30 years of Eyehategod

Mike IX Williams opens up ahead of Jinx gig

EYEHATEGOD is, after 30 years of activity, one of the most consistently trailblazing artists in the world of metal. Often dubbed “sludge metal,” the New Orleans-based band actually draws primarily from hardcore punk bands like Black Flag and proto-metal pioneers Black Sabbath. They’re truly a singular band in the world of hardcore and metal, and they continue to tour successfully on five albums of beloved material.

They’re coming to Savannah on May 3 for a gig at The Jinx, and we caught up with vocalist Mike IX Williams about their impressive run.

So you guys have been doing this for over 30 years now?

Williams: Yeah, it'll be 31 years this year.

Do you ever stop and think, "Holy shit, I can't believe I've been doing this for so long"?

Williams: Oh, of course. We never thought we'd be doing it, you know? We never thought it'd be a full-time real thing. When we started this band, it was sort of a side project because we were all in other bands and doing other things. Eyehategod was something we did for fun. It was for fun, but it was also to kid of piss people off.

We would open up for thrash metal bands, which was the popular thing at the time. We were just playing what we liked - it was a lot noisier back then and a lot slower.

It tended to cause some problems at that time. People weren’t really registering with it. There were only a few bands doing anything like that. Before us, there was Flipper and before that Kilslug. It just kind of gradually evolved.

I know you guys tend to distance yourself from the “sludge metal” label since it was always more of a Black Sabbath meets Black Flag kind of thing. Was that stylistic cross section always there from the beginning?

Williams: We always had the Black Sabbath/Black Flag influence. Those were always two of the bands we loved. There was a lot of different hardcore punk influences for me personally, and Jimmy [Bower] had his influences. Bands like Saint Vitus or Confessor. I was a big fan of a band called the Laughing Hyenas, from Detroit.

We weren’t out to emulate anybody, you know? We just wanted to play music that we wanted to hear. We were tired of bands playing the same thrash stuff over and over. To me, hardcore was dead in 1984. Now it’s back, but things just got really bland back then.

We were just trying to do something different and do something we wanted to listen to. Not a lot of other people wanted to listen to it - we’d get bottles thrown [at us] and there were fights and things like that. That was kind of part of the fun of it, you know? We liked causing a little chaos. It was fun.

It’s amazing that this band has endured for so long - especially with the break between full-length albums between 2000 and 2014, through Hurricane Katrina and stuff like that.

Williams: Yeah. We did put out a couple of seven inches during that time, and did a couple of splits. And we were touring, too. In the year 2000 I’d kind of taken a few months off because we were having some record label problems. And there were other things going on too. But we never really broke up, we just never put out a full-length.

So when you did the self-titled album in 2014, had you always been writing the whole time or did you sit down and say, “Okay, it’s time to do another full-length?”

Williams: It was all parts and riffs that’d been floating around through those years. We always would come up with new things. We’re just one of those bands who likes to take our time and put out a record that we want to put out. I don’t feel like we need to rush anything.

A lot of bands put out an album, go on tour, and put out an album. But you can’t just force an album out. We just wanted to take our time. And there was also a while where we just didn’t have a label.

I’ve seen a couple of things that mention a possible new album this year - what kind of things are you writing about for an Eyehategod record in 2019?

Williams: I mean, the same as we always have. Abstract, cryptic songs about depression, drug addiction, misery, love, hate, and everything in between. The lyrical content hasn't changed, just different ways of going about it. That's kind of something I got from Black Flag, you know? Writing about personal experiences - what every human goes through.

Well, it’s really exciting that you’re coming back to Savannah!

Williams: We’re happy to come back. We’ve been trying to come back, and it’s good to play at The Jinx. I love that place.