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Interview: Eyehategod (Brian Patton)

Eyehategod are my favorite band. I’ve seen them nine times in four countries, knocked back untold shots of Dixie whiskey with the unholy quintet, and know every down-tuned, swampy sludge riff by heart. It’s always a joy and honor to speak to the guys, so I jumped at the chance to interrogate Brian Patton.

When I rang, he and his brothers in harm were killing time at their hotel in Louisville, KY, resting before they decimated another stage on their North American tour. The lanky guitarist spilled his guts about their long, long-awaited new record (it’s going to be a double album!) and spoke honestly and hopefully about the future of NOLA’s most cursed sons of Southern darkness.

— Kim Kelly

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You’re currently out on tour with Nachtmystium and a rotating cast of criminal characters – Brutal Truth, Black Anvil, Tombs, Howl, Withered, Black Tusk, The Atlas Moth, and a handful more. How have your fans been reacting to the other bands on the bill?

Honestly, it’s been a real wide-open crowd. Yesterday was probably the youngest crowd I’d ever played to in my life. It was full of 14, 15 year-old kids! The kids that come out to see the other bands are there with us, too. It’s not really one of those situations when you have your just black metal crowd or a segregated audience. They were all there together. Every single show that we’ve played since we’ve been doing this – over here and in Europe – has been overwhelmingly great. I’ve got no complaints!

We’re playing to people older than us, our age, all the way down to 14 year-olds. For us, it’s kinda weird, but it’s cool! It’s weird playing in front of a kid that wasn’t even born when you started playing guitar, who wasn’t even thinking about being born! A lot of the kids nowadays are really open to what we’re doing, and for some weird reason we really appeal to a very wide variety of people.

It surely doesn’t hurt that interest in doomy, sludgy, slow, riff-oriented music has seen a resurgence of sorts in the past few years. For whatever reason, it’s cool to be heavy!

Yeah, what’s nice about it is, even when a style of music that comes out gets popular, a lot of times the people who create that style and are still doing the true form of it don’t get recognized. For this genre, a lot of the bands who were doing it back in the day are in high demand; for us, it’s great. We wouldn’t be able to do this now if it wasn’t for the new fans that are into it. It’s what’s keeping us going, for real.

People have really been freaking out about the whole “rebirth of Eyehategod” thing, but really, you guys haven’t gone anywhere!

It sucks to say it, but that adds to the mystique. We’re known for being a bunch of fuckups who can’t get our shit together, so when we actually do get it together, people are like “Whoa! Okay! We gotta go see ’em now, man, we never know what’s gonna happen next month”.

Our plans now are to keep going strong, with full force. New material’s being written, we still have to deal with the politics of finding a label and all that, which takes a little time… We just wanted to get out there and play for a lot of the cats who haven’t got a chance to see us ever, and get that under our belts, and see what this buzz is all about, and see how it is – you know, test the waters. And the people are there, they wanna hear it, so we’re ready to rock. After this tour, we’re gonna shut down as far as touring and playing outside of New Orleans for a couple months and concentrate on writing the record and getting that done finally. It’s well overdue, goddamnit.

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As far as the business side of things goes, are you eyeing up bigger labels, or thinking of keeping things more DIY?

I mean, if it was up, we’d be on Sony Records or some shit tomorrow. Right now, we’re just getting the word out that we’re looking and getting that buzz. We’re one of those bands that have been notoriously screwed over by a record label, so we’re really skeptical about any business whatsoever. We’re gonna do it right. The last thing we’re gonna do is put this record out on a really small underground label. I think we should try to something a little larger than that. Our fans deserve it, we deserve it, and in order for us to do anything we need a label behind us, and a guy doin’ it out of his backyard really can’t offer that. We’ll more than likely try to hit up the large independent or even small major labels for the new record.

Kinda funny to think of you guys on a major label, especially since at you started out as a hardcore punk band that just played really slow!

Right! For a while, we were actually talking with majors back in the day, and there was buzz about it, so you never know. Nowadays the crowds are there. If we were playing in front of 20 people, it wouldn’t fucking matter. But with the size of the shows we’re playing and the potential of the new record, we’re really trying to do it right this time. The last thing we want to do is fill everyone with disappointment again. People have been waiting for eight-plus years, so we want to make it a really good record.

We’re doing a double album, so it’s gonna be a good two-plus hours of Eyehategod! We definitely want to make sure that we give the people that’ve been waiting for so long and even the new kids that are just getting into it what they deserve. It’s what the album should be. If you’re out for that long and don’t have at least a couple hours worth of material, then something’s wrong. We’re talking about doing some experimental stuff as well, and branch out a little bit. We’re gonna keep one of the records completely true to what we do, and then the other record – well, we wanna play around a little bit.

I know Mike’s involved in some crazy power electronics (like The Guilt Of… and his spoken word projects) and Joey dabbles in that sort of thing, too. Is that aspect going to come into play?

Yeah, stuff like that, a lot of unconventional (as far as what Eyehategod usually does) ideas that we’ve tossed around a few times, and this time we’ll actually get to flex our muscles a little bit and do it. We’re talking about doing some really mellow stuff, we’re talking about doing some electronics, we’re heavily into the Swans so maybe some really slow, hypnotic stuff, all the way to doing a Black Flag cover song; we’re actually talking about doing two. We should be able to do some extra stuff for fun. If people like it, people like it. If not, fuck it.

