Devil Weed Meets Devil Music: Hank Williams III
"Maybe one day the old guys will die off and things will change, 'cuz it's officially getting scary over here in America."-Hank Williams III
?Each generation must go further than the last or what?s the use in it??
?Meridel Le Sueur
(American Writer, 1900-1996)
Hank Williams is a name that has been passed down through three generations of American country music and conjures delight or disgust, depending on whom you ask. What cannot be denied, however, is that the music continues to push conventional boundaries and stir the proverbial storm. Whether being banned from the Grand Ole Opry, barred from mainstream country radio, or prohibited from selling CDs at Wal-Mart, the uncommon family thread runs deep.
Hank Williams Senior (born Hiram Hank Williams) is known by critics as one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century. Few names in America hold such triumph and tragedy as the country music icon from Alabama who was not only the sole performer to receive six encores at the Grand Ole Opry, but also banned from it. He died tragically at the age of 29 from a drug and alcohol overdose in the back seat of his car on New Years Day, 1953. The heart of honky-tonk America mourned their loss by holding the biggest funeral in Alabama to date.
When the heir to his musical throne entered the scene, most anticipated a reminder of the good old days. However, Hank Williams Jr. (born Randall Hank Williams) did not please his father?s audience. Although groomed at an early age to sing in his father?s likeness, Bocephus (an inherited nickname from Hank Sr.) departed from expectations by embracing America?s 1960?s counter-culture and blending country music with rock n? roll. He was subsequently barred from mainstream country radio and considered sacrilegious to purist country fans. His radical style of living included blatant use of drugs and alcohol, and his cuttingedge songs earned him a loyal following, eventually leading him to the unofficial title Superstar of Southern rock.
And then came ?Hellbilly? Hank Williams III. Born as Shelton Hank Williams in 1972 in Nashville Tennessee, this hardcore 33-year old country punk metal musician bears an eerie resemblance to his grandfather. If you show up at one of his performances assuming anything, you will also be either disgusted or delighted, depending on where you stand. A true rebel to the core and backed by The Damn Band (Joe Buck, Andy Gibson, Donnie Herron, Johnny Hiland and Shawn McWilliams), Hank III delivers hard n? heavy. A nuisance to his label, and ammunition for negative media, Hank III is the blackest sheep in a family of outcasts.
Cannabis Culture: What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about you?
Hank Williams III: That I?m a dick. I guess I?m a nice guy, but I?ve got a pretty bad reputation.
CC: Where do you think that reputation comes from?
HWIII: People I hang out with, things I say, things I do, speaking my mind ? or media speaking their mind. I definitely shoot off.
CC: I told people I?m writing a story about Hank Williams III, and they have some belief that you grew up a rich, privileged life.
HWIII: Well, that?s what they think. Anyone would naturally think that unless they know the real picture.
CC: What is the real picture?
HWIII: Dad took off when I was two. I was raised by my mom. Dad paid the child support, $650 a month ?till I was eighteen, and that was about it. I only saw him maybe once or twice a year, either killing something or watching him do a show. I was fuckin? molested at eight by my own family member, and that definitely made me lose trust in people and pushed me into the darker side. No billionaire upbringing or nothing like that. First drum set at ten, rock albums at the same time, fell in love with the dark side and never fell out. Everything else has been self-made, besides being handed down the name.
CC: And your mom, is she supportive of your musical career?
HWIII: To a point. She ain?t proud, I?ll put it that way, and leave it at that. The pictures she has up of me in her house are from like ten years ago. She don?t understand, which is fine by me. That?s just what?s up.
CC: How would you describe your music to people who have never heard it before?
HWIII: Shoot. The country stuff, well, some of it?s fast, some slow, and it?s got a twang to it. I do that with the Damn Band. The Hellbilly stuff, it?s the middleground for me, like Reverend Horton Heat on steroids. Assjack is the harder part of the rock band. It?s the heavy metal, the louder, screaming, rock, rock, rock part or the show. We are Jekyll and Hyde out there. Three different styles: you?ve got to have an open mind going into it.
