Interview with Hank Williams III

It’s pretty safe to say that I am quite the fan when it comes to music, no matter what the genre. With that being said, I’d like to point out, that my love for Shelton Hank Williams the 3rd, goes a bit above and beyond that. Hank 3 is one of the most versatile musicians that I have ever come across, and not only was he blessed by getting passed down the family talent, but he’s also one of the most hardcore metal heads I’ve ever seen. Sure, most people would argue, that no matter what direction Hank the 3rd decided to take in life, it would be a bit easier than the average person, just by the pure fact that his last name his Williams. I think this is what pushed Shelton to prove people otherwise; never once did he give in and conform to what was expected of him, and that’s what I respect most about him. It’s been a long hard fight for Hank 3 to keep his music his own, and it’s finally paying off. Hank is now free from Curb, after releasing his latest album the Rebel Within, and it’s time for him to take charge of his enterprise, without anyone holding him back. I was able to speak to Shelton for a minute after his latest tour:

Amanda: On the newest album Rebel Within, you take a bit of a softer approach than you did compared to Straight to Hell- Did this have anything to do with Curb giving you such a hard time with your previous albums?

Hank 3: No, they’re not involved at all with any of that, I turn in my records after I record them, and they either accept it, or they don’t. It was recorded 100% on my end, and they had nothing to do with it, other than accepting it, or rejecting it.

Amanda: Your lyrics on the new album sway a bit from your previous crazed country rebel attitude you always seem to have- Is this just a sign of getting older, or are you really trying to settle down a bit, and change your ways?

Hank 3: Well, its diversity, we’re not going to be pigeon-holed in one style, it’s about the light and the dark, and it’s about evening it out. 90% of my songs are about drugs, alcohol, and partyin’ and things; as far as the country goes, it’s about diversity, and they can’t just keep us in one area.

Amanda: Was Rebel Within an album that you produced yourself at your house, like you did with a few of your others?

Hank 3: Yup, it was all recorded by me here at my house.

Amanda: What are your plans for the future, now that you don’t have shitty Curb as your record label holding you back?

Hank 3: After January 1st, I’m starting up my own label, and signing with MRI Distribution, and that’s about it, really. We’ll be just be givin’ what we do, but we’ll at least have a lot more freedom, and we’ll be releasing country records, the hard rock, some of the stoner rock projects, and all kind of things. I just won’t have to go thru a bunch of lawyers to put my music out. I’d rather deal with people that respect what I do, and are glad to be working with me.

Amanda: So it should definitely be easier sailing for you, now that you no longer have to deal with curb then, wouldn’t you say?

Hank 3: It will be creative freedom, and that’s the big thing, not going through a label is a big deal, so I’m doing exactly what I was advised to do, and that’s what we’re making happen.

Amanda: How long do you see yourself touring, and making new music to release to the public?

Hank 3: It kind of depends on my health, and how I’m able to deliver the show, but I don’t see myself stopping for a long time. If I’m not able to deliver the show that I want, and I feel like I’m not giving people their money’s worth, then things might change, but for right now it’s a day by day kind of thing with where you’re at.

Amanda: So as long as the demand is there for your albums and people are buying tickets for your shows, you’re going to keep on going, as long as possible?

Hank 3: As long as my health is permitting. I’ve seen my heroes on stage, that could barely do anything, and I don’t want people to be like, well he was so old and sick, that he could even barely put on a show.

Amanda: That’s certainly understandable; better to go out with a little style, rather than a pity party.

Hank 3: Well, if I’m able to deliver like Lemmy and Willie Nelson are right now, then I’ll still be doing it. If it’s more of people coming out and feeling sorry for me, and getting more of a bad review, talking about how I’m just old and sick, then things might be different. I’d say that’s still at least another 20 – 30 years away though.

Amanda: Oh good, that is definitely an awesome thing to hear. Is there one song that you just HAVE to play in every set when you’re out touring, or do you try to change it up every time?

Hank 3: There’s never a set list, we just kind of start with definitely a lot of Straight to Hell songs, or some big ones. There’s not ever a certain list we go by; we might start with the same few every night, but there’s at least one thing that’s different than the night before.

Amanda: Ok, so you guys just kind of get up on stage, and go with it? You just think of what you’re going to play, as you’re doing the show then?

Hank 3: Pretty much, I have a kick drum head that’s got at least 100+ of my songs on it, and I’ll either just feel the audience out a little bit, or sometimes I take requests from them , and sometimes I just do the show that I’m wanting to do. Basically when I’m signing my songs, I’m already thinking of the one I’m wanting to do next.

Amanda: So it’s basically going on how you’re feeling pretty much that day then, right?

Hank 3: On some songs, it depends on the country voice, if the head voice is there or not. You know, some shows my voice is absolutely 100% gone, and I just gotta get up there and deal with it. Some nights when the head voice is really dialed in, I might pull out some songs that don’t usually get sung that much.

Amanda: I was at your show when you guys came to Streeters a few weeks back, here in MI, and you played 5 Shots of Whiskey. I thought was really cool, since that’s one of my favorites, and you rarely seem to play it live, so I just wanted to say, thank you for that.

Hank 3: Well, absolutely.

Amanda: If you could change one thing about Nashville, what would it be, and why?

Hank 3: Well, if I could change one thing, at least around here, it would be getting the musicians back in charge of the music. The lawyers out smarted the musicians, and took the jobs away from them, and if we had more musicians who were lawyers, it might make a difference. That would be my biggest thing; as far as Tennessee goes, I love Tennessee as far as you got plenty of space, people are nice, and it’s not too big, not too small. Although, there are a couple of streets in this town, that kind of have rubbed music the wrong way, and you don’t really need them on your team to survive.

Amanda: Would you say that you don’t see yourself leaving Tennessee at any point in your life? You’re pretty much there to stay, right?

Hank 3: I don’t, unless I was to get completely driven out of here, but I take pride in living in Tennessee, and like I said, I enjoy it, but we’ll just have to see, who knows.

Amanda: How did you and Gary ever meet up and what made you guys decide that you wanted to do vocals together, for your metal band Assjack?

Hank 3: Well if you look at Assjack’s history, there’s been like 5 or 6 front men now. My motto is, as long as you’re having fun with me, stick around. Whenever it’s no fun with you no more, it’s time to hit the road. I’ve known Gary since I was like maybe 15 or 16; we used to play in the tri-state area in two different bands, and we toured together sometimes. I was in a band playing drums called Buzzkill, and Gary was in a band called For Our Father, and we used to tour together. For Our Father had members that went on to form Mastodon, then I myself went on to do my own thing. So later down the road I just kept bumping into Gary, and he just came by and said, I’d love a shot at Assjack, and if you ever get to where you need another front man, keep me in mind. One of my guys wasn’t into it no more, and we moved on, and Gary had a great time filling that position.

Amanda: You don’t see him going anywhere anytime soon then, right?

Hank 3: Well that’s kind of up to him; he’s already started on other projects out there, if those other projects take him away from us, we’ll have to see. It’s basically if he’s still into it, sure. That’s the motto with anybody in my group, if you’re havin’ fun, and you like it, stick around. If you’re not around and not into it, and you want to do something else, take off and it’s no problem. I stay in touch with people that I’ve worked with, that I’ve hired, and that’s left on their own terms, and I respect them either way. I can’t speak for Gary on that, but I hope that he still has fun with us.

Amanda: So no bullshit contracts or anything like that, you’re there to do what you love, no more no less.

Hank 3: Pretty much, if you look at our history, I’ve probably had like 40 people in my band, you know players come and go, and I always stick around. That’s just part of it, and I’ve gotten to work with some legends, and I’ve gotten to work with some underground kids, and it’s been awesome.

Amanda: Yea it had to have been a lot of fun along the way, I can imagine. I wanted to know, out of Assjack, Superjoint, and Arson Anthem, which is your favorite metal band to play on stage with?

Hank 3: My favorite metal band has probably not hit the stage yet, but in time. Those are two totally different worlds, from Arson to Superjoint; I’m going to keep saying that I have yet to hit the stage with my favorite metal band, but it will be coming out here soon. I’m just looking forward to playing some new material, I’ve been stuck playing the same songs for years. There have been some legendary moments in Superjoint, and Arson Anthem is a fun side project, and we do it here and there, and from small to big, we’ve gotten to have a little taste of it from all over the place.

Amanda: I love Arson Anthem’s new album Insecurity Notoriety, which came out a few weeks ago; is it quite a change to go from being pretty much the front man, to getting behind the drum set?

Hank 3: I’ve always been a versatile musician, and that’s just the way it is, it’s not that big of a change because that’s just what I do, and I’m at home.

Amanda: You’re happy as long as you’re up on stage; it doesn’t really matter what part you’re playing then pretty much, right?

