Mike IX Williams Discusses “A History of Nomadic Behavior,” Eyehategod’s Past and Present (Interview)
Earlier this month, New Orleans sludge metal stalwarts Eyehategod released their long-awaited sixth album, A History of Nomadic Behavior. It's their first full-length record in seven years, following 2014's Eyehategod, and stands as a rebirth of sorts for the band; founding drummer Joey LaCaze passed away just before their last release, and long-time guitarist Brian Patton left the group in 2018 to spend more time with his family.
The new record is unmistakably Eyehategod—no set of songs with guitarist Jimmy Bower's thick-as-molasses blues riffs and vocalist Mike IX Williams' tortured howls could be confused for any other band—but with new drummer Aaron Hill in tow and Bower left as the sole six-stringer, the sound has inevitably evolved. Tracks like album opener "Built Beneath the Lies" and "The Trial of Johnny Cancer" highlight a new clarity in Mike IX's lyrical delivery, while the lurching "High Risk Trigger" and closer "Every Thing, Every Day" show that there's still plenty of their trademark nihilistic piss and vinegar to go around.
Perhaps the most jarring thing about the new album though, is that the band has been unable to support it with any live shows. Notorious for their nearly endless touring schedule, Eyehategod has been forced to stay still for the last year after the pandemic abruptly sent them home from a tour of Europe and Russia.
I recently caught up with Mike IX over Zoom to talk about life in quarantine after over 30 years of nearly non-stop gigging, the new record, the band's unexpected foray into the world of NFTs, and more. Check out that talk below and be sure to listen to A History of Nomadic Behavior and pick up some merch from their newly revamped web-store.
Alright, so first things first – the new record just came out, how has the response been?
It's been fantastic, man. Everybody's been loving it so far. I think it's a little different for Eyehategod, it's a little cleaner sounding, but I think people are loving it, you know? I'm happy. I'm excited.
I was actually going to say that—it does almost sound like a new beginning for the band in a way. This is the first record you've done without Joey, who was such a fundamental part of the sound, and without Brian, so it's almost like a new thing. What was it like to make a new record with half the band missing and having to re-find your sound?
I mean, we don't think things out very much at all. We just go for it, you know? We didn't plan on it sounding this way at all. We just went and did what we usually do. Jimmy writes songs, Aaron, our new drummer, he wrote some songs on this album. Joey used to write songs, so it's kind of cool, we've had two drummers now that write riffs and write songs. But yeah, we just went into it the way we always do; just here's some songs, and then I put the vocals on later, and it came out like this.
I'd say it's modern Eyehategod. It's been a gradual thing—every album is like a photograph of the band at that time. So this is a photograph of right now. Who knows what can happen in the future, but I think it always sounds like Eyehategod. It got a little more refined, I don't know if that's a word to use for us, but yeah.
Speaking of that, was there any conscious decision that you wanted the lyrics to be clearer this time?
That was a more of a conscious thing; every album I've been doing it a little bit more. On the self-titled album [2014's Eyehategod], you can understand a lot of stuff I'm saying. And then I did this band called Arson Anthem and you can understand what I'm saying on those two records. So I wanted to start going this way as opposed to like, I mean, the old stuff was just because of being drunk, basically. I was drunk and slurring and it was just a 'speaking in tongues' type of thing. I kind of put a little effort into that—I want to pronounce my words a little more.
What influences your lyrics? What are you drawing from at this stage?
Life in and of itself really. I mean, there's of course writers and other musicians and singers and other people that Iove, but it's really just from like life and like, you know, the sidewalks and bus fumes and all that, old people outside and, you know, just life.
It feels very Bukowski.
Well, that's definitely a big influence. I got into Bukowski way back in the 80s. He was a poet that showed me that you didn't have to write about like, trees and flowers or something. He just put it out there, like his life and personal stuff, and that really affected me. I thought it was really cool and it inspired me to do the same. And hope in my way, I don't want to be a copy or anything, but yeah, that's definitely an influence.
I know you signed with Century Media this time, how was working with them?
We used to be signed to Century Media back in the 90s. We were actually like, 'signed', and we signed a shitty deal with them, like a really bad record deal. We were really young, and they said, 'We'll send you to Europe!' We all had other bands at the time, we thought Eyehategod was just kind of our side band, so we figured yeah, let's go to Europe and take this over there. We figured we'd put out one album, and that would be it, you know? We couldn't afford lawyers or anything, so they kind of screwed us. But in 1999 we got out of that contract for good.
So this thing now, it's all new people that work there. A friend of mine works there now, he kind of helped convince me, but all we do now is we license everything. So we own the music, It's actually on our record label, but it's licensed to them.
The second press is going to have our logo on it – we started a label called 'Take as Needed Records'. We re-released our first album, In The Name of Suffering then did the seven inch [a split single with Sheer Terror featuring both bands covering Devo] and then the new album.
