Published May 20, 2014Legendary New Orleans sludge purveyors Eyehategod are set to release their first new album in 14 years on May 27 through Phil Anselmo's Housecore Records. Following the anticipation that was brought with 2012's one-song 7-inch New Orleans Is the New Vietnam, vocalist Mike Williams recently spoke with Exclaim! about the new eponymous album, as well as moving forward following the passing of his longtime friend and bandmate Joey LaCaze.
"I think it's the best thing we've ever done," says Williams, regarding the band's new self-titled effort. "We've had some of these songs around for a while and we've been playing some of those live for years. There were problems with the studio and stuff so it just took a while."
While the record is classic Eyehategod, featuring the band's iconic Southern sludge sound, the production is more polished than some of their previous releases. "Of course we want to mature with age, and we don't want it to sound like complete noise. We want it to sound clear and clean, but still sound like Eyehategod, which is raw and nasty sounding.
"Sanford Parker [Corrections House] 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."
While the release of a new Eyehategod album is a joyous occasion, it's also sombre. The band tragically lost their drummer Joey LaCaze, who passed away unexpectedly last year due to respiratory failure. As Williams explains, the band never contemplated calling it quits.
"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, that's what Joey would have wanted," he explains. "He would have wanted us to keep going. We play songs that he wrote on guitar and [new drummer] Aaron [Hill] has 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."
Since LaCaze's drum tracks were fortunately recorded before he had passed, Williams says that makes this album much more special to him, and is part of the reason that the band decided on self-titling the record.
"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. 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. 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."
Although replacing LaCaze must have been a difficult task, Williams says that bringing in new drummer Aaron Hill has been a smooth transition. "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. He's just a good musician.
"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, you know? 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."
While Eyehategod are set on moving forward, Williams says that LaCaze will always be missed. "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 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. We're all best friends, it's a band of best friends, that's how we are.
"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, you know? We're moving forward with Aaron, but Joey's always going to be part of this band."
Read our full interview with Williams here.
Eyehategod are taking the new record across the U.S., and you can see all their stops here.