Q&A: Eyehategod's Mike Williams Talks Playing Around Christmas, Going Through Bass Players and Liking The Carpenters
For over 22 years, Mike Williams has led the New Orleans metal band Eyehategod. And, in that time, the singer has endured numerous protestors at shows, a constantly revolving situation with bass players and even some time in jail in 2005 on a narcotics charge.
Through it all, Williams has remained committed to creating some of the most intentionally ugly music ever recorded. In total, Eyehategod has only released four full-length efforts, but each of those albums has featured a brutal collection of extremely slow, heavy and loud songs. Some have even said the term "sludge metal" was first used in describing Eyehategod.
Yet, in spite of the ugly image the band's name and music might suggest, Williams comes across as a pretty normal fellow in conversation. We recently caught up with Williams in advance of his band's performance tonight at Reno's Chop Shop Saloon, and he was nice enough to talk with us about a variety of subjects -- including some that most artists might avoid.
Check out the complete conversation after the jump.
Is it ironic for a band with a name like Eyehategod to be playing around Christmas time?
Not really. I mean, I don't believe in God, but we've played stranger gigs. I remember playing Dublin on Easter Sunday. It was pretty strange playing that gig. But Christmas? Nah. It's no big deal.
Any protesters at the show in Ireland?
No, but the flyers all around tow only had EHG on them. The club wouldn't put our full name. Maybe they thought the venue might get bombed or something. Nothing happened. It turned out to be a packed show.
Yes, but this is still Texas. Hell, we even had protesters at AC/DC.
Texas is part of the Deep South, so you never know what is going to happen. So far, so good. We've had protesters in the past. We played a show here in New Orleans where these religious types came out and carried crosses. We've had threats from people who said they were going to shut down the show.
Did the term "sludge metal" originate with Eyehategod?
I don't really like that term. To me, we are just a rock 'n' roll, blues band. We never called ourselves a sludge metal band. That was made up by journalists. I think we started a style of music, putting the hardcore punk thing with the slow, Sabbath-style metal -- kind of like Black Flag meets Black Sabbath. Those are two of my favorite bands so it kind of made sense.
Not a lot of metal bands claim Black Flag as an influence. Was it always a goal to bring in some non-traditional influences into the band?
It wasn't a goal. To us, it just seemed natural. That was the stuff we listened to. I've listened to many different kinds of music ever since I was a kid. I was walking around as a 15-year-old punk kid with a shaved head and an Iron Maiden t-shirt on. I used to get beat up for wearing that. I never saw a difference between punk and metal. It was whatever you liked. It's all about labels anyway. I mean, Venom could be called a punk band. Motorhead as well.
Eyehategod has maintained a pretty stable line-up since 1988 except for having five different bass players. What is it about bass players coming and going in your band?
I don't know. It's been strange. This guy we have now, Gary Mader, has been in the band since 2005. His first show with us was in Tokyo, Japan. That was pretty fun. The other three members of the band are all really close friends. I don't know if it's us alienating the bass player, or vice versa, but Gary is here to stay. He's yet to record an album with us, though. It seems that every time we record an album, the bass player changes. Gary better watch out once we complete this next album, because he could be gone. Not really. He is a great guy.
Is it true that when the band was recording the third album, Dopesick, that the studio owner called the label to ask if the band was insane?
He definitely called to complain about us. We wanted to have an intro to a song that had the sound of a glass being broken. We didn't want to sample it. We wanted to actually do it. It was three or four in the morning. I accidentally cut my finger really badly. It somehow went from there. I'm sure we were all really tired and drunk. Somebody wrote "Helter Skelter" with the blood from my finger on the wall. I went home. I figured somebody was going to clean that up. I guess the guy came in and got scared. He called the label and asked what was wrong with us.
Do you mind talking about your time in jail?
I don't mind. Right after Hurricane Katrina, I got arrested in this small town outside of New Orleans. I had stayed there through the storm. It's pretty much over now. I think I can talk about it. I acquired a few things from a Walgreen's drug store. I did 90 days for that. I could have gotten five years for that, but I had a good lawyer.
Several members of Eyehategod have been in jail, correct? Is this God's curse?
Yes, it's true. And many people have said that. Not just the name. People say that the sound is just a negative sound. Life is life. Stuff is going to happen to you no matter what your band is called. There's no moral to the story. We're just down to earth guys. We are normal people.
Do you listen to normal music?
One of my favorite bands is The Carpenters. And I am not joking. I also listen to Abba sometimes. The thing about The Carpenters is that I think I see them in a different way than most people. To me, they are depressing and the music is pretty gloomy. The whole thing about the way Karen Carpenter died. There was a weird, incest vibe going on. I thought there was an underlying sadness to them.