Hank III is the coolest metal cowboy out there.
Yep, I said it. I pretty much mean it too. I know, I say about a million things and may only mean a couple of them, but this time, Iím absolutely sure Iím right. You can even forget the fact that Hank III is a direct descendant of country legend Hank Williams, because that alone wouldnít insure anything. Nope, here is a musician who very easily could have been content to cash in on his family name and continue to sing the countrified tripe that has been manufactured in Nashville and passed off as authentic rural expression for decades. It would have been the most expedient course of action, to be sure. In fact, when Hank III first found out that he was going to be a father, he did start making country music because he needed the money. Although one might think that the grandson of a singer who created a catalogue that continues to sell large amounts even today would have no need for a regular job, the reality is that Hankís father, Hank Jr., was never really a force in his life and their contact has consistently been minimal. In short, any type of substantial financial support just hasnít been a part of his reality.
Hank IIIís first album, Risiní Outlaw, was released to mixed reviews, but Hank soon realized that performing other peopleís material while playing the traditional fame game wasnít something he aspired to in any context. His disenchantment with what he considers the restraints placed on his music has manifested itself in a long running feud with Curve Records. Eventually, he was able to release a follow up--Broke, Lovesick and Driftiní--which Williams feels is more exemplary of who he is as a country artist. When he isnít recording, heís touring the nation playing about two hundred dates a year as the focal point of a unique show--the likes of which just arenít normally seen. What Hank III treats his audience to is a guttercountry extravaganza that only ends when he tells the crowd, ďWeíre gonna go and take about a fifteen minute break and then weíll be back with Assjack.Ē What that means is that Hank III is going back to the bus to let his hair down and get ready to perform some straight ahead death, punk metal that would send the typical Garth Brooks/Toby Keith audience running for the nearest church. It is a strange dichotomy that somehow works. The audiences are disparate and the ages can range anywhere from the younger bar-goers of twenty-one to older patrons of sixty who remember the days of Hankís grandpa.
As for what awaits this eclectic performer in the near future, Hank III will soon be joining Ozzfest along with the rest of Superjoint Ritual this summer. What Hank IIIís career will ultimately become primarily depends on his inner compass and where his gut tells him to go. This remains true even though itís possible that Hank could have more of an impact on country music than he could ever have playing bass for Superjoint. That isnít to say that he has to necessarily choose one genre or the otheróit would just be an absolute travesty if Hank III blows out his voice screaming metal hammers for Assjack and canít continue his work in country because if there is any genre that needs a complete overhaul, it would be the Hollywood/Nashville sound. The fact is that Hank could revolutionize country if he were supported by people with a like-minded vision and a committment to take that form of music back to the dirty, desperate root from whence it came. Thatís the best part about Hank III, he may not be pretty, and he may not be clean, but at least heís realóthatís a rare commodity in life or music these days.
KNAC.COM: How cool was it to be in a band and not have everyone know who are and who youíre related to?
HANK III: Well, mostly itís nice to be in a band and not be the boss. I mean, as far as if like, I want to be a coke addict, I donít have to worry about singing. I could just go out and do all the coke I want and just freak out. As long as I donít know my notes, Iím good. It was nice to take a break from the regular show and do Superjoint because I worked this thing for over two hundred days a year for awhile, and Iíve known them guys for a long timeósince 1990. Jimmy Bower is who I met first and then Phillip in í92 when he as recording Far Beyond Driven. I was playing the drums in a band at the time. Phil would come and hang out and watch the local bands because he was fucking bored. We always knew the New Orleans crowd, and it was just the right place and the right time. Itís been fucking a lot of fun, you know. Weíre getting ready to tear it up again. Hopefully, theyíre working on the new Superjoint record as we speak.
KNAC.COM: Phil has said that Superjoint is his top priorityóare you also willing to make it yours?
HANK III: When I signed on with Superjoint, he was like, ďWhat if we go on the fucking road for two years?Ē I was like, ďWell, I know you wonít go out that long without a month or two break. When you do, Iíll go and bust my ass.Ē I mean, I signed on to that band to give it all I got. I do give it all Iíve got every fucking show. Heís got something to prove, and now is the time to do it. Itís fucking now. Itís time for war! I know me and a few of us understand that, and weíll see whatís going to happen. This summer will be very interesting. Weíre supposed to be on Ozzfest. I hope Damageplan gets on there, too. I think that would fuckiní rule.
