On Saturday, September 2nd, sludge metal band EYEHATEGOD hit the Cobra Lounge as part of their Left to Starve Summer Tour. This show was the first of the band’s two-night run in Chicago and marked a special night for the group; after falling ill and receiving a liver transplant, these two shows were vocalist Mike Williams’ first time back in Chicago with EYEHATEGOD. Before experiencing the group’s face melting walls of feedback, I got to sit down back stage with Williams and guitarist Jimmy Bower to talk about the band’s southern influences, favorite spots in Chicago, and their potential 30-year anniversary plans in 2018.
|Backstage at the Cobra Lounge
Nikki Roberts: How was Pittsburgh last night?
Mike Williams: I thought it was great. Last night was great for me.
Jimmy Bower: Probably our best Pittsburgh show
R: How many times have you played Pittsburgh?
B: A good bit. Like from the 90’s on. Y’know, we’ve been together 30 years so..
R: Next year marks 30 years, right?
B: Yeah, we’re just cheating a little bit.
What expectations do you have for Chicago the next two days?
W: It’s always good. It’s always good. I mean, we usually play at least two shows here.
R: Was last year the exception with just one night at Reggie’s?
B: No, we played two. We played one with Discharge and the next night with Negative Approach.
W: It was at two different clubs.
B: This time it’s a lot better because we got Mike back.
W: They had Randy Blythe from Lamb of God fill in because I couldn’t physically do it.
So, last night you played Pittsburgh and tonight you play Chicago, which is a much bigger city. What’s the difference between those kind of shows and hometown shows in the south?
B: We just played New Orleans and it wasn’t really that killer.
W: Hometown’s always…weird to me.
B: It’s always like “get me on the guest list”, y’know?
W: Everyone wants to get in free, then they just stand at the bar and go “Man I’ve seen EYEHATEGOD like thirty times.” They don’t care.
R: That’s a bummer. I always expect hometown shows to be crazy, but I also live here in Chicago where the shows in general are always pretty crazy.
W: New Orleans is great, it’s just a lot of people…well there was a lot of new kids there at that last show…
B: It depends on what club you play in New Orleans. We play this place called Southport Hall and it’s a bigger place so people can spread out more. There’s a couple smaller places in New Orleans where everybody’s played where everybody’s forced to congregate together.
What was the atmosphere and scene like when you first started playing shows? Before you played all these clubs?
W: When we started playing people hated us.
B: [laughs hysterically]
W: They couldn’t stand it. We were playing something totally new. This whole “sludge” thing [holds up air quotes], quote unquote, we don’t call our music that. We were around before all that. That just is some label they put on it. We were playing slow and opening for these fast speed metal bands.
B: A lot of bands were thrash and speed metal and we were completely a sore thumb.
W: We were into the Melvins and Carnivore and the slower Confessor.
Do you think that’s due to more melodic southern influences?
W: There’s southern rock in there.
Both: Lynyrd Skynyrd
B: I like country music.
W: He listens to a lot of country music.
R: I grew up having my dad listen to hair metal. Like Motley Crue, Cinderella, Poison…
B: We liked all that too!
W: Especially back when we were kids
R: My mom’s a little more blues and slower, southern rock. CCR, Van Morrison…
W: We’re a little bit of everything, y’know, but it comes out being more aggressive. Like he said, he listens to a lot of country; I grew up listening to a lot of country music with my family. Southern rock, punk rock, metal…blues. A lot of blues!
B: When hair metal was big, we were 15 and 16 years old.
W: Well I’m still a huge Motley Crue fan.
What other elements of growing up in New Orleans influenced you? Religion or regionalism…
B: I think we’re a really down to earth band and sometimes big city bands sometimes get big city attitudes. We’ve always been real humble and real down to earth. I don’t know if that’s being from the south or just being who we are,
R: I get the sense you guys are more of the ‘hang out with your fans after a show’ type of band instead of the ‘let’s all drink in the green room backstage’ type.
W: Oh, definitely.
B: We’re fans ourselves, y’know? So we never put ourselves above our fans or anything like that, and that’s just the way we are.
It’s pretty impressive that, not only have you lasted 30 years, but that you’ve done so with fairly minimal lineup changes compared to other bands that have lasted for the same length of time. Anything special planned for 30 years of EYEHATEGOD?
W: We’re trying to figure that out, man.
B: We were talking about doing a book
W: That ain’t gonna happen-it’s too late for that.
R: Like a biography kind of book?
B: Just an EYEHATEGOD book with a bunch of pictures and stories.
W: Very graphic. Lots of pictures and flyers and stuff.
B: We’re probably still gonna do it, it’s just not coming out next year.
W: It’s not coming out next year [laughs] We want to do something big next year but I don’t know what to do.
B: We’re going to go back to Europe.
W: Yeah, we’re going to Europe. But just playing a show is not..I mean, I want to do something bigger than that. Something more…celebration.
What’s your following like in Europe? What are the shows like in Europe?
W: Just like they are here.
B: They get what we’re doing. We’ve been over there enough. We used to go over there two times a year until he got sick.
