THE NEXT GENERATION OF A COUNTRY LEGACY
by Michael Buffalo Smith
Hank Williams the third, better known as "Hank III," embodies a lot of the same restless, wandering spirit, rebel rousing attitude his grandfather Hank Williams possessed, the same attitude that was passed down to Hank Williams, Jr. The apple really doesn't fall from the tree. Hank III is a real rebel. A rocking punker who just happens to have a gift for nailing a country ballad that'll put a tear in your beer. His shows are generally divided into a country set reminiscent of his grandfather, followed by a punk metal throw down that makes Metallica look like adult contemporary.
His new album, Straight to Hell, is his finest yet. We spoke with Hank about his music, the government, and one of his favorite pastimes, marijuana.
I just loved the new album. It is amazing.
Alright man, well we are glad to get one out there because it has been a while since we had a release. We are trying to get everyone on the same page and just get more of what we do out there.
Yeah, I am in Greenville, South Carolina and I saw you at the Handlebar a couple of months ago. It was a great show.
Well, thanks man. I will be beating the road down pretty much for the rest of the year.
Oh yeah. You do it well too. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Nashville, Tennessee. I was raised there and lived a little bit in Concord, North Carolina and a little bit in Atlanta, Georgia and then back to Nashville. Played in the tri-state area for a while being on the road, played guitar, as a drummer, doing whatever I could do when I was younger.
When did you first realize that your dad was a star?
I guess about the age of 10. I knew I had an interesting grandad and father.
When did you learn how important your grandad’s legacy was?
I always kind of knew, because I saw albums around and people impersonating him. I guess since a young kid I always kind of knew it. There were lots of records always laying around. It starts hitting in and you are tuning in.
I know early on you were playing a lot of punk rock. What made you head toward country?
A one night stand that waited three years to tell me I had a kid and a judge that told me playing music was not a real job.
Oh my God.
So that’s what got me into it. By the time you get to 25 you are an old man in punk or rock or hard core or whatever you want to call it. I was making $50.00 a week and then all of a sudden I had to come up with $42,000.00 and $500.00 per month, and I pay for the insurance. That is what pushed me into it at first. I started off a little green and then found the right people to hang out with and then fighting against the system ever since.
All right. Who were some of your first musical influences that you really enjoyed?
Anywhere from the first Corrosion of Conformity Record to The Melvins, Black Flag - and as far as the country side all the standards, Willie, Waylon, Johnny Paycheck, Cash, David Allan Coe, I was into everything really being a drummer. It definitely put me into some different modes out there.
There are a couple of people I wanted to ask you about specifically to get your thoughts, one would be your dad...Hank Williams Jr.
He is a great entertainer and he has been out there doing his thing ever since I can remember, since age of 8. Now as a father, he is working on it, he never had one to raise him so I can’t really blame him too much on that. He is doing what he does and I do what I do. He needs to start watching out about those double standards though, as far as these songs like "The F word doesn’t belong in country" and bullshit like that. He is an outlaw and he is going to have to deal with it. I am sorry his friends are dying and sorry he is getting scared and trying to pick up the Bible now, but it is a little late for that. You have to bite the bullet that you have created. He has done a lot more sinning than he has preaching. That’s the deal on that one.
One of my favorites, David Allan Coe, he speaks very highly of you. What can you say about him...
He is real. One of the purist, hardcore rebels out there. He understands us because he sees how we are not accepted and different and trying to find our own way and do what we do without changing. He has always been in our corner. I can remember back when I was a young kid and Hank Jr. was saying here comes that crazy David Allan Coe. He has been around since I was a young man and he is one of the most intense song writers of my generation as far as country music goes. He never got the respect that he deserved but that is what happens when you speak the truth sometimes.
Did you hear the stuff on the album that is coming out over the next month with Coe and Pantera?
Just the song that I did with them.
Oh, you are on that as well. Yeah, Steve Popovich, Jr in Nashville played 2 or 3 songs for me the other day and it sounds great. It blew me away. I love mixing those genres.
Oh, I hear ya. I got to have my rock and roll night with Dime and David. It is something I will never forget.
I read somewhere that you don't like Kid Rock, but your dad just loves him. Why is that?
Well he stuck his nose into family business and I told him to stay the fuck out of my life and that is about it.
How do you feel about the state of country music today?
I wouldn’t even know, because I do not listen to the radio and I don’t watch CMT. Hats off to the internet radio stations that play the old stuff and the new stuff but as far as pop country, the formats and all that I don’t keep up with it. It’s just too fake. There are some stations out there that at getting real and aren’t paid to play what you hear, and hats off to them too, but it’s a very few of them. I don’t keep up with them, man, it’s sickening and fake. There are probably a few good guys out there I might like but much of it is how good you look, dance, and how your video tells a story. That’s not the real deal.
Are you still playing with Superjoint Ritual?
That’s in the grave right now, it’s up to Philip. But I am still playing with Zelmo and I did a side project with them a couple weeks ago playing drums. We knocked out 8 songs in 5 days and then we will be releasing it soon.
I know you are an advocate for marijuana legalization... give me your straight up thoughts about the laws on this in the United States..?
I look at it from a farming aspect, I know lots of farmers have lost their farms because they were growing pot to save their crops or keep their farms going. A - it’s never going to go away, and B - the United States is never going to win the drug war. It you look at how many farms you can keep going in business by growing hemp, it would basically scare the shit out of the tobacco industry. I am sure that the tobacco industry is funding millions of dollars to the government to keep marijuana illegal also. So get real and wake the fuck up, what is killing America is not pot and one day we may have someone in there that is making the land of the free a little bit more realistic, instead of so fake. I keep going back to fake, but dammit it ain’t that big of a deal. So you are never going to make it go away. So you must learn how to get along with it and help people out with it. I am sure one day I will quit smoking pot, but it ain’t something I am going to preach against . If someone wants to do it, they will do it. Compared to crack, heroin and meth- that is the stuff that they need to be cracking down on as far as people dying and getting way too strung out. Put 30 pot smokers and 30 drunks in room together and see who comes out the soberest. It’s just that simple.
What are your thoughts on the state of the union and President George W. Bush?
I never voted, because they never wanted my vote because I was on federal probation for five years. If the people’s thoughts really mattered things would be different. They wouldn’t be the way they are. Some of us were having a huge debate the other night but our fucking opinion doesn’t matter, the guys on top have control. If they were listening to the people it would be different. I am not political and if you ask me I will talk some shit but I have never voted and don’t even keep up with it, unfortunately.
This new album seems to be a lot more "in your face" than the last album you did. Is there a reason for that, for this hard rockin’ attitude?
Well, I have been in the courtroom fighting them and getting 100% control of my art and my record and in the end it came out about 98% right and we're still working on a few things, but it’s getting pretty damn close. That’s it. There needs to be a few more rebels out there, after all these outlaws are gone and die, there ain’t much of a new breed.
A lot of people are talking about the second disc on the album, what inspired that montage of creativity?
I was having some fun, that’s all I was really doing. I stripped it down to some acoustic and guitar tracks. There is no big theme or nothing like that, just some ambient sounds.
What are your overall thoughts on the album?
It is a step in the right direction and it captures who we really are. We are headed in the right direction.
What is coming up for you?
Another rock record, a country record, and 25 more years of keeping on doing what we do and that’s about it.