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Kerbyís Exclusive Interview With Hank III: Straight To Hell

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Friday, May 5, 2006 @ 11:50 PM

"I just do what I do, and some

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When the grandson of legendary country artist Hank Williams finally released a follow up to 2002ís Lovesick, Broke and Driftiní, it was especially noteworthy given the numerous business-related legal entanglements that had helped engender such a completely toxic atmosphere between Hank III and Curb Records over the last three years. Besides serving as an obvious distraction from writing and creating music, the prospect of this lengthily court battle also effectively served to block Hank from being able to record and release new material anywhere. Luckily though, Williams and label owner Mike Curb eventually managed to agree on a common vision regarding what Hankís career currently is as well as what it should eventually be. It seems that its simply taken time for industry insiders to accept the fact that Hank simply isnít interested in becoming the next George Strait, Tim McGraw or any other in the long line of supposedly authentic country artists who not only donít write the majority of their own material but who also donít appear to have any true commitment to the original ethos that created real country music in the first place. Many times during the last two decades, 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 isnít the bottom line have become a thing of the past.

The prospect of touring extensively in support of the new record entitled Straight To Hell combined with the uncertainty surrounding Superjoint Ritual vocalist Phil Anselmo may cause some to wonder if that band is on some type of permanent hiatus, but Williams generally gives the impression that anything regarding Anselmo is possible, and whatever eventually becomes of his participation in Superjoint, or the new Williams-Anselmo collaboration entitled Arson Anthem, is ultimately going to be alright with him. Besides, it isnít as if Hank doesnít have his own outlet for brutal rockóevery one of the bassistís live shows still ends with a pummeling set from IIIís hardcore band, Assjack. This nightly exhibition of Hankís thrash metal side insures that there is no danger in Williams exclusively crossing over to country any time soonóheís having too much fun blurring the lines of both genres. If thereís any justice, Hank IIIís music will finally find the audience it truly deserves and be recognized as the natural progression of the type of music his grandfather blazed a trail by performing so many years ago.

KNAC.COM: The intro to "Straight To Hell" proclaims, "Satan is real." Do you really believe in the devil?

HANK III: Well, Iíve been attracted to it my whole lifeóthatís just the way it is, man.

KNAC.COM: Do you think itís funny when people say they believe in God, but they donít believe in the devil?

HANK III: It boils down to good and evil. Half the people who say that stuff donít know what the fuck is going on.

KNAC.COM: If someone wants to say, "Hank is singing about Satan again" or about "drinking" again, would it be fair to say that you are just speaking about what interests you or mirrors your life in some way?

HANK III: Well yeah. All of them are either about drinkiní, smokiní, depression, partyiní or gettiní stuck. Itís always the same topics, but when you get into Assjack, thatís when the other parts start coming in.

KNAC.COM: Country music has an incredibly long history of discussing those exact topics, doesnít it?

HANK III: Yeah, theyíre timeless, but I also practice what I preach, and thatís what I know good or bad. Thatís just the way it is, and I try to tell it that way. Good times and partying are pretty simple. This record captures a little more of the live show to a point, but nothing will ever capture that totally. The lyrics and attitude are the same though.

KNAC.COM: Would you say this new record is leaps and bounds a better representation of who you are as a country artist than, say, the first one?

HANK III: Yeah, well, I think so. You know weíve been singing these songs on Straight To Hell for two or three years now, so itís already an old album to the fans.

KNAC.COM: After the long wait and the legal difficulties, how did it feel to actually have that package in your hand?

HANK III: I was pissed off because they had fuckiní edited my words, and I knew that sure enough something was gonna be fucked up and that they would do some shit behind my back. We were 96% close, but I still had to call a meeting and say, "what the fuck, man? I didnít fight you in court to have 100% control over my music and artwork to have you fuck with it."

KNAC.COM: The same old problems, then?

HANK III: The same old fight. All I can say is that we started out in the Billboard Top 200 with no push behind us, and itís all because of beating this fuckiní road down. It isnít because of anything our fuckiní management or label has done. Itís all been on us.

KNAC.COM: I imagine that you would agree that although being on the road can be the ultimate test of endurance, itís undeniable that thereís a bond with fans that gets created while a bandís on tour that no ad space or amount of spins on the radio can replace.

HANK III: I hear ya. I hear ya. Our fans go to the shows whether itís Superjoint or Arson Anthem. It is what it is.

KNAC.COM: That would have to be the biggest motivation to stay out there, wouldnít it? Pleasing people who have been looking forward to the show since the day it got announced?

