Published May 27, 2014After years of dealing with personal trials and tribulations, as well as troubles with studios and labels, Eyehategod return with their first new album since 2000's Confederacy of Ruined Lives. Although it's been 14 years since their last LP, Eyehategod maintains the band's classic, influential sound, which is anchored with Southern groove. Having decided to self-title the release, the record represents a new start for the New Orleans sludge gurus who are continuing to move forward despite tragically losing their long-time drummer Joey LaCaze. Before the recording was complete, LaCaze passed away unexpectedly due to respiratory failure, however his drum tracks have been immortalized on the album. Vocalist Mike Williams recently spoke about the new album, Eyehategod's natural sound and working with Phil Anselmo's Housecore Records, as well as not being able to play in Canada. He also discussed moving on after losing LaCaze and how he will always be missed, as well as bringing in new drummer Aaron Hill and how quitting was never an option.
How are you today?
I'm good, man, I'm good. I'm just getting tired of these interviews, I'm not very happy about it. But I don't mind, it's better than a real job [laughs].
It's really great to finally hear the new album. As a fan of the band for a long time, it surpassed my expectations. I love it.
That's cool, man. That's cool because that's what everybody is saying. And we agree, I mean, I think it's the best thing we've ever done. So it's pretty amazing and I'm glad everybody else thinks so as well.
You had been working on this record for a while. How does it feel to have it out and be able to share it with the fans?
It hasn't been that long. I mean, yeah, we've had some of these songs around for a while and we've been playing some of those live for years, but as far as the studio goes, we started last year. We went into the studio last year, or something like that, maybe the end of the year before. There were problems with the studio and stuff so it just took a while, but it's not like we've been sitting and working on this thing for 15 years or anything.
You've been touring a lot despite not having a new record out. How has crowd reception been to the new songs live?
Great. It's just crazy because being in a band, people are always bitching about "Where's the new album? Where's the new album? We want to hear the new record." Then as soon as you put one out, they just want to hear the old songs, you know? [laughs] I mean, people get pissed off, they're like "Man, you guys don't ever put out a fucking new record," but then that's the first person yelling "Sisterfucker" in the crowd. And it's like, "I thought you wanted to hear new music." But anyway, it goes over great, I mean, people love it. They want to hear new stuff, they're just not familiar with it yet. Once the record is out and people can sit down and get into it and learn the songs, I think live it'll go over better, you know?
When we spoke last year you said you hadn't picked a label yet mainly because you don't trust them. Phil Anselmo's Housecore seems like a natural choice. How did you settle on that decision?
I mean, we were probably going to go with him the whole time anyway, we just didn't know yet, we weren't 100 percent sure on what we were going to do. And we still don't trust record labels, just for the record, I still don't trust record labels [laughs]. But I mean, I'm sure I've said this before, but putting it out ourselves would involve so much work, you need somebody to do distribution, and lots of emails and phone calls and all that. We just want to be a band, we just want to tour and play in a band, we don't want to do business, you know? So putting it out ourselves wasn't really an option. I mean, we did pay for it ourselves and recorded it, this is all us. We paid for the record and booked the studios all on our own, no labels helped us with that. And then we licensed it out to Century Media, Housecore and another Japanese label, called Daymare. So yeah, it was just obvious to go with Phil, he's a friend of ours and if everything works out right it's a perfect match, you know? I'm just always scared about doing business with a friend. I don't want anything to happen where something happens, and who knows what that could be, but just me being a negative, pessimistic, paranoid person that I am, I just wouldn't want something to go wrong and then lose a friendship, that would just be the worst. That's why it took us so long to figure all this out. You want to treat it carefully, they're our business partners, but they're also our friends, so there's a fine, weird line.
In terms of sound, this album is very classic Eyehategod. What was the writing process like?
