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Kerby’s Exclusive Interview with Superjoint Bassist and Country Savior Hank III

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Monday, September 19, 2005 @ 5:11 PM

Risin’ Outlaw Goes Straight To

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The grandson of legendary country artist Hank Williams is finally set to release the follow up to 2002’s Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’. Ordinarily, an artist coming out with a new record isn’t necessarily Earth shattering material, but throughout the past three years, numerous business-related legal entanglements had put Hank III’s future with Curb Records in definite jeopardy. Besides serving as an obvious distraction from writing and creating music, the prospect of a lengthily court battle also effectively served to block Hand from being able to record and release new material anywhere. Luckily though, as if through some type of cosmic synergy, Williams and Mike Curb surprisingly managed to find a common vision regarding what Hank’s career currently is as well as what it could eventually become. It seems that its simply taken time for industry insiders to accept the fact that Hank isn’t interested in becoming the next George Strait, Garth Brooks or any other in the long line of supposedly authentic country artists who not only don’t write the majority of their own material but who also don’t appear to have any true commitment to the original ethos that created real country music in the first place. Many times, it has seemed as though genuine songs written about drinking and broken hearts played with sorrowful despair while performed with soul by singers whose only master isn’t the bottom line have become a thing of the past.

Thankfully, Hank is back to continue the work of his grandfather and create some country music that possesses all the dark side of the human condition in all its authentic glory. You see, one of the concessions Curb recently made to Williams was to grant Hank the freedom to write the songs he wanted to write regardless of the amount of coarse language contained within--a task Hank relished as is evidenced by the Parental Advisory sticker that is set to adorn new copies of Straight To Hell. Sure, maybe the occasional obscenity resulted in III having to release alternate versions of the two disc set, but as he states here, it’s a small price to pay to see a vision realized and know that the album produced is a true, honest representation of who he is as an artist. One man’s freedom though is already starting to prove problematic for the label though, as Wal-Mart has inexplicably decided that it won’t be carrying the edited version even thought it contains bleeping sounds over offending words. Since the monster retail chain currently represents about forty percent of the potential record buying market, exclusion from such a large dynamic ostensibly equates to commercial suicide in the minds of many in the industry and is certainly something another country star progeny, Shooter Jennings, probably wouldn’t do.

The prospect of touring in support of the new record combined with the uncertainty surrounding Superjoint vocalist Phil Anselmo may cause some to wonder if the band is on a type of permanent hiatus, but Williams seems to give the impression here that anything regarding Anselmo is possible, and whatever eventually becomes of his participation in Superjoint is ultimately going to be alright with him. It isn’t as if Hank doesn’t have his own outlet for brutal rock music himself--his participation in Assjack guarantees that there is no way Hank is going to cross over to country for good--he’s having too much fun excelling at both. Any fan who attends one of the upcoming concert dates can expect the usual two part set featuring country favorites the first half and a thrash/punk/metal explosion in the second. It’s the best of both worlds--Hank’s world, and if you happen to catch him on a night when he plays “Cecil Brown” there is simply no better place to be.

KNAC.COM: Right after Dime’s murder, you became a spokesperson of sorts for Phil and Superjoint. How hard was that for you personally? Was it in any way awkward being a part of a band that was played up by many as a “rival” of Damageplan?

HANK III: It was definitely difficult. It is kinda hard for any musician to go through--no musician has ever been taken down like that on stage. For it to have been Dime just made it that much harder to believe. When I woke up that morning though, I knew something was wrong. There were like eighty fuckin’ phone calls and sure enough the whole thing was hard to believe. Everyone thought Phil would be in the ground before Dime just because of the way he lives and all…but that really hit Phil hard. Even though there was some bickering going on between the bands, there was going to be a Pantera reunion tour. You know, he was looking forward to it. They were talking about it. I was even talking to Phil the other day, and he was like, “my guitar player’s dead--what the fuck?” He’s just working on himself now though and he’s getting ready to get his back straightened out and have that surgery. He will be back though--it could be Down or it could be Superjoint or some thing we don’t even know about yet. It did fuck us all up though. I’m glad I had my moment though with David Allan Coe and Pantera--it was great to be able to perform with Dime and Vinnie at their house. That was the biggest night in music for me--country or metal. Just to have those guys together was something else.

KNAC.COM: They said any time there was a barbeque, Dime was cranking up David Allan Coe or Kiss.

HANK III: Yeah, he loved that shit, man. They had a great relationship. He was a good guy, man. Like I said, I thought he might drink himself to death, instead of somebody without a ticket fuckin’ shootin’ him. It was crazy.

KNAC.COM: At what point did your apprehension and anger about what happened to Dime start to affect what you were doing?

