Eyehategod's Mike IX Williams: "I Can't Damage Myself Too Much Anymore or I Might Wake Up Unconscious Forever"

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The members of New Orleans sludge metal band Eyehategod don't worship Satan.

They don't kill virgins, hang them upside down over a tub, and wash themselves in blood. They don't dance inside circles of fire during full moons at midnight. They don't castrate babies, put hamsters in blenders, or microwave frogs. They don't light firecrackers inside nuns, soak Christians in kerosene, or cut the toes off anyone walking in the Holy Light. They are not a cult.

These guys just love music.

They might shoot dope, eat pills, smoke weed, and hurt themselves. They might have a couple too many drinks and wake up 93 days later in county jail. But basically, they're underground legends who are simple, down-to-earth dudes.

Eyehategod has been together since 1988. And except for a revolving cast of bass players, it's still the same old lineup. Combining hardcore, punk, blues, and metal, this crushingly heavy crew sounds something like Black Flag meets Black Sabbath, chopped and screwed. And after almost 25 years of innovating, the five-man band is finally getting the respect it deserves as a musical force that has influenced artists all over the world.

Now, this Saturday night, Eyehategod is gonna convene at Churchill's Pub for a one-off show organized by killer local promotion company Speedfreek. There is no new album and no tour. It's just a legendary band crashing a Little Haiti dive bar to soak up some whiskey, spew out the classics, and destroy Miami.

Lead singer Mike IX (as in the number nine) was born in North Carolina during the '60s, lost his parents when he was 11, and moved to New Orleans with his brother in the late '70s. He was into Kiss. But then he saw the Clash and Talking Heads in concert. "I started getting into seeing any band," he says. "The big arena shows weren't cool anymore."

By 15, Mike started a group called Teenage Waste. "The only four punk-rock kids at my school," he recalls, "getting together and making some noise." Meanwhile, he began going to all the shows in his city, seeing Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, and the Misfits. "That's where my history comes from. Goin' to hardcore shows is where it all blew up in my face. I realized this is all I want to do for the rest of my life."

And then after the inevitable dissolution of Teenage Waste, Mike formed Eyehategod with a different group of friends, playing Melvins riffs in the living room. By 1990, they'd released their first album, In the Name of Suffering.

It was around that time when the band developed a friendship with infamous shockcore crew Anal Cunt. "Seth [Putnam, the group's late lead singer] would call me from his job at the gas station, scamming long distance. He'd be with a customer, like, 'Yeah, asshole. Pump 7. Uh, what were we talkin' about?'" Mike laughs. "We had the same idea of pissing people off. Except they played fast and we went the slower route."

Still thicker than the Louisiana swamp, Eyehategod's slow, heavy riffing remains a vital force in the New Orleans underground. "People know our city for the jazz and blues. But there's a huge scene for metal and punk and other extreme shit." The HBO series Treme even features a character whose favorite band is Eyehategod. "I guess word got around about us. I wouldn't mind being an actor," Mike admits. "Hopefully, there's more to come."

But before you go thinking Eyehategod would ever go Hollywood, consider the band's second release, Take as Needed for Pain. During its recording, Mike was homeless, squatting in an abandoned room over a strip club on Bourbon Street. "I was between girlfriends," he explains. "So I was between apartments, scroungin' to stay different places and sleepin' on the street. That turned out to be a good record too."

It features songs with titles such as "Sisterfucker," "30$ Bag," "White Nigger," and "Who Gave Her the Roses." That last one contains a line that reads, "Her tears mixed with urine, drenching mouth and chest through white panties."

WTF? Mike says, "You have to ask my psychiatrist. I don't know what brought that on. Even now, I don't know if it's good or if I need mental help. But it's good to get it out there.

"Everybody should read my book," he adds. "It's called Cancer as a Social Activity. It's full of old lyrics and stuff."

As for what goes on at an Eyehategod show, check out the bruised and blood-covered pics at mikeix.com. "We've been around for over 20 years. Shit happens. I used to hurt myself a lot more. If people wanna break bottles, it's like, 'Go ahead, man.' I like shows like that. It's just the way the music makes you feel.

"I can't be damaging myself like that too much anymore or I might wake up unconscious forever. But, yeah, it's all in good fun."

That feeling won't be new to Miami. Eyehategod has opened in the 305 for Pantera and White Zombie as well as played shows at local bars throughout the late '80s and early '90s. "We have all kinds of friends down there, like Floor and Cavity," Mike says. "All those guys played a big part in spreading the word about us in Florida. The new kids now probably don't even know that."

Over the course of two decades, though, the Eyehategod guys have dominated way more territory than just the southeastern United States. They've played every backwater punk dive from Cleveland to Finland. And along the way, they've been beaten up and locked down. But they've always triumphed and risen above, maintaining a positive mental attitude. But most important of all, they've never given up playing. "We do get recognized as a kind of cult influence. And that's fine with me," he says. "Now somebody pay me for somethin'."

But Mike's band wouldn't exist if it was really all about the money. Eyehategod is a tribute to finding your own sound, rocking mercilessly, and sharing that riffage with all the world's headbangers regardless of whether they like it or not. And Miami will love that about them.

Eyehategod with Heroindod, Shitstorm, and Orbweaver. Saturday, March 31. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets cost $20 at the door. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.

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