At the helm of one of the most anticipated underground metal tours this year, Eyehategod members Jimmy Bower (guitar) and Mike Williams (vocals) share their enthusiasm on the May/June tour in support of their new release, “Preaching the End-Time Message.” The CD is a collection of rare versions of tracks, live versions from a show in Japan and three all-new songs recorded last year. Although it’s been awhile since their last tour together, both musicians are looking forward to making more music together in the near future and with their own separate projects.
Prior to the recording of the interview, Bower noted that the night before the interview he’d attended the jazz festival in New Orleans. Although he’s trying to kick the harder drugs, he said he had indulged in some ‘shrooms and the afternoon of the interview he was feeling the after-effects of a hard night out on the town.
JB: I really don’t drink that much you know. For the past f***ing 10 years, all I was doing was drugs. I never really drank, but god damn hangovers hurt, bro. They hurt! I mean I feel good, I smoked a joint. I feel a little better now.
JD: There’s been some discrepancy as to when Eyehategod actually came into existence. When was Eyehategod, Eyehategod as you would consider a fully functioning band?
JB: As a fully functioning band, I’d say ’90/’91, because that’s when we put out “In the Name of Suffering.” At that point we were just finishing up to go on tour and things like that, which we were fortunate. But before that the band actually started in like 1988. Mike Williams wasn’t even singing. We’ve been doing it for like 14 years now seriously.
When we put the first record out, we put it out on a French label, Intellectual Convulsions. Then Century Media bought the record from Intellectual Convulsions, and they put it out. We went to Germany to support that album, and to be honest, that’s all we ever thought was going to happen. 1990 was pretty much speed metal and shit going on.
There were only like a pocketful of bands doing what we were doing. We just didn’t think people would dig it. When we got back from Germany it was obvious we had a small fan base going on over that, and that sort of tripped us out. We were like, “Let’s keep going and see what happens.” We’d already had half of “Take as Needed for Pain” written by then.
JD: What do you think it was about the music that got people, and has gotten people drawn to Eyehategod?
JB: I think it was the shock value of the band. In the first part, the name makes you raise your eyebrows a little bit, and the way it’s spelled, there’s controversy there. And with our artwork and stuff. And then I’d say Mike scares a lot of people. He’s intimidating through his own sources, but yet he’s a really small dude, but he’ll hit you in the head with his mike stand if you f*** with him. He’s a crazy little dude, but I think it’s shock value. We want the people to like the music, but initially I think it’s that shock value.
JD: And once people get into the music they stick around.
JB: Yeah, I think they see where a lot of our influences are, but I think it’s what we did with our influences. We kind of made our own band. And we still feel that way today. For us it’s nothing that’s never been done, but it’s never been done by these five guys. And the way we do it, we’ve got a little pattern for it. Not really a pattern, but it just happens a lot easier than say writing riffs for Superjoint [Ritual], which is more of a thought thing.
JD: Writing those tunes for Superjoint with Phil [Anselmo] and having played them routinely for quite awhile, did you find that it had any affect on your ability to write Eyehategod tunes to make them sound like Eyehategod? Was there much influence carried over?
JB: In Superjoint, I don’t do any feedback. That would be the obvious thing. My guitar actually sounds different. I play really low volume and get monitors. Normally, we play clubs where we have at least a wedge. And Hank’s really loud, but it’s not hard to differentiate between what riffs are for Superjoint and Eyehategod.
I’ll admit playing for Eyehategod is a lot easier, but the more we go it’s not that much easier. It’s more odd note hitting that’s hard to remember, as with Superjoint when you play faster it tends to be easier. But it’s hard to play slow. It really is. It’s not like brain surgery, but it’s hard to get a good groove going real slow.