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Are you planning to have any friends or guests contribute to the album, or is it going to be all you guys?

It’ll more than likely just be us. There might be somebody coming in here and there, depending on what’s going on at the time. Usually when stuff like that happens, one of your buddies is in town, and you jam a little bit and then decide you want him to get up on the record. At this point, we don’t know where we’re recording or who we’re recording for. It is still a very young project, unfortunately, even though it’s been seven, eight years in the making. Right now for us, the biggest part of it is the music. We’re confident that everything else will fall into place.

Last time we spoke, you mentioned you had about five songs totally finished. What kind of progress have you made since then?

We’re a good bit done. We have tons of riffs and tons of stuff that’s hanging out there just waiting [to be recorded], and we’ve got about seven complete songs ready to go – boom! – into the studio with, and for us that’s almost a whole record right there. In the old days, man, you would just flood the studio with material, and, well, we’re gonna flood the studio with material! It’s very possible we could have three hours’ worth of material when we go into that studio. Then we’ll refine what we’ve got.

I think we’re gonna shoot for [recording] around October. By the end of the year, hopefully it’ll be done, and then three, four months after that, it’ll be in stores. So hopefully by springtime next year at the latest it’ll be in people’s hards.

Are you going to be hauling out any of those new songs on this tour?

We really don’t do that much. On this tour, what we’re trying to do is refresh everyone on what we’re about and what we did. Every now and then, we might pull out a new one, but it’s very rare, and it’s usually only when the people are just dying for it and yell and scream for it. If they sit there and scream “Sisterfucker”, which is what they usually do, we’ll play that.

We were just saying earlier today that we’re over playing that [song]. We’re ready to move on. The new stuff will be coming out, and usually when it does come out, we’ll play that, and that’s about it. When we did Confederacy [of Ruined Lives], our live shows consisted of mostly material from that album. Once the new record comes out, it’s gonna be real hard to hear us play “Sisterfucker”.

Oh no!

Sorry ’bout that! We’ll keep [playing] it every now and then, but you gotta understand that when a band is sitting on the new material for so long but playing material that was recorded so long ago, they’re kinda lookin’ forward to letting that go for a while.

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“Sisterfucker” (live, Baltimore, ’09)

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That’s going to be one hell of a rough transition for your fans to deal with. No more “Methamphetamine”? No more “Anxiety Hangover”? That’s got to be a little scary to think about.

I don’t think so at all. We’re true to our tone, we’re true to our sound. The last thing we’re going to do is do something radically different. The new material will stand up to the old material, so why not let it roll for a while? Let that sink into their heads. It seems like it’s taken about 20 years for what we’ve been doing to sink in! I think we need to force it down their throats a little.

It’s gonna be a little weird, ’cause from our perspective, all this material is Eyehategod. We’ve been playing the new material for fucking forever, for the eight years since our last record. To us, it’s not new, but to everyone we’re playing for, it’s gonna be weird ’cause they’re so used to those three records that are so embedded in their brains as what we’re about, that that it might be a little hard for ’em to accept something new.

Could you explain why Eyehategod have started touring both nationally and internationally after sticking close to home for so long?

There were so many different reasons for why we weren’t doing what we should’ve been doing. It had to do with the other bands we were involved in. It had to do with legal problems of some of the members. They just weren’t able to do anything, and when you can’t leave the city, you can’t tour! At that point you’re grounded.

We were young and stupid. We’ve learned our lesson and are keeping our noses clean. Within the past couple years, we have been able to leave the city and state for extended periods of time and been able to tour. Jimmy [Bower]’s been with Down and I’ve had Soilent Green. Everyone’s really got their own deal going on, so unfortunately sometimes things get put on the back burner. But we’ve always known that Eyehategod was something special. In our own stupid little NOLA way, we kept it alive by doing what we normally do by jamming in the practice room and at home and around home. We’re not as consistent as we should be, but we’ve played. We’re still here.

Last time I saw you, it was right before the Austin show, when you guys busted out In the Name of Suffering and Take as Needed for Pain in their entirety and pretty much leveled the joint. You’re pulling the same trick in Chicago on this tour – I hope those bastards in Illinois know how lucky they are!

In Chicago, we’re doing two nights, one night for In the Name of and one for Take As Needed, and actually we’re gonna have a little more time, so after we play the record gonna play some songs from other records. They’re both less than an hour long, and we like to play for extremely long periods of time, haha! It almost seems that for us it’s paying tribute to ourselves. There are some songs on those records that we never play live and haven’t played in years and years that we’re bustin’ out for our fans so they can have something a little special.

…[P]ersonally, if I was really into a band, I’d love the fact that they were playing my favorite record in its entirely. Judas Priest did it, and I saw that shit, and I loved that shit. British Steel in its entirely, man, in its entirety! It’s something fun for us, too. It breaks the monotony of having to play the same set of same songs to break out stuff we haven’t played in a while. It’s kinda fucked to say that we’re an old enough band that we’re paying tribute to our old records!

As long as you keep playing “Dixie Whiskey”, I’ll be happy no matter what you do.

I will make sure I play “Dixie Whiskey”, don’t you worry about that, Miss Kelly.

“Dixie Whiskey”

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