Hank 3 on the self-contained anarchy of his shows, from a stabbing once to a heart attack
Adrenaline PR Hank 3
See also: Hank 3 at Boulder Theatre, 9/4/12
Hank 3 has one of the most unimpeachable country music pedigrees of anyone alive: His grandfather is the late Hank Williams Sr., one of the pioneers of both country and rock and roll, and his farther is Hank Williams Jr. To his credit, Hank 3 has never really relied on any of this, and instead has largely carved out a name for himself as someone who is comfortable playing punk, metal and country, equally as well.
His fourth album, 2006's Straight To Hell, firmly established Hank 3 as an innovative musician and powerful performer in his own right. In 2011, Hank 3 released four albums and for this tour he and the band will be playing an extended set including this material.
We spoke with the thoughtful and gracious Shelton Hank Williams recently, and in typical classy fashion he made sure to point out that the show will start on time and early so that people can get up for work the next day and not feel bad. Anyone interested in picking up Hank 3 vinyl should go to hank3.com as that's the only place to get it.
Westword: In a recent interview with the East Nashvillian, the author of the article said he thought you spoke for the misfits of the world. Do you feel a kinship with misfits?
Hank 3: Well, I speak to the common working man and working woman. With that all the Williamses have always had a rowdy crowd. A lot of people that work hard and play hard and are young at heart. But [we all have] a very loyal following. Some people would call them misfits. People that like to judge might call them misfits. Eighteen to eighty is our audience. I have cowboys, punk rockers, average, everyday people, the train-hopping kids out there and people that just look a lot more worn down because life has been kind of hard on them. It's all around the spectrum.
Hank Williams, Hank Jr. and myself, if you check your history, you'll see that they've always played in rowdy environments. Part of that is a lot of people are coming to forget their problems and not being told what to do for a couple of hours and not try to have anything sold to them or pushed on them. A big thing I always say when I have a security briefing before every show is, "Let all these folks have as much fun as y'all can."
You spent some of your early years playing drums in hardcore bands. How did you become involved in that world?
I got my first drum kit when I was six years old. My first vinyl was a Kiss record and a Walt Disney record. I liked the energy of rock and roll. My aunt used to listen to ZZ Top, Ted Nugent, Heart, Queen and all these more rock and roll kind of bands. And I enjoyed playing that style of music. It's a natural progression. Hank Williams was playing rock and roll before rock and roll was. "Move It On Over" and what Bill Haley and the Comets did was basically the same thing. "Rock Around the Clock" is "Move it on Over." It's just labeled differently.
Jr. gravitated more toward southern rock, and for me, it was natural to be into more extreme, underground music. That just happened to be more hardcore or punk rock or the speed metal stuff. I'm still a drummer to this day. I play on all my records. I still play in a hardcore band and just going back to the love of the music and enjoy playing.
Who was the first hardcore band you saw live?
For me, it would have to be Cro-mags. At the time, I wasn't old enough to get in to some of the places. Like when the Dead Kennedys would come to town, I was still like twelve and thirteen and wasn't able to see that. But Cro-mags and Corrosion of Conformity, the original line-up. The biggest production show I went to with my step-dad and my mom was Adam Ant when I was probably eleven. To this day, I admire what he's done and how he still has his voice. How he's still doing what he does. I knew right away that I wanted to be in some aspect of music.
What was it about Adam Ant that you admired?
He always really had a tribal sound. Like the Kings of the Wild Frontier record had a very interesting sound. Basically anything Malcolm McLaren touched I kinda liked. Adam Ant's singing style, his percussion, the way those albums were produced, the guitar work was really interesting. Some of it was spaghetti western stuff. That could be another reason why I felt drawn to it. I hope to get to see him when he gets to the United States in October. But that last time I saw him was 1984.
How did you meet Buzz Osborne?
A lot of bands don't come through Nashville that much. The Melvins was one of those bands that did. I was always into the heaviness of their music and how it was different. They came to town, and I brought Dale some gardening gloves back when he was wearing those all the time when he was playing drums. I brought Buzz a couple of things.
