If you've paid attention to what comes up in your Google searches, then you're completely misinformed. EYEHATEGOD have spent nearly a quarter-century defying categorization, spreading their misanthropy, and doing whatever the fuck they felt like doing. Yet despite their catalog, their accolades, and their ever-growing and evolving fan-base, they still need to clarify a few things.
The band's European tour kicks off July 23rd in Germany. Heavy Planet caught up with EYEHATEGOD frontman Mike IX Williams to discuss the tour, new material, the state of New Orleans, and some asshole sitting at home who's got nothin' better to do than start rumors.
Heavy Planet: Pretty soon you guys have the Europe Is The New Vietnam tour starting. Who's going along with you on that?
Mike IX Williams: "So far we're headlinin' and it's gonna be just local acts, I'm pretty sure. In the UK there'll probably be a certain band that plays a couple shows with us and then... on and on, through Germany and all that, y'know. We're not goin' over there specifically... like, last time we went over with Church of Misery, we hooked up with them... guys from Japan, y'know. This time there's been no talk of us meetin' anybody or followin' another band or anything. We're headlining... I mean, we headline that tour anyway, but we'll see what happens. Mostly local support, I'm sure."
HP: Where'd you get the name for the tour? I know you guys have a new song called New Orleans is the new Vietnam, is that right?
Williams: "Yeah, that's where we got it from."
HP: How bad are things in New Orleans? That makes it sound...
Williams: "Well, of course it's an exaggeration. It's just trying to concoct an image, y'know. I mean, we are a band. But since Katrina happened there's just a lot of abandoned properties, y'know, a lot of places that have still not built up and things are still kind of in ruins in a lot of places. It seems like the cops and the local government don't really care too much about it. A lot of these abandoned buildings are just havens for drug dealers and drug dens and stuff... more crime, y'know. So that's one thing; the crime rate kinda went up after Katrina. It was always pretty bad, but..."
HP: What's your relationship with New Orleans right now? That seems like the place where so much started. What's that music community like with bands like you guys, Crowbar, Soilent Green, all that stuff?
Williams: "Oh, it's amazing! It's awesome, y'know. We play like twice a year locally. Crowbar plays every now and then. Soilent Green hasn't played live in a while, not down here. But there's a ton o' new bands, man. Like, after Katrina the scene kind of exploded 'cause I think people wanted to prove to the world... I mean, in every type of music, too. Like Jazz, Blues, and all that stuff. Everything just got bigger and better. There's more clubs to play now, there's more bands. It seems like everything blew up after that 'cause we weren't gonna be kicked down. I mean, you read an article and it's like "New Orleans is destroyed. There's nothin' there." But that's bullshit! You can't kill the culture here, y'know. So that's better than ever. There's more bands, more places to play. It's just a good all-around place. It's still ghetto as fuck, but it's always been like that and it's probably gonna be like that. The cops are corrupt as hell. It's typical, it's like a lot of cities. It's a big city, one of the bigger ones in the South, on the Gulf Coast..."
HP: I caught a live take of Medicine Noose online. What's some of the other stuff you guys are gonna road-test in Europe this summer?
Williams: "I don't know, we haven't really thought of a set-list or anything yet. And we usually don't use a set-list. We pretty much wing it, y'know? Even playing Hellfest or Roskilde or some big festival, we'll look at each other and go 'What do you wanna play?' We still just have that down-to-earth kind o' way about bein' on stage. I talked to Jimmy (Bower) about doin' more of the newer songs. We have like 12 new songs, y'know? A lot of 'em aren't broken-in yet, a lot of 'em don't have the lyrics yet. But I was tryin' to say maybe we could do some of the ones that we have more structured and more together. 'Cause I would like to come home from that tour and go straight into the studio, hopefully. That's the plan, if we can get out shit together with this record-label thing, y'know?"
HP: You guys don't have a label now, right?
Williams: "No, we're not on a label at all. We're trying to decide... we've narrowed it down to a couple different ones. I know there are always rumors online that say 'We've signed to this person, we've signed to that person.' But that's the internet, y'know? They make up so many rumors. Like this one rumor I've gotta dispel quickly: I don't know what asshole is goin' around sayin' that our new album is called 'Whiskey Drink'!"
HP: Y'know what, I saw that and I wasn't even gonna mention it! It was on Wikipedia.
Williams: "I can't believe it's on Wikipedia! I mean, who took the time... It's not true! That's what blows my mind about the internet. Someone just made that up, sittin' at their house. They've never heard any of us say that, at all! If they did hear us say that, we were joking. Y'know, it was probably some stupid joke, but I don't even think THAT happened. Some idiot was sittin' home and decided just to go put that on the internet, it's pretty weird, man. Like, why would they do that? It's no big deal, it'll go away when the album's out. But I just wanted to dispel that rumor. You're the first interview I've done in the past couple days that didn't ask me 'So your album's called Whiskey Drink, right?' and I'm like 'FUCK NO!' That's cool that you kinda figured it was bullshit."