HANK III: Yeah, to a point--weíre doiní what weíre doiní, and theyíre doin what theyíre doiní. Live fuckiní shows, man.

KNAC.COM: Increasingly, in the press, writers want to not only portray you as a rebel, but these days, more and more people also want to try to link you to Shooter Jennings (son of Waylon who is also going to be opening up select club dates for the reformed Alice In Chains tour) either because of your ages or who youíre related toódo you see any similarities?

HANK III: Fuck no. Weíre nowhere near the same thing. All Iíve got to say is that he waited for his dad to die before he got into the business. Then, when his rock band broke up, he was like, "oh well, itís time to fuckiní cash in." Like I told him, he had a chance to be my friend or be my rival and he chose to be my rival. That mutherfucker ainít gonna be worth a fuck until 10-15 years down the road. Right now, heís a limp dick that does not know what the fuck is goiní on and who is just ridiní the wave. Goiní out there and playiní eight songs because he has a sore throat and canceling the shows--whatever, dude. We go out there with nothiní and play for two hours every fuckiní night. All I can say is you donít start off in the business green and stealiní, and he knows it.

KNAC.COM: The anti-Nashville stances are pretty similar as are some of the lyrical references.

HANK III: From the beginning, I gave him the chance to either be a bro or an enemy. He chose to be a fuckiní enemy. Thatís his call man. Heís just the grainiest, most fucked up guy out there in country music. You know, we just do what we do and say "thanks" to the bands that have taken us out like the Reverend Horton Heat and the Melvins. We also got to do some shows with American Head Charge, and Assjack will be out on the road with other rock bands here soon.

KNAC.COM: It seems like lately Iíve spoken with quite a few people who have either toured with American Head Charge or worked with them in some way, and they all seem kind of shocked by the death of their guitarist--if that wasnít enough, they also had a lot of their equipment stolen in St. Paul as well.

HANK III: Iím afraid that the death and the stolen equipment was karma biting them in the ass a little bit.

KNAC.COM: In what way?

HANK III: Iím not talking about the guy. Iím talking about youíve got to watch out for your bro and you donít shove that kinda shit down somebodyís throat when theyíre sick, man. Thatís all I can say on that one.

KNAC.COM: Iím sure youíre someone who has also found yourself in or around plenty of sketchy situations that have made you pretty adept at learning which lines not to cross.

HANK III: When youíve got 102 fever, dude, Jagermeister and methadone doesnít cure it--and neither does oxycontin. Címon, everyone knows youíve got to take care of your body when itís saying, "I need a break." It sucksóhe was young.

KNAC.COM: As a performer, isnít it really difficult on the road to put the brakes on though?

HANK III: Iíve got my routine down pretty much. It all goes back to the voice thoughósome days itís there, some days itís not. As far as what I do, Iíve got that down totally. I save my partying for on the stage, and thatís about it nowadays.

KNAC.COM: I had read an interview where someone asked you a question about politics, and you said something to the effect that it really doesnít matter who gets elected because nothing ever really changes. Are the working, struggling people always doomed to get screwed?

HANK III: It doesnít matter, man. As I always say, itís the upper hand thatís runniní the machine, and if the peoplesí fuckiní opinion really mattered, America wouldnít be the way it is right now. All these rules and bars where you canít smoke and you have to stand here to drink while youíve got eighteen year olds getting shot in the headÖI mean, theyíre people oversees fighting for our freedom while theyíre takiní it away every day over here. If the peoplesí votes or opinions made a difference, weíd see it. You can tell that itís run by a higher power, and they donít give a fuck what you think or not. Thatís just the way it is, unfortunately.

KNAC.COM: Why do you think it is such a big deal if Hank III smokes a joint or somebody makes the decision to indulge in some marijuana?

HANK III: You tell me, is marijuana or methamphetamines killing the U.S.? Which is worse? Címon, youíre never gonna win the drug war, and now youíve got this new drug thatís takiní everything over, man. Step up, get real and understand that if itís a disease, help out your fuckiní people instead of putting them in jail and all that shit. Whatís all that the news has been about recently? Suck a fuckiní kidís dick on many different occasions and get away with it. (Reference to the recently dropped charges against the Florida teacher that many of you wish had been your jr. high school instructor)

KNAC.COM: And ask for a job on the evening news afterwards.

HANK III: Right. Get real and wake the fuck up. Thatís all I can say. Wake the hell up.

KNAC.COM: How do you take it when mainstream publications review your work when the music they generally champion is so much different than yours?

