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Interview: Mike IX Williams

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Mike IX Williams is a survivor – of drug addiction, Hurricane Katrina, and a lifetime of hard living. Now he’s living clean and looking forward, along with many of us, to a new Eyehategod record. While preparing for the band’s next tour, which begins tomorrow alongside Phobia (see dates below), he answered some questions.

— Cosmo Lee

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What’s going on with Eyehategod these days?

Just doing a lot of shows, man. That’s basically it. We’re just trying to keep busy. We’re hopefully putting out a new record someday. (Laughs) I don’t want to say when, because I have no idea.

Are you guys writing new material now?

Yeah, we’ve got a bunch of new songs, man. It’s all really killer, sounds really good. It’s just a matter of getting together. Brian’s [Patton, guitarist] living in Baltimore right now. And I live an hour away from New Orleans. So it’s hard to get together. But [my bandmates] practice as a three-piece sometimes. There’s tons of new songs. It’s just a [matter] of getting in the studio. We don’t have a record label, either. We’ve got offers from people that want to put out the new record, but we haven’t picked anything yet.

How have your experiences being on Century Media in the ’90s and working for Housecore now affected the way you approach labels?

(Laughs) That’s one reason it’s been taking us so long to pick a label. We just don’t trust anyone. Century Media – I could say they screwed us over, but they really didn’t. We screwed ourselves over because we signed a shitty contract. It’s our fault for signing the contract. We were young when we signed that. We figured that a free trip to Europe – hey, you can’t go wrong with that. We thought that’s all we would ever do. And it turns out, 20-something years later, we’re doing all this stuff, still, and people like it. But Century Media now – they have new people working there. It’s not a bad label [now]; it’s actually pretty cool. They have some cool, new, younger people working there. [Working with] a label – it’s a hard thing. Most bands should probably just put out their own record and get distribution for it.

It’s been 10 years since Eyehategod’s last album. What do you want to address with this new record?

I just want it to sound like Eyehategod. I don’t want to change anything. I don’t want to go crazy with trying to be different or anything like that. I don’t think that would work for us. There’s bands like Motörhead or AC/DC or The Ramones – you stick to the formula, and it works. I mean, there’s thousands or millions of riffs you can play, so I don’t think we’ll have any trouble doing this new record. We just want to approach it as Eyehategod and be as simple as we always have been.

Rob Zombie said something like, “All the good riffs have already been played by Black Sabbath”.

(Laughs) He’s probably right. But you can always switch all that stuff around. It depends on the atmosphere, who’s playing it, the guitar sound…there’s a lot of [factors] like that.

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What’s a typical day for you like now?

Just waking up and getting on the Internet, just doing what I gotta do on there. I read a lot. I’ve got animals to take care of. I help out with Housecore, stuff that they need. Get ready for the next Eyehategod shows – that’s what’s been going on lately.

What are you reading these days?

Oh my god, so much different stuff. I was reading the Nick Cave biography… Notes of a Dirty Old Man, Charles Bukowski…this book by Henry Rollins, it’s not a typical book by him. It’s called Fanatic!. It’s a book of lists of bands he plays on his radio show. And there’s some really good stuff in there that I’ve never heard of, some obscure, strange music that he plays. I’ve been checking that out and trying to listen to some of that stuff. I just read Artie Lange’s book. Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey – that’s another cool book I’ve been checking out lately. I kind of skip around. It’s hard to keep my attention for too long, so I jump from book to book. But I eventually get it all done.

When you read, is it for pleasure, or are you applying it to your own work?

Oh, no, never. I read for pleasure. Always. Certainly you can pick up hints, like if there’s some good advice somewhere. But I just read for my own sake. It’s relaxing to read.

Are you writing these days?

Yeah, occasionally. When something pops in my head, I’ll write it down. I’m always writing. I never could just stop writing. But I’m not sitting down and writing 20 pages at a time like [I did] years ago. I’m definitely still writing, though.

What kind of stuff are you writing?

Probably the same style as always. I don’t know. It’s just how I write. It’d be up to somebody else to analyze it and tell me how different or the same it is.

What I’ve read of your writing has been poetry. Would you work on stuff that’s more long-form?