KNAC.COM: Mmm, maybe a little metal on Ozzfest this year then?
HANK III: Oh, weíll kill. The band will make money, sell records and get paid to destroy. Itíd be fuckiní true underground. Weíd fuckiní blast plastic bands and sludgy bands--maybe have an official dark festival. Holy shit, Ozzfest is the darkest thing weíve got now. Thereís a few death metal bands there, but not like a big one that tours that everyone knows about. It happens in Europe, and itís just a sea of black.
KNAC.COM: Do you think itís weird that Metallica is still considered metal now that they go around touring with bands like Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park?
HANK III: Not really when you look at what they did. They opened the door for bands like Pantera. They carved themselves a niche in metal history. They can be the biggest jackoffs they want to be now because of the niche they carved.
KNAC.COM: So that canít be taken away?
HANK III: Right. Some bands, their first four albums are lethal, and then they suck the rest of their years. Some donít though. Unfortunately, Metallica gotÖ whenever you get off and get happy and youíre a rock star and fuckiní want it all and have it all, youíre gonna lose your angst. Thatís what happened to them. Basically thatís what it seems like. I went out and bought the new record because I heard it was supposed to be fuckiní heavy--when I heard Larsí trashcan do-ing, do-ing, do-ing.
KNAC.COM: The infamous trashcan beating.
HANK III: That and fucking Hetfield trying to sing. Itís not him, man. Itís not the way he would go for it like he used to do. I know all about the vocals and how it hurts to scream and what heís trying to do, but I was disappointed man. Name one good guitar solo on the new Metallica album.
KNAC.COM: You canít. Seems like a waste of Kirk, doesnít it?
HANK III: What the fuck, man? Theyíve lost their vision, man. Thatís what I think.
KNAC.COM: Can you remember a time when you werenít pissed off or frustrated? Do you think that just comes with the territory?
HANK III: Yeah, Iíve just always been attracted to the other things or the darker thingsówhatever that kind of music or that style is. I got my first drum kit when I was ten years old. I also got my first set of KISS albums by then, too. I was just liviní in Atlanta then where the college radio stations were playing the fuckiní Misfits, Slayer and death metal and on to the harder, worst, sickest kinds of music. I was always just into it. Thatís always been me.
KNAC.COM: And that was just it?
HANK III: Yep, pretty much. Thatís why I know all these people from the New Orleans crew to the Melvins to Lamb of God, you know.
KNAC.COM: What is it about the New Orleans scene thatís different?
HANK III: Itís just a way of life, man. The New Orleans sceneÖ youíve got 24/7 drinking. Thatís just to start things off. You got traffic jams all the time. Itís predominately racist. New Orleans is black. Iím not being racistóthatís just the way it is. Thereís a fucking attitude you have to have in you. Youíre either ďwhoa manĒ laid back or youíre fuckiní full onóyou canít be stopped. All that is just something thatís in the New Orleans blood. Iíve been on the road with those guys and been down there in that scene.
KNAC.COM: So you can just feel something different? Something you canít put your finger on?
"...if you look like a tourist and you walk down the wrong street and youíre white, youíre fucking dead. Thatís the way I feel about New Orleans."
HANK III: Yeah, I feel like Iíve got to watch my back. Thatís the way I feel. I feel that if you look like a tourist and you walk down the wrong street and youíre white, youíre fucking dead. Thatís the way I feel about New Orleans. Thereís just a certain kind of angst. Youíve got the graves and all that shit thatís cool. Youíve got history and Anne Rice or whatever. Thereís just a lot of darkness thereósome goodness too, butÖ Phillip is getting ready to move back to the city. Weíll see what happens. Heís been out in the country for a while. If he moves back into the city, shitís going to hit the fan. Itís gonna be crazy.
KNAC.COM: Is it weird being in a band with Phil specifically?
