DFW Music News

Hank III: "I Take Pride in Being The Only Guy Who's Ever Had a Mosh Pit at Billy Bob's."

Last week, Hank Williams III released four CDs of new music -- songs that he had written over the span of six months. 

Sure, a lot of the ideas have been percolating in Williams' brain for a while as a nasty spat with his former record label has worked itself out. But the sheer volume of material is overwhelming. 

There's the hardcore hillbilly country of the two-CD set Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown, the heavy metal of 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin' and the bizarre, psychedelic doom metal of Attention Deficit Domination

But whatever the genre, the grandson of country music's most legendary singer-songwriter does it entirely his own way. Hell, the guy even found a way to get Tom Waits and Les Claypool to contribute to the recent onslaught. 

In anticipation of his coming Friday night performance at Trees, Hank the Third recently spoke with DC9 about releasing so much music at one time and belonging to a legendary country music blood line.

You recently released four new CDs on the same day. When did you write all this material?
I got off Curb Records on January 1, and I started writing this new stuff on January 2. The whole process took from January to June 15. And I play drums on all the records as well.

You dabble in country, punk and metal. Why not concentrate on one genre?
People have labeled me. They say he does this and this and this. They say I'm country and then they say I'm punk. I'm mixing it up. On these new CDs, there are elements of both. There is even a Latino kind of feel on one song. There's also a lot of Pink Floyd-like atmosphere on some of the mood setting pieces on Guttertown. I'm not sure what you call it. It's all that weird, Hank III hillbilly sound. That's what makes me different, man. If I was just a country singer, I wouldn't be near as cool and I wouldn't have nowhere near as cool of a fan base. I take pride in being the only guy who's ever had a mosh pit at Billy Bob's. I bring out the 18- to 80-year-old sons of bitches and it gets pretty intense. And if I just played metal, it wouldn't be as cool. Since I do a little bit of everything, I think that makes it more unique. Someone that comes from the family blood that I come from, it shows people. I could have taken the easy way out, but that's not me. I thank God for all the independent hard rock that I grew up with. You know, The Melvins and Slade and the Dead Kennedys and The Misfits. Bands that had longevity. No one hit wonders. No way, man. And I'm here to play music for the long haul and give the fans their money's worth. I take pride in the fact that a guy and a gal can come to my show, have a couple of beers and still go home with a little money in their pockets.

The new song "Gutterstomp" has an interesting Captain Beefheart vibe.
When I was writing that, I was imagining me sitting around with an acoustic guitar up on some hill with a million and one hobos and train hoppers sitting around me in a big circle. These songs were a ton of fun for me. It is really tribal-oriented stuff.

Are those insects I hear on some of the songs?
Those are samples, and a lot of that stuff is just weird voice effects being used -- a little mixing and matching of stuff. I am trying to expand things, going from happy to sad to weird. I am painting a lot of different moods through the music.

Where does a new song like "Cunt of a Bitch" come from?
When I growing up, there was a band called Hellstomper that was a huge inspiration in my life. My high-energy country sound comes from Hellstomper. Alan King led that band and he and I co-wrote that song. He wrote a song that had the line that said you can take my truck and you can fuck my wife but don't sing my fucking songs. I wanted to use that part, but I wanted to ask permission first or else Alan would hunt me down. I asked him how he would feel about co-writing this thing with me. He was ready to do it. He's from Tennessee and we both have our southern roots.

Your album Straight to Hell was the first major label country album to have a parental advisory sticker placed on it. Is that a badge of honor for you?
It's not like that every single song had a cuss word in it. It's just how it is. I am from a rebel blood line. I have a rowdy fan base. Drinking, smoking and cussing just kind of fits in there. There's a million and one, perfect, clean pop country acts out there. There aren't any more gritty, outlaw acts. The major labels have kept them away. Getting that sticker is just me being me. I am just being me, as cussing is just a part of my show. Most of the time, I am playing bars and it's a rough, honky-tonk environment and cussing comes with the territory.

Why do you think the brand of country coming out of Nashville for several years has been so terrible?
Because the lawyers outsmarted the musicians and took over the business. That's what happened. The musicians used to run the music business. Then lawyers got involved and took it over. But, now, major labels are going down. And why is that? Because the independent artists have a way to expose themselves now. A good song now sells itself. Bands don't have to be on a major label. All my records were made on a hundred dollar machine at my house. I want to be an inspiration to all the young bands out there. My advice is to do it yourself as much as you can. Musicians are slowly starting to have some control again.

How long can your battle with Curb Records go on?
Well, I'm done with them. I mean, they released that last album [Hillbilly Joker] out of spite. They never liked me or what I did for them. It didn't matter if it was me who didn't make them enough money or someone like Tim McGraw who has made them millions of dollars. They wanted to show me up by sitting on my record for 10 years and then put it out when I was gone. That's fine. I got my own thing now. The past is the past. I've always said that Mike Curb is more of a politician than a musician. That shows in the way he treats his artists.

By releasing all these albums at once, were you worried about over-saturating the market?
Absolutely not. Anybody can put out one record. As much as I've been held back, are you kidding? How many records does my dad have out? He's done maybe 145. I've done maybe five.

Hank Williams III plays Friday, September 16, at Trees

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers