Nomads With Billboards: A Conversation With Eyehategod

by | Apr 1, 2021 | MUSIC

The pandemic still rages, so Eyehategod have not returned to Richmond yet. But their new album, A History of Nomadic Behavior, gives local sludge-metal fans something to look forward to. Ryan Kent speaks to Jimmy Bower and Mike IX Williams about the new album, their billboard in NOLA, and more.

Maybe sometime today, you’ll need to pull your shitty car off I-10, right in front of the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Maybe the check engine light has come on again. Again. Maybe you’re shouting an f-word combination as you southpaw the steering wheel like a speedbag. Maybe a blasphemy laced monologue for the seething KO. 

If you look through the flames clawing at sky from under the hood, maybe what you’ll see will come as an odd coincidence. A mirror reflecting your present feelings. Or maybe even some subliminal message risen from below. 

A giant billboard in front of you spelling out: 

EYEHATEGOD

Maybe you won’t have those feelings at all. Maybe despair over the terminal illness of said shitty car. Maybe the irony of seeing the billboard in front of the Saints home turf. Maybe you’re just pissed off.

Either way, the billboard is there.

For the next month. 

Sorry dude(s).

A bunch of other words are on the billboard, also, but all you see at first are the three words harpooned into one:

EYEHATEGOD

Repeat it like a chant if you want to conjure up some less-than-good juju, which has been a mainstay in the band’s history. Word-of-mouth war stories have become heavy metal lore. A constant shootout with Heaven and Hell. The Old West but in New Orleans.

Photo via Eyehategod.ee

The “bunch of other words” on the billboard are advertising the band’s new album, A History Of Nomadic Behavior. It’s the first since their eponymous release in 2014 and the first full-length without founding drummer Joey LaCaze, whose sudden death stung the band in 2013. Aaron Hill has resided behind the kit since October of that year, and Gary Mader has remained the longest tenured bassist of the band since he joined in 2002. A History Of Nomadic Behavior also marks the absence of guitar player Brian Patton.

Four singles have been released via different online platforms since December 2020. These singles — “High Risk Trigger,” “Circle of Nerves,” “Fake What’s Yours,” and “Built Beneath The Lies” — offer a much clearer vocalization of lyrics from Mike IX Williams (much different when compared to the band’s genre defining 90’s releases) and a more apparent, unapologetic boogie to the guitar work of Jimmy Bower.

In a perfect world this interview would be conducted in a backyard somewhere. COVID-19 restrictions have wiped the floor with any chance of that happening (not to mention all of us live in different states). None of us really like talking on the phone either, so an email Q&A is the next best option. It’s no billboard but whatever.

RVA: So, what does all this mean to you?

Jimmy Bower: To me it means we’re doing something right. We’ve learned a lot together as a band that has always made us stronger. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished.

Mike IX Williams: Excitement, energy, creativity. Following the freedom to do what I want in a shithole world. We’re lucky to get to spread our sound throughout the lands.

RVA: Why do you think your brand of music has persevered when aspects of your personal lives have not? Why did you stare down these obstacles when the odds were against?    

JB: We’re nothing but survivors. Shit happens, always will.

IX: Well, things change, it’s inevitable, but all music is forever. Humanity is not. Why do I stare down obstacles? Because that’s what people do, FUCK the odds! I’m gonna do what I hafta do to survive. Whatever the cliche is, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? Well yeah, that, times a zillion. Music, writing and art are the constants we can always rely on.

RVA: Regarding that, what does this billboard mean to you as a band that has hailed from NOLA since 1988? Especially since the band’s name has always seen more chagrin than praise?

JB: I think it’s really cool to see it so big like that and yes, considering the band name, [it] definitely deserves a little chuckle.

IX: It’s nice to flip a middle finger in the faces of all those assholes who talked shit about this band, so there’s that. I’ve been playing out live in venues with bands since I was 15, so to have a billboard in our hometown is pretty cool. We started this band to play the music we wanted to hear, we never thought other people would actually like it, so it feels great to see something like that after 30+ years in EHG. We didn’t even take this band seriously in the beginning and could barely play our instruments… so the billboard is actually funny to me.

RVA: Has the state of the world been an influence on the lyrics of A History Of Nomadic Behavior? Have they had a significance on the tone of your guitar playing?

JB: I can’t speak for Mike, but my tone reflects my vision of a gnarly sound. Meant to disturb the weak and soothe the sick.

IX: I mean, yeah, but I wrote the majority of those lyrics way back before 2020. I’ve always been anti-police and pro-human rights and very much into the idea of direct action, so any words I wrote that ended up on this new album that people are calling “political” come from the way I’ve felt my whole life. 

RVA: What do you think the lasting effects of the global pandemic and social unrest in our nation will have on the United States?

JB: I have four strings on my guitar, so my opinion doesn’t mean much.