Yeah, I want to put out [an autobiography]. We’re talking about doing an Eyehategod book. I write stuff for a few magazines. I write for Jedbangers, which is an Argentinian magazine. I write for this magazine from Australia called Unbelievably Bad. There’s a local magazine here called Paranoise. I do interviews and record reviews for them. I do record reviews for a website called Peacedogman.com. As far as that kind of writing [goes], I do a ton of it. But writing lyrics – I’ve been a little behind on that. I’ve gotten enough stuff that I’ve written in the past years that I think it will hold me [over] for a while.

For you, what makes a good record review?

It doesn’t hurt when they compare it to other bands. There’s some people that don’t like that. But if you’re reading a review, and you want to know what they sound like, then it’s always good to have a little comparison in there. I probably do that in my writing more than I want to think, though. But I think that’s a good thing. That gets your attention. You go, “Oh, OK, I like that band, so I’ll probably like these guys”.

. . .

[Here are three of his reviews for records that we’ve reviewed]
[Denouncement Pyre]
[Deiphago]
[A.N.S.]

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You were once an associate editor of Metal Maniacs. When was this, and what was the experience like?

This was back in ’93 to ’94. It was a pretty short term. It was pretty strange. The people who put out Metal Maniacs were a huge corporation. They also put out African-American magazines, wrestling magazines, a lot of those supermarket-type magazines. So I think they were just trying to cover everything to try to make some money. Working there was cool with our little group of people. But as far as being in a corporation like that, I didn’t like that at all. They were always trying to cut our budget, always trying to tell us what we can and cannot write about. That’s why I ended up leaving, really, because they cut the budget so small that you couldn’t even do anything with it. They mainly wanted you to write about bands or labels that advertised. When I started working there, it was back when Alicia Morgan was the editor.

From 13!

Yeah, yeah. She was the editor for a while. She was there before me, and we both left at the same time. We started putting bands like Antiseen and Anal Cunt [in the magazine]. I think we were probably the first people to put black metal stuff in there back in the day when it was first coming out. [The corporate management] didn’t like all that stuff. They started freaking out on us a little bit. I’d come to work, and it’s this huge corporation. Everybody’s wearing suits and stuff like that, and I’d come in there with dreadlocks and jean jacket, stinking from being hung over. It was pretty strange.

What was a typical day for you like 10 years ago?

Probably using every waking minute to score dope. That’s basically it. That’s what I was doing back then. I don’t do that anymore. I’m over that.

So you’re clean since Hurricane Katrina?

Yep, I have been.

Can you convey what it was like to kick while you were in jail during Katrina?

Pretty much the worst thing you can imagine. Nonstop vomiting. You just feel you want to jump out of your skin. You’re either freezing cold, or you’re sweating. I was kicking a lot of stuff when I went to jail. I had been doing Xanax for like a year. Besides heroin, I was doing pills and doing coke occasionally. It’s a bad situation. It’s not a fun road to go down at all, and, I’m glad that I lived through it to be able to say that. I don’t think people should even mess with it. It’s not even worth trying. It’s not worth it.

Now that Eyehategod is touring again, how do you deal with the temptations of the road?

It’s hard sometimes. But then you just got to get through it. You just got to muddle through it, just walk by. It’s not like tons of people are offering me anything. I don’t trust people on the road, anyway. If somebody’s going to give you something, you don’t know what it is. You don’t know what you’re getting.

Your MySpace says that you are a “denizen of the interstate US bus system”. Do you still ride the bus these days?

No, not since I [moved to] where I [live] now. I live out in the woods now. Since Katrina, I’ve been out here, trying to stay out of trouble. I used to just jump on a Greyhound and pick a city and just go to it. When I was younger, I would do stuff like that, just get on a Greyhound with a grocery bag full of clothes, and just leave town.

When you did this, would you go to cities where you didn’t know people?

I’d usually know somebody. I’d go to San Francisco, go to LA, go to New York. When I went to New York, I ended up living there for three years. So, yeah, definitely. You kind of have to know somebody. You don’t have to, but in my case, I wanted to have that safety net.

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Eyehategod

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Eyehategod is very closely associated with New Orleans. Do you think that someone needs to visit New Orleans in order to fully “get” the band?

No, I don’t think you have to visit here to “get” the band. It helps, though. It couldn’t hurt. This is such a great city. There’s other cities I love a lot. I love New York, I love Chicago, I love San Francisco. But New Orleans to me is a place I don’t think I could ever leave. It’s, like, embedded in the fibers of my being.

It would help people to come and check it out. But I think the music’s pretty universal. The anger and misery that we put out there – I think everybody can relate to that without coming down here. But I wish people would come visit, ’cause it’s a great city.