The same as it always is. Somebody comes to the practise room and brings a song either that's completely written or parts of a song or whatever. And then they just work on it up in the room and then I put the vocals on it later when the song's finished. I think there's already like five new songs written, brand new songs, so I hope to go into the studio next year sometime. But yeah, it's nothing special, it's the same as always, people bring stuff to the table. Jimmy [Bower, guitarist] writes a lot of the guitar riffs, but also Aaron plays guitar as well so he's been writing some riffs and that should work out pretty cool.
The production sounds a bit more polished than some of the previous releases. Was that an intentional change?
Yes and no. I mean, of course we want to mature with age and we don't want it to sound like complete noise, you know? We want it to sound clear and clean, but still sound like Eyehategod, which is raw and nasty sounding. But then we have Sanford Parker [Corrections House], and I mean it goes with everybody who worked on the record, Billy Anderson, Steve Berrigan and Sanford, they all had a part in making us sound like that. But Sanford Parker did the final mix and this guy named Colin up in Chicago mastered it, so that's what gave it that sound. I think it's the best-sounding record we've done really, as far as, like I said, wanting to be a little more modern sounding with it. I mean, I love the old records that are real noisy, but we just wanted to go with something more modern. We just let Sanford do his thing basically.
It's been 14 years since your last album and there's been a lot of anticipation for this release. Did you feel any pressure at any point during the making of this record to live up to fans' expectations?
Not at all. Nope. Because we don't care [laughs], we're still the same people we were back in the '80s. We just don't care. I mean, if nobody likes it then nobody likes it, you know? [Laughs] What can I do? We never ever try to sound a certain way. We're Eyehategod, that's what we're going to sound like no matter what. If you put these five guys in a room, and we do what we have been doing for 25 years, it's going to sound like Eyehategod. So no, there was never pressure at all. If we put out this record and people are like, "Wow, that sucks" then we'll just have to be like, "Oh well, I guess it sucks" [laughs]. There's nothing to do about it. I would never bend towards people's expectations. I mean, if we get up on stage and just stand there, it's still Eyehategod. As far as live goes, or the records too, we just don't really care. We're not doing stuff just because people want us to, we're doing it because we want to and if people like it then that's great, that's awesome, I'm glad that people like it. But when a band starts doing stuff like that, it's like the downfall of the band it seems to me. If they start doing just exactly what people want, even if they don't want to, but just going through the motions, that would be terrible. And we don't feel like that at all.
Even though the members are also in other bands, with Eyehategod especially, it seems to be a very natural thing when you come together.
Yeah, it is. This is the band that we all love the most. I mean, for me, I have a bunch of different bands, but this band is where I feel super comfortable. I feel comfortable in all my bands and I'm the singer in all the bands, like I might do different instruments on the records, but live I'm the singer, you know? Like Jimmy, he gets to play drums in Down and gets to play guitar in this band, so there's two different things. I know he loves Eyehategod, but I'm sure he loves Down also because he can play drums in that band, and I don't blame him, I think that's cool.
It seems like your fan base has really grown in the years following the last album. It's very much a cult following. Has that surprised you? What do you attribute that to?
Yeah, it surprises me. I mean, but if I didn't say that it would sound cheesy, it's almost like, "Oh, of course we have a fan base" [laughs], you know? I'm not so egotistical that I'm going to say something like that, but yeah it does surprise me. I mean, to not have a record out for 14 years and then see the crowds get bigger, it is surprising. Depending where we're playing, we've been kind of over-playing some places the past few years. Like we've been to Europe like once a year with no record and people can start to get sick of going, or they'll pick something else to see if they have a choice, like "I'm going to go see this other band because Eyehategod will always be coming around" or something. But I think that's also another side of it too. I think people come to see the train wreck that is Eyehategod. And some people don't think that we will ever tour again, like it could be the last show ever or something, you know? So, I mean it's cool because a lot of the old fans, their kids are big Eyehategod fans, their kids come to the shows and I think that's awesome. I've said that a thousand times in other interviews [laughs], but it's true. To see some guy walk up that I've been knowing for 15 years that's been coming to our shows and he's like, "Yeah, this is my daughter. She's a huge Eyehategod fan." I'm like, "Wow," you know, that's awesome.
