If you follow the heavy-metal headlines at all then you've probably heard about Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert and how he's called for a boycott of an upcoming Eyehategod show in Little Rock. The poster for the show features a crudely Photoshopped image of the conservative politician with a baby between his teeth. That's all Rapert needed to find a new enemy: sludge metal, and those who perform it.
"I call on Vinos in Little Rock to cancel this event and apologize for such a disrespectful image that shows the dehumanization of babies lives. It is disrespectful of all who value babies lives and people of faith," he wrote in a Facebook post. "They also clearly welcome the Satanic Temple in another post I am sharing. I urge you NOT to frequent Vinos and stand against their hateful rhetoric."
The ensuing controversy took Mike IX Williams, veteran Eyehategod singer, by surprise. He didn't design the poster, so therefore had no idea he was in the sights of a Republican windbag until he woke up to a slew of text messages on Wednesday morning. But he's certainly not backing down. Williams released a statement decrying Rapert's "moral crusade against basic human rights," and the singer jumped on the phone with Revolver last evening to say his piece.
DID YOU HAVE ANY HISTORY WITH THIS PARTICULAR STATE SENATOR?
MIKE IX WILLIAMS No, I'm from New Orleans. I didn't even know the guy's name. Arkansas is its own thing. We've played this club, Vino's, many times before, and this is basically the last show of this little run we're doing. We figured it would be another boring night on the way home. I'm not that familiar with the city at all, so there's no history.
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU SAW THE POSTER?
I had no idea the poster was being made, and honestly I would've never looked twice at it. We play a lot of shows, and there's hundreds of flyers and Facebook event posts. But as soon as yesterday morning when I woke up people were sending me the link to his comment. It just kinda blew my mind. It took me a minute to be like, "Wow, this is really happening right now."
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU READ THE STATEMENT? DID IT MAKE YOU LAUGH? DID IT ANNOY YOU?
Probably both. Not annoyed to the point where I would jump up and be furious or anything. It's just one of those things. We've had this band name for 30 years now, and things have happened in the past with people being shocked or trying to stop us. I was like, "Who is this guy?" And as soon as I did my research I found out that he was the enemy. His views on pro-choice and anti-abortion are things that I feel strongly about, and the fact that his face is on the flyer is protected by the First Amendment. Freedom of speech — that can be considered satire or parody. I don't know the guy, maybe he's smart enough to know that this would cause some attention for him, but I'm not sure. I think he's serious about stopping the show and stopping people from having fun.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY CORRESPONDENCE WITH VINO'S SINCE THIS WENT DOWN?
No, not an actual conversation over the phone, just texting back and forth. There's some interviews that may happen the day of the show. A local television station is coming out to the show, but it's just day-by-day business for us.
IS THIS THE MOST INTENSE RUN-IN YOU'VE HAD WITH A POLITICAL TYPE? WHERE DOES THIS RANK IN THE 30 YEAR HISTORY OF YOUR BAND?
It's happened many times in different levels. It comes from places just putting "EHG" on the flyer because they don't want to offend the neighborhood. The biggest thing that happened before this was the protest in New Orleans. We played a Halloween show and apparently a girl had run away from home, and they found a flyer in her room that said, "Graveyard Rodeo and Eyehategod." That turned into the parents — who must've been affiliated with a local church — they physically came to the show and walked around the club carrying giant crosses on their back, and banners that said "REPENT" and "BURN IN HELL" and all these things like that. We thought it was fantastic. It actually made the local news in New Orleans. But this is the most intense, and public controversy.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING SPECIAL PLANNED FOR THIS PARTICULAR SHOW?
We should do, like, a satanic mass or something. I'm totally joking. I don't believe in Satan. I don't believe Satan exists, I don't believe God exists. We're gonna do our show like we always do, and hopefully this has brought more attention to the entire tour.
DO YOU EVER GET TIRED OF PEOPLE THINKING YOU'RE A SATANIST BECAUSE OF THE NAME OF YOUR BAND?
It's not that I get tired of it, but I find it very silly. Even some people in the scene itself, who are against people like Jason Rapert, have looked at our name and thought we were satanists. Any attention is fine with me, as long as it gets people to the show. It's all in fun. It's art. It's like writing or painting. It's a bunch of people trying to have fun and make music. I believe Satanism in itself has some great ideas and great views, but so does the Bible. If you take the Bible for its general vision, it's "don't be a dick." That's what they're saying, and that's what Satanism also is.