstract feel of it. It makes it kind of cryptic and I’ve always written like that. I like a lot of abstract art, writing, music.
DP!: As cryptic and oblique as your lyrics are, there’s a lot of clear socio-political stuff on the new album.
Mike: Those lyrics came out this way because of what was happening last year. I didn’t purposefully set out to write anything political at all, in fact some of those lyrics were written years ago, in notebooks and on my phone. So I just kind of grabbed stuff and maybe it came out subliminally.
DP!: I love the “infection is the way / disruptive crowd takes aim” line in ‘High Risk Trigger’, it seems like you’re doing a double metaphor about the pandemic and the political divide that we’re seeing in the world today?
Mike: It wasn’t intentional, some of those lyrics were written before 2020. I did notice it, as I was picking through the lyrics in the studio, but it wasn’t written specifically for this record.
DP!: Particularly in your corner of the world, how do you feel that the world has changed in the last couple of years?
Mike: I don’t know, people with less intelligence now have a place to spout their opinion. Everyone has an opinion now. The president we had here made people comfortable to be stupid and not believe in science. That’s definitely changed, people are more open about their racism and all these horrible things. Hopefully it’s changing, in the same way there’s also more people being able to fight these types of things.
DP!: Finally, I just wanted to ask about your legacy. Given there’s so much mythology surrounding Eyehategod, do you ever think about your legacy, about who you are and the incredible life that you’ve lived?
Mike: Yeah, I think about it, I can’t help it. It makes me who I am, I don’t regret anything. A lot of the stories about us aren’t true, there’s a lot of exaggerations. But a lot of things also are true, the nineties were insane, fucking crazy. But I wouldn’t change anything, it’s made me who I am.
Eyehategod‘s sixth album, ‘A History Of Nomadic Behavior’, is out now via Century Media Records.