HANK III: Well, Phillip is the same guy you see on the stage. Heíll tell you that himself. Iím sorry or whatever, but heís just that way. When you love to hate, it just takes a toll on you. Thatís just what heís about. Iím totally down with that, too. Iíve been down with that for a long time. My two favorite screamers were Anselmo and Henry Rollins when I was growing up. Iím just hooked up with the crew and rockiní as hard as I can and wanting to see us give it all every fucking show. Thereís just a presence when Phil walks onstage that nobody else has.
KNAC.COM: You mentioned Henry Rollins--was he one of the major reasons you supported the cause of the West Memphis 3?
HANK III: Yeah, that and Iíve always used the three black bars as my sign. When I was twelve or so and mama would yell at me, and I would yell back. Then, Iíd just go and put on my Black Flag, and thatís how Iíd get it all out. When Henry called and asked, ďDo you wanna do it?Ē I was like, ďFuck, yeah!Ē I was just honored. Thatís all it wasóit was just a phone call. Itís a privilege to be a part of that association.
KNAC.COM: How hard do you have to work to stay interested in playing country music considering all the problems youíve had with Curve Records?
HANK III: Iíll always be doing country as long as I have a country voice. If Iím 45 years old, and thereís no country voice and I sound like Tom Waits, Iíll hang it upósimple as that. I donít know what the fuck Iíd do though if that happened. I guess Iíll just play drums or bass or whatever. Youíre on this road with a circle of friends, and thatís what keeps you forever going.
KNAC.COM: Is there any way you could see Assjack becoming a larger project in your life?
HANK III: The only way Assjack would ever tour on its own would be if we were opening up for somebody. I just had too many fans from both styles of music, so thatís why we do the show the way we do now. Now, thatís just our niche. Itís like Jekyll and Hydeóyou get two complete shows.
KNAC.COM: Do you know anyone else who has done this?
HANK III: Iíve known people like myself who have played four hours a night in a bar just to get paid, but as far as going from country to the verge of whatever style Assjack is, thereís not many people who has done that, man. Iím out there bitchiní that we arenít going to charge thirty bucks for a ticket. Unfortunately, the lowest we can go is between twelve and fifteen just to keep this fuckiní thing going, you know. I wanted about a nine dollar ticket, but to the machine, thatís almost impossible nowadays. At least it is unless I wanna quit my dope and all that shit. If I did, Iíd go back to the van in a heartbeat. Itís just once I got into countryÖ if Iíd have stayed in the van, I would have already been in jail because I would have been busted so many timesóI need a bus. Once I got into country, I saw the vision. It fuckiní came together for me.
KNAC.COM: Do you remember the first conversation you had where you had to say that you werenít going to go along with image and marketing they expected of you?
HANK III: They kinda always knewóit just took them awhile to swallow it. Like the Risiní Outlaw album took them two years to put out because they kept rejecting my songs. I kept sayiní ďIf you put this album out there like this, all Iím gonna do is say how much it fuckiní sucks and donít fuckiní buy it,Ē and thatís what I did. I had to file bankruptcy last year in order just to be able to sit down and talk to that motherfucker. He still canít get the image that Iím not Hank Williams out of his head. He wants me to be Hank Williams, and heís said it so many fucking times. Iím just like, ďSorry dude. Youíre fucked.Ē Even me going on and doing that Black Flag thing, I was taking the chance of getting suedóthey didnít want to support murderers or whatever. I put my ass on the line for the music financially. I could have taken the easy way and just be all country. Instead, I chose the hard path. I chose the path of destruction. Thatís where Iím goiní down. If you look at todayís country acts and how it works and all that stuff, I could do it the easy way and play forty-five minutes of country and say, ďSee yíall.Ē
KNAC.COM: And sing other peopleís songs as long as theyíre catchy.
HANK III: Well, in country music, thatís something that just happens. You know, from Waylon Jennings to Merle Haggard to George Jones to Johnny Cash to Hank Williams Jr. You sing other peopleís songs. It kind of makes it a family. I built my career on saying, ďWe pay respects to David Allan Coe, Johnny Cash and a kid named Wayne Ďthe Trainí Hancock.Ē The rest of them are just kind of horseshit.