It's much cooler licensing to a big label like that, because you own everything. They can do what they want with it for a certain amount of time, but then it reverts back to us. And you know, it's ours. I mean, we own it now. You know, it's under their like, license.
It must be a lot more comfortable to actually own the material that you spend the time writing and slaving away on making.
Well, of course, yeah. I hate record labels, record labels suck. They're basically out there to rip off young artists and it sucks. It's nice to be licensed so we still get the distribution and all that. A lot of bands are doing that nowadays.
I've heard that, and it definitely seems like it's a better practice. It's cool that people can control their own music, and not be beholden to the labels the way that they used to be.
Yeah, I mean, something had to happen, because it was just so many people getting taken advantage of and nowadays, we don't even make our money from selling records, we support the band by touring and merch. We have a store that does really good, so that's how we survive. You get an advance from the label, but it's not like income every month or anything,
That actually brings me to my next question—you guys make your money off touring. But now after a history of being nomads, you've been grounded for the last year. What's that been like?
Well, at first it was alright, because we planned to take off the beginning of last year to do the vocals and mix and master and all that stuff for the record, you know, mix it, master, but then it just kept going on and on and on.
At this point, it looks like we may be going out at the end of the year. A lot of bands are starting to do shows already, I think it's too soon for that, but I think probably October, November is when we'll do something.
Oh yeah? That's great! It's been so weird having a year without shows.
I know, It's really weird. It's my job, it's what I've done every day for 33 years, so it's been crazy.
And I'm sure it hurts from a business standpoint too.
Yeah, that's one reason we started the label too. And the merch store does really good, we were lucky that we do pretty good with that. So that's been supporting us this whole time.
Are you guys planning to do anything in the interim? Like any livestream shows or anything or just wait until you can do the real thing?
Yeah, we've talked about it, but I just don't see how it could be. For a band like us, we feed off the energy of the drunken crowd, so I don't know how, I mean, we could do one, but I don't know if it would just be boring or not.
I would put everything into it if we did it and try to make it entertaining, but it's just not the same. I know a lot of people want us to do that, we've been asked a few times, but we've turned them all down so far.
It's been just over 30 years that you guys have been at it now. You go out and make your living off of touring and playing a lot of songs from Take as Needed for Pain and Dopesick, which are from the 1990s. What relationship do you have with that music now? Like, do you engage with it the same way that you used to? What do you have to access in yourself today to get out there and put it out in such a strong way?
I mean I still love those songs. Even though when we're on tour we joke about how much we hate them, like 'Oh great, Sisterfucker again,' you know? That's a song we've been playing since like '93 – it's never left the set. We've played that song thousands of times. But we still love the songs, you know, we still put it all, everything into them live. It's not like I have to force myself to do it or anything. It can get tedious doing it all the time, but it's like muscle memory at some point; you just do it. We put 1,000% into all that stuff live—I don't see any reason to NOT put that much into it.
Have you been working on anything in quarantine? Has it been a fruitful time creatively? I mean, you just put out a record, I don't mean to minimize that, but is there anything else you've been working on?
I've done some side project stuff. I did a band called Dead End America with Nick Oliveri and Slayer Hippy from Poison Idea who actually passed away. And then there's this band Ho99o9, I did vocals on a song with them – I've just been trying to keep busy.
Eyehategod's got some plans, we've got some ideas up our sleeve. But we're just waiting to see. We're actually writing new songs right now, so we'll see what's up with that.
I saw you guys have been promoting something with, like a cryptocurrency or something like that?
That's me and a friend of mine. He just made like an NFT and is waiting to put it up for sale. I don't know what, he's, he's the mastermind behind it. He just wanted to use, like my name and stuff for it. So I'm into it—I'm knowledgeable of it and I was excited to do that.
The same guy did a three minute video from a song from the new album. And we're going to release it as an NFT. There's only gonna be one that exists, and we can sell off pieces of it.
Sounds like Eyehategod is moving into the future.
Well, It's me. Jimmy doesn't even know what an NFT is, but that's fine (laughs). This whole band is invested in crypto and stuff. I mean, actually, Jimmy's bought Litecoin before. But this project was kind of something me and this other guy did just to see what happens. There's a few bands, like Kings of Leon, I think did something with an NFT too.
That might be the only thing you guys have in common.
Right? There's this rapper Ill Bill—I think he's from Brooklyn or Queens—his whole thing is that they're totally into metal and heavy music and stuff. But he's got an NFT out as well. So I'm kind of competing with those guys.
There you go—that'll keep you busy now. I think that's all I got for now. Thanks for taking the time. I really appreciate it, and I hope I can say "Hey" in person in Brooklyn, one of these days when you all can get back out here.
Yeah, man, I'm approachable. Just come up and say 'hey'. We'll be back soon.
A History of Nomadic Behavior released March 12th, 2021 via Century Media Records.