Hank 3: I just need to know what songs we’re possibly playin’, and we’ll be good from there.

Amanda: Awesome. Do you have any plans in the works for a live dvd of Arson Anthem, or possibly a live Hank 3 dvd?

Hank 3: Well so many people record our shows, so there’s been a bunch of bootleg dvd’s here and there from the past 20+ years, so there’s some pretty cool stuff already out there. There was an Arson Anthem dvd that was supposed to come out like 2 years ago, and it’s sittin somewhere. I don’t speak for Phillip’s business, so that would be more of a question geared towards Housecore Records.

Amanda: I know that you and Unknown Hinson shared the same manager for a while…What made you decide to get a tattoo of him, and what does he think about it?

Hank 3: I just think he’s creative, and he’s unique; look at how much talent he has as a musician, as a player, as a songwriter, as an actor, and just as a good guy in general, and I have mad respect for him. There are not many people in the music business that cover it like he does.

Amanda: Meaning, as well-rounded as he is, as a musician?

Hank 3: Well he’s well-rounded, and he’s a pro. A lot of musicians don’t understand music, that’s myself; I know how to get by, but I don’t really understand the theory of music. Unknown Hinson does; he made it through, and really right in time. He was about to hang it up, and things picked up for him, and he got a new breath of fresh air, and it’s awesome to see all these good things happening for him. He’s able to be himself, like on Squidbillies. They hired him for him, and they aren’t telling him, well you need to say this, and you need to act like that. They’re saying we want you to be you, and you don’t get that many kind of business deals in the corporate world, and that just shows his talent.

Amanda: Does he know that you basically immortalized him by getting his portrait tattooed on the inside of your arm, and what does he think of it?

Hank 3: There are pictures of us on the internet, and we’ve done tours together, he knows I love him as Danny Baker, and he knows I love him as Unknown Hinson.

Amanda: I want to know a bit about those infamous boots that you wore for 15 years, and finally retired in 2008. Did you wear them each time mainly for good luck, and what made you decide to retire them after keeping the tradition for so long?

Hank 3: They’re on display at the William’s family exhibit, at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and that’s why they got retired from the road basically. The reason is, most country artists wear $5000 boots, and $20,000 suits, and I never was like that. My dad’s a millionaire, but I’ve never seen a dollar of any of the Hank William’s estate, or any of his money. So I always put it out there to the folks that I put my feet to the street and I am just like you. I put my pants on one leg at a time just like you do, and I’ve had to sell things I haven’t wanted to sell to pay rent, and have done everything I’ve had to do, to get by. For me, it’s just letting people know that I’m not above anyone else, and I’m not trying to say, hey look at me, I’m all decked out in these high costing clothes. I would rather our show speak for its self, rather than a bunch of expensive things. I’ve never really been a part of that fashion scene; I’ve been more into the hobos and the drifters, and the street kids, and you know, more the underground kind of look, and more the DIY attitude.

Amanda: Would you still be wearing your boots to every show, if you hadn’t given them the Country Music Hall of Fame?

Hank 3: If I can even get them on anymore, they were getting almost to the point to where barely fitting on my feet. We’ll have to see what’s going to happen whenever that exhibit’s over; if I’m going to be able to wrap ‘em up and use them again or not.

Amanda: Now that would be very cool. So tell me, where do you hide your lovely girlfriend at, and how come we never see or hear about her?

Hank 3: Well she lives in Nashville, and she just works 4 or 5 days a week, and that’s kind of her choice, she’s been out on the road here and there, but she knows it’s not a very pretty environment, and it’s pretty rough out there, and so she does her own thing. Once in a while she’ll come out to the shows, but she kind of likes being a bit behind the scenes for now. That might change one day, depending on how the new beginning is, and us running the business and everything like that.

Amanda: So she’s more of a person who’d prefer to keep to herself, and doesn’t really want to be in the public eye?

Hank 3: Yea, we just look at life like we’re thankful to be here, and we do what we do, and my job is my job, and it is what it is.

Amanda: Well I just have one more question for you, Shelton – If you could dig up one dead person and bring them back to life for a day, who would it be?

Hank 3: I guess seeing one of the masters like ‘ole Beethoven back in the day, and seeing him operate, would be pretty interesting.

Amanda: You’re actually the first person to mention him, which is very sweet; Thanks so much Shelton, I can’t wait to see what you have in store for the future!

Hank 3: Well, alright!