Weathering The Storm: Gary Mader Of Eyehategod
It's well known in the metal underground what true legend's Eyehategod have become, primarily due to the fact they created one of the most controversial and darkest forms of metal music ever, Sludge. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana and having formed originally in 1988, Eyehategod has made more than its fair share of social and political statements, literally going to hell and back to remain one of the most important heavy music bands ever. Despite numerous reports over the years of the group breaking up, they have truly withstood the test of time, albeit a bit worn, bloodied and bruised for the better. After 2005's Preaching the "End-Time" Message, a rareties collection, the band found themselves smack dab in the middle of a level 5 hurricane that almost permanently removed them and NOLA off the map for good. For a short period, the band itself was in search of its very own doom poet lead vocalist, Mike Williams, who was found later not to be dead but actually alive and locked up in jail. Philip Anselmo, said it best when uttering the statement, "Mike Williams is New Orleans." , ending the ongoing horror story come alive by digging into his own wallet and bailing the singer out. I cannot speak quite to the level of just how great this band is in the Rock N Roll pantheon, to be frank. For oft times, life's true great artists of their field aren't figured out and fully appreciated until they are no longer performing their craft or even alive for that matter. I am really proud to have this opportunity to interview Eyehategod's bass player, Gary Mader.
Rocket: My first question is an obvious but highly important one. How the hell is Mike Williams doing?
Gary: Mike is doing good. He spends most of his time bass watching and drinking beer near the ponds at Philip's. He lost everything tangible during the storm, but we are all doing what we can to help get his life back to normal; just simple shit like getting him copies of records we've done, T-shirts, etc. His apartment burned to ash, so he's been staying at Philip's. He has gone above and beyond in helping Mike, considering the shit he's had to deal with in the last year. Mike is more optimistic than ever. He ain't the type of guy to dwell in the past.
Rocket: I know Eyehategod has been playing shows since Mike got out of jail. Tell me a bit about what that's like to be on the stage again as a unit.
Gary: To be able to jam again... a feeling that we wouldn't trade for anything. After driving around and then couch surfin for five months during the hurricane, then not knowing when Mike was getting out and just other random bullshit. for all of us to get together and crank up never felt better. Sometimes you take jamming for granted.You do it so much that it's something you just really don't think about as a privilege. It's really inspired us. We can't stop writing. Whereas before the storm, we all felt a little stuck creatively for a second.
Rocket: I've seen some recent photos of NOLA. I mean, it's still in some real bad shape but it looks like some good things are starting to happen there, in terms of rebuilding. How do you feel about what you see?
Gary: The rebuilding of New Orleans is a joke. Six months after the storm hit us, there are still traffic lights out of service, and most of the residents that have returned are fighting an uphill battle to reestablish their neighborhoods. It's not just the ninth ward or St. Bernard Parish like you see on TV. It is most of the city. Everything is backed up because of red tape and not enough people to do jobs, like issuing the necessary permits that allow folks to move back into their damaged homes or trailer. The city is crawling financially and progress all around is non-existent. It seems now that we are out of the media, everythig has just come to a screeching halt. I don't let all that shit get me down though. Individually, my life is normal enough. My wife and I found an apartment in our same neighborhood after being evicted from our last apartment. We have jobs, can get weed, can jam and see music, and most of our friends are back.
Rocket: When did you first start playing the bass guitar?
Gary: I started playing when I was 14. I started because I was listening to alot of hardcore/punk and just felt like I could pull it off. I think the first song I learned was 'Sex And Violence' by The Exploited. I ended up learning how to read music and played in the school jazz band for awhile just to get better. That didn't really hold my interest, so I started to put more time into playing hardcore. I played bass exclusively until we started to get Hawg Jaw together in '96.
Rocket: Who are your biggest bass guitar playing influences?
Gary: I don't really take influence from any players in particular as much as I am influenced by styles of music. Most of my influence for bass comes from Delta Blues. I can listen to it for hours because there is so much heavy soul in it, and the melodies I really dig on as well. Just really heartfelt and simple. Jimmy played me this video of John Lee Hooker jammin "It Serves Me Right To Suffer", and I haven't stopped listening to the blues since. I'm not much of a fan of new stuff. I like the old shit where it's just a guy and his old worn out guitar. Prior to getting into that, I couldn't put my finger on an influence. I just try to play simple and heavy. I ain't trying to go all over the neck; but what I play, I play solid.
Rocket: How did you end up joining Eyehategod?
Gary: I was talking to Mike alot around that time because we were in the process of getting together Outlaw Order, that was around end of 2001. I started playing bass again around the same time with a punk band caled The Headwoundz. Eyehategod had the opportunity to go to Japan, but had no bass player. So Mike asked me if I wanted to jam with them. We played two shows locally, and then my third show was in Tokyo, Japan in front of like 800 people. Fucking amazing. I was jammin in a band that I had much respect for before I joined, and doing so on the other side of the globe.
Rocket: I think it's pretty safe to say that Mike Williams is roughly the equivalent of an early John Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath. Though they don't really share much in common with their singing style or looks, they seem to be that one lone guy, life's every man that people easily gravitate towards for hope. It's well documented the drugs and madness that both men went through early on in their lives. Who is Mike Williams in your eyes? Why don't you help us understand who Mike really is on a day-to-day level.
Gary: He's like family to me. We've been friends for about 17 years now. When I was in High School, our group of friends always looked up to Mike and everyone that was a little older than us because they played in bands we liked, and none of them ever dicked us off. I used to go hang out at Mike's (and Brian's) and make tapes for hours. He turned me on to all kinds of shit: Asbestos Death, Throbbing Gristle, Neanderthal, and always some new jams from one of his bands. He was doing Crawlspace and Eyehategod, and Drip at the same time. He educated me on alot of old shit from New Orleans. the bands that basically layed the foundation in NOLA. We just always got along. Alot of folks that don't know him sometimes feel intimidated, but really, he ain't like that at all. He is one of the most humble dudes in the band. It's kind of like he's just grateful for playing music and being alive.
