Shelton Hank Williams, better known as Hank 3, is celebrating a new chapter in his unyielding career. After severing ties with Curb Records, which has held him back creatively for more than a decade, the self-professed “son of a son” is back on top with a handful of new music, all on his own terms.
Prior to the first stop of his North American run, I had the chance to speak with Williams on his newfound musical freedom, life with “The Dancing Outlaw,” and what the future has in store for Hank 3.
Tomorrow’s the official release of four new Hank 3 albums. What was the reasoning behind putting them all out together as opposed to staggering the releases?
Just being different. I’ve been held back for so long, and I wanted to do something different that I thought has never really been done in the music world. I am multi-genre-oriented, so I wanted people to see how different of a musician I can be. A lot of people have written about it, but it hasn’t been shown that much.
Another reason is I’ve been held back for 14, 15 years. In 14 years, I only have 4 or 5 records to show. Another reason, I just started my own record label. And another reason, I’ve never been able to sell a CD at my own live show, so this is the first time in 14 years that I actually get to sell my own music at my own performance.
So there’s a lot of reasons, but mainly, I’m just trying to be different.
I read that you mixed and mastered all four albums on your own in a very short period of time…
Recorded, mixed, and mastered. And played a lot of it, but not all of it.
Well, what was that experience like? Overwhelming, I’m sure…
Very overwhelming. (LAUGHS) But it’s what I love. It’s very intense.
The hardest part about it was the mixing process. My ears have never had any ear protection, so it’s just about what sounds good. That was the hardest part. That was the first time I really separated everything.
In the daytime, I would be more serious and do it the right way. Then at night, I would break the rules a little more and play rock guitar and play rock drums and stuff like that. I was trying more experimental stuff on Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown, just really opening up some different avenues for me.
Had you been sitting on any of the new music for awhile?
It’s all new. It’s a brand-new beginning. My creativity has been held back and killed for so long, I had to go to the next level. I think that this is the first time in forever that I’ve ever toured around a record release, ’cause I’ve always toured just to tour. I don’t really tour around records. I still will tour to tour, but I have to take a little break to focus on the process of recording it, mixing it, and all that. I have to get into a different mindset to make that happen. From January all the way to June, from the time I woke up ’til the time I went to sleep, it was full on.
And didn’t you do Arson Anthem during that time too?
Yes, in January. That helped me get my drums back together for the 3 Bar Ranch. Working with Philip [Anselmo]…we played downstairs when we came through, and we were just having some fun with that. It’s always good getting into the jam room and doing what we do.
I know you kind of brushed on this, but these are your first albums through your own label, Hank 3 Records. I know it’s been official for awhile, but how’s it feel to be completely finished with Curb?
It’s interesting. It’s got a bunch of joys and a bunch of craziness all in one. You know, the hardest part about it is running the show all by yourself. I don’t have management, I don’t have a secretary, or any of that. It’s just me and my crew. I’m not trying to toot my own horn…
At the end of the day, my mind is all over the place. It’s a lot to keep up with, more so when you’ve got to involve the road. If it was just recording a record and putting it out, it’s not as bad. But this is the most gear I’ve ever hauled, ever, in my whole life. A few days ago I had to let go a drummer I worked with for a whole month, so I’m starting all over with a kid right now.
It’s a lot of “get ahead, and start back at zero,” but it’s interesting! It keeps me on my feet for sure!
What was the deal with Hillbilly Joker that was released a few months back?
That was spite. They [Curb Records] didn’t like me or respect me for what I do, and because of things I’ve said about them, I guess, in the past, that was their way of getting back at me.
Legally, are they able to release anything else?
The Hank Williams III Greatest Hits Record, even though I’ve never had a hit. (LAUGHS) So that’s what they’ll do, and that will be that. I think that’s the only thing else that people might see out there.
Do you actually get any compensation from records released without your consent?
I’m sure I do, but I still tell people not to support it. But you know, if it helps ’em, if those songs help people through a hard time in their life, then I’m glad it did. I’ve gotten to touch a lot of people through my music out there, but you’ve gotta respect who you work with. That was important to me and really not to them.
But it doesn’t matter if it’s me or someone like Tim McGraw. Look how many millions he’s sold, and he’s in the same situation I was in. Or LeAnn Rimes. It’s just one of those things.
All of the new albums sound completely different, most specifically, Guttertown. Where’d the inspiration to do an album of that sorts come from?
I like ambient, spacey, weird stuff. When I get so amped up, or pulled a million different ways, I have to hit some weird sounds sometimes just to calm me down or soothe me a little bit. That’s part of where some of that came from.