HANK III: The very first time I went to Texas, I was a little affected. I was like, “I dunno what the fuck is gonna go on.” Yeah, I had my two guys up there with their vests and guns in their pockets and all… but I’ve probably been back to Texas five times or so since then it happened. No matter what though, you can’t escape it. If there is a bullet with your name on it, it’s gonna get you man. He was killed in December, and probably by February, I was back out on the road. Like when I do the Assjack stuff, I have tunnel vision and can probably only see about four feet in front of the stage. If somebody jumps up on stage, we don’t freak out about it. That was the first thing Phil would say when we played, you know, “Our stage is your stage, so get your fuckin’ asses out here!” Now, with that band, in my opinion, it might end up a totally different thing. I don’t know if he’ll ever feel the same way again--he might. He might just get over it and accept whatever his fate is or it might be a full on freaked out security issue.

KNAC.COM: Do you think it could ever even be possible for Phil to carry on in a way where the Dime tragedy wasn’t a primary focal point? I mean, it seems like the quote that bothered people the most was the one where he implied that if he wanted something done to Dime, he wouldn‘t necessarily have to be the one to do it--there were other people that would.

HANK III: Well, he talked a lot of shit, and that can’t be denied, but so did Damageplan. Part of it is though that when you break up with your brothers that you’ve been out on the road with, there’s gonna be some sore feelings for awhile, and then you get back together. It has happened with everybody from Jane’s Addiction to Black Sabbath. The problem here though was that this just had a bad twist of fate to it. I mean, Phillip preaches some dark stuff, but did he really want this to happen? No fuckin’ way. Not at all. It’s just a fucked up fate thing.

KNAC.COM: How much did the uncertainty surrounding Phil have to do with you getting Straight to Hell recorded and getting back out on the road--I know you’ve said numerous times that you have to keep working.

HANK III: Yeah, I’ve always had that mentality of trying to keep myself or my band busy. As far as it goes, Phil does want to get back out on the road--he’s getting antsy sitting back at his house. I know he has said he would never go back out on the road, but lately he has said that he might actually get back out there. It’s hard to say, man. He’s working on himself and what he’s got to deal with--you know, like he knows that even if he tries to forget, there’s always gonna be that one mutherfucker--

KNAC.COM: At every show--

HANK III: Yeah, it used to be that every time he heard someone yell “Pantera” he would take it as a slap in the face. It’s like, you can’t help that, man. You were in one of the baddest mutherfuckin’ bands in the world. Be proud of that. Just because they scream out “Pantera” doesn’t mean they don’t like you. It is definitely going to be interesting to see whatever happens. He’s still gonna make music, and I’m just about positive that he’s gonna get back out on the road. Now, with what band…who’s to say? Superjoint’s label just went under the table, so there doesn’t have to be a third album. Basically, he could do anything--he could even start his own label. Phil just has so many projects that most people don’t even know about.

KNAC.COM: Speaking of weird events dealing with record labels, how did you get to the point where you could even think of releasing another record on Curb?

HANK III: Well…I guess it was worth it because all that unhappiness got me my parental advisory sticker and a hundred percent control. I even got them to ok a dirty version and a clean version which isn’t all that dirty.

KNAC.COM: No bitches and ho’s or what?

HANK III: No, and in general, it ain’t that big of a deal. I did get a new contract though, and Mike Curb swears that he’s gonna step up to the plate for two years, and if it don’t happen, he can go his way, and I can go mine instead of keeping me tied up in court for the next five years. After that, I was then able to call the record Straight to Hell and even pick the cover and the back of the cd. What’s fuckin’ with them though is that even though Curb accepted it, Wal-Mart rejected the clean version even with edits. Hey, I made a dirty version and a clean version. I beeped it all out, and Wal-Mart rejected it, but they’ll sell Southpark which takes on religions, races and everything. Now, Curb is like, “fuck, there goes forty percent of the country.” I’m like, “Godammit, you just got to work a little harder. Wal-Mart ain’t the only place out there.” They’re sticking by us right now, and we’re even getting ready to do the rock thing. This album should come out in October, and hopefully there will be a rock one in January . I’ve got some respect from him (Curb), an it’s just time for a new beginning. I mean, he was in the room the day I was fuckin’ born. I just did a song on a tribute record for a band called Antiseen. I just did an Antiseen tribute song with about forty other bands, and Curb was trying to give me some flack. I’m like, “here’s your first opportunity to be real and not fuck with the independent people who put out music for the sake of putting out music and who don’t need the machine and all that shit. We’ll see what happens, but at least I have a lawyer that Mike Curb fuckin’ hates! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Does the new agreement include more tour support or promotion?

HANK III: I don’t even care so much about the tour support. Mostly, what I care about are the releases. Eight months after this fuckin’ record, I want another one out there. We know how to get by breakin’ even, man, in a fuckin’ bus. We’ve done that for twelve years now. If they want to put a little push behind it, that’s cool. If they don’t, that’s cool too. All I care about is getting some of our shit released and some of the Assjack and the Hellbilly shit released. It seems like it’s coming around.

