Eyehategod Interview: Jimmy Bower on Recording a New Album, Touring, Roadburn and More

Jimmy Bower is a good dude. For example, when I talked to the Eyehategod guitarist for the following interview, it was May 25, just before the band played a show supporting Pentagram as they both headed to the Maryland Deathfest. The conversation opened as Bower was reading an interview with recently-departed Slipknot bassist Paul Gray, which led to a discussion of Peter Steele and Ronnie James Dio and the affect that all three had on the metal community over the years. It was, in a word, a bummer.

But Bower has an outlook and familiarity such that, by the end of our talk, we were laughing that they should work new songs into the Chicago sets on their US tour — which starts tonight in Orlando (see how timely this site is?) — where they’re playing complete albums to see if they can throw anyone off guard. As a member of a band whose reputation for unpredictability and an unrelentingly negative approach precedes them, he might not be what you’d expect, but this is the second or third time we’ve spoken and it’s always certainly a pleasure on my end.

Also the drummer of Southern metal supergroup Down, Bower is joined in Eyehategod by vocalist Mike Williams, fellow guitarist Brian Patton (Soilent Green), bassist Gary Mader and drummer Joey LaCaze, and though they haven’t issued a full-length since 2000’s Confederacy of Ruined Lives, the band has seen their cult fanbase grow immensely over the last 10 years, leading to an entire league of imitators, highly successful shows when they happen and, just this past April, a slot at the Roadburn festival in The Netherlands.

It’s true, I forgot to ask when his instrumental stoner project The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight would have a new release, but in the interview below, Bower does lay out the plans for the long-awaited Eyehategod studio album and discuss, humbly, his growth as a player and the expansive reach of Eyehategod‘s music.

Q&A is after the jump, as always. Please enjoy.

So hey, Eyehategod is playing with Pentagram on Thursday.

Yeah. We’re really excited about that. They came through town, I guess it was right before we went on tour in April. Maybe it was February or March, whenever they came through and played, it was great. I heard about them coming through again and we got offered the gig and we were like, “Yeah man, without a doubt.” What an honor. They’re such an influence on us.

You’ve never played with them before then?

Never played with them before, no. Seen them a few times. When we had opportunities to play with them in the past was when Bobby didn’t really have a grasp on his life. Talk about a comeback.

Yeah, and them playing with Victor Griffin again too is pretty great.

Is Victor in? He wasn’t when they played here.

He just rejoined.

Ah dude, that’s awesome. That seals the deal, man. Wow. That just upped my night, man. Not bad at all. That sounds really good. …Obviously, being a fan for so many years and getting the opportunity to be able to play with them, it’s just really, really, really, really, really cool.

Do you ever know what to expect from an Eyehategod tour?

Hell no (laughs). We’re pretty unpredictable. I don’t know, man. Anything can happen, anything can be said, any situation we can be put in. It just seems like we attract oddness (laughs). It’s just weird. The European tour in April was really stressful before we left, because we hadn’t been over there in 10 years. I’ve been over there a bunch with Down and even in the past when we’d go over there, it was always taken care of. This time we had to take care of it. It was kind of a new experience for us, doing the business-end of things. I found out real fast it tends to get the emotions rolling. But once we got in the van and started doing shows and everything, it was great.

How was it different doing the business of it yourself?

Well, we always kind of had. Last time we went over, we were still on Century Media, so they basically handled it all. There was a tour manager. We had a tour manager on this thing, it was just getting merch and everything together, making sure. The booking agent we had weren’t very happy with, but we were in a situation where we had to deal with. Just basic stress, when I just want to pick a god damn guitar up and play a song. Wasn’t overwhelming, but it was definitely a learning experience.

How was Roadburn for you guys?

Amazing. Amazing. We played the same day Goatsnake headlined, and we’re walking around, and as a band we met Tom G. Warrior from Celtic Frost, and took a picture with him. He was like, “Dude, I respect you guys’ music,” and we were like, “What? Dude, you’re the man!” That was really cool. Got to see a lot of good friends. Missed a lot of friends because of the volcano, but also got the opportunity to come back and play the Afterburner thing, which we played over two hours. Was really cool. I guess if you’re a fan of any band and they play for over two hours, what a good night.

That was a hell of a set at the Afterburner.

It was just fun. Walter was like, “Thank you, have a good time. What do y’all need? Just go up there. How long are you gonna play?” And we were like, “Dude, we’ll play as long as you want us to play,” and he was like, “Cool.” It was a really relaxed environment. I remember Gary broke a bass string and they did Fuckmouth (laughs). Fuckmouth don’t show up much. Very underground. I barely even know about it (laughs). But no, that was probably the highlight show of the tour. That and London. London was amazing. All the shows were amazing, but those two stick out.

Did you guys have any trouble traveling with the volcano?

No, we made it over I guess before it blew or whatever, and had no problems. Kept hearing horror stories from other people. Greg Anderson took a boat home. All this weird, crazy stuff. We got to the airport that morning, we made it. It worked out good. We lucked out (laughs). Big time. I heard a lot of people went through a lot of heavy shit. You bring so much money with you, you know, all of a sudden you’re stuck. We were looking forward to playing with Shrinebuilder, had some shows with Sourvein, and obviously neither one of those bands could make it over, so that kind of sucked, but hopefully in the future we’ll be able to hook that back up again.

Is there anyone you’re looking forward to at Maryland Deathfest?

