Hank Williams III could have taken the gold paved, easy road and made a comfortable living as a traditional country artist. With both his father and grandfather, highly regarded as country music legends, Hank III could have just played it safe, and Nashville would have opened their arms and wallets. However, Hank III wanted nothing to with playing it safe, he instead went off the beaten path and created his own unorthodox career path and “hellbilly” musical style. It was difficult at first and resulted in many disagreements with his record label Curb Records and with fans demanding that he sound more like his father and grandfather. But, Hank III is a true musical outlaw and he was never going to conform to anyone’s demands, but his own.
Over his decade long career, Williiams III has developed a unique style of music, mixing in elements of country, metal, rock and punk. As a result, he has developed a very loyal, diverse fan base that consist of music fans ranging between the age of 18-80. Last year his contact with Curb records ended, and Williams III was finally free to do whatever he wanted. And on September 6, 2011 he did what no other artist has ever done before, he released three different CDs, all with different styles of music.
What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with Hank Williams III. During this interview, we discussed his upcoming tour, his new releases and much more.
RockMusicStar: Today is the eve of Johnny Cash’s 80th birthday. Do you have any plans to celebrate this occasion?
Hank Williams III: What I do for any musician, that I admire, is I light a candle, light some sage and listen to their music. And appreciate what they left behind. I do that for every one from my grand dad, to Johnny Cash, to any of my rock heroes. That is just the way I do it, man. It’s always been like that.
RockMusicStar: You are gearing for a major tour next week, is this a stressful time for you, getting everything together for a tour?
HW3: It’s always stressful. If I just had to grab an acoustic guitar and just get on the bus, then yeah it wouldn’t be stressful at all. But, it ain’t like that at all. It’s getting all of the gear, getting all of the merch, getting the crew of twelve people together. Figuring out who is going and who is not. Trying to keep the band rehearsed. There are all kind of aspects to it. I don’t have a secretary or management or any of that stuff. But it is also exciting and stressful and all sorts of different emotions wrapped up in one thing.
RMS: Have you ever thought about getting a manager?
HW3: I had four of them. My take is that manager’s kind of,…. not all of them, but most of them, try to sell you out. They try to get the biggest and best business deal for themselves. I’ve always been stubborn and independent, fighting for the working man, keeping my ticket prices low. Every manager that I’ve had, has cost me more money that anything else. I had to file bankruptcy because of managers.
RMS: No shit.
HW3: Yeah, as Henry Rollins told me, he said, “All you need is a distribution company. You have a good work ethic. You tour, so all you need is a booking agent.” So, he right, that really all I need.
RMS: Well, you are notorious for doing things on your own. Now, is it true that you also have your own recording studio?
HW3: Well, it’s a little portable machine. Yeah, I have a pro-tools set up. I have a Korg d-1600; it’s a small portable machine. You can take it on the road. Or you can set it up in the green room or where ever you are jamming on that day. I love it because, you can take it places. A lot of recording studios are not mobile, and you have to be there in order to record. And I like it, because it sounds different. Almost, 80% of all people record on pro-tools these days.
RMS: Where all three of you new releases recorded with the Korg d-1600?
HW3: Yes. And “Straight to Hell” was also recorded on it. Yeah, I just like the sound of it. And when I engineer and record other people that’s what I’m using, man.
RMS: What other artists have you recorded?
HW3: Well, I’ve done a few. I just recorded an artist named Alamo Jones. He worked with Johnny Cash for about 25 years. And he has his own show on Sirius/XM. So, he liked the sounds that I was able to get. It just depends on what you are going after. I tell everybody. I don’t know sound, I never went to school for it and all of that. I just know how to capture some good sounds. I use the mics that we use on the road. I don’t use no $500,000 microphone or anything like that. I use a basic Shure 58 and a Shure 57. Just hard working stuff, I just capture the moment and have some fun with it.
RMS: Hard working seems to be a theme here. I think you are the first artist to release three different CDs,(“Ghost to a Ghost”/”Guttertown,” “Attention Deficit Domination,” and “Cattle Callin”) on the same day, Sept 6, 2011. In addition, they are all drastically different. How were you able to pull this off?
HW3: Well, I got off of my old record label, Curb Records, on Jan 1, 2011, and I started writing music on Jan 2, 2011. But, it was January to June that I had everything written, recorded and mixed and mastered and have the art work done. I worked every day, with no breaks. I would wake up and get to work, it was a constant thing.
RMS: Why did you decide to package ”Ghost to a Ghost” and “Guttertown” together, and not just release them individually?
HW3: Mainly, because they are different and just overloading. “Ghost to a Ghost” was done a little more uptight and “Guttertown,” was Cajun influenced and done a little more free. I wasn’t worried about pitch or time, it was more about energy.
RMS: “Attention Deficit Domination” is a little out there, more of a stoner rock release.
HW3: Yeah, that one has influences from Black Sabbath, to Alice In Chains, to Sleep, to the Melvins. I’ve always been a fan of all those bands. It was time to slow things down and use some of my old gear. All the gear that I’m using on the road, is the equipment used by Sleep on the “Jerusalem” album. I take that stuff very seriously and I have a lot of fun with it. But the CD is different and has some good serious riffs. And yes, it’s a little strange, but it was a lot of fun making that record.