HP: I thought it sounded like a dumb title, anyway.
Williams: "It's stupid! We have a song called Dixie Whiskey we've been doin' for twenty-somethin' years live from Dopesick, but it's ridiculous."
HP: You mentioned some of the festivals you guys have played... Hellfest, Roskilde. How was Maryland Death Fest this year?
Williams: "Oh, it was great! It was really good, it's always a lot of fun. The first year we played we were outdoors in the afternoon and it was kinda hot outside, but it was still a great show. There were tons of people watchin' us, probably a couple thousand people, like as far as you could see. But this time we played indoors on the inside stage and it was incredible, man. A lot o' people said that's the best show they've ever seen us do, and I was like 'Wow, really?' We were just puttin' on our normal gig, y'know? But a lot o' people said it was really good. I don't know, we're gettin' the new songs tighter and stuff, so hopefully we're blowin' people away. It was great, though!"
HP: How did they respond to some of the new stuff?
Williams: "People love it! People were already yellin' out the titles and stuff. A lot o' people wanna hear the new stuff. I mean, we've been gettin' by, somehow. Bein' a cult-band is why, that's the answer. We're a cult-band, y'know? Not OCCULT, but A CULT, y'know? We haven't had an album out in years, but we're still tourin' and sometimes we do the same songs in a set, but it's always gonna be a fun show. We're always gonna put 1000% energy into it. So I think they respond greatly to it."
HP: You guys have been doin' this for 25 years or so...
Williams: "Yeah, it's almost 25 years. 1988 is when the band started."
HP: You guys have your fans, you always have. But what's it like to see a new fan respond to stuff written before he was even born?
Williams: "I love it, man! It's cool to see somebody come out, like an old fan of ours that we see every time we come to that city. Like some dude we know, or some girl... the next thing you know, they're bringin' their kids out and their kid is this huge EYEHATEGOD fan. It's just really cool. And a lot of these kids are starting bands, I think that's just what it's all about. That's how it was for me, I started out this little punk-rock kid just bein' a fan of music and still am. So I love to see the kids get into it just like I did when I was a kid. So I hope it just continues on, I guess until we're old, OLDER."
HP: You guys have obviously inspired so many young bands, so many musicians. Some of them talented, some of them just totally unlistenable. But how do you respond to being considered, like or not, a pioneer of heavy music, of metal, of anything like that?
Williams: "We don't really like to label it metal or punk. We especially hate the 'sludge' label, just because... I mean, it's not a bad word. I use the same thing when I say 'punk-rock,' that's a label, too. Or 'thrash-metal.' It's the same thing. It's just somethin' that we don't wanna... We're not sludge, how could we be? 'Cause when we started that term didn't even exist. It got made up later on to call bands like us a certain thing like 'grunge' or whatever. But yeah, it's a good title now that kinda encompasses a whole little umbrella group that has that sound. And I've written before, doin' journalism for websites and magazines so I know sometimes you have to use a label like that. But as far as the pioneer thing, I think that's awesome! It makes me really proud that we could... when I was a kid, goin' back to that, I always thought it'd be great if we did somethin' that people really recognized and really respected us for and it kinda happened, y'know? So we're all happy about that."
HP: I know you're pretty prolific as a writer, whether it's music or journalism or...poetry. I saw something about an EYEHATEGOD biography. Is that gonna happen?
Williams: "We can't do it by ourselves, we need somebody to help us do the interviews, somebody's gonna have to interview us, y'know? 'Cause we've got TONS of stories, 25 years worth of crazy tour stories and everything crazy that's happened to us. And then we wanna interview the guys who drove our vans and the roadies and people like that. Friends, all the other bands we've toured with, stuff like that. It's a lot of work. I'm the only one in the band that lost everything in Katrina, but Jimmy and those guys, Gary and Joey still have a lot of photos and fliers and things like that. We just wanna do like a coffee-table, bio type o' thing, y'know? I think it'd be fun, mostly pictures and stuff. It's just hard gettin' somebody to stay on board. We've had a few people that were like 'yeah, yeah I'll do it' and then they see how much work it is and they drop out. It's just a lot o' work and we need somebody to stick with it and help us. Maybe they'll read it here and contact us about doin' it, y'know?"
HP: You guys all have your hands in other stuff, other bands and stuff. You've got Arson Anthem, Jimmy's in Down... How difficult is it for the five of you guys to even be in the same place, let alone find time to record or tour or stuff like that?
Williams: "It's hard sometimes, y'know? Sometimes it gets really hard. We just make it work, that's all you can really do, is just make it work. There's been times we were pissed-off at Jimmy because he had to go tour... I mean, that's how Outlaw Order started. We had a tour or somethin' and he had to go so we're like 'Well, fuck it. Let's go play.' It came out how it did, but that's just the type of things that happen. We usually work it out. Everybody tries to stay busy and respect the other bands everybody's in or whatever."
