It's no surprise that talented, well-known, and long-running musicians have a bevy of creative interests and skills that they like to share with the world. Mike IX Williams is best known the world over as the vocalist of EyeHateGod based here in New Orleans, but he is omnific. Tonight at Beside the Point in Algiers, Mike IX will flex his poetic acumen as he reads from his popular book Cancer As A Social Activity as he is sonically backed by Quintron and Aaron Hill.
I spoke to Mike IX on the eve of his live reading about the book and how something made in 2003 resonates just as hard today as it did back then.
When did you release Cancer As a Social Activity? How did it come into existence?
Mike IX: The very first printing came out summer of 2003, around the same time my band EyeHateGod released a compilation (with 3 new songs) called 'Preaching the End Time Message' and the subsequent tour for that album. I'd wanted to release a book since I was 16 years old. I always read & wrote a lot as a kid, I hated sports and I guess now they call that nerdy. I didn't care, I was never a part of that mainstream jock mentality. I got really into writers like Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and all the Beat poets plus others as well as the lyric writing of bands I love, such as the Germs, Black Flag, the Birthday Party etc… I was also really influenced by the Marvel comics universe fantasy stuff. Later on it was writers like Clive Barker, Hunter S. Thompson, William Vollmann, Kurt Vonnegut, Jeff VanderMeer etc… I just wanted to write about real life problems and maladies and also things that were hallucinatory and dark. Life is a series of ups, downs and offbeat absurdities. I like to focus on human existentialism, mental illness, addiction, love, violence, poverty… in addition to nonsensical and illogical grotesqueries.
How many times have you done a live reading?
Mike IX: I've done many solo spoken gigs including one in Dortmund, Germany at a record store. Besides those single-man engagements, I have a band called Corrections House with three prominent members of the extreme music underground. In this band there are four separate but collaborative sets by each musician and during my segment I would read from my book as well as a myriad of unreleased writings and thoughts. That band toured Europe twice and America twice, so that brings the speaking performances into the low hundreds. I have a bunch of recordings out as well of spoken word and primal vocals backed by a multitude of different friends and acquaintances doing electronics and ambient to harsh noise. Another similar studio band I've done was called The Guilt Øf…
How do you choose the backing music/sounds if you have some?
Mike IX: Friends really… just whoever gets what I do and understands the aesthetics. I either have or will record with all of them. I did a gig in Boston at a media lab (with other experimental artists opening) with my friend Chris Brokaw (Lemonheads, Come, GG Allin) on treated guitar and me doing words and noise. We want to document an album hopefully someday soon. The way we live and interact with each other has definitely been impacted since COVID happened and so many other unexpected world events.
Can the themes in Cancer As A Social Activity be applied to the world as it is now?
Mike IX: Sure, of course. Humanity and the world we live in is wrought with misadventure and internal struggles. Look at any city and you can see what has happened to people… and this is on a global scale. Being "human" is being a failing bacteria and ultimately it will destroy itself.
Are you working on any other written or spoken projects?
Mike IX: Yes, I have tons of writings that I'd like to put out there. I've been threatening to deliver more books including a biography for too long. I'm working hard to finally get all of it edited and printed. My first book is in its 5th edition now and now that is almost sold out. My writing goals get pushed back due to touring and recording in my music career, and the fact that I get lazy and watch too much television or go to the beach when I get any time off.