CC: When people come to see you perform, do they know what to expect?
HWIII: Nowadays most people know what to expect. About seven, eight years ago people would be surprised. But with all the heavy metal bands I?ve been in and all the things I?ve done with my time, most people know. That?s why I live for myself ? I don?t live for them. Hell, last night I probably had twenty beer cans thrown at me, and even more middle fingers in the air.
CC: What were you doing before you started playing country music?
HWIII: Playin? drums in a hardcore punk rock band, Buzzkill, and touring. I [also] played bass in a band called Whipping Post, and guitar in a band called Salada, which means ?exit? in Spanish. Shroud was my death metal band. Last but not least was a local band called Rift.
CC: I understand you went by your first name, Shelton, until you signed with Curb Records and started playing country music.
(Editor?s note: Curb Records, in the early 70?s, had a reactionary Christian sound ? the Osmonds were their #1 artist ? amidst all the rock music of the era. Owner Mike Curb was co-chair of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford?s election campaigns and served as Republican National Committee chairman in the 1980?s. Curb has released hit songs since 1966 by many pop and country artists including Hank Williams, Jr. and continues successfully to this day.)
HWIII: I got into the [music] business for financial reasons. My name on my birth certificate is Shelton Hank Williams III.
CC: Is it true that the ?financial reasons? were a child-support order?
HWIII: Yah, the courts waited three years to tell me anything [about owed payments]. I was making $100 a month at the time, and the judge said, ?you owe forty-nine thousand bucks [to the mother of your children], and need to pay [child support] each month.? So I had to get out there and do my thing and keep the shit rollin?. But I fuckin? love country music. It sooths ya in the hard times, it gets ya working, gets ya feelin? good.
CC: What has it been like working with Curb records? I understand that you were selling t-shirts that read ?Fuck Curb? and got into some trouble for that.
HWIII: It?s had ups and downs. Dealing with the devil. I got two more years to go, and I?m doin? my time. If you look at the kind of bands they are dealing with, they have no idea who they are working with here. I?ve had to show them that I?m totally different. [I?ve had to] scream, for one. Get a rock band, talk shit about the establishment, speak my mind, be myself, march to my own drum, do my own thing. Write songs for me, not for them.
CC: What happened with Wal-Mart?
HWIII: It?s an old censorship bullshit thing. Basically like Klan leaders running Wal- Mart, making decisions for people ? you know they?ll sell South Park, which fucks with homosexuality, racism, religion, politics, and you can hear the ?F? and the ?K? instead of ?Fuck?... and they?re not gonna carry my little hillbilly record ?cuz I?m talking about smoking pot and taking acid, and I?m here to put the ?dick? in Dixie and the ?cunt? in country. Complete bullshit. I don?t make records to sell at Wal-Mart and feel even worse for the people who have to buy ?em there. If it?s such an American store, then why are they so hung up on making people?s fuckin? decisions for them, and being so ?white is right?? I mean, look at the products they carry and the decisions they make. It?s old fucks running it.
CC: What inspired you to take such a strong public stand for your right to smoke pot?
HWIII: Smoking pot ain?t no big deal. It?s all over the place naturally, and farmers could be making money to keep their farms alive and keep green things on this planet. It?s an awful shame that people are unable to think for themselves and make their own decisions. It is a battle that [the government] will never win.
I know a family that has ten kids, a thousand acres and five hundred head of cows. To keep the bills going and everything rollin? ? being a farmer, it?s hard enough to get by with the price of fuel and stuff ? to get a little money they grow a little pot. It?s natural, and it keeps the family fed. Thank god I?ve seen some officers that are cool enough to understand how it works, and they let the family do their thing. There are some decent cops out there. Go out into the streets and look at what?s going on, especially in a town like New York or Los Angeles. The law, they know how many people get killed in a day and all this crazy, crazy, crazy shit. Who?s going to worry about smoking pot? If you?re going to be so uptight about pot, I feel sorry for ya.