IX: That’s hard to say, as things are mutating and devolving/evolving every day. The anxiety and stress that this pandemic has brought upon lots of people will have definite lasting effects, and who knows where that will lead. I think in some aspects this thing will scar many folks mentally, while others will adapt. As far as the social unrest, the protests last summer were needed and, in my eyes, totally justified for change. Hopefully we’ll see things get better in the future, but it’s gonna be tough with human intelligence levels dropping as we speak. 

RVA: Richmond was an EYEHATEGOD town in the 90’s. You’ve played a duffel bag full of shows here over the years and Jimmy lived here in 2020. What are your memories of Richmond? 

[Author’s Note: Richmond is still an EHG town.]

JB: Richmond has always been a second home to us and having lived there I can really appreciate the artistic side of the town. In a way it reminds me of New Orleans, has a strong music scene, and great people. I loved living there except the toll booths! Lol.

IX: Haha, you say “was”… I hope it’s still an EHG town now! My memories of RVA are of chaos and fun, hanging out, partying and touring with Buzzov’en, our roadie/driver going to jail there on the way to NYC, playing at Twister’s and the time the roadie for Today is the Day set himself on fire on stage with us, fighting on stage with an opening band who abused an amp we let them use, staying at Randy Blythe’s house, having after-show parties, him singing with us on stage, hanging out with El Duce behind the 7-11 drinking 40’s… I could go on and on, but a lot of the stuff can’t be mentioned here due to parental warnings.  

RVA: What about music inspires you, and what inspires you in a spiritual sense?

JB: Music to me is very powerful. It can alter your mood and helps to see. My spirituality compares to that of an old soul.

IX: Let’s face it, there is no “God;” I think nature is the closest thing we have that is akin to spirituality. Air, trees, water, animals are all very important to me and give me some idea of the energies that exists in this universe. I’ve had an affinity for music since I was a small youth, it just hits you in places and makes you feel different soul vibrations and emotions. It’s part of my biology.  

RVA: Who are your musical heroes?

JB: Son House, Hank Williams, Black Flag, Nathan Abshire, etc.

IX: I don’t have any heroes, to be honest. I have musicians whose lives have inspired me and influenced me, but I don’t idolize any one person that way. People I admire for their music and what they have done with that music are too many to mention here, but a few are Alice Cooper, Nick Cave, Yo-Yo Ma, Dr. John, Agnestha Fältskog, Genesis P-orridge, Darby Crash, Tony Iommi, Yamatsuka Eye, John Lydon, Jah Wobble, Sakevi, Jaz Coleman, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Johnny Cash, Siouxsie, Iggy, HR, Dennis Hopper… I mean fuck, I appreciate so many different artists this list could go on forever…

RVA: If you met them, would you tell them, or keep it cool?

JB: Tell them, of course.

IX: Of course, I’d tell them how they’ve changed my life in certain ways, but there would be no ass kissing. I’ve met a lot of people I looked up to as a kid, some I’ve only met in passing and some I’ve been on tour with and sat and had conversations. People are only human, no matter what they’ve contributed. 

RVA: If you could fight anyone who would it be?

JB: Virginia is for lovers, man.

IX: Probably you for these questions, or a knife fight to the death with the Snuggles bear. 

RVA: Would you win?

JB: No

IX: Most definitely, but have you ever seen the Snuggles bear on PCP…? Fearless madman.

One night last year, I was sitting in Jimmy’s car after a benefit show (but before the year turned into twice-run-over dog shit). A band patch was stuck to the dash above the CD player. It was a Black Sabbath patch. Mid-conversation, I said something like, “Say what you want to about your guitar playing; I know you love Sabbath and I do too, but I’ve listened to way more of your guitar playing than Iommi’s.”

Oh reader, you’ll probably call me a kiss-ass. Who gives a shit?

I think Jimmy called me a loser.

The world has a way of beating the pretense out of you. You stop apologizing for what you like and who it makes you appear to be to other people. Honesty comes along with this. As does humility. Eventually you figure out who you are. What you like. Makes it easier to take the sacrament of your heroes and have compassion for others and whatever the fuck it is they’re about. Sometimes there’s a reward for your faith.

I asked Jimmy if the Sabbath patch is still stuck to the dash.

Yes, he said.

See what I mean?

Winner by K.O.

EYEHATEGOD

Top Photo by Robb Duchemin.

Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent is the author of the collections, Poems For Dead People, This Is Why I Am Insane, Hit Me When I'm Pretty, and Everything Is On Fire: Selected Poems 2014-2021. He has also co-authored the poetry collections, Tomorrow Ruined Today, and Some Of Us Love You (both with Brett Lloyd). His spoken word record, Dying Comes With Age, will be released by Rare Bird Books in 2022. Ryan is a staff writer for RVA Magazine and maintains a pack a day habit. (photo by D. Randall Blythe)




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