Rocket: I for one can fully appreciate what Eyehategod has meant to the metal world since its debut. You guys have really got this devoted following of fans in the underground. I manage a worldwide metal network on MySpace full-time and I see what is going on even in the current pulse of the music business. I'm talking about the ones that not just make money but also get critical praise in the tougher circles of devoted metalheads. You guys generally seem to have won them all over. Are you sensing that as well?
Gary: Definitely. It is a different musical climate than when this band started. In the earlier years, there was always people talking shit about Eyehategod lacking any talent. On the music business level, it was a little too much to market in the mainstream, like say, The Headbangers Ball. The name also held them back before. These days shock value is hard to come by, so that's no longer a problem. And at least some of the people that hated us before recognize now that there is a method laced with the feedback. The first Eyehategod shows in New Orleans, there would be like 15 people. Now we play and we draw 400+ in our hometown. That is amazing when you consider how small NOLA is, especially post-Katrina. It feels good when you connect with that large of an audience. There is also alot of interst from labels. Since I joined the band, we haven't really had a label per se. We released a collection out of press tracks and 3 new ones on Emetic Records, but that was all done on a handshake, no contracts or anything. I think the Outlaw Order full length is going to come out on Emetic as well. Steve, the guy that runs it has done so much for Eyehategod. Totally cool guy. We couldn't ask for anyone more straight up.
Rocket: What's going on with the next album?
Gary: We are writing it now. Jimmy is doing some shows with Down and probably record another album with them, but we are definitely gonna do it this year. We get together often these days, and the new shit just keeps pouring out. We are all gonna be busy this year with Outlaw Order, Soilent Green, and Hawg Jaw, but we are pretty good at coordinating around one another.
Rocket: What do they feed this Mr. Bower? Haha. He is a musical genius and just brings it so raw and furious on the stage. I also just enjoyed so much what Jimmy, Phil and the boys did with SJR. What's it like to work with such a prolific musical talent?
Gary: Frozen burritos, pan-fried frozen burgers, and cola. It's cool jammin with Jimmy, but really I feel lucky to be jamming with everyone in the band. Everyone is great at what they do in their own way. And after jamming with them for 4+ years, I feel like I'm learning just simple things that give a riff some flare, whether it be one of Jimmy's flurries or Joey coming up with a beat from outta left field. I know how to play, it's just fine tuning. You can never learn too much. But above all that, we have a cohesiveness that is hard to come by. They have been jammin with each other for so long that they know each other inside and out musically. It's cool when you start to practice with a riff and leave two hours later with the rough sketch of an entire song.
Rocket: In terms of media recognition and record sales, is that something EyehateGod really cares about or not? You project a rather American-type version of what the Sex Pistols were about in the UK. And we all know what Mr. Lydon just said to the Rock Hall of Fame people.
Gary: I consider The Filth And The Fury one of the most important music documentaries to date. We are alot like the Sex Pistols in the way that they existed at a time when common folk were fed up. It's that unstable feeling like there is gonna be a breakdown in Society. Like somethings gotta change soon. Not necessarily spouting political rhetoric. But capturing that feeling of "I am against the way things are right now in music". I think the business aspect of music we all despise. Its so tedious. If by media recogntion you are talking about interviews like this, we do care about that. Without people like yourself, how will the next generation of metal fans find out who we are? We are in this for the long haul, and while there are die hards that will seek us out, to everyone new to metal/punk, the only widespread source for metal is the media.
Rocket: In your opinion, how would Eyehategod handle being inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame?
Gary: Don't worry... It won't happen.
Rocket: Haha.. right on. Who are some of the metal bands that you are into right now?
Gary: Celtic Frost, especially Morbid Tales, always and any Melvins, Pentagram, Cavity, Yob, Pig Destroyer, and the last CD I bought was Anthrax "Among The Living".
Rocket: What other touring will the band be doing this year?
Gary: Everything is up in the air right now. Mike has his court date in June. At that point, we'll decide what we're gonna do. Writing this new record is where our heads are at right now. We figure we can do this even if Mike gets some rehab time. But we are hoping he won't have to deal with that.
Rocket: Tell me about this music video Eyehategod is going to be making. It'd be the very first, as I understand it and my friend Tyson from Downspell/Scumchrist is directing it, correct?
Gary: The video Tyson is doing is going to be done with some digital video camera footage from the 2/18 show in NOLA. We haven't really decided on a song yet. And we are still keeping our fingers crossed that the footage from the show is even useable. We were abut halfway into a video for "The Age Of Bootcamp" before the hurricane but that's on hold now as well. That was being done by Lab Productions. They are an online zine, and do some video production on the side.
Rocket: What do you think about the bands coming up right now directly influenced by your music? I'm speaking of bands like San Diego, California's Downspell.
Gary: I think it's great. Even if a band straight up rips us off, it's still cool that we are that influential to some people. Downspell is a little different to me. They come off more thrashy. Maybe along the lines of Acid Bath than Eyehategod. Good stuff though.
Rocket: Finally, coming totally out of left field, pick a profession you would have chosen had you not gone the music route.
Gary: I went to school for Psychology, so I guess I would have ended up doing that, acting like I had the answers to the same problems I deal with; total hypocrisy. We started Hawg Jaw around the same time I graduated from U.N.O. I just remember thinking about how I would have changed my life to accomodate the real world, whatever that means. So I stepped out of the situation to assess it, and realized that I'd be happier playing music and being a short order cook, than kissing someone's ass at a job where I'd have to be someone else.
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