I wanted to do some different voicing. The Cajun style has been deep in the bloodline—my granddad was close to Louisiana, my dad was born there, I’ve worked with a lot of Louisiana bands and stuff like that—so it felt very natural to me. I just did the best I could to portray that and come up with some fun sounds. I think it’s happy, sad, and a little weird, with some textures to it.
And ADD is totally different…
Stoner rock, doom metal.
Personally, I feel that the album has a lot of similarities to Assjack. Was that intentional?
I’ve heard that, but I don’t think it does. Assjack to me is more (plays a fast, thrashy drum beat on his knees) and ADD is (plays a slow, doomy drum beat on his knees) a lot slower. It’s stoner rock. But I can see 3 Bar Ranch having a lot of similarities to Assjack because it’s more high energy.
Attention Deficit Domination is pulled from doom. Sleep, Melvins, all these bands that offered such inspiration. The gear I’m playing through is all of Matt Pike’s old gear and Al’s old gear from Sleep. I have it on stage again, and that was also a big inspiration on doing this sound.
Did you have a chance to catch Sleep on that last run they just did?
I booked my whole tour to go see ’em, yes I did! (LAUGHS) I took us all the way to Brooklyn, New York to see that show.
We start our set off, the ADD set, with a Sleep song. I told Matt the other day that we do it out of respect, ’cause I love y’all. Don’t take it the wrong way if you ever hear me doing that, you know why! (LAUGHS) So I at least got to see ’em, and it was an honor.
I’m a fan. I’m a fan of music. I’m a gear head, I love playing it, I love the old toaster-looking guitar heads that sound cool, and all kinds of stuff.
I was just introduced to “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia,” and I was curious as to how you became involved with the family?
Well, there was a documentary that Apple Shop put out on “The Dancing Outlaw” and Hasil Adkins. I got ’em both at the same time, and they really touched me. That story itself is really deep. It’s the same thing I just said actually. It’s happy, it’s sad, it’s depressing, but it’s real, and I understood that pain for some reason. I identified with it.
Over the years, I was talking to ’em, and got to know some of the family. Bertie Mae, the mom, and Mamie came out to a show, and I got an invite to go see Jesco. I packed up my dog and went there and stayed with Jesco and recorded him dancin’ on one of my records.
I got to talk to Hasil a lot, and he’s been on our stage. There was something really creative out of a lot of that destruction in that area. I know it’s tough to look at, but there’s some beautiful things about it. Plus the connection with Hank Williams being found dead in West Virginia kind of struck home for me.
They seem like a tough crowd to hang with…
For someone like me. I’m shy, I’m soft-spoken, I’m not a loud dude…most people might think I am, but I’m not.
They’re full of jokes, and they keep you smiling, but I’m sure there is some depression with all that. I’ve only gotten to see the good side of the family. They’re very respectful towards me, and they know I’m very respectful towards them.
I know you’ve been pretty outspoken over the years with your support of The West Memphis 3. What are your thoughts on their release last month?
The hope, the love, and everyone coming together and not giving up is the good thing. The bad thing is that it took that long to get ’em out, and the bad thing is that there’s still a killer out there and the family doesn’t have an answer. That’s tough to deal with. Usually it’s just one person ‘s life, not more than one.
It just goes to show that love can take things to a whole new level, and hope can always be around the corner, so just keep on fighting no matter what if it’s something you believe in. There’s a lot of inspiration to gather from that.
Today kicks off your North American tour. After this, what do you have in store?
It’ll be west coast–east coast–northwest. If I’m lucky enough to break even, then I’ll do the world.
Have you toured the rest of the world before?
Yes. Not that much, but a little bit. They always tried to book me as Hank Williams, not Hank 3, but nowadays it’s different. They know what they’re getting. Last time I was over there a couple of years ago, it all changed.
I want to get to Japan—Japan, Japan, Japan, Japan! I’ve said it before, I’ve been there before, but I want to get back there again. And then Australia. And then Europe. And then everywhere else that doesn’t know who the hell we are.
I’ve heard that since Japan’s economy has been doing so poorly, most promoters aren’t taking risks on bringing a lot of bands out there.
Well, that’s a good thing for someone like me. Besides all my van tours, I started with a bus and a crew in ’95 for 7 bucks. Nowadays, with a bus and a crew for $24-$28. We do the longest show for the cheapest ticket price. If I make it all the way over there, I’m not going to be demanding $100,000 a show. I’m going to be giving the working people a show that they can go to.
I know that there’s a bunch of kids that dress up with their pompadours and their Elvis look that would love seeing our stand-up bass and feeling our energy.
I’ve made it over there before, but I would like to do it again. I would be realistic for them, especially with what they’ve been through with Mother Nature’s dealings.
Williams will be performing at The Roxy on September 23rd. Enter here for your chance to win tickets to the sold-out show!
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