Interview with Mike IX Williams from EyeHateGod on Their 20th Anniversary, the NOLA Underground, and Music and the Internet
When you think of New Orleans and the underground scene, one band stands out: EyeHateGod. The down-toned, doomy sludge produced by this band isn’t only responsible for defining a local scene, but for creating a sub-genre movement. Through arrests, hurricanes, and unfaithful labels, EyeHateGod recently celebrated their 20th Anniversary, sharing the date three yeas after Katrina’s impact, to a sold out show at One Eyed Jack’s in New Orleans that had their followers lined up two blocks long, staying long after EHG took the stage. I asked Mike IX Williams, vocalist, about EHG turning twenty, the NOLA underground scene, and where IX came from.
The Harpy: What does celebrating the 20th anniversary of EHG mean personally to you? Did you have any idea that you would be doing all this 20 years later?
MDW - Personally it means a lot to me. I guess it really is a surprise that we are still doing this as I never thought I'd even live past 30. To remind people of the ugliness in the world, to push reality onto people, to inspire a legion of followers and to just have stayed friends and have this much fun for this long is incredible. Of course we've had our ups and downs but I knew I'd still be playing music and doing writing and art in some incarnation or form if I did somehow survive the carelessness, self-abuse, addiction, arrests, fights, break-ups, hospitals, shit record labels etc.. For all the chaos, strife and tragedy we've seen in this band, it truly is an amazing feat in and of itself. Pretty dramatic stuff for a fucked up ass Rock and Roll band, huh? Let’s drink to another twenty years...
The Harpy: How has EHG changed in the last 20 years?
MDW - I guess we would be twenty years older now wouldn't we? When we started this group we were all in our late teens & early twenties so time gives more wisdom and a certain outlook and view you don't have when you're younger. Dare I say we're smarter? A band called 'Impaler' once said "If we had brains we'd be dangerous." So we've learned a lot in 20 years, but our love for the music we play hasn't changed one goddamn bit. One thing for me is I'm not quite as active and passionate about my self-destruction as I used to be. I've decided that since I've made it this far in life I'm kinda enjoying myself. For the most part we're still the same anti-social misanthropic feedback freaks obsessed with down tuning and distortion as we were in 1988.
The Harpy: IX. Do tell, please.
MDW - It’s just a number. It’s just a number that has manifested itself numerous times in my life in dreams and in reality. A lot of life changing things happened when I was nine years old. Later on in life traveling and walking the streets when I was homeless I used to find random playing cards that were the nine of hearts, or the nine of diamonds etc... I used to find dominoes that added up to nine. Nine pennies. Multiples of threes. Revolution #9. I guess some of that influence showed up in my lyrics and later on in EyeHateGod and in my Cancer as a Social Activity book. When I was locked up after Katrina in 2005, there was a Free Mike IX campaign and t-shirts etc...And that’s when it seems to have come into its own as my alias. I received hundred of letters in jail addressed to Mike IX, so it just stuck. Nine lives of the rat. Nine yards whole. Nine victims in the Manson murders. Nine of clouds. Nine muses or daughters of Zeus. Nine circles of Dante's hell.....
The Harpy: How has the NOLA underground scene changed since you guys started?
MDW - A lot has changed. But one thing since we've started there are a lot more sub-genres and offshoots of styles in extreme music that didn't exist prior. The scene in New Orleans has always had its cliques and separatism, but now more than ever I believe. That’s a good thing though because it creates a ton of bands, keeps the scene mutating and develops amazingly new and different types of music. I'd like to see more variation at specific gigs myself. Y'know mixing up the pot a bit making the people check out new stuff. Creatively only good can come out of that. EHG has always tried to get opening acts, that while still extreme, are different in some way that our crowds would normally expect. I think folks deserve to be challenged. So change and evolution is great and much needed.
The Harpy: Does EHG have any plans to record any new material and release? Y'all are killing us, it's been 8 years since a new album with all new material has come out!
MDW - Ahhh, ummm... Well, we did put out the three new songs on the Preaching the End-Time Message compilation but that was 2003 or so. Sure, we do have brand new material written, we actually just played some of that at the last gig, but I dunno when we'll get in the studio to record it. We're supposed to do a record for Housecore, which is Phil Anselmo's label, but it's really up to Jimmy and them as to when it will actually happen. Katrina didn’t exactly help us and the fact that our other outfits Down, Outlaw Order, Arson Anthem, Soilent Green and Hawg Jaw are alternately either recording or touring doesn't do EyeHateGod any favors at all. Like I said, I'd go in the studio tomorrow if they are ready.
The Harpy: ‘Cancer as a Social Activity’ just went into its second printing. Want to tell us about it?
MDW - Yes. Its out again by Southern Roots publications out of Alabama and in affiliation with Narcotik Order of Dreams bookworks, which is my company, and has some new post-Katrina writings added and a bit of new art and stuff. The first print sold out and warranted this second edition. It’s also available from Housecore and various other distros. I've got at least two new dark negative prose/poetry books written and hope to get those edited and out sometime next year or so. As well I'm in the process of writing some other stuff having to do with my life and the history of EyeHateGod, touring, Katrina, jail etc... If folks want to know more information, go to myspace.com/nolanine and drop me a line.