RMS: And the third release was, “Cattle Callin,” by your 3 Bar Ranch project. Again, another very unique release, how did you come up with that unique style of combining metal music with auctioneers?
HW3: I was raised around cattle farms, and I was always very fascinated with the speed of auctioneers. I always thought that the speed of heavy metal and chants of an auctioneer go hand in hand. It’s a little more lighthearted than actual heavy metal, and it’s fun. Usually, heavy metal is some very serious stuff. But the most frustrating aspect of this release was that some of the fastest auctioneers that I wanted to use, pulled out of the project because they didn’t feel comfortable in what I was doing. They may of pulled up my name and saw some things that they didn’t agree with, as far as things as simple as using the word, “fuck.” But, in time, I’m hoping that I can use some of those guys that didn’t want to work with me this time. But, my hat goes off for the auctioneers that did help out.
RMS: On your upcoming tour, do you plan on performing songs from all three of your new releases?
HW3: Yeah, the country set is first, then I do the Hellbilly. I do a full “Attention Deficit Domination” set. And basically a 3 Bar Ranch set. So, it’s a lot of different styles and music throughout the evening. I always tell people to be on time, because we don’t have an opening band, we open for ourselves and we like being on time and getting the show on the road. Everybody will see a little bit of everything. We always pay our respect to the country music first.
RMS: You have a very diverse audience, since you play both country music and heavy metal.
HW3: Yeah man, I have a fan base that’s goes from 18 to 80. I’ve had people come to me and say that they never liked country music until they heard me. I’ve also had turned some country fans into metal fans as well. But, my shows do bring in some different folks together. It’s a very unique and open minded crowd, from metalheads to grandmas, to cowboys to average day working men and women. A lot of different folks come out to see us. When we play in San Diego, you can really see how wide the spectrum of our fan base is.
RMS: It must be very gratifying to you that you are reaching so many different types of people. You could have easily had a career where you just played straight forward, traditional country music. But you took a risk and did what you really wanted to do.
HW3: Yes, that’s right. I also had to pay my dues in a lot of boot-scooting bars, and seeing how violent people can get because of what I’m doing, just because they don’t agree with it. I’ve been in some really interesting situations and had to stand my ground, and just do what I do. And that’s just part of life, even my son said, “It’s really funny how pissed off people can get over something like hair.” I’m like, “I hear you man.” He’s a dreadhead and people judge a book by its cover. But, people like Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Buzz from the Melvins, they all give my great work ethics to go by and get stuff done. You just have to believe in what you do and keep trucking. That’s my motto.
RMS: You did a couple projects with Phil Anselmo, do have any plans to do anything else with him in the near future?
HW3: We have a show coming up in June. Arson Anthem is going to be playing at the Hellfest festival. Every now and then we get together and have some fun. We had a lot of great times in Superjoint Ritual. Phil is another guy that was a hero of mine that I just got a chance to work with, and become friends with. I always got to see Pantera back in the day, and I got to work with Phil and Dimebag. But we have a show coming up and Phil is pretty busy doing other stuff, he touring with Down and he’s keeping it rolling.
RMS: Megaforce is now your new distributor for your label. Do they have any say in the creative process of what you are doing?
HW3: Well, there is a little bit of business involved. At first they were a little hesitant on me putting out three releases on the same day. But they know that I have a good drive and energy, and that I’m not going to just take their money and shut down. They know that I’m going to tour to tour and that I play music because that is what I do. And I’m going to work until everything is broken even. But time will tell, in a couple of years, if they are still happy with working with me, we’ll just have to see. But so far, so good. They are kind of grassroots, and not too big, but not too small. I was very honest with them about what I do, and how I approach music. I think that they understood all of that.
RMS: You feud between your last label Curb records is well documented. But did any good come out of being on that label?
HW3: One of the good things about Curb, was they gave me a chance not to be a deadbeat dad to my son. And that’s one of the main reasons that I went down to music row and signed a deal. What happened was that I had a one night stand and then wasn’t told until three years later that I had a kid. At the time, I was opening up for a punk band called Buzz Oven, and the police served me papers on stage. I had a judge telling me that playing music was no real job, and you better go out there and get a real job. So Curb helped me get that debt taken care of. And then I worked all those years to break even. And that’s the one good thing that came from being on that label. But there were a lot of things that they held me back on like a lot of soundtracks and just little things and just things that they wouldn’t follow up on. But there are other artists going through the same thing, artists that make them a lot more money than I did.
RMS: One of the things that I found rather interesting is that they are still releasing new CDs from you.
HW3: That’s their way of trying to get back at me. They are going to be releasing another record as well. They are trying to take away from what I do and sales of my new records. So, that’s just an example of how they’re not in it to help other musicians. They are more politicians than musicians. But I’m not the only one that had a problem with that label.
RMS: Last question, would you ever consider going out on a metal tour such as RockStar Mayhem or are you pretty happy playing clubs?
HW3: I like the bars. Here and there, we did certain festivals. But, I feel more natural in a bar. But if it’s the right type of festival, we would try to make it happen. But also trying to shove everything we do into an hour is difficult to do. But I did do the Van’s Warp tour and tour like that in Europe.