You’d be hard pressed to find a more diverse musician than Hank Williams III. In addition to being one of the few today carrying the torch for his grandfather and the other great country outlaws, he played bass in former Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo?s hardcore/metal band Superjoint Ritual. His other band, Assjack, which splits the bill with his country act when he’s on tour, nicely fits into the same genre. And he has even more on his plate, including a new project with Anselmo, as he told Jason Price of Live-Metal.net in a recent interview.
Live-Metal: You just released a new record entitled Straight to Hell. The approach to this release is very “do it yourself.” What can you tell us about the process you used on the record?
Hank III: Well, just trying to set an example to a lot of bands really, that you don’t have to spend $200,000 on a record and be in debt to your label forever. In general, any band should have a little recording tool like that or songwriters should have one, ?cause they?re really easy to use, man. I used them with us to Superjoint Ritual and on all kinds of crazy intense, loud music, and they capture a pretty good sound. They are pretty easy to run, you don’t have to ? it’s not like running Protools or anything like that. So that was the main thing. The band creating our own sound kinda, a little bit, ya know… it took it to another level on just the air quality really.
Straight to Hell is a two-disc album with distinctly different sounds. Do you consider it two separate albums?
Well the first one is done right. It’s got all the superpickers on it and all that stuff. The second one is just my way of having fun. A bunch of ambient noise, more stripped down versions of songs, just me and my guitar, recorded on a tape deck. So it’s not as many tricks as on the other one. It is just more straight-up “real.”
The album was delayed numerous times before it was released. How long go did you actually record it?
Yeah. It was recorded about five, six months before it came out, but that just goes back to “the machine” and Wal-Mart and corporate bullshit.
Originally you were set to release an album called Thrown Out of Every Bar on Curb Records.
Yeah, I just changed the title. That’s all. It all struck me that Straight to Hell would be more fitting with the way the year is. The year of the devil and all that shit lining up, so that was the main reason for switching it.
Your music seems to be evolving with each release that you put out. How do you see you music changing with your future releases?
I think it is more of a step in a direction that captures what we are. I mean, as far as us being a little rough around the edges, ya know. This record definitely captures that a lot more then the earlier ones ?cause ? I don’t know ? ?cause we weren’t able to be ourselves as much. The kind of crowd we attract, I mean some of them are straight-up Americans, but a lot of them are the kids in black and the hellraisers and partiers and all that stuff, the more rebel kind of crowd.
Do you get a lot of pressure to tone down anything that you record from your label?
No, not anymore. They know I have been in the courtroom for the last four and a half years with them for a reason, and that is the key. Respect us for what we are, ya know. Everybody else can fit in the mold. There’s 125 bands that can fit in the mold around here, so it’s OK for one of them to go against the grain and then for them to halfway respect us, man … So … Getting there.
You have a song on Straight to Hell entitled “Country Heroes.” Can you tell us a little bit about that?
It’s for a lot of the kids that come out to the shows that don’t even listen to country music, and it’s just kind of a name dropping song to let them know, “Here are some guys that you can maybe get into,” ya know. Some of them have some dark topics … That is for the younger ones. For the older fans, that kind of song is for the kind of guy that is dealing with his problems. That’s his psychiatrist is the music, man. That is just what it is, man, just talking about getting away a little bit. Getting wasted with ’em and getting through hard times. That is pretty much it, man.
With that said, who are some of your rock or metal heroes?
Hank III: Well as far as slowness goes, it was definitely Buzz Osborne from The Melvins. Matt Pike from Sleep and High On Fire. Then it, uhhhh, shoot, I mean I had so many, man, ya know. I got to see Pantera, fuckin’ almost like 9 times in a 500-seat club in ?90-?93, never saw them in the amphitheater, man, so those guys always hit pretty hard. Just tons, man … I just had so much, from Black Flag to Cro-Mags to noise music like MELT-BANANA and stuff. Just all kinds. It?s hard for me to hone in on one.
When you first started playing music, which came to you first, the country side or the rock side?
Drums. I got my first drumset when I was 10 years old and listened to Black Sabbath, KISS and ZZ Top records to go along with it. So that created my love for the heavy stuff. And everything kept getting heavier and darker, and I kept going more with it. So it was definitely the harder stuff first and still to this day, ya know. Got in to the country when I was probably, I guess, 21 or 22 maybe playing some shows here and there.
How did you first get together with the band you are currently with now? Are these guys you have know for a while or grew up with?
No man, my band always comes and goes. It’s not like this band is called The Melvins. This band is called Hank Three and Assjack or whatever. So my players come and go, man. For the ones that stick with us for a little bit, much respect to ’em and that’s just the way it is. Most of them are from out of state and they hang in there until they’re sick of it and it’s time to move on. That’s pretty much it.