KNAC.COM: Youíve toured with The Reverend Horton Heat before, would you also consider him one of your contemporaries?
HANK III: He wants to be country. Heís trying to be Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. Thatís what the Reverend is wanting to be these days, unfortunately. Heís not breathing fire anymore. Heís becoming a wise old granddad. Whenever we were doing that tour, he was taking guitar lessons. You could tell the style and kinda the way his songs were thatÖ you only have that rawness for so long and then you lose it. Heís just chilling out a little bit and wanting to make it swing or wanting to paint a picture with his lyrics or whatever.
KNAC.COM: Have you ever had to be in a position where you had to be up close and personal with the cleaner, shinier figures in music?
HANK III: Yeah. Hey, I live in the heart of it. Iíve only been to one awards show though.
KNAC.COM: How was that?
HANK III: It was weird. You pay about $100 to get a seat. I donít know if itís acid or what, but I just see things a little different, man. Letís say I had the number one song and I won an award... I wouldnít even want to go fuckiní get it, man. I mean, Iím just so ashamed that thatís the way it works. It just feels so weird. Yeah, okay, ďI got yíallís recognition.Ē Well, Eyehategod or any other band doesnít need the recognitionóyou just do it for yourself. Whatever happens, happens. If youíre expecting to write a song and make a million dollars, youíll end up blowing your fucking head off because that ainít the way the music business works. You might as well sell drugs to make money.
KNAC.COM: You see a lot of people getting used by the record companies, selling a million records and then are gone in a year.
"If youíre expecting to write a song and make a million dollars, youíll end up blowing your fucking head off because that ainít the way the music business works."
HANK III: You know, like Evanescence, theyíll be gone in five years. Look at Vanilla Ice and shit like that.
KNAC.COM: What is your relationship like with some of your older fans? Was it weird at first when they started coming out?
HANK III: Well, yeah. I went to the oldest place you could go to get used to itóBranson, Missouri. They went straight from rockiní to people literally sitting down and falling asleep.
KNAC.COM: Eating at the buffet will make you drowsy.
HANK III: So will playing two shows a day. I was just learning how to sing, play a chord and sing a melody. I wasnít just making noises anymore. It was a different thing. I just didnít want to go straight to the bars. If they would have put me straight in the bars to play, I wouldíve gotten chewed up and spit out. Bars arenít gonna take just anybody in the motherfuckiní room. If you go to bars, you gotta know your shit manóespecially in Texas. You gotta be able to back it up a little bit.
KNAC.COM: Was it that much harder for you considering who you are?
HANK III: Damn right. Hell yeah. Especially doiní the shit we were trying to do. There were people wanting me to be Junior or others who wanted southern rock or for me to be my grandpa. Today, you got old people who will sit there and sit through the whole rock show, and they will say, ďI donít know whatís goiní on, but I know youíre being yourself.Ē Thatís what it is because my rock shit is not for the older generation to understand. Itís for me to understand. Even our country stuffósome people get it and some people donít. I can be as up-tempo and energetic as I want, but I can also be slow and depressing too.
KNAC.COM: Do you think one of the reasons you donít fit the Nashville mold is because your lyrics donít discuss the breakage of household appliances or taking your kids to soccer practice?
HANK III: The drinking, the smoking pot and working hard and not getting much out of life are all things my heroes dealt with, too. I just go through times and moods, man. Thereís tons of notebooks full of shit. At times, they get out, but my best shit hasnít come out yet. As far as the outlaw shit goes, whenever I have my parental advisory on my country record, thatís when my career will be a little better.
KNAC.COM: You think you can see a time when that will happen?
HANK III: If Iím off Curve Records. I just sat down and had a big two-hour discussion with them and told them my views.
KNAC.COM: Did it do any good at all?