KNAC.COM: I have no idea how you are going to respond to this, but Waylon Jennings son, Shooter, is making a go at country, but he appears to be using a lot of your themes and calling in a lot of big names trying to get recognition--something you don’t do. Have you paid any attention to that? Do you see any similarities with him having a famous father in the industry?

HANK III: No, no--hell no. Shooter is a kid who was born into money and always had money around him. He lived with his dad and mom and moved to L.A., and his rock band didn’t happen, and then Waylon died. It seems like he was like, “oh well, Starlight didn’t go over too well--I’ll try the country thing because I’ve got the connections and people to do it.” Me, I had a kid and a judge.

KNAC.COM: No money.

HANK III: No, I was raised by my mom, man. It was a totally different angle. Yeah, as for Shooter, he’s here to “put the ‘O’ in country.”

KNAC.COM: I was sort of curious about that because you kinda had that before.

HANK III: Oh yeah, I’ve already called him on that. “If you wanna go down that road and rip us off, mutherfucker, I’ll see you in ten years and five thousand shows down the road. We’ll see where the fuck you’re at.”

KNAC.COM: So…needless to say the situation isn’t too cool.

HANK III: You know, I called him out and just flat out said, “fuck you if you’re gonna rip us off like that on your first release.”

KNAC.COM: The attitude seems to work better for you when you aren’t getting video play on VH-1 and touring with Toby Keith. It’s kind of hard to play the role of the outlaw when you’re purposely putting yourself in situations like that.

HANK III: I’ll give it a year and a half. We’ve already been out here ten. At least we got to say our words, you know. Even David Allan Coe called me up and said, “is it true you and Shooter don’t get along?” “I was like, if you had been around this mutherfucker when you were my age, you’d have already kicked his ass.” It’s just one of those things…I was like, “don’t fuckin’ go there Shooter.” He did. He don’t know what the fuck is goin’ on though. He’s living at David Bowie’s house doing two eight balls a day and fuckin’ some L.A. girl.

KNAC.COM: The funniest part though is that on his record, there are two audio samples--one is an intro from George Jones, and the other features your dad talking about why he can’t be on the record. No one can ever say they’ve seen you doing that. I mean, it’s obvious who you are when you sing…but I don’t see you phoning Kenny Rogers for help either.

HANK III: Yep. I’ll see ya in five thousand shows man. He can play and do his thing, but the way he went about doing it on this first record…

KNAC.COM: Won’t endure him to your fan base for sure.

HANK III: He’ll never have what we have, and that is a pit every other night. That’s our deal. In Texas, it’s never gonna be the same, but we still get in and get crowds who understand the whole show. I’m already satisfied with what I’ve done with Superjoint and Buzzkill and the country shit.

KNAC.COM: Do you ever throw on the Black Flag tribute record you contributed on a few years ago?

HANK III: It was good. Fuck man--those guys were my heroes.

KNAC.COM: Did you have a lot of contact with Henry Rollins during the recording?

HANK III: It’s just like talkin’ to your heroes, man. It was just like the David Allan Coe--Dimebag thing. It was just an honor to be there when we were there. Henry was cool and talked to us on the phone before sending us the tracks. Then, he just let us do what we wanted to do. To have the original Black Flag singer say that our track was his favorite on the album was great. I had to cut that little piece out and put it on my wall.

KNAC.COM: Of course--there were some notable artists on there--Iggy Pop, Tom Araya, Mike Patton and Lemmy.

HANK III: I was tryin’ to sound a little like Keith Morris (original Black Flag vocalist) on that. That was way cool to just be around all those guys. Most every night, we say, “this is for the West Memphis Three.”

KNAC.COM: It is really hard to believe those guys are still in jail.

HANK III: I know…the Bible Belt. It’s like..urgggh. It’s a fucked up story. When you’ve got a stern judge and a law system like that it gets scary. When you have that many people and two HBO shows along with Henry Rollins and still nothing gets done…it’s like “c’mon.” There’s some fucked up shit out there.

KNAC.COM: Everyone who checks out the tour can expect the usual two part extravaganza, as usual, right?

HANK III: Yeah, we do the country and then maybe three or four songs of the Hellbilly and then the Assjack, so it’s like almost three little things goin’ on there. It’s still the Jekyl and Hyde show. There will be a lot of the Straight To Hell songs on there as well. Since we let people bootleg, a bunch of people already know the songs. I’m 32 now and some of the songs on the second disc which has a 42 minute hidden track go back to when I was 23 or 24.

KNAC.COM: Can you compare your fan base to anyone else’s? I mean, they aren’t the typical country crew or even straight rockers necessarily--maybe rockabilly like the Rev. Horton Heat?

HANK III: Maybe the Rev. or maybe Mike Ness just as far as the age gap goes. Even then, it isn’t that much the same.

KNAC.COM: A little closer than say fans of the Oak Ridge Boys though--

HANK III: Or Toby Keith or Alan Jackson or Shooter or any of those guys. We’re definitely doin’ something a little different--something we’ve been lucky enough to do for awhile.


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