JD: When you were coming up with the new material for the new CD, how was the writing process? Was it like riding a bike where you never forget, or did it take a little while for you guys to…
JB: Well one of them is old parts from a long time ago, and we wrote a song around it. One of them is two parts put together and made to be like a jam type of thing. You’ve got the two songs put together and with Mike singing over it, it’s like a “Who Gave You the Roses?” type of thing. And then you have two five minute songs.
One of them I think is like a new “Dixie Whiskey” kind of thing. It’s just a really cool song. And the other one’s really cool as well it’s just that it’s got an old part in it that we’ve had for awhile. One of them’s called “36 Bottles of Beer and a Ball of String.”
JD: This CD’s being put out on an indie label. With some of your other stuff, Eyehategod had been on Century Media, Down was on Elektra and Superjoint is on Sanctuary, would Eyehategod be for or against being on a bigger label again?
JB: No, we’re negotiating for a label right now to do a one-off. The indie thing is with a friend of ours from Ohio, Steve. He put out all the vinyl for Eyehategod. He licenses it through Century Media. He’s cool and we worked out a fair deal amongst us. It’s really easy.
The only downfall is trying to get the publicity you get from a label. But we’re talking to this one label, and it’s pretty obvious we’re going to sign with them. We’re going over the contracts right now and taking care of the little shit. We never did that before, you know? So it’s like we’ve got a fresh start.
JD: So unless you know otherwise, are you going to be doing Eyehategod now fulltime?
JB: Well, we get back in the middle of June and then I don’t have anything to do until September. Superjoint’s supposed to be going in the studio around then, so maybe I’ll be doing that. Also, writing. Eyehategod has a lot of writing to do. We want to put out another album by the beginning of the year. Another full one.
I think we can write it fast. Well, not fast, but I think we can write it and have it come out good. There’s a whole new generation to play to. A lot of people don’t even know who we are. They know the name but that’s it. So hopefully we can give them some real rock ‘n’ roll.
JD: I’d heard that way back when you guys first started, that your signature feedback came out of you guys mostly not knowing how to play and work your equipment. Is there any truth to that?
JB: Oh, totally. I started playing when I was 18, and there were four strings on my guitar and that’s it. To this day I still play with four strings. I never saw the guy from Sepultura. I had no idea he even did that until I heard about it a couple of years ago.
I was always into rap. We were into violent rap like Public Enemy. They had that one year when they had all that shit come out like Ice-T and Too Short. It was really popular. I actually wrote a bunch of Eyehategod riffs like rap riffs. For the first record, to me, the first record doesn’t have any southern sound to it. It’s a straight up doom album. We didn’t know how to get rid of the feedback without turning our knob down, and we weren’t good enough to pull our knob up.
We’re Melvins freaks, but we just tried to do different feedback than they did. They made music with it, we just wanted to aggravate people with it. I think the Melvins did beautiful things with feedback. It’s our signature, but it’s like so many bands now do feedback now, it’s almost cliché. I actually don’t have any feedback coming through my amp right now and it’s loud as s***. When we play shows I hook a pedal up so I can get it. The Eyehategod of now we pretty much run into the songs with out much in-between. Kill ’em and get the fuck, you know?
JD: Over the course of your career and considering some of the subject matter, what effect do you think drugs have actually played on the music? Has it played much of an affect on the songs or even the course your career has taken?
JB: I’m not gonna lie. Drugs have definitely played a major factor in this band almost to the part…..at one point….we would find out that people like Dr. John from New Orleans was into dope. He was a big dope head. But it’s almost romantic with the music. I’m still trying to do better and get clean. I just lost somebody really close to me about a month and a half ago to an overdose and it was a kind of wake-up call.
I’ve been jamming for a month and a half now with no drugs, and I’m better actually. We sound tighter. I just think it’s going to work out good for the whole band. That’s the only way I can explain it best. For myself it became romantic. To each his own, man. Peace through addiction. Everybody’s addicted to something whether it’s talking, sex; whiping your ass. Whatever.
JD: If there’s a message or slogan for the band that sends a message about what Eyehategod’s all about, what would it be?
