[Interview] Hank Williams III “Create and Destroy”
“Create and Destroy”
By Christian Cipollini
Hank 3 is not his dad. He is not his granddad. He is his own man and musician. Of course having the blood of music’s finest running through his veins is a trait worth more than gold, hell… it’s the most enviable lineage in music today. Maybe, just maybe though, if we all simply opened our ears and minds to the eclectic, diverse and often uncatagorizable music of Hank Williams III – we could appreciate the brilliance instead of pigeonholing or referring back to his amazing lineage for comparison. Hank Williams III is, according to his very humble own characterization, essentially just a guy who likes to create music. He does not consider himself any sort of mega star, doesn’t claim to have all the answers, has good days and bad days, and really enjoys playing the drums!
Hot off his latest album release – 4 X 4 – Williams’ rarely has much in the way of down time. There are treats hiding up Hank’s sleeves right now, plans for some very intriguing projects and collaborations. The guy enjoys what he does, and it’s very easy to see… he’s a DIY type.
-Summer touring season is upon us, so what is the plan for Hank this year?
I’m gearing up to break even on the two records I put out at the end of 2013. And just trying to keep the marathon four hour shows going. Trying to get my brain and body and crew back to together to do it all over again. It’s a challenge every time you take the stage. I’m trying to shed the winter skin and get ready for summer.
-How smoothly does the adjustment period unfold when a new tour starts?
I’ve had guys come out on road, and let them go a week later while on the road. But the show must go on! Usually I have a pretty good feel for the guys. If he’s going to be a team player with crew, I can usually tell. My motto is – If you’re having fun with the band that’s great but the day you’re feeling negative about it – just tell me. Unless they are a massive egomaniac, well, that’s just not how I run my crew. If one of the band players is sick, or really dialed in, most of the guys are always on deck when it’s show time. The drama never gets to that level on stage. I’ve been lucky enough to never have that happen. Usually everybody is just thankful for opportunity to be on stage.
-Do you have a seasonal preference when it comes to recording albums versus touring?
It all goes back to health man. I was a sickly kid, getting strep throat. When I was ten to fourteen I was the kind of kid to get strep a few times each winter. With all the hand shaking and being on the road during flu season is one of the reasons I try to just make records during winter and allergy season. It might not always be like that. Body is always changing, health is always changing, but I’ve only ever had to cancel one tour in my whole career. That’s pretty good. Each tour will get longer and longer, building the body up.
-You’re always up to something creative it seems. What’s brewing behind the scenes?
I’ve been working on a side-project since November. It’s basically done. A couple songs need mixed a little better, but that’s basically what I’ve done all winter. I wasn’t planning on making a record this winter, but it just happened. It was a musical winter. A couple changes in crew, and new guys on stage with me, so it will take some adjustment, but it’s always an honor to have them out there with me.
-What truly lights your inner fire? Makes Hank III get up and go every morning?
It’s a Jekyll and Hyde life I live. When I’m at home, if all the music has stopped and I’m getting ready to go on tour – it takes me some time to get ready for that. It sucks getting older! But when I’m on the road, I’m up pushing gear, ignoring the fatigue because I have a job to do. You go out there, destroy it, and come back home and try to put it all back together. It’s always ‘create and destroy’ when you’re an artist.
-As a multi-instrumentalist, what is your personal favorite or most intimidating?
Well, no matter what, say there’s a bunch pickers having a cookout, a picking party. It doesn’t matter what style or genre – I always feel uncomfortable around picking parties because I never understood music theory. The one instrument I feel comfortable with in any genre of music is the drums. If all the sudden I have a guitar in my hand at a picking party around ten or twelve other musicians – I would be kind of apprehensive because I’m really more of a rhythm guitar player, and with the drums it’s always been a natural thing for me. I’ve always played guitar by ear, but all the theory doesn’t make sense to me. I enjoy going to those parties and listening to them, and I’ll sing.
-Would you change anything about your past, or your methods?
It’s marching to your own beat, a rebel. Everything happens for a reason, all the good and bad in my career, I wouldn’t change anything. If something happened to me tomorrow I’d be happy. Played small stages and big stages, played with my idols, I wouldn’t change anything.
-You are known for pursuing wildly different genres of music and equally fascinating collaborative efforts. Any plans for new collabs?
On my side project we reached out to David Gilmore of Pink Floyd, and I ran a song by Mike Patton but he was just so booked. I tried getting in touch with Gary Neumann, Joan Jett. I reached out to Blondie as well. A lot of folks, but some are gun-shy to work with me because the way I do records and because I’m independent.
-On the subject of working with high profile artists, you are a very down to Earth type of guy, but do you ever encounter the crazy side of celebrity status and behavior?
I’m kind of oblivious to that world. We’ll use Prince for example. Had a long career, still out there rocking, very creative. I think he does what he loves and he’s tasted a lot of fame. Sure, he can seem kind of weird, but he loves what he does. As far as on a mega scale, people with more clout than a President, it can get kind of freaky. There’s a beautiful thing about being not too big and not too small. The way my brain is wired, it’s a good balance. I’ve always kept my shows in the bars. Let’s say I had a one hit wonder with all kinds of success… I’d stay in the bar. Keep it natural. I know a lot of rockstars had that one hit and left the bars and went to amphitheaters. Then, when its back to the bar and that was a blow to them. If you never leave the bar – you’ll never let yourself down.
-You’ve branched out into television and documentary film in the past. Any future plans in that regard?
When people in film or tv approach me, I tell them the truth and don’t bullshit. I’m pretty introverted and quiet. I’m not the guy trying to be loud and get attention. So if it’s the right kind of role I’m interested. I’m not that much of a tv personality. I always tell everybody the worst stuff first, so no let downs or wasting someone’s money.
-You keep going though, always with something on the creative hot plate. What else inspires you?
When I’m watching Henry Rollins or Danzig, I always wish I could do more to break down more walls and take on more things. I’m limited. Henry would take on anything! Right now I just struggle with the forties and feeling that change. Everyday is its own little battle. Danzig is one of those guys still taking that stage like it’s the 1980’s and that’s a lot to say. Those guys really take care of themselves to do that and to pull that off is no easy task. All the guys doing it over thirty years, I’m in awe.
-What can fans expect at a Hank III show this summer?
If I’m out on the road, there’s no opening band. An hour and a half of country, then the Hellbilly sound, and the lights go down and we do the doom, and end of night we try to squeeze in three bar ranch and some of the cattle calling stuff. We’ll be hitting the East Coast, Florida and then the Mid-West.
We’ll be out there touring and then make another country or rock album. That’s the goal. Taking it to the next level. Check out www.hank3.com for everything. That’s the best place for it.