Being from Canada, seeing Eyehategod is a little more of rare thing because it's more difficult. We have to travel to the States for example.
Yeah, well we're trying to work on that. I mean, I don't know how to do it personally, I don't think any of us really do. I mean, Jimmy's been to Canada, he can get into Canada, he knows how it's done and everything I guess. But we need somebody to help us with the paperwork because, like for the people reading this that don't know, the whole reason we never played there is because we have criminal records. And our fans in your country, people are always pissed off, they're like "Why don't you play here?" I'm like, "We can't play there, your country won't let us through the border." So I don't know what to do, it sucks, I mean we really want to play Canada so bad. So if somebody is reading this in Canada, we would love a promoter or something to help us get in the country with our criminal records. I'm sure we have to pay a bunch of money or something, that's what I'm assuming.
I think that's what makes seeing Eyehategod more of a special thing for Canadians.
Yeah, well that's what I was saying about it depends on where we're playing. Like we've just done the west coast, we played like every small town on the west coast in the past probably eight months or so. It seems like we've played so many places on the west coast, and of course that spreads it out and the crowds get a little smaller because people are like, "Well, I'll just drive to some other city" or whatever. But it's weird though, because you'll do something like that, you'll play all these cities in the west coast and then there's that one guy on Facebook who's like, "You guys should come to L.A." And we just did like five shows in L.A. like when the Australian tour got cancelled, we booked all these shows, like seven shows, around the L.A. area, you know? So we just saturated the whole area [laughs] and people still go on Facebook and are like, "You guys need to come out here, man" [laughs]. That blows my mind. But Canada, that's another thing, if some promoter would get us in up there, if somebody would help us get in, I guarantee the shows would be huge and packed and people would go nuts. It would be amazing because we've never been there ever, you know what I'm saying? Yeah, people would go apeshit I'm thinking, even just like Vancouver or whatever, we've never been there. Or Toronto, everywhere. I'm dying just to go there because it's a country I've never been to. I guess I should have went years ago before I got in so much trouble [laughs], but that's in the past now, I can't really change it.
When Joey passed, it obviously must have been a very difficult time. Were there any discussions about whether or not Eyehategod should even continue on?
No, not at all. We just immediately started thinking of who's going to play drums. I mean, if some people think that might be harsh or something like that, but that's what Joey would have wanted, you know? We waited a month or two, or maybe more, when we started actually rehearsing again with different people. But, I mean, he would have wanted us to keep going. We play songs that he wrote on guitar and Aaron's learned the songs from watching Joey play live. Joey was one of Aaron's favourite drummers, you know, so that's always cool too. So yeah, Joey would want us to keep going of course, so no, there was never any discussion at all like that.
Was the recording finished before he passed?
Well, the drums were. We kept the drums. And I guess we had already done everything. I'm not really sure about all this because my life is a blur [laughs], but I think he may have even heard the vocals. I think. I'm not 100 percent sure, because the vocals are always the last thing we do besides when we add something here and there before we have it mixed, you know? So I don't know if he heard the vocals or not, but yeah the rest of the music was done.
Does that make this record even more special to you because it was his last recording
Oh, of course. Of course. I mean, I know the next thing you're going to ask is "Why is it self-titled?" probably. But it's because that was part of the whole thing with Joey, we talked about it before he died, he was like, "Why don't we just self-title it?" Because we had lists and lists of all of these typical Eyehategod titles and they all sounded pretty cool or whatever. I mean, we could have called it "Trying to Crack the Hard Dollar," which is a song off the new record. We could have called it anything, you know, a song title. But we just went through all these lists and then after he passed it was just like, "Let's just self-title this thing." It just made so much sense to me. I can't really explain how it makes sense, but it's just like a new beginning and his drums are on there, you know, the whole thing. But yeah, of course it's special.
I remember you were quite annoyed with the fake titles going around on the Internet a while ago.