Theharpy: Favorite album of yours the EHG has recorded?
MDW - Do you mean favorite experience or favorite one sonically speaking? There are so many stories about the recording processes of every single one of our albums, so I dunno if I could narrow that down to a favorite, but as far as the records that I enjoy and believe are the ones most representative of ourselves, that would be Confederacy of Ruined Lives and Take as Needed for Pain. Take as Needed documents a time when I think we really fell into our preferred 'SOUND', if you will. The Southern Rock groove, the Hardcore Punk influence and our Doom roots, all came together in a proper fashion. Even Disturbance, which was Joey's Power Electronics noise piece, showed the underground kids just where we were coming from and that was somewhere completely different than our peers. Confederacy has a nice buzz to it and the songs are well fucking crafted in my head. We took a few chances on that one like having our friend Dave Fortman from Ugly Kid Joe engineer it and I definitely know it was for the better good of the universe. I actually like all of our records, because they are what they are. I could go back and analyze every little piece of every song, but that would be pointless. It’s all there, the feedback and criminal behavior precisely as it was laid down on those days in those years at that moment in time.
Theharpy: How does EHG differ from the other projects you are apart of, specifically Arson Anthem and 00%?
MDW - All of these groups are miles apart in style but not in conviction. Its obvious how Arson Anthem differs, but for people who haven't heard us yet, A.A. is a furious Hardcore Punk & Thrash band, a throwback to the 80's and the groups that inspired us as kids. We have 17 new songs waiting to be finished and mixed that'll be out 2009 on of course, Housecore records. Outlaw Order (00%) has more in common with EHG but it's not as obvious as some people wanna think. In my ears it’s got the Southern NOLA sound but with more of a Crust/Thrash influence. To those detractors of 00% I say Fuck Off. Anyway, I really hate labeling this stuff, but that's basically the only way to do it when doing these descriptions. The underlying thread between all of this is to remain a threat to the futile attempts at 'extreme' music by mainstream fools and bandwagon jumpers and to unite the outcasts against authority under one corruptive war banner. I've been playing in bands like this and running in the Punk and Metal scenes since I was 12-13 years old and ain't gonna be stopping anytime soon. By the way, the Outlaw Order full length, Dragging down the Enforcer, will be out mid November in Europe/USA on Season of Mist. Also I have a Power Electronics outfit together called The Guilt Of.... and we'll be doing shows and releasing a bunch of cool nonsensical bullshit soon as well. I recently had some of my artwork published in a brilliant graphics magazine called Timeless so check that out as well. Oh yeah, one more thing, we’ll be uploading a Housecore radio show on the website of the same name that a certain singer for Pantera and myself will be hosting. This will be on a regular basis when we work out all the kinks.
The Harpy: People would be surprised to know that you are....
MDW - Jeez, hmmm, alot of things I'm sure....Let's see, I'm a huge Carpenters fan, for one. They are morbidly depressing and have a great pop sensibility as well. Abba is great too, I fucking dig 'em. I eat tomato sandwiches with mayonnaise. I like taking care of our ducks and chickens, they're fuckin cool. I like to watch a good Major League baseball game. I dunno. There is other stuff but it’s probably illegal in some states, so better left unsaid.
The Harpy: Internet - love or loathe for a musician? Has it changed how you personally do business?
MDW - I don't understand how someone could loathe a tool that has absolutely revolutionized the way information is transferred all the while making communications easier in every aspect. Back in the old days it was all tape trading, phone calls and multiple trips to the post office, but today’s technology makes networking much, much, more accessible.
Of course sending and receiving 'snail mail' as they call it, is still a viable form of getting actual product out there for review, but its incredible to have at your fingertips the ability to send an announcement to thousands of humans all over the world with the click of a button. Musicians, writers, and artists all over the planet should take advantage of this gift and use it to promote and create as much as possible.
The Harpy: With the experience the EHG has had, indie or label?
MDW - You have to factor in a lot of things. Do you mean a major label or one like Relapse or something? Do you mean an independent run out of someone’s bedroom DIY style or one that is an imprint or subsidiary of a bigger independent? Does the musician in question want to keep their day job and do music for a hobby or do they need financial support to make a career of this? Distribution is a big deal also; you should go with a label that can get your records in as many stores in as many countries as possible. For EHG is been trial and error. We've done 7"s with tiny cut and paste labels and at the same time had meetings with Atlantic in the mid-90's, around the time of the signings of the Melvins and the Unsane. That would of been a disaster of gigantic proportions had we signed that contract because selling the amount of records on a major as compared to others is crucial to your survival. If you don’t sell a certain figure and they boot you off, you could end up owing them for a long time in the future. Selling 10,000 albums on an indie is pretty fucking good; selling 10,000 albums on a major isn’t close to enough to keep you afloat. One important thing to do is make goddamn sure that at least some folks at the label are fans of your music. I mean like REAL fans, not just bullshit ass-kissers. If you have internal fan support amongst at your label, things will go a lot smoother.
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