Hank3 Talks New Albums, Fatherhood, Shooter, XXX

In about a week, Hank Williams III, or Hank3, will be releasing an unprecedented 4 albums via his own independent label, and then heading out on a West Coast tour. The albums can now be pre-ordered at hank3.com.

Ahead of the releases and tour, I talked with the head hellbilly himself about the new albums, the sordid legacy of fatherhood in the Hank Williams lineage, his role as one of the founding fathers of the country music underground, Shooter Jennings and his XXX movement, and how he feels about the unfinished songs of Hank Williams project. The full 30-minute interview can be listened to or downloaded below, and the major points are transcribed under that.

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Triggerman: There’s a lot of Cajun influences in this new music. I know you’re friends with Phil Anselmo of Pantera and Down, and Kyle Turley who played for the New Orleans Saints. Also when the Grand Ole Opry kicked Hank out, the Louisiana Hayride stuck with him. Did any of that have an influence on your Cajun approach, or was it simply a love of the music?

Hank3: Yes, Hank Williams had a deep connection to Louisiana, had a lot of friends from there that were really close to him. My dad was born in Baton Rouge. I used to go to Louisiana a lot as a kid, and get back in the swamps and some of the Cajun honky tonks. For me, that style of music, when I’m in a very unsettled place, the old Cajun music like Nathan Abshire and all these guys, the old recordings helped me out tremendously. There was something really magical about the way they recorded that stuff back in the day. It’s more friend and family oriented. A lot of raw emotion comes through some of those older recordings. And to me it was trying to do something that was just a little different.

Triggerman: Some of the songs you’re singing in French. Did you study Cajun music and French in preparation for this album, more than just listening to the stuff you’ve been hearing over the years?

Hank3: Just over the years I’ve got to meet a lot of people. There’s not just one style of it, there’s many, and it just kind of depends on what part you’re in. Yeah, there was a little bit of studying and a lot of my friends know how to go there. It’s more of a feeling than anything. It was a lot of fun. In the daytime I would be serious, from about 9 AM to 6 PM. Then from about 7 PM to midnight I’d be breaking the rules and letting things flow a lot more easily. My take on these new country records is there’s only five or six songs on there that I would consider country.

Triggerman: You’re saying a lot of this stuff isn’t country, and I would tend to disagree. It may not be country in a traditional sense, but I don’t know what else you would call it. Tom Waits appears on this album, and he’s kind of made a career of making music that is hard to define.

Hank3: I’m just saying that out of respects to my fans. Some of the Cajun stuff has a country feel. But I at least have to say that to my fans, because it’s a new line for a Hank3 country record.

Hank3 & Trooper

Triggerman: Your dog Trooper is also featured prominently on this album. As I’ve been following the career of Hank3, Trooper makes these occasional appearances. How’s Trooper doing these days, he must be getting old?

Hank3: He’s getting up there, he’s about 12. But he’s hanging in there for me. He’s one of my #1 dogs. This is the 3rd record he’s been on. He was on “H8 Line”. He was on “Karmageddon”. Now he’s on “Trooper’s Holler” which I think is a crossover song that I think a lot of kids are gonna identify with. Even when David Allan Coe heard it he said, “That’s a little different, huh?” Then you’ve got “Trooper’s Chaos”. He would sing to that song every time I’d be working on it, so I just put him on the recording. My dogs have been like family to me. My music and my dogs have always helped me through my darker hours.

Triggerman: There’s been a lot of made about you leaving Curb. That’s a 15 year relationship that has come to an end. But the whole reason you got involved with Curb is you had a lawsuit brought against you from a one night stand and you were forced to sign the Curb contract. But through that time you were unable to see your son, but you had to pay for him.

Hank3: They were very rude about it. They served me papers on stage. I was opening up a show for Buzzoven, 5 metro officers walked in to serve me papers. I held up my end of the deal and made sure I wasn’t a deadbeat dad. He never saw that money. Most of that money went to her. Nowadays I’m able to be there for him, talk to him on a good or bad day. I’m glad it finally made a full circle, and that we got connected.

Triggerman: On the song “Guttertown” there’s a line, “Had me a friend in Birmingham, got a 20 year sentence for a one night stand. At least he did the time for his son.” I surmise that is autobiographical, but when you think about it, Hank Sr. died when Hank Jr. was very young, you’ve been pretty open about how Hank Jr. hasn’t been very involved in your life. Was it a purpose of yours to at least attempt to break that fatherhood cycle that the Hank Williams lineage was in?