Oh yeah, I don't get that. I mean, I'm not even going to repeat them here because I don't want people getting them back out there, I just want to know who does that? Who makes up titles for a band? [Laughs] It started because of this song, I don't know what song it was that we played live in like Philadelphia or somewhere, and I didn't even say that the song is called "blah, blah, blah," I don't think because I don't think it had a title yet, you know? So, it's just stupid when some idiot just makes up his own titles, I don't understand that. I mean, why would you do that? Do you have nothing better to do than put up fake titles of a band's new song? And then of course if you write it on the Internet, people are going to believe it immediately because people believe everything they read. So yeah, that was pretty annoying.
A self-titled is fitting at this point in Eyehategod's career because it does seem like a new beginning.
Yeah, it just seems obvious to me. I mean, like I said, we had talked about it with Joey before he died. He wanted to self-title it and we were all still kind of up in the air about calling it something else, you know, like a typical Eyehategod title, like a Take as Needed for Pain type of thing. But, it just seemed so logical. When he died, it just kind of fit into place and we all were just like, "Yeah, self-titled." I don't even think we had to really discuss it, we just automatically knew.
How did new drummer Aaron Hill come into the picture?
He's just someone who we know from around town. He's younger than us and he's been in tons of bands, he's got like four other bands besides Eyehategod right now. So he's always out there playing. He plays guitar in a band, he sings, he plays drums in another band, you know, he's just a good musician. And I don't know how much his other bands pay him, so of course he joined Eyehategod [laughs], we actually pay the guy. That's a joke by the way, but I mean we do pay him, that's not a joke. But anyway, he just fits in. And like I keep saying in other interviews too, it's not just if he's a good musician, you've got to be able to ride in a van with him, you've got to be able to sit in an airport with the guy and not have the guy act like a complete wackjob or something, or get on your nerves or whatever, you know? I mean, he fits right in, he's a weirdo just like us, but he understands what being in a band is like, you know, there's times to talk and there's times to shut up [laughs]. That's how we are as a band. There's times you just want to sit there and not say a word to anybody. He understands the logic of touring in a band, so he fits right in. And he's still in his other bands too, so it's cool that he can be so versatile.
You and Joey were quite close. Do you think you'll always feel like something is missing from the band?
Yeah, Joey's always going to be missing. I don't feel like it makes the band empty in any kind of way. I don't feel an emptiness, as far as the band goes. I mean, each of us, in our personal souls, I'm sure we all have an empty spot for Joey because before the band or anything, he was our friend, you know? And yeah, me and him were close. I mean, we're all best friends, it's a band of best friends, that's how we are. We go to each other's weddings, we go to each other's barbecues, crawfish boils, you know, we hang out like that. I mean, New Orleans is kind of like that, there's a lot of camaraderie and brotherhood/sisterhood type stuff going on here. But yeah, of course everybody here misses Joey. But as far as the band goes, we just keep moving on, we're not going to sit around and be gloomy about it and bummed out on that. We're moving forward with Aaron, but Joey's always going to be part of this band. Like I said, we still play songs that he wrote guitar for.
You've had to deal with a lot of trials and tribulations throughout the band's career. And a lot of other bands would call it quits if they had to go through some of these things. Where does this drive to keep going come from?
Yeah, of course. I don't know, it's survival instinct. It's survival and it's just part of being from the south kind of, for me. I mean, people can say that about wherever they live and it's true. But just being from here, we just don't give up that easy, it's just not something we do. I mean, if it's something you hate, like a job or something, yeah I'm going to quit, you know, some shitty manual labour job or whatever. But as far as something you love, like the music and the band, we just don't know when to stop, we just keep going. That's just all there is to it, there's no other way around it. We're just going to keep going forward as long as we can until we die.
What's next for Eyehategod? I know there's a tour with Ringworm coming up. But you mentioned that there's already new material written?
We have some written, yeah. I haven't even really heard the final versions of these. But yeah, there's new songs written and the U.S. tour in June and then hopefully we're getting back to Europe, it probably won't be until next year. But that's good though, that gives them time to miss us a little bit and we'll be back over there. So yeah, the US tour in June and then whatever else happens, we'll be out there on the road.