I look at these drugs that are harmful ? people strung out on meth and killing people, being awake for days. Nobody?s tryin? to stick someone up to get money for another fix [of weed]. Pot doesn?t hurt people. The most legal drug out there, alcohol... put thirty drunks in a room, thirty pot smokers in a room. Tell me which bunch is going to come out conscious and unharmed in six hours? We all know that answer. But maybe one day the old guys will die off and things will change, ?cuz it?s officially getting scary over here in America.
CC: How old were you when you started smoking pot?
HWIII: It was always around. I smoked from high school on, except when I was on federal probation, pissing in a cup every month and all that stuff. So I had to respect my usage.
CC: What?s your favorite way to smoke?
HWIII: A vaporizer is the healthiest way to do it. If I had the time I would use it more often. The Vapor Brothers have always been good to us; I should definitely be vaporizing more that way instead of smoking through joints and pipes, which is what I usually do.
CC: Do you have a favorite kind of weed?
HWIII: Nah. Not really.
CC: Favorite places to score?
HWIII: Kentucky, California, and Canada.
CC: What do you think about the current US administration?
HWIII: I?ve never been very political, ?cuz they don?t want your vote if you?re on probation. And it doesn?t matter anyway ? if it did, things would be a lot different. All I can say is that the rules, and the way things are getting approached right now on all sides, makes it look pretty grim for us. They aren?t allowing people to think for themselves and that?s sad for America. We?re at war, having our kids die, and killing other people while [our government] over here is taking away more and more rights from US citizens. That just doesn?t add up. It makes me almost sick. Everybody has to loosen up and quit being so fuckin? uptight. And this idea of building a wall [across the Mexican border] is a crock of shit. Fucking wake up, get real and deal with what?s at hand, and that means changing the way America?s been going.
CC: Can you tell me about the band Superjoint Ritual?
HWIII: Phil Anselmo of Pantera was the singer, I was the bass player, we were around for a while ? plus two years of touring ? but it?s been laid to rest. It was awesome, an honor to be part of, and Mr. Anselmo always brings out the crazy, crazy fans. It was a lot of good times, is all I can say, really. The new group is called Arson Anthem. Philip?s playing guitar, I?m playing drums, Mike Williams (Eyehategod) is screaming, and a kid named Colin is playin? bass. It?s cool, like old hard-core Poison Ivy and D.R.I (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles).
CC: Where were you when Dime was shot on stage?
(Editor?s note: Dime refers to Dimebag Darrell, virtuoso guitarist of heavy metal pot-positive band Pantera (1981?2003) and Damageplan (2004). Dime was murdered performing with Damageplan at Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio on December 8th, 2004. The killer, Nathan Gale, shot 15 bullets, killing four and wounding two others. A policeman took him down with a direct shotgun blast to the head.)
HWIII: I was at home when Dime got killed. It was very shocking to all of us. It was a shame, the biggest tragedy in music history, going down on stage like that. It was fucked up. [The killer] was crazy ? he was showing up at practice and acting like his lyrics were Philip?s lyrics, and he was just out of fuckin? control. He had no ticket [that night], he hopped the fence, ran straight to the stage and started shootin? people. That?s what happened. It?s just fucked up.
CC: What does the Confederate flag symbolize to you?
HWIII: To me, it?s where I?m from. I went to Franklin Rebel High School in Nashville. Our mascot was the rebel flag, and I stood in the parking lot when it got changed. You know: the rap artists sing about being proud of Compton. Everyone?s talking about being proud of where they?re from. I?m definitely proud of being from the South, and I would never trade it to live in LA or New York. Shit ? I?d much rather live in the jungle than the jungle of the city. That?s what [the flag] represents to me.
CC: Do you feel that you have to go through personal tragedy to sing good country music?
HWIII: Definitely, you?ve got to back up what you?re talking about no matter what you?re doin?. That?s why I can?t take the country-singing 8-year-olds in downtown Nashville seriously.
CC: What inspires you?
HWIII: All kinds of music, from guys like Buzz Ozborne (The Melvins) to Mat Pike (High On Fire), to Jimmy Martin (AKA King of Bluegrass), Kirk Weinstein (Crowbar & Down), Mike Patton (Faith No More), Grief... and some of my family, of course. I do so many different things it?s hard to narrow where all the inspiration comes from.