Is it hard to find musicians that are willing to play both styles of music together? Do they seek you out?
Yeah. They kinda seek me out but it goes back to just holdings the ads and nowadays, I at least got a bit more of a grip on it. You know if people want to … Thank God for Myspace is all I can say. You know a lot of different musicians have hit me up on there, ya know, whenever the time is needed. So I definitely have a good list to pick from now.
When you first started doing your “Jekyll and Hyde” style show, what type of reaction did you get? Was it a surprise to you?
Not a surprise to me. It just depends what kind of club we were playing really, man. You know, if we were playing a boot scoot bar in fuckin’ Texas, more than likely there is going to be a little bit of a problem before the nights over. And that was back before we were getting the respect of the rock clubs, and then we finally got the respect of the rock clubs and everything was OK to a point. Ya know, fights are more common in rock clubs and they know how to deal with it better. Opposed to a bunch of rednecks that don’t know what the fuck is going on, you know, trying to control people, I guess. So it has definitely gotten better over the years and it is not as much of a surprise as it used to be. So nowadays it is kind of expected.
What are some of your favorite songs to play live?
Ah man, um, right now one called “Black Destiny” in the Assjack set. It depends if I have a country voice or not really on that particular day. Maybe “Smoke and Wine,” “Dick in Dixie,” some of the more upbeat songs, ya know, but every night it?s different. It kinda depends.
You have always had a good relationship with bootleggers documenting your shows.
You have even released some bootlegs of your own in the past. Do you have any plans on releasing any official bootlegs?
Yeah, once my time is done with Curb, I will definitely have quite the bootleg set coming out. So, it?s gonna go even back to when I was 11 years old. It’s gonna be cool, man, It’s going to be different. It’s gonna be very hands on, very “D-I-Y.”
What do you have planned next as far as releases?
I think Assjack will be the next record that is gonna come out, so we can finally get a rock record out there. Then another country album. That is the way it is set up in the business.
What is going on with Superjoint Ritual?
Superjoint is in the grave right now, because someone tried bossing the boss and you NEVER boss the boss. Now he had to learn the hard way so Philip has laid that band to rest. It might come back. I seriously doubt it. But in the meantime Down is working on their new record and getting ready to be touring here soon. I’ve got another side project with Philip. I?m playing drums and Philip’s is playing guitar. Mike Williams from Eyehategod is screamin’ and it’s called Arson Anthem. So far we’ve got eight songs of it recorded. So we?re still having fun and making music, just getting in there and jammin’, man.
In the past you have talked about the fact that you cannot hear true “country” on the radio anymore, so what are you thoughts on “rock radio” in general?
Man, I am so ? I don’t listen to radio anymore, man. If I do, it?s Internet radio. That?s all I can say, Internet radio, the Sirius and the XMs are making a difference. They?re playing the old and they?re paying the new. Format radio is still shabby. It?s still basically pay for play formatted and they?re not mixin’ it up. Maybe a few stations are, but the majority of them are kinda the same old same old. But, like I said, you?re talking to somebody who has given up on that a long time ago. If I do listen to anything, it’s on the Internet.
Is there anything that you are currently listening to that fans of yours might be into?
Man, here lately I have been listening to a lot of the old Wicked Angel, Bedemon, Pentagram, a lot of Jimmy Martin, that’s bluegrass. On the harder stuff, there?s a band called CSA, that’s Confederate States of America. It’s kinda like Down but it’s not. A lot of what I like is from these young kids man. Every show I do I get local bands giving me their CDs, a lot of them are pretty damn good. There is a band out of Lincoln, Nebraska called The Saints, that I am freakin’ out over. Those Poor Bastards out of Madison, Wisconsin, its like “goth country,” hasn’t really been done yet.
You do a cover of one of their (Those Poor Bastards) songs on your album, don’t you?
Yes. Yes I do. I met that kid after a Superjoint show. He just walked up to me and said, ?Hey man, here’s something I do. You might like it, you might hate it, however.” And next thing I knew it had been a year and a half and that thing, you know, was all I was listening to. So they definitely hit me pretty hard, man. They have quite the future ahead of them, I am sure, or I hope. So, it’s just unknown territory, so I guess that?s why it strikes me so hard.
Anything that you would like to say to your fans?
Just check us out. We’ll be out there doing our Jekyll and Hyde, our country, a little bit of hellbilly and the Assjack for a while and we’ll be seeing ya on the road, man. Check our dates at Hank3.com or Pollstar.com. We’ll be out there for hopefully another 25 years.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.