Eyehategod's Mike Williams

Eyehategod's Mike Williams
It would be a serious understatement to say that a new record from Eyehategod is highly anticipated, since the NOLA sludge legends haven't released a full-length in over a decade, with their last being 2000's Confederacy of Ruined Lives. This is why any new material from them is a pretty big deal, including their latest one-song seven-inch, New Orleans is the New Vietnam, which is out now via Baltimore, MD's A389 Recordings. Having become a staple in their live set for over a year, "New Orleans is the New Vietnam" is classic Eyehategod, with distorted guitar feedback, killer riffs, bluesy grooves, Mike Williams' trademark tortured screams and very raw production. In a recent interview, Williams explains that the band don't want to stray too far from their iconic sound, while confirming that they have an excess of songs written for their upcoming album. Although Eyehategod are still sorting out all of the details for the new record, if "New Orleans is the New Vietnam" is any indication of what to expect, it's sure to be well worth the wait, however long that wait may be.

Why did you decide to release "New Orleans Is The New Vietnam" as a seven-inch? Is it a way to tide fans over until you release a new record?
Williams: We haven't put an album out in 12 years [laughs], so it wasn't really that idea of tiding anyone over, but it is that idea at the same time. We wanted to do it for Europe, we were supposed to have these seven-inches for the European tour that we just came back from and there was problems with the mastering and problems with this and that, so we didn't have them in time. So now we're just hoping to try to have them in time for these West coast shows. But they still will be a good little thing to get people's attention before we go into the studio for the next record.

Will the song be on the next record as well?
I think we said we would re-record it for the next record because the recording that we did for the seven-inches, it wasn't in a studio, it was kind of just done here where I live. I mean, it's done with ProTools and stuff, but we'll probably re-record it and make a better version of it or something.

Why did you decide to go with Baltimore label A389 Recordings for this release?
You got me [laughs]. I don't know, because [Dom Romeo, label owner] is a friend of ours and he's been actually aggravating us [laughs] to put out a record. So I guess when we said, "Let's get something together for Europe," we thought he could do it. He just does a really good job on all his records, and all his releases, I guess he does some CDs, but it's mostly vinyl and it all looks really cool. We just figured that would be the guy to go to, since he is a friend of ours and he put on some shows for us in Baltimore. He's just a good guy, we figured it'd be easy to work with him, you know?

The title "New Orleans Is The New Vietnam" is pretty bleak. What's the meaning behind it?
Well, there's not a super deep meaning to it. When I thought of the title, I just thought it sounded good. I write a lot of things because I think the words sound good together, there's not always some deep meaning behind everything. So that's where it came from, but then as the song evolves, you start seeing things and you starting thinking, "Well, this could relate to that," you know? I guess, it has a lot to do with the Katrina thing and how there's still a lot of neighbourhoods that are still abandoned and I think right now we have the highest murder rate again. All of that could pertain to the song, so that was probably all in the back of my head when I thought of the title, but it was mainly just words that I thought sounded cool. Songs always evolve and end up meaning something later on, that's the weird thing about some of the things we've done.

Is it your own life experiences from which you draw the inspiration for your lyrics?
Yeah, pretty much. For the most part, I would say it's mostly reality-based stuff. I mean, there's no songs about dragons or swords or anything like that, you know? It's mostly all about what we've been through or things that have happened, or they could be hallucinatory, like you know, I've done a lot of LSD in my life [laughs]. So some of it comes from that as well, but it's not fantasy, it's stuff that I've been through, like maybe some horrors that actually happened or imagined happened while on acid or something [laughs].

Are there still certain drugs that are prevalent in your life? There are some publications that have said you're sober now.
Well, people generalize everything. LSD is not an addictive drug, and I mean, I still drink. I drink and I'll take a Xanax here and there. I'm not on heroin anymore, if that's what they mean, I'm not hooked on heroin or opiates. But, as far as other things go, it's like whatever, I'm not going to get caught up in that whole world again of being a slave for drugs. I'm not going to do that again, but it's fun to drink and smoke a little here and there, or something like that, you know? It's not a bad thing.

You just got back from Europe, as you mentioned. How was that tour?
Amazing, just completely amazing. It gets crazier and better every single time we go. The fans over there are just insane, they're just really down-to-earth people and they seem to just really focus on the music more than anything else to do with the band, they're just really good fans to me and we get treated really well over there. And besides that, the shows just keep getting bigger and bigger, and we don't even have a record out. I guess the whole cult following thing is true, it's really cool that that can still happen. But it's great over there, we played in places we haven't played before, like Warsaw, Poland, which was awesome, probably some of the craziest fans I've ever seen, dedicated and passionate people. Gothenburg, Sweden was amazing, they have these clubs there, they're not even really clubs, they're more like communities with volunteers and things. I know we have that here in America too, but it seems like in America we're always playing in a bar somewhere or something like that, but over there it's like these collectives and it's just really cool.

You've been playing "New Orleans Is The New Vietnam" live for a while. How has the response been from fans?
Oh, great. I guess a band like us, we could play the same song forever and people would still come see us, but they're definitely warming up to the new stuff. I mean, people always want to hear new stuff and then when you play it live, they're kind of like, "Play something old" [laughs], you know? It's like that whole thing. But no, people have been excited, everybody's been excited that we're still doing this and that we're going to put out a new album eventually.

Are you excited to have new material to play live?
Yeah definitely, for sure. I love all the old songs, I love everything we've done and I still have tons of fun playing it, but it's just nice to play something different, you know? It's awesome to just have something new and different basically.

Watching Eyehategod live, it's almost like the same energy you had back in the '90s. Do you chalk that up to all the years of experience?
I think it's more like back in the '80s myself [laughs], you know, that's when I grew up, on the '80s punk rock scene and all that. But yeah, definitely, that's the kind of people we are, we're down-to-earth guys, there's no rock star bullshit in this band whatsoever, not even a tiny bit. Like, if someone doesn't get their thing signed, it's because we didn't see them standing there, it's not because they got ignored, that would never ever happen. I mean, we hang out at the bar the whole night, we hang out with the people drinking, whether it's outside the club or inside the club at the bar. That's what we do, we invite everybody backstage and just hang out. On stage, I think that comes out that we're just down-to-earth people. I think that comes a lot from being from the South, just being laid back. Everything down here moves a little slower, so it's kind of like that attitude of things fall where they fall. And if we fuck up on stage, we'll just laugh about it and just go to the next song [laughs] or start over or whatever. There's no serious intensity of an attitude, there's intensity to the music of course, but not in anybody's attitude.

Do you tend to remember many of your fans that you talk to while on tour?
Well that's the one thing about doing that and hanging out all the time. That's something I do hate about it, is that it's hard to remember everybody, you know? And when you have a deep conversation with some fan about, like Black Flag [laughs] or something like that and then next year you come back and they're like, "Mike, remember that?" and I'm like, "I'm sorry, but I was drunk probably" [laughs]. But besides that I just don't remember and I feel kind of guilty about that.

Are there any plans set for the next album?
Yeah there are a ton of plans, we're just trying to work everything out. And like I said, things move slowly down here because we're Southern, but it's no excuse, I know that. I mean, I lived in New York for years so I know what the world is like [laughs]. But we've got three different record labels that we're talking to, we're trying to figure out which label is the best for us, mainly because we don't trust record labels at all. I mean, we really don't, we've been screwed over before and we just don't trust anybody. So we're trying to get the best deal we can for us. We're not kids anymore, we're older now so we need to make this our living. A couple of us have jobs, but for the most part this is our job, so it's just confusing sometimes. We're dealing with labels, we're trying to figure out what studio to go into right now, even before we've signed a deal, so it's just a lot of things we have to decide. I know we've been promising people a new record for years, so hopefully [laughs] we won't disappoint people anymore.

I know there's some incorrect album titles going around online. Is there anything you want to clarify about that?
Oh yeah, yeah. That's like the stupidest thing I've ever heard. So no there's no title, we've thrown around a few things, but there's definitely no title. I don't know why people do that, I just saw on Youtube another one, people posting videos of our already existing songs and just giving them the wrong name, it's like, "Are you a fan of the band?" I mean, if I put up a video of a band I like, I know I wouldn't mess the name of their song up, you know? It's just amazing that someone would make up a song title and it blew up and now it's all over the internet because one idiot put that as the title of the record. It's really strange to me. I mean, it's not strange I guess, with the way the internet works, but it's strange to me that someone would just decide the title of our album for us. And such a stupid title too, the "Whiskey Drink" thing, I don't even want to say it because it pisses me off, it's so stupid, it's just really dumb and whoever did that sucks.

