by Andrew Wilhelm (CHI)
Where: Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL
When: Saturday and Sunday
With: Nachtmystium, Weekend Nachos, Strong Intention, Plague Bringer, The Atlas Moth, Yakuza
As I began my interview with Mike Williams, vocalist for New Orleans' Eyehategod, he commented that he vomited while brushing his teeth shortly before the interview began. For a snarky asshole like me, this would have been the perfect opportunity to ask Mr. Williams "Did you brush your teeth with a bottle of jack?" Quickly, I realized that making a Ke$ha reference to an underground hardcore/metal legend would be, even for my standards, in bad taste.
Or perhaps not - Eyehategod count notorious anti-P.C. grinders Anal Cunt, who were supposed to play Saturday's show before canceling their tour - amongst their contemporaries. Finding common ground with Seth Putnam would seem impossible - he's made a career of burning bridges before the blueprints get drawn up. "I Became A Counselor So I Could Tell Rape Victims They Asked For It" and "Connor Clapton Committed Suicide Because His Father Sucks" - say no more! Williams says that both of the groups were in similar places when they started out - Anal Cunt may have crammed twenty songs in the space that Eyehategod uses for two, but both were creating a lot of noncommercial music.
"We were both surprised that anybody liked our bands, we both couldn't beleive that anybody liked the noise we were making, we kinda bonded from there," Williams said.
Things haven't been quite the same since Putnam's coma, though.
"He's lost a little bit of his sense of humor. I know he's not fully recovered, but he seems kind of strange. The old Seth was fun, and for all the bad stuff he did, he was a pretty funny guy. He was more mischievous back then," Williams said.
Of course, it's not like Eyehategod don't have their eyebrow-raising song titles. "White Nigger," a fan favorite from Take as Needed for Pain, seems divisive on the surface. White dudes using the word nigger? What an abomination! Of course, San Francisco punkers The Avengers had a song called "White Nigger" - that's where the band got it from. As Williams explains further, it's an anthem of Southern unity. And being from the south, we don't have any use for P.C.
"The main thing is about being from the South and being called somebody, like 'white trash,' and then someone's called a 'nigger' - we're all in this together. The South gets a bad reputation, plus of course we were trying to be shocking."
Despite the Southern flavor of Eyehategod's music, Williams doesn't think that it is inaccessible to non-Southerners. "Believe me, there's ignorant people everywhere," Williams said when asked if the music has an element that could only be understood by those living in the South.
Eyehategod's shows could themselves be constructs of unity. The first time I saw them live was at the Chaos in Tejas festival in May 2009 - freshly graduated from the University of Texas - with Harvey Milk. Eyehategod, by nature, fucking killed it, but what really made the show was who came out. Looking at the crowd, I saw punks. Crusties. Metalheads. Pantera lovin' good ol boys.
"I'm an old punk rock kid from the 80s, I grew up wearing the boots and the Black Flag t-shirts. In the mid-80s, it got generic and boring, that's when bands like Slayer and Exodus came along and everything really got exciting again. I'm super stoked to see people with mohawks and people with long hair at the same shows," Williams said.
In accordance, exposing decadence and filth encompass the majority of Eyehategod's point of view. Jimmy Bower and Brian Patton let their riffs breath in too much of the toxic, salty New Orleans air, which is just one part of the band's aesthetic.. The original cover of Dopesick featured a woman ensnared in bondage leather, the band makes pleas for drugs and horny women onstage, and sing lyrics such as this from "Pigs," off of In the Name of Suffering: "Through chemicals and meditation/I find my self /Denying society and the laws of undoing/Our temple of denial."
"I was always kind of an introverted kid, always into the Mafia, anything dark and negative I seemed to gravitate towards when I was a kid," Williams said.
His lyrics are some of the little poetry that not only riffs off of Charles Bukowski's piss-whiskey-and-loose-women style but doesn't front when it comes to grit, something a lot of Bukowski's acolytes can't say.
"He is the writer that made me realize you don't have to write about puppies and daises or something, you can write about your real life," Williams said. He also cites Jean Paul Satre and William S. Burroughs as major influences.
Eyehategod may be putting out material later this year, and Williams has a couple books finished awaiting to be edited. Cancer as a Social Activity, Williams' collection of poetry, is available from the Housecore Records online store. But in the meantime, the band will continue to suffocate their audicene live. And it's exactly what we need.
For details on this weekend's shows, start here.