HP: With Outlaw Order, you guys were all on probation at one point. Where are you at now with the legal shit?
Williams: "I'm finished with everything, man. I'm done! I mean, I can't own a firearm and stuff like that. I'm not on probation anymore, but I just gotta stay outta trouble forever. Which I do plan to do. I'm older now, shit happens when you're younger. It's just a fact o' life, y'know? You're stupider when you're younger. People do stupid things, you get caught up in things you don't wanna get caught up in. You don't mean to, y'know? You just figure you're indestructible sometimes when you're younger. As you get older you get a little wiser and realize like 'Damn, why did I do that?' But I still drink a little, stuff like that. Nothin' crazy, y'know?
HP: You're clean now, right?
Williams: "Yeah, like I said I just drink a little bit. That's pretty much it. I'm not ashamed of anything. Some people are afraid to ask that stuff and I'm just like 'I don't care, man.' That's my life. People wanna know about my life so I'm not gonna lie or make somethin' up."
HP: From the name to the music and everything about you guys, everything about EYEHATEGOD has been never conforming, never givin' a shit what other people say...
HP: How crucial has that been to your success, your longevity? You guys have always stuck to your guns when a lot of other bands follow trends...
Williams: "But that's also hurt us, too. A lot o' bands break down and they just conform to what the label's tellin' them. Y'know, the record label's like 'Well, you can't do that' and we've always been like 'Fuck you, we're gonna do it anyway.' So it's hurt us before, too. But at the same time I think we've earned people's respect. It's just one of those things... people really respect the band that does that. Nothin's fake about this band, it's all true and everything's reality. So I think we've just earned people's respect that way. That's kept us goin, y'know?"
HP: You guys got a few US dates set up when you return from Europe, right?
Williams: "Yeah, we're goin' out to the West Coast. San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, I think Colorado, I'm not sure where else. Yeah, doin' some stuff like that as soon as we get home. And then hopin' to get in the studio immediately. We wanna get the record out, y'know? This European tour was just somethin'... We thought we'd already have the album out by now but it's takin' a long time decidin'... y'know, this record label stuff sucks, to be honest with you. It's all business and crap. I just hate all that. I just wanna play music and go in the studio. Workin' out all the details sucks."
HP: Who handles all that stuff for you guys?
Williams: "We all do our share. We also have people that help us out, too. We have a lawyer and stuff. Just because we hate it... We have to do it. We don't have a manager, though. We kinda manage ourselves. We do have a TOUR manager when we go on the road, we have a lawyer and people like that who can help us."
HP: There's a distinct sound you guys have. We recognize it, we know it's you guys. We know you guys aren't gonna change. So what can fans really expect from the new material you guys are gonna lay down?
Williams: "EYEHATEGOD! I mean, we just do what we know how to do. There might be somethin' different... maybe some blues-ier parts to the songs. There may be some faster parts, maybe more Black Flag kind o' stuff. But for the most part, it's EYEHATEGOD. It's like AC/DC or Motorhead. We don't really go far from the formula. There's no reason to, y'know?"
HP: You guys have a fan-base with a certain expectation and they just expect you to sound like yourselves and you guys have always fuckin' hit the nail on the head.
Williams: "Yeah, but we do it for ourselves anyway. Even if we wanted to go completely experimental or somethin' we would, but we don't want to. We're all just down-to-earth rock and roll fans, y'know? We all like weird music and different kinds o' strange stuff. That's why we have other bands. We do different types of stuff with our different bands, y'know? I have an experimental, industrial-type thing I do. Like a noise-type o' band that helps me get that outta my system, y'know? Stuff that I enjoy."
HP: Anything else you wanna share with our readers?
Williams: "Just that I hope people come out to the shows, y'know? I hope we can get this record out because I know people have been askin' forever about a new EYEHATEGOD record. I hope people love it. We're playin' some o' the songs live. And I wanted to mention my book, it's called Cancer As A Social Activity."
HP: That's your poetry book, right?"
Williams: "Yeah. And that's like dark, negative poetry. And on the EYEHATEGOD page there's a scroll at the bottom, it just shows all the shows... I'll look at it sometimes and be like 'I can't believe we've played that many shows.'
HP: All the posters, all the gig posters, right?
Williams: "Yeah, it's like thousands of flyers! Posters, flyers just through the years. There are a ton of 'em that are missing, too. We just can't find 'em. That just shows how long... 25 years is a long time. And it's basically the same lineup except for bass players. We've only switched bass players maybe three times. But everyone else, we're the same people."
HP: Thanks for takin' the time to talk with us. Good luck in Europe!
Williams: "Thanks, man! I appreciate the interview!"
HP: We're lookin' forward to that record, too!
Williams: "Sure, man! We're gettin' to it! (laughs)."