If someone has never visited New Orleans, where should they visit that’s not mentioned in guidebooks?

Oh, man. There’s so many places – just like any city. New Orleans is very European. There’s a real European feel to the city. It was French and Spanish. That’s who owned this land in the old days. It’s got a lot of the European architecture and stuff. As far as a place to go, man… there’s so many places. There’s so many hole-in-the-wall bars that are really cool that you’ll never see advertised. There’s so many places. That’s a hard question, man.

How did you end up singing for bands?

I’ve been singing in bands since I was 15 years old. And I’m 40-something now. It all started with the punk rock thing, I guess. Before that, it was all about Alice Cooper and KISS. When you’re real little, you want to be in those bands. At least we did, back in the days. But I started getting into punk rock and hardcore, bands like that. It all came from that, seeing how easy it was to start a band. You get four people that know three chords and a drummer, and you’ve got a band.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

(Laughs) Vodka and cranberry. That’s pretty much it, man. I go hang out in the club. Most of the times, I just go hang out with all the people that came to see us. If anybody you’ve ever talked to has met us, they know that we’re just down-to-earth guys. We come hang out in the club. We’re not going to go hide or be rock stars. That’s pretty much all I do. I have a couple drinks and get ready to play, man, maybe watch some of the opening bands [to] get me psyched up.

How different are your onstage and off-stage personalities?

I would say they’re pretty much the same, really. (Laughs) Except I’m not screaming when I’m off-stage. Unless I’m yelling at my wife.

(Laughs)

Somebody asked how I practice my voice. I just scream at my wife sometimes. And she hates me for it. But that’s OK, though. She loves me. She still loves me.

I’m pretty much the same person. When we get on stage, we like to have fun. Our songs are serious, and they probably make people think about serious things. But we just like to have fun. We get up on stage and goof off and act silly. I’m pretty much the same way off-stage.

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Williams on why he likes baseball

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I’ve read that you like to watch baseball. What appeals to you about baseball?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s the slowness of the sport. But it’s not always slow. It can certainly pick up. I love the tension of “9th inning, two outs, tied score”. There’s nothing better than that. Also, the fact that it’s a good ol’ American sport. It just makes me think of the old-timers playing.

What hasn’t Eyehategod done that you’d like to do?

Go to Australia – just off the top of my head. There’s a ton of things I would love to do. There’s a ton of places I’d like to [visit]. I’d like to play in every country. That would be an ideal goal for me. I like to travel. We’ve got a lot of fans in Australia, and I’ve got a lot of friends in Australia, too, so that would probably be my number one choice. We were having trouble getting over there because of our criminal records, it seems. But we’ve got people working on it.

What haven’t you personally done that you’d like to do?

Go to Australia (laughs). I don’t know – there’s so many things. Everybody strives to have a little better life. I’d like to make a ton of money. That would be nice. (Laughs) That’s something that’s evaded me for a while, making much money. It would cool to own my own house and have a little more safety in my life.

Do you feel unsafe now?

Not unsafe, but it would be nice if things were more settled. But I’m saying something that probably can never happen, though. I’m always on tour, no matter what, and I love to travel. Even if I didn’t have the band, I would probably travel a lot. So as far as being settled, I don’t know if that could ever happen. It’s kind of a Catch-22.

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EYEHATEGOD – TOUR DATES

11/30 Bottletree – Birmingham, AL w/ Phobia
12/01 Hideaway – Johnson City, TN w/ Phobia
12/02 Tremont – Charlotte, NC w/ Crowbar, Phobia
12/03 The Oasis – Charleston, SC w/ Phobia
12/04 The Earl – Atlanta, GA w/ Phobia, Sons of Tonatiuh
12/05 Hi Tone – Memphis, TN w/ Phobia
12/06 Birdy’s – Indianapolis, IN w/ Goatwhore, Phobia
12/07 Downtown – Little Rock, AR w/ Goatwhore, Phobia
12/08 Drifter’s – Fayetteville, AR w/ Phobia, Zoroaster
12/09 The Marquee – Tulsa, OK w/ Phobia, Zoroaster
12/10 Korova – San Antonio,TX w/ Phobia, Zoroaster
12/11 Reno’s – Dallas, TX w/ Phobia, Zoroaster
12/12 Red Seven – Austin, TX w/ Phobia, Zoroaster
12/13 The Rail Club – Fort Worth, TX w/ Phobia, Zoroaster

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