JB: Pretty much like the title of the new record, which we’ve had for a long time. “Preaching the End-Time Message.” Trying to show people the realities of this f***ed up world, unless we’re just freaks and don’t realize it’s a cool world we live in. I’m fuckin’ anti-society, anti-work, anti-taxes.
It’s all stupid to me. It’s all fucked up with people living in the past. Taxes weren’t even meant to last that long. Look at them now. I just don’t have faith in people in numbers. People in numbers f*** s*** up. We are the cancer of the Earth.
While Bower worked off and on over the past decade with Down, Corrosion of Conformity and Superjoint Ritual as an occupation during breaks in Eyehategod’s schedule, EHG vocalist Mike Williams has kept himself busy during down time with his two key outlets of self-expression, those being writing and the visual arts.
And as anyone who’s been to his personal site, www.southernnihilismfront.com will notice, he’s also made it a regular thing of trying to find ways to stay out of jail and pay off fines and court fees. But that’s all part of what it’s like to be Mike Williams.
JD: When you’re coming up with material, what exactly is the type of process you go through? Are you the type of writer where you can just sit down and the words come, or do you have to be in the right frame of mind?
MW: I don’t know if you know, but my book just came out as a matter of fact. But I just write stuff that comes into my head. Twenty-four hours a day there could be anything that inspires me. Either I’m waking up in the middle of the night and writing something down, or some times I can go months without writing. I don’t know how it works, but sometimes I’ll just get some ideas just write constantly.
BB: When did your book come out? I’d read on your site awhile ago that it’d gone to press.
MW: Oh yeah. It just came out like a week ago. It’s fresh off the press.
BB: What’s it called?
MW: It’s called, “Cancer as a Social Activity.” It’s writings of mine from like….some of it’s been on Eyehategod records. But they’ve been changed a little, or they could be the original words to Eyehategod songs. And some of it’s brand new over the past couple of years. It’s basically stuff from 1988 on. And there’s some of my artwork in there too. It’s got like the cut-up and collage type stuff. And there’s a few tiny, short stories.
They’re not even really stories, they’re more like short prose. But I want to do more stuff like that in the future actually. Write some more stories and things. Eventually we’re going to do a bio of the band and I’d like to do an art book. I do paint too, but it’s like all the Eyehategod covers I did all the art for those, if you call it art. It’s just collage stuff. People seem to like it. I like it too.
BB: So you did the “99 Miles of Bad Road” seven-inch and stuff like that.
MW: Yeah, I did that and I did all the seven-inches. The only one I didn’t do is “Dopesick”, Joey did that one. And we’ve got a new compilation yet, but it’s not out yet. It comes out May 9 or something, “Preaching the End-Time Message.” I don’t know why this record label…and I want to state this too in the interview….but they’re advertising this as a new album. I guess they’re doing that…I don’t know why they’re doing that really….but it’s like there are three new songs on it. There’s some live Japanese stuff. It’s all unreleased on CD actually, but there are some rare seven-inch stuff…not the stuff on “10 Years of Abuse,” but the stuff from the Soilent Green seven-inch and the Crippled Bastards seven-inch split. And then the live Japanese stuff.
You get all the critics bitching when you put stuff like that out, but it’s stuff that people always ask about. It’s like the Anal Cunt stuff from that split…the Black Sabbath, which people always seem to have a hard time finding. I mean I’m glad to put it out. I don’t care what anybody says. For the people who are going to complain, I don’t really care about them.
People might think we’re lazy or something, and we’ve had problems here and there, but we’re writing some new stuff. Basically, we were going to save these three songs for the full album which we’re starting to put together.
We haven’t recorded anything yet, but we were going to save those and put them on the same. But I think it’ll be cool.
BB: When I talked to Jim, he mentioned that you were talking with a bigger label about putting out that full-length. Are you interested in going with a label and doing something like Ben Falgoust did with Relapse and Metalblade [Soilent Green and Goatwhore]?