D.R.I., because the drummer’s out of jail, so that should be really interesting. I was looking at the bill the other day, who’s playing, and it’s a good bill. It looks like it’s gonna be a really good time. I’m just curious to see how it’s gonna be organized since we never played it. Pentagram, Autopsy, old Florida band. Entombed, we’re really good friends with those guys. Obituary, D.R.I. Hopefully they’ll do old shit. Jucifer, I know those guys. Fuck the Facts. I don’t know much about them. I guess the day we’re playing, Obituary’s headlining? We’re excited about it, though. We’ve known about it a good six months now and we’re getting really geared up. We’re doing the Maryland Deathfest thing, then we come home for two or three days, and then we start our first East Coast American tour – we did some shows on the East Coast, but this is the first time we’ll be in the van for like three weeks. We’re doing Chicago, two nights in Chicago and one night’s In the Name of Suffering and one night’s Take as Needed for Pain. We did both the records in Austin a couple weeks back.

How did that go?

It was fun. It went good. With a band like Eyehategod, you learn over the years what songs work and what songs don’t work live. A lot of them, some of them that we played, were ones that we didn’t really feel worked that good live. Pretty much proved ourselves right (laughs). But you gotta play the record. It was fun. Some of those songs we hadn’t played in 15, 20 years, so it’s really cool, and also it adds more songs to the set.

Did you discover any songs that you thought you should have been playing all along?

Yeah, like “Who Gave Her the Roses,” that talking thing, that’s pretty cool. He flat-out nailed it. That was really cool. Shit. We pretty much play everything off Take as Needed for Pain live anyway, and as far as In the Name of Suffering, the second part of “Hostility Dose,” we had never played. We made a trilogy thing that we’ve played over the years, so that was cool to really play that one again. We were actually pretty surprised to realize how many of the songs we play constantly anyway. But it was cool. I would love that, if one of my favorite bands played two records in a row. I’d freak. It was really cool. I look forward to doing it again.

Do you get a sense of the lasting appreciation Eyehategod has? You guys haven’t put out a full-length in a decade and these shows are huge. I was in Brooklyn last time you guys came through and, man, I think everyone I ever met was at that show. It was unreal.

(Laughs) It’s been really overwhelming for us, and really flattering. We’re working very, very hard on this new record, trying to get it all together and everything to get it out. We’re just basically concentrating on that. As soon as this tour’s over with, we’ll work on that, but I guess we’ve built a cult basis over the years. I think there’s a whole new generation of kids that are getting into it, and the fact that we’re playing, coming back around again, they get to see it. Obviously the people that came to shows in the old days are coming out again as well. I don’t know how we’ll pull it off, but it’s happening (laughs). But we do need to get a release out. It’s been really too long. You’re right. The shows have been amazing. Just the love that we feel from the people.

Do you guys have anything planned for recording?

We want to be done with the record by September. Try and have it recorded and everything. We’ve been slopping some ideas around. We’re thinking about doing a double record thing, where one record’s an Eyehategod like you would expect and the next record would be more experimental-type stuff that we’ve always wanted to do. Just trying to get all that together within time. You have to set a deadline for yourself or you’ll never get anything done – that’s what we find. We’re saying by the end of September this thing should be recorded and everything. I think putting that deadline and doing this these shows together and everything has brought us all back together as a group, which is important to me, being able to write around the band, talk about ideas, listen to music together. It gets everybody on the same page. Like you said, it has been 10 years. Obviously, we’re better musicians now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to write math rock. We know what works in this band, and that’s what we’ve been trying to write, stuff like that. It’s been more of a challenge than we thought it would be.

What kind of experimental stuff are you looking to do?

Just maybe some noise stuff and experimental stuff, some spoken word stuff. Just something different. Stuff that we all have interest in, but some things might be individual stuff, or a collaboration of everyone, or just a couple people in the band. Like I said, it’s an idea that we have right now. A bunch of different ideas floating around, and hopefully we can take advantage of that.

And in the meantime, what’s your schedule like with Down?

Just got back. We played in Switzerland, played this festival in Switzerland, then went to Romania and played with AC/DC in Bucharest. Oddly enough, we took Heaven and Hell’s place because they couldn’t do the show, and while we were playing was basically around the time that [Ronnie James Dio] died. It was really weird for us, enjoying the show. Knowing you’re taking the place of a dude who’s on his deathbed sucks. We have the High Voltage Festival in London in July, and in between that, just writing. We have a really cool jam space and everything’s all miked up and everything. It’s kind of a New Orleans jam room. Phil’s got a jam room across the way and we have one on this side, and whoever wants to jam goes up there, jams, and we’ll record it. It has been the vibe and I think will stick to being the vibe down here. The advantage now is we have a cool jam room to do it in.

Has it been strange for you going back to Eyehategod after focusing on Down, in terms of writing?

Yeah, it’s been very strange. It’s been 10 years, and I play differently than I did 10 years ago. But then again, I don’t really listen to new music. I don’t. Hopefully, my influences stick to the same. I just think the kind of stuff we listen to in Eyehategod is so vast, as far as different types of things. I think it’s really going to make for a really good record. I’m a really big fan of the blues and stuff like that. Mike’s a big fan of old punk and a lot of rock and roll-type stuff as well. Brian’s really into noise and math rocky kind of stuff I would call it. Obviously Soilent Green-type stuff. Joey’s Joey. Joey’s a big factor in the writing in the band. We’re just excited. We’ve got about five or six songs already, and we’ve been playing them live. Every now and then we’ll play one, but we really want to say it. On this tour, we might pull out a couple.

Eyehategod on MySpace

Special thanks to Matt Thomas for the use of his photos. Please check out his website here.

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2 Responses to “Eyehategod Interview: Jimmy Bower on Recording a New Album, Touring, Roadburn and More”

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  2. Mike says:

    Excellent interview.

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