“Well, jail is never easy,” said Mike IX Williams (that’s Mike “9,” not Mike “eye-ex”). “Actually, I was in jail in two different places. Part of it was in a small county jail in Southern Louisiana. That was pretty laid-back. The other part was in New Orleans parish jail. That wasn’t fun at all. None of it was fun, but that really wasn’t fun.”
Why is Williams — the frontman of a band — reminiscing about doing time to MTV Hive? Well, because his band, Corrections House, was named after jail — and they frequently perform songs that speak of incarceration.
We have the new video for one of their jams — off of their new record Last City Zero — right here. But first, a little more about the band.
Corrections House is sort of an alt-metalhead’s wet dream. Just check out the lineup: Williams, who also fronts the notoriously explosive sludge metal group Eyehategod, teamed up with the legendary Scott Kelley of Neurosis, Bruce Lamont of Yakuza, and Sanford Parker of Minsk.
On the album, each member adds his own vocals to a thick, massive, metallic backdrop. Then, the band adds ambient and electronic noises so that sometimes the record is punk, sometimes it’s doom metal, sometimes it’s industrial, and sometimes it’s just scary.
“We all have the same thoughts, we all have the same direction,” Williams said. “We didn’t know what [our music] would end up being. It came out really dark and heavy. It has elements of old industrial stuff, like Wax Trax!, but then it goes all over the place. It’s got spoken word, saxophone, punk — it’s crazy.”
For example, the eight-minute “Serve or Survive” starts with a vibrating, almost zen-like pulsation before it breaks into a massive smashing riff. Then, Williams comes in shredding his vocals, only for the song to drift away in a Sabbath-referencing sludgefest.
“I think ‘Serve or Survive’ is something that every human being goes through,” Williams said. “My life has had some ups and downs, so I tend to write that way. When I write, I write in an abstract way. It’s the same for ‘Drapes Hung By Jesus.’ I don’t know what the original idea was. A lot of my stuff takes on different meanings as it evolves.”
A good deal of the lyrics on the new album evolved from Williams’s book of poetry, “Cancer as a Social Activity,” which in turn, was influenced by Williams’s run-in with the law.
“In jail. There’s a lot of corruption,” he said. “There always is. It’s overcrowded. There’s a lot of racism and fighting. I didn’t get into any fights because I just kept to myself and kept my mouth shut. There’s always a vibe of when you should and shouldn’t speak. You can make friends, but your so-called friend could be your worst enemy in 24 hours.”
In contrast to his non-confrontational demeanor in prison, Williams is notorious for his stage show. In years past, during Eyehategod shows, Williams would spit on stage, swing the mic stand like a battle axe, and even fistfight with the audience.
He told Hive: “I totally think that rock and roll should be dangerous. It goes back to Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. People were just shocked and scared of who was on stage. I like to go to a show and have some element of tension. If there’s tension, there’s something enjoyable for me.”
Interesting, though, is that although Williams has been involved in a number of on stage altercations, he’s not really a big dude. He’s scrappy, for sure, but you wouldn’t expect a guy of his size and demeanor to have survived two decades in nastier metal. There’s even a famous incident where a gigantic skinhead kept getting on stage until Williams cut the aggressor down to half his size with the microphone stand.
“I’m not sure why I’ve been able to last,” Williams said. “It’s not because I’m tough. I can’t fight. If I’m in a fight, I might stick up a bottle or something. I’ve gotten in fights, but I’m not really that kind of guy. There are things that have happened, though — stitches and bruises and people throwing bottles at me. But, that’s part of the show. That’s part of the fun.”
And you know what else is fun? Music videos. MTV Hive has the premiere of Corrections House’s newest, ”Bullets And Graves,” right here — and it’s pretty violent.
Directed by Brian Sowell, it opens with what sounds like a clicking camera and then erupts into a series of brutal, surrealistic scenes. People are beaten with baseball bats. A man in a celtic-pagan ceremonial outfit wields a machete. Some dude with the spookiest mask this side of Michael Myers provides the soundtrack by smashing on a solitary snare drum.
Meanwhile, Williams spits out distorted, pissed-as-hell vocals. Scott Kelly provides massive, smashing guitars that — despite their heft — move at a hardcore attack. The whole thing is then dirtied up with industrial electronics. It’s messy, fierce and scary.
Corrections House’s Last City Zero is what a super group should be — each member makes unique contributions, but the spotlight isn’t shone on any one member. Of course, with music and a video this dark, there aren’t any spotlights to begin with.
Last City Zero is out now via Neurot Recordings.