Some of you guys are also in some other bands. Is it difficult for Eyehategod to get together to write and work on new material?
No, not really, not right at the moment it hasn't been difficult. But it has been in the past, there've definitely been problems in the past. It goes in cycles I guess, when one band are working on something, we can't practice, then we'll start doing something else and it just escalates. Then Eyehategod can practice and we're busy with our band, so there are like four bands going on at the same time. But we pretty much figure it out someway or another, we have all these years, 20-something years, and we figured out how to do it, so it's not that hard. It's just a matter of biding your time while the other guys are off on tour. And you're always kind of jealous, you're kind of like, "Damn, I wish we were on tour and I was making money right now and I was having fun, wish I was working right now." But everyone tries to be fair about it, everybody tries to balance everything.

Is it really natural when you get back together after a while to write new material?
Oh yeah, yeah. I mean, New Orleans is like that to begin with, we're like family, it's like a brotherhood type of thing down here. But Eyehategod is just like a huge family, when we get together it's just like a family reunion every day, it's like four brothers hanging out in a van or at the studio or in the practice room, you know? It's really natural. Of course we fight like that too, we fight like family too, it's the same thing. But as far as writing new stuff, right now we've got enough songs, more than enough songs for the record, we've got extra songs. They're not all finished yet, some of the songs need vocals put to them and stuff like that, but for the most part we've written enough songs for the record, plus more. So it's been a really good writing period the last couple of years.

Eyehategod have a very distinct sound and you've never really strayed too far away from that. Is that intentional? Do you make a conscious effort to maintain that sound?
We don't make a conscious effort, but we don't experiment that much either, you know? I mean, we experiment a little, some small things, but nothing huge. We're not doing it on purpose, we're not saying, "Okay, we're AC/DC, we're going to do that," but it is kind of like those bands, Motörhead or AC/DC or the Ramones or something, it's kind of the same thing. I think we have a little more variety than those bands, but we don't stray far from it and it's just out of the way we are when we play, we're just a rock 'n' roll band, that's all there is to it, there's no label for it or anything.

What's the sludge metal scene in New Orleans like these days?
It's great, it's awesome. Except right now, which happened while I was in Europe, apparently some asshole lawyer moved down here from some other state and apparently has gotten like all these music clubs' licenses pulled. So that's kind of bullshit, but I don't even know that much about it. I've been trying to rest after I got back from Europe, so I haven't even looked it up on the internet yet. But I know it's just going to make me mad when I read it, so I've kind of been postponing it. But that's basically it, he pulled like six clubs' music license because I guess it was too loud or something like that. But it's been like this for years, we've been having these same clubs ever since Katrina ended, everybody thought, "Oh the scene's dead, it's all over," but no, it came back like a thousand times stronger. There were more clubs, more bands, more house shows, more places to play, just everything, you know? So as far as these clubs, they've been there at least since 2006 and been doing shows every single night and all of a sudden they've lost their license. So, I'm going to have to do some research on it and figure out what's going on. A friend of mine already contacted me about us doing some kind of awareness benefit thing for this because, I mean we only play locally like maybe once or twice a year, but still, all these younger bands that are coming up, they need a place to play, you know? And I totally support all the new bands. So back to your question, there are a ton of new bands here, I mean bands are evolving and growing every day. I'm sure this whole thing with the music license will just create more bands anyway, so yeah it's a pretty vibrant scene.

It's such a shame for a city that especially needs that outlet. To go and take that away is insane.
Yeah and the thing is he's not even from here, I guess that's what everybody's so mad about. If he was from here we'd still be pissed off, but it's like somebody comes to our city, we're very protective here of our city, we're like a junkyard dog [laughs] protecting our city. It's like, "Don't come here with your bullshit, don't bring it here." And this city is made for music, I mean there's any type of music playing at any given time: jazz, hip-hop, blues. And then this happens, I'm sure it's going to be taken care of some way, but I'm not sure how it's going to happen yet.