MW: Yeah, we were trying to start out own label a few years….before this last….people think we’re broke up again or something. This last time Jimmy was out with Superjoint and Down and COC so…but at that last little break before that we wanted to put out our own label, but that sort of financially didn’t work out. But as far as a bigger label, we’re talking to a couple different ones. There’re all these rumors that we’ve signed to Prosthetic and stuff. But if we sign we’re going to make sure that in the contract it says we can still put out seven-inches and splits with other bands.
JD: Essentially have control over your material.
MW: Yeah. The one we’re actually thinking of signing with are cool with that. It’s cool to have vinyl and stuff also. We’ve been talking about putting out stuff and that’ll still happen. But the main stipulation is being able to put out seven-inches and vinyl and stuff.
JD: When was the last time that Eyehategod did a tour that was this extensive?
MW: Well, this one’s only a month long. The last tour we did was in Europe and that was two months. Before that I’m not even sure. We did a couple of headlining tours with Anal Cunt and Suplecs, but maybe that was the last big tour. But we’ve done small, like go play two shows. Jimmy started doing his thing with Superjoint, but I really don’t know when that was.
Everybody’s really excited. We started Outlaw Order, which is my other band that I started with Joey and Gary [which may put out a full-length on Southern Lord and tour]. We’ve been busy the whole time, but as far as Eyehategod going out, it’s been awhile. We can’t wait.
JD: With some groups, substances play a big part, while with others it’s just there to be there. Do you think recreational drugs have had any impact, or are they just there to be there?
MW: Yeah, obviously it has. Of course, I don’t condone any of that because it can be a horrible thing. But as far as smoking and that….our first album we did for $1,000. Well actually, $800 and $200 went for weed. But since the beginning that’s been part of the band. You do stuff like that and it just becomes a lifestyle as well. And it shapes a lot of things especially.
There have been times where we’ve been totally clean and healthy and we still sound like Eyehategod. Overall it’s shaped who we are and what we sound like, and who we are as people you know? But as far as if nobody did anything at all, I’m sure we’d still be who we are. I do recommend, everybody should take acid at least once in their life. I think.
But it depends on who you are. Somebody goes nuts and blames it on LSD. There’s something in the back of their head, and if something’s there they could snap, but it’s all up to the individual case.
JD: What does Eyehategod mean to you?
MW: At this point it’s been a way of life. Since 1988 we’ve been in this band. I’ve been in bands since I was 15. This is the only way I know. I’m not rich yet. That’s really a joke, but as far as Eyehategod, what it means to me…..I don’t know what it means to me. It’s hard to find one specific. But it means a lot to me. Like I said, it’s a way of life. It’s part of who we are at this point.
I’m a big fan of slogans and propaganda and stuff like that. We’ve had stuff on albums like “Peace Through Addiction” and “Preaching the End-Time Message” and stuff like that but “Peace Through Addiction”…it doesn’t really mean too much. I’m also a big fan of contradictions. It’s like how life can not make sense at times. And some people look really deep into…..it’s more of a feeling with Eyehategod.
But it’s always changing. We keep the overall concept with the band, but things change a lot, you know.
JD: So one of the key things you’ve maintained throughout has been individuality and freedom of thought.
MW: Exactly, that’s something we all agree on. If there’s anyone who’s political in the band, I guess it would probably be me. It gets us in trouble, but as far as the freedom of thought, I’d like to go further. And as far as stuff like police brutality, I’m against stuff like that too. It doesn’t come out in the music as much, but it comes out as far as the anti-authority thing we’ve had.
People know it’s there and some people search out little bits here and there in the lyrics. But it’s not something we preach. I like people to know we’re against all these things. Kind of an anti-society type of thing. Because, personally, I’ve never fit in anywhere, starting with going to school as a kid. That’s probably where all this comes from anyway.