|Mike IX Williams with EyeHateGod in Seattle. (Andy photo)|
The expression "when one door shuts, another one opens" couldn't be more true when applied to the life of Mike IX Williams, raging vocalist for EyeHateGod.
At the age of 12 in 1980, the youngster and some buddies ran away from a boys home near New Orleans, blazing a three-mile path to a rock club where Black Flag was playing.
"We just stood outside and listened to the band, and every now and then, the door would open and I could see them and it was with Dez (Cadena) in the band. So, I can kind of say I've seen Black Flag with Dez live," Williams, 44, said in a recent phone interview a few weeks after Cat and I met the man at a pair of EyeHateGod gigs in Seattle.
While admiring a dark, rainy Saturday afternoon outside his window in Louisiana, he continued about his first Black Flag experience:
"I just remember, it blew me away, it was so intense. You know the song they have, it never ended up on anything but compilations, that song 'Machine'? They did that, and that just changed my life immediately when I heard that song. The way it was structured (was impactful)."
Williams had already listened to bands like the Clash, Sex Pistols, the Ramones and Stiff Little Fingers, but Black Flag's music was faster, stronger, wilder and unique and was "a turning point right there for me, musically."
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the surrounding area and caused massive flooding, death and destruction. Williams survived, but was left homeless when his house mysteriously burned down and he was also jailed on a narcotics charge during this time.
And then another door creaked open when his future wife, Michelle Maher-Williams, regularly visited him in prison and got him through a "horrific" time. They married three years ago and now live about an hour outside of New Orleans in a home in the woods near the towns of Mandeville and Covington, situated on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain.
"I attribute the hurricane to a lot of positive things, honestly," Williams said. "Of course, there's tons of negative stuff that goes with it, but as I get older I find myself trying to be a little more positive about life than I used to be when I was 18 and just wanted to die. You know, when you got that attitude and you just don't give a fuck? Whatever happens happens. As you get older, you kind of start wanting to live a little bit.
"My whole life took a complete opposite (path) after that storm," he continued, adding that forming the punk band Arson Anthem with Phil Anselmo (guitar), Hank Williams III (drums) and Collin Yeo (bass) was part of the healing process.
All of Williams' possessions were destroyed in the fire, including 25 years' worth of records he collected, so while staying at Anselmo's house they went through his vinyl archives and thus gained inspiration to set Arson Anthem ablaze.
"I'm like, 'Whoa, man, I need this again, and I need this again and I need this again,' and 99 percent of the stuff I picked was Sheer Terror, Agnostic Front, Negative Approach, die kreuzen, Void -- the list goes on forever, like Celtic Frost and tons of other stuff," Williams recalled. "We just said, 'Man, let's do that project we've always wanted to do, just do a straight-up hardcore band.'"
Williams noted that the band moniker popped into his head one morning when he awoke from slumber, and added that both he and Anselmo have experiences of houses catching fire. There's also the connotation of a rebellion or riot, Williams added, which is "something I hold dear to my heart."
Arson Anthem is on hold for now while Anselmo jams with Down, Williams III rips it up with his band and EyeHateGod does its sludgy, grimy metal-punk thing.
"It means everything to me. It's my life. I don't know how to do anything else," Williams said about EyeHateGod. "First, it was a big Melvins influence and the Obsessed, and there was a small period where all these slower bands had a guy who really (sang). I always used to think Jimmy (Bower, guitarist) wanted me to sing like Wino or something like that type of singing. And he was like, 'No, man, just do what you're doing' because that's where the punk rock, hardcore side of me came out.
"I guess the two just fit together somehow-- it was just a chance that we took," he added about the punk and metal stylings. "Just screaming-- this hardcore voice over slow, doomier stuff. Taking the Melvins to a different, sicker level is kind of what we were trying to do, and I guess we kind of achieved that."
EyeHateGod has certainly forged its slimy path in the living world a lot longer than original singer Chris Hilliard had anticipated when he ended up in a mental ward and emerged as a born-again Christian, Williams said.
"It was bizarre to all of us. To me, that was more of a way to move this band even further-- 'the original singer is a born-again Christian?,'" Williams said. "Nowadays, Jimmy's given him CDs of the band and he'll tell Jimmy later, 'I threw it in the garbage' -- I guess he thinks we're all going to hell because we kept using the name."
While Williams enjoys living in the woods, hiding from society and writing dark lyrics, "like the black-metal guys who go walk around the forest for inspiration," he laughs, he often gets cabin fever and needs to get the hell into New Orleans.
"I love living in the city, too, like FEAR said," he noted. "I always need the inspiration of the city. The disgusting part of the city can't hurt for thinking of song titles or lyrics."
He broke away from the woods on a recent evening to check out the punk triple bill of OFF!, Negative Approach and Double Negative in New Orleans.
"I was like, 'Yeah, this is a no-brainer,'" he said. "It was a good night, man, it was fun, it was good seeing everybody, you know?"
Whether he's watching Keith Morris of OFF! or John Brannon of Negative Approach cut loose on stage or digging into a pile of old 7-inch records with zeal, Williams is a true music man.
"That's all I think about, constantly, " he said. "I drive my wife crazy because I'll just start blabbering about some 7-inch, some band from 1979 and she has no clue what I'm talking about. But it's just one of those things, I just have to tell somebody, I have that need to discuss it--- so that consumes every part of me, I believe."
** Check out Williams' Web site at www.mikeix.com for records and books, including "Cancer as a Social Activity."