W: We’ve probably been there twenty-something times.
B: They get what we’re doing. That whole “heavy stoner” thing’s big over there.
R: Definitely! [laughs and points to Bower’s Sleep shirt]
Mike, what’s your recovery been like? Is this your first tour back?
W: Awesome! But no, we did a bunch of shows back in this past April. We did some shows just for me coming back. We did this festival in Detroit with Negative Approach.
B: That was in January.
W: What did we do in April? Didn’t we do something in April?
B: Uhh nothing, man.
W: Oh. Never mind [laughs]
Since you have two days in Chicago, what are your plans? Are you tourists tomorrow?
B: Probably. Probably go to Guitar Center. Being on a six-week tour like we’re on, playing two nights in one city, you get to sleep in late…little bitty things that we just really look forward to like staying in a bed all day.
W: Touring is hard..it wears you down man. It’s hard, but you have to try to eat healthy…I used to drink a gallon of vodka a day or close to it.
R: Not anymore.
W: No, not anymore. And also, you can’t do that and tour. I would get through it but you feel like shit 90 percent of the time.
B: You feel like shit when you’re not drunk.
W: Yeah, I’ll put it that way. But now, I think this is the funnest tour we’ve probably done in a long time, man.
B: Spirits are high.
W: Yeah, we’re all getting along you know.
B: We’re all appreciative that this motherfucker is still with us. We don’t talk about it, but…
W: Yeah, ‘cause nobody shows any feelings. [everyone laughs] Except when we’re going “fuck you, asshole!” A lot of misery, a lot of misery…a lot of making other people feel bad about something.
Any favorite spots in Chicago?
B: Kuma’s is killer.
W: This place right here, Cobra. We’ve played here probably ten time, counting tonight.
R: I’ve never been in here. I walked in and went “Woah, it’s fancy in here!”
B: They just remodeled.
W: We’ve played here probably ten times, counting tonight.
B: And they do other acts besides heavy stuff, too.
R: I know they book big local shows here. They’ll take some of the biggest local bands and throw them in a bar like this. But a lot of them are 21+ and our scene’s so young…well, not all of it, but there’s a lot of young kids that can’t go to those shows.
W: We get both, y’know? We get a lot of old alcoholics that like our band. But there’s new kids..I mean, our whole career we’ve noticed it gets younger sometimes.
R: You guys have been around longer than I’ve been alive, so..
W: I do meet a lot of kids like that and they’re like, “Yeah you guys started before I was even born.”
B: Now that’s a trip.
W: That’s a weird feeling.
R: I turn 20 this fall.
B: You’re 20?
W: What year were you born?
W: We had already toured with Pantera! That’s crazy!
B: It’s a feeling of a sense of accomplishment and it’s also an age check.
R: If you guys wanted to feel older, then here I am to make you feel old.
W: Nah, that’s alright. That’s fine with me. I’m glad I’m older because it’s like, I got the wisdom that I’ve lived this life-
B: Do you?
W: Do you see what I mean? Everybody is a dick to each other. But I mean, you learn from your experiences.
R: You could end up like the [Rolling] Stones, who look like skeletons on stage
W: We don’t know. We’re too stupid to quit.
Shifting gears, I had some questions for Mike. I’m not sure what your official title was, but I know you were involved with Metal Maniacs back in the day.
W: The title said, “associate editor.” It was just something we made up just to put me on there.
R: So what did you do for them?
W: I wrote articles and interviewed bands, reviewed records…It was weird, because I was just the same as I was before but the building was on Park Avenue up in a big office building. I’d go in there, and never bathed, or anything, hooked on heroin, writing articles for this big magazine. It was crazy.
B: The eventually found you fucking out..
W: Well they didn’t like our direction we were taking. We were putting black metal in the magazine and Neurosis and Antiseen. I was putting a lot of hardcore bands [in the magazine]. And that’s not the people that were paying for advertising. They wanted us to write about Megadeth and Anthrax. The labels that were paying for full page ads, we had to kiss their ass, and we were not doing that., so they cut our budget so it was impossible to do anything and eventually fazed us out. I figured that would happen to me because it was a big corporate magazine. They also did the wrestling magazines and Ebony. They would do every magazine you’d see at the grocery store. It was huge
Final question: Is there any religious sentiment associated with the name EYEHATEGOD? Do religious ideals of the south have any influence on your music?
B: I was an altar boy. I went to Catholic school and was an altar boy. My family’s not religious.
W: Probably. I like it ‘cause it pisses people off with the name. I think we’re doing a good job with the name.
R: I’m a shock value person, too, so I can appreciate that
W: Yeah, I think it’s good just that the name exists, especially nowadays.
B: We’re from New Orleans and you don’t really get much of a Pentecostal feel.
W: It’s Catholic
B: Yeah, it’s mostly Catholic organized religion. Not really Bible belt. New Orleans is hedonistic.
Cool, I think that’s all I had to talk about.
W: That’s cool. Thank you! We appreciate it.
B: Twenty years old [shakes his head]
R: [Laughs] Not even.