CC: What do you have in your CD player right now?
HWIII: A band called Karp, out of Olympia, Washington.
CC: What do you love about Heavy Metal?
HWIII: The way it wakes you up. It makes me feel young, I guess. Makes me feel like an outcast.
CC: A lot of your music is about drugs and alcohol. Your grandfather left behind this legacy, dying young from alcohol and drugs, his personal torments. Do you see that as a foreshadowing?
HWIII: I don?t know. Looking too far into it is something I never do. I?m enjoying [life] while I?ve got it, and using it while I?ve got it. I live for today, not for tomorrow.
? Jeniffer Zimmerman
A few more Hank Three notes from Wikipedia:
Live shows follow a format of a country set with his ?Damn Band? followed by a hellbilly set with Assjack, which is a punk metal band. The lineup for his ?Damn Band? and ?Assjack? are the same, the latter adding vocalist Gary Lindsey.The Damn Band/Assjack also feature virtuoso fiddle-player Michael ?Fiddleboy? McCanless, who would play both sets, the traditional Country set of the concert and then come back and plug his fiddle into a distortion box and saw away during the metal set.
Hank III was the Bass guitarist in the now-defunct Superjoint Ritual, with former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo.
Hank III is playing drums for Arson Anthem, formed with Phil Anselmo and Mike Williams (singer) from EYEHATEGOD.
Hank III?s sound is difficult to classify, and has been described as hard-twang, punkabilly, cowpunk, alternacountry, slacker swing, hellbilly, and honky punk. Hank III enjoys an extremely loyal grassroots fan base and much of his success can be attributed to his taper-friendly stance regarding the audio/videotaping of his frenetic live shows, which have been his main promotional vehicle with the lack of attention paid to his promotion by the Curb label. He tours extensively across the USA (see schedule for Sept-Oct. 2006 dates).
You can listen to music or view video of Hank III in performance at www.myspace.com/hankthree.
On the self-titled release of Rebel Meets Rebel, a side project by David Allen Coe and Pantera?s Dimebag Darrell, Vinnie Paul, and Rex Brown, Hank III is featured on track #8, Get Outta My Life.
Hank Williams III
September/October 06? Tours
Sept. 1: Senator Theater, Chico, CA
Sept. 2: Wow Hall, Eugene, OR
Sept. 3: Richard?s on Richards, Vancouver, BC
Sept. 4: Big Easy, Boise, ID
Sept. 6: The Dome, Bakersfield, CA
Sept. 8: House of Blues, San Diego, CA
Sept. 12: Meridian, Houston, TX
Sept. 13: Howlin? Wolf, New Orleans, LA
Sept. 14: The Beta Bar, Tallahassee, FL
Sept. 15: Abbey Road, Gainesville, FL
Sept. 16: House of Blues, Orlando, FL
Sept. 29: Little Brother?s, Columbus, OH
Sept. 30: The Machine Shop, Flint, MI
Oct. 2: Rex Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA
Oct. 4: Northsix, Brooklyn, NY
Oct. 5: Theatre of Living Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Oct. 6: Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA
Oct. 7: Black Cat, Washington, DC
Oct. 9: Monkey Bar, Huntington, WV
Oct. 10: Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD
Oct. 11: Chameleon, Lancaster, PA
Oct. 13: Jesters, Fayetteville, NC
Oct. 14: Amos? Southland, Charlotte, NC
Oct. 15: Ziggy?s, Winston-Salem, NC
Oct. 17: Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh, NC
Oct. 18: Ground Zero, Spartanburg, SC
Oct. 20: 40 Watt Club, Athens, GA
Oct. 21: Jack Rabbits, Jacksonville, FL
Oct. 22: State Theatre, St. Petersburg, FL
Oct. 23: Culture Room, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Oct. 25: The Loft, Atlanta, GA
Oct. 26: Capitol Theatre, Macon, GA
Oct. 27: Blue Cat?s, Knoxville, TN