HANK III: I canít really think about that stuff, because if I do, Iím really setting myself up to get fucked, man. Youíve got to live for you and take the good or the bad. I just do what I do, and some people respect it and some people donít. Itís as simple as that.

KNAC.COM: Youíve got to find that most people you come in contact with do though, right?

HANK III: Not really. No. Youíd be surprisedóthereís all kinds of folks from punk rockers to rednecks to grandmaís who donít understand it and donít get it. You canít make everybody happy, and some people just donít like it. Thatís the way it is. It doesnít matter if youíre Slayer or whoever it is, someone is out there looking to give you some shit. Itís just one of those things.

KNAC.COM: I would imagine that dwelling on the negatives too much could be debilitating at some point.

HANK III: Yeah, Iím paranoid enough as it isóI donít need anything else.

KNAC.COM: Do you generally just hang around in a tight knit group, or have you managed to be fairly accessible over the years?

HANK III: I generally just try to keep it to the group, but people come and go, and Iím the one who is going to be in it for the long haul. Thatís just the way it is. Thatís why the name of this group is Hank III and Assjack. If someone quits, yeah, itíll be a little bit different, and it wonít be the same, but thatís just the way it is. Players come and go and the crew comes and goes. Iíve probably been through 60-75 players from this band so far.

KNAC.COM: As the front man and the namesake of the group, you are the one accountable--

HANK III: You can tell the guys Iím playing with now want to be on the road and they want to play music. We are very thankful to have the people weíve got now, but when it comes time to file the big bankruptcy again, itís not on them. Iíve been keeping it rolling for ten years, and we just filed last year, but I intend to keep it rolling and try to keep the bus paid for.

KNAC.COM: Without getting too melodramatic about it, have you always had this sense of being intensely alone?

HANK III: Pretty much--because when you have family fuck you over, how can you trust anyone else? That happened to me at a pretty young age, so itís been hard for me to trust. It has definitely been a sort of lone wolf kind of way. I know a lot of people, but as far as friends go, I donít have that many of them.

KNAC.COM: Did having Hank Jr. as your father was make it worse? I know youíve said before that your upbringing was far from affluent or ideal.

HANK III: In school, people knew I had a famous dad, but they also knew I was just like them. Iíd just hang out and maybe go to some shows. There was nothing really all that different. I was a little bit of a freak running around with the black t-shirts and the stoner crew, but everybody could tell that I was pretty down to Earth. I wasnít running around going, "hey, Iím Bocephusí kid. Check me out, Iím better than you." Thatís bullshit. I was just doing my time and being in bands and hanging out and all that stuff.

KNAC.COM: On stage, you frequently wear a Misfits t-shirt, yet I also know you have a deep respect for Black Flag. Can you compare two bands and what you admire about each?

HANK III: Iíd be thinking of the 85 Ė87 Misfits here, and they rank pretty fuckiní high because they created their own sound and did all of this huge bootlegging. Just look at how their merchandise has stuck around as hardcore as it has to this day. Black Flag has made that niche also, and theyíre both huge at the same time, but Iíd say that the Misfits took it to the next level as far as the looking cool aspect of it, and Black Flag took it to the next point as far as the raw sound and the angriness of the songs. They are both tattooed into each otherís skin for a reason.

KNAC.COM: You just mentioned bootlegging and how it seems to intensify a bandís relationship with its fansówhy do you think so many in the music industry are reticent to embrace something that appears to be such a positive? Recordings of live shows almost seem like a form of advertising in a way.

HANK III: It is advertising, and I had the same argument at Curb as far as telling them "youíre not gonna fuckiní beat it." They were talking about the "younger generation" bootlegging and all that stuff. Itís just like the drug war thoughóyouíre never gonna beat it. I was at the VFW, and I was the youngest mutherfucker in there and everyone else was like 65 and up. Sure enough, this lady walks in the door and goes "Iíve got the new Alan Jackson CD burned so everybody can have a copy." I called the head of Curb records and said, "just so you know, thereís a 65 year old lady who just burned about ten copies of a record. It doesnít matter if youíre young or old, you ainít never gonna beat that." When youíve got people who hold us back like Curb records from bootleggers and the people who videotape us, it doesnít make it easy. We look at it like the Grateful Dead. Look how big their following was. Look at all the tape trading that went on and how it kept them alive. Thatís how we made it up to seventeen on Billboard was because of that mentalityónot because of some formal way of putting out a record and making it look like you made it whether it was the lawyer or the manager or anyone in the machine.

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