Hank3: Yeah, it’s very important. Most Hank Williams didn’t have a father around, even Hank Sr.’s father wasn’t around much. My main thing is (for him to know) that we can talk about anything. I’m just trying to be there for him as much as I can.

Triggerman: There were some others before you, but before you started doing things differently in country, there wasn’t really an “underground” in country music like there was in punk music. There was the mainstream, and sort of the honky tonk circuit. You helped create this underground, probably at the start of your career, but especially in earnest when you release your album Straight to Hell. Do you feel like you’re aware of that fact, and just how many bands you’ve inspired, and do you feel like you’re aware of what’s going on in this movement?

Hank3: The big thing to me is the work ethic. I could have took the easy way, I chose the hard way. I’m glad I’m offering inspiration to others, because that’s the biggest payoff music can give you.

Nowadays I can run a bus and a crew and keep ticket prices at $24 to $28 maximum. These people charging $250 a ticket is just ridiculous to see a live show. That’s not what country music is about. It’s about emotions, and being connected to your fans, and those working men and women out there. All in all I’m just out here, doing what I do, trying to inspire those bands out there to record themselves. Nowadays the independents have an opportunity they didn’t have 20 years ago. You don’t need a major label. All my new records are done on that same D1600 machine Straight to Hell was done on.

Triggerman: Are you aware of this movement Shooter Jennings started called XXX? And if you are, what are your opinions on it?

Hank3: No. I’m on the go so much, I haven’t listened to anything current. I’ve just been having to get everyone on my team on the same page. I don’t have no management, no secretaries, nothing man. It’s 24/7, full-on, doing it all myself. I haven’t been able to listen to a radio show in a long time. It’s just because I’m so busy right now. I might have heard of it, but I’ve not heard it. I don’t know what it involves or what it entails, or any of that stuff.

Triggerman: And you’ve had a feud over the years with Shooter. What are your feelings on Shooter right now, or are you aware enough of what he’s doing to have any feelings about him?

Hank3: Well back in the day I had to just call him out because he was clean shaven and wanted to be a rock band and all that. That was back in the past, now it’s the present. He knows I’ve had to say my peace. As Phil Anselmo would say, yesterday don’t mean shit. That’s just where it is right now.

Triggerman: You’re pretty famous for calling out pop country over the years, as well as fighting with Curb Records. Tim McGraw is going though a big battle with Curb Records right now. As ironic as it is, do you feel some sense of camaraderie with artists like Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes, and Clay Walker that are coming out against Curb, and do you feel some sense of relief, because I’m sure some would portray Hank3 as a troublemaker, and now the problems are across the board with Curb’s artists.

Hank3: I’ll say most people who thought I was riding coattails now know I’m a real musician, and I play music because that’s what I do and I love it. It goes back to greed. Look at how many millions of dollars Curb Records made off of Tim McGraw. I didn’t make them that much money. It just goes back to not good business. Curb is just a better politician than he is a musician. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the music business or the racing business, once people get involved with him, they usually don’t have anything good to say about him in the end. Look at the money some of those acts have made him, and it’s still not enough? Yeah, that’s some pretty serious greed. And that’s pretty non-Christian if you sit down and think about it. That’s a shame he’s not respecting the musician.

Triggerman: There’s an album coming out with Bob Dylan taking unfinished Hank Williams songs and handing them out to personalities to finish. You’ve said in other interviews you weren’t asked to finish any of these songs. If you had been asked to finish one of these songs, would you have done that?

Hank3: I don’t know, that’s a tough question. I’ve always just wanted to stand on my own two feet and be recognized as Hank3. What amazes me is how upset it’s making my fans. That’s what’s really impressive to me is how they feel so offended, and feel like it’s so wrong. I’ve got nothing against Bob Dylan. He’s been an amazing songwriter and done his thing for many many years. When you’re dealing with unfinished Hank Williams stuff, that’s a pretty heavy topic. To give someone that opportunity, I just don’t know man, that’s pretty tough. But I’ve never been asked (to appear) on much. The fans are very upset, and I guess I’ll just let them do my speaking for me. Because I can’t go and say something against Bob Dylan. That’s just not right man. I’d say maybe they need to scope out Hank Jr. a little more than me.