HANK III: I got my rock career back. Nothings happened other than that. Since the meeting, all I know is lawyers are getting into negotiations trying to get one more album and see you later. Heís never let anyone go though, and he thinks heís here to protect me. Heís here to be my father. Man, weíre dealing with a fucking nutcase here. Itís all about spite. Iíve had a ďFuck CurveĒ campaign going on for four years. He wants to keep his thumb on me, and itís not that hard to do. He has the Mike Curve Entertainment College in Nashville that he built, too. When you tell the machine to go fuck itself, it can say, ďFuck you too.Ē So weíll see.
KNAC.COM: Do you find thereís a lot of people there who would be surprised that you actually live the type of lifestyle depicted in your lyrics? Donít people just assume that youíve got a ton of money?
HANK III: Well, look at my fuckiní daddy. He was on Monday Night Football all the time, and his dad was successful before him. They wrote songs that still stick around to this day. If people think Iím rich, whatever, but hell, my parents divorced when I was two. Iíve seen that motherfucker once or twice a year my whole life. Itís like, ďOkay, wow--cool, itís fantasy land.Ē Everything is clean and big. Youíve got your huge tour buses and thereís 50,000 people out there and all that shit. It was fantasyland. Then I would go back to the real world. The true Hank III fans do their homework and research and check it out. Thatís just the way it is.
KNAC.COM: What is the common link with Hank III fans?
HANK III: Theyíre a weird breed. Weíve got a wide variety. Our drummer used to play with Nile and Hate Eternal, and this is the first time heís been out like this. He would tell me, ďMan, youíve got some weird fuckiní fans.Ē He was meaning like the older people and the younger ones. Iíve watched those type of people get along though, and Iíve watched them not get along sometimes. Sometimes theyíre even giving me shit. Look at the position Iím putting myself inóIíve got the punk fans or the metalheads who may show up and go, ďWhat the fuck is this?Ē Some people know about it, and some people donítósome will just come there to fuck with ya.
KNAC.COM: Thatís pretty rare that someone directs their frustration towards the stage though, isnít it?
HANK III: I deal with a dickhead in the crowd once every six days. Everything from someone trying to take out the stage to heckliní or whatever.
KNAC.COM: How long does it take you to figure out who that is?
HANK III: It depends on if heís swinginí or not. I donít know. Iím always watching the crowd. Iím basically always just watchiní for a bottleóthatís the main thing. Unless Iím gonna do it myselfó
KNAC.COM: You donít want to get bashed in the head by someone else.
HANK III: Iím always watchiní though and trying to have a thousand yard stare. That just comes from living in a bar for eight years though. If you live in a bar and you are around violence, youíre gonna be close to trouble.
KNAC.COM: Do you think trouble just finds you?
HANK III: Ö.Nnnaaah. I do see though kinda that if you are promoting some of the darker things in life how karma kind comes around and kinda bites you a little bit. Every time I drive down to New Orleans an Interstate gets blocked, thereís a wreck or there are lights goiní out when weíre on tour. Little things add up.
KNAC.COM: Was school pretty horrible for you? Did you hate it?
HANK III: Yeah, totally man. I was thanking the Lord when they stuck me in public school. They tried to do the private thing with me. When I was in eighth grade, they finally gave up. When I got to public school, I was just happy to see all the varieties of people there. You got metalheads, black people, youíve got your Hispanicsóthereís just a lot of cliques and the jocks and all that shit. That was wonderful. Iíve always suffered from fuckiní A.D.D. and dyslexia from when I was tested as a kid. Iíve just always had problems with it. I still canít spellówhatever. To this day, man, school wasnít never somethiní much for me. I never went to prom. I never walked the line. I did get voted ďMost IndividualisticĒ my senior year though.
KNAC.COM: Of course you got that, right?
HANK III: Oh yeah. Most of my friends had already graduated, and I supposedly had a job. I was getting out of school at 10 A.M. and jamminí out and smokiní pot all day with my friends. Of course I was always wearing the black shirts and crankiní the death metal. Itís just the way it was, man.
KNAC.COM: Was the switch over to country pretty natural even considering the other types of music you were interested in?
HANK III: Yeah, I guess so. Iíve just been doiní it so long. Itís there. Thereís some aspects of it thatís definitely there. The hardest thing now is just memorization. Memorizing two pages when youíve done as much damage to my brain as I have, youíve got to blow the dust off every now and then.