I just introduced myself to them, and they started telling me they listened to Buck Owens, Johnny Paycheck and all these things while driving on the road. We developed a relationship, and I used to write to them a little bit. I actually flew out to San Francisco and stayed with them for a while. I got to be on the The Crybaby record, and I got to see how they recorded and how they did stuff.
As time went on, I was lucky enough to have Dale Crover come and play on one of my songs in the Nashville way of a country session. So it was kind of funny for him to see how Nashville did it. I got to do a lot of fun stuff with those guys. I got to go Graceland for the very first time with the Melvins. I got to take the Melvins on the Gibson tour. They never had seen the Gibson guitar factory, and we got to go behind the scenes, and they got to see how they're all made. We had a BBQ at Dale's house. All kinds of fun stuff. It was just out of respect. That band has such a work ethic that I admire, and they've never broken up.
I'm known for singing about the drinking, the smoking, the drugging and all that stuff, but they're a band out there that has conquered the road basically being sober. That is an amazing task and a huge inspiration. It was just kind of the right place at the right time. We got to tour with them for a while and got to know them. Buzz is very interesting, there's no one else out there like him.
You've said in interviews that the Melvins kind of helped you break down the walls -- perhaps between country, punk and metal as well. What did you mean by that, and how would you say that band helped?
They're one of those bands that do what they do and you either you get it or you don't, and no matter what, they're still going to do what they do. I've always taken that to heart, especially with the kinds of that shows I do and being involved in different sounds, and that offered me a bunch of inspiration right there. That should be for any band, really. I don't care if you're the best musician in the world. There's always going to be someone there that's not gonna get it, or is going to be heckling you, or throwing beer at you, and just trying to mess with ya. That's just part of it.
I'm in Seattle right now, and one time, I was opening for the Melvins, and I had like fifteen cowboys waiting to really physically harm me at the end of the night; you know, chasin' me down and destroy what I was ridin' in just because they thought that what I was doing was such a curse to the family name, or whatever. They just didn't get it. That's their problem.
I've been right beside Buzz more than once where people have tried to get violent with him just because of the way he looks. They don't even know who he is. It doesn't matter if it's some redneck in Tennessee while we're just sitting down trying to eat...What really pissed me off was when I was in San Francisco, in a place where you supposedly can't shock anybody, and someone's gonna give him trouble like that.
But it showed me how patience and [perspective come in handy]. That's their karma; that's their problem and you're being unique and different and standing on your own two feet. They have broken a lot of barriers and just offered so much inspiration in many ways.
In a recent interview with Metal Sucks, you mentioned that you listened to Karp. How did you find out about that band, and what is it about that music that struck a chord with you?
Back when I was growing up listening to the Melvins, I got on a mission to find any other band that sounds like the Melvins. By chance, I found Karp. I basically did my research. I looked up all these bands out of Washington. I got to grow up with Karp and watch all their changes. I had the original CD back in 1993. I didn't get to them all of a sudden because Big Business brought me into them. I was interested by their guitar tone. Jared [Warren's] voice. The guitar player and the bass player had an interesting high scream/singing thing going on. You can tell they were paying respect to Melvins and were fan of Melvins but had something different going on.
I never did get to see Karp live, only bootlegs. They have stayed at the house when they were coming through on tour. That's back when Jared was pretty depressed and didn't know what was going on. The really bad stuff had just happened with the loss of the drummer. It's good to see the rebirth within him and the solid foundation that happened with Buzz, Dale and Coady. Just the way they've all come together with that.
Did you see the Karp documentary, Kill All Redneck Pricks?
Oh yeah. I waited for years for it to come out, and I have definitely seen it. On this tour I did everything I could trying to get a show at the State Theater just to say that we played there and be able to be part of that history. I wasn't able to get everyone to make it happen, but we tried. I did enjoy the video and I'm always still looking for bootlegs -- audio or whatever on that tip.