Hank 3, the grandson of country music legend Hank Williams and the son of country music artist Hank Williams, Jr., was destined to become a musician. He was raised by his mother and only saw his father a few times a year, but he discovered early on his innate ability to play music. Growing up in Nashville, Hank3 was raised on country music and has stayed loyal to the tradition but he was intrigued by punk, a dominant inspiration for the other side of Hank3. We had a chance to speak with Hank3 about what inspires him, his musical legacy and his struggle with Dyslexia and ADD.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Do you live in Nashville all the time?
HANK3: Yes, born and raised.
Q: What about the tour. You’re on break now.
HANK3: I wrapped up the tour probably about 3 1/2 weeks ago and so I’m in the process of putting myself back together to go do it all over again. The way that I tour I’m kind of limited. There’s only a certain amount of days I can play. With doing four hour shows, 15 shows to me is almost like 45 shows in reality.
Q: You have two completely different genres; country music and punk/metal. That’s unusual.
HANK3: Yes. In reality, at the show, we’re hitting on four genres. The first two acts is country for two hours and then I do the Hellbilly/punk rock set and then we do the doom metal or stoner rock or sludge, some people call it, the real slower stuff that’s Attention Deficit Domination. And then at the very end of the show is 3 Bar Ranch which is kind of speed metal, power metal on top of cattle auctioneering. I mess around with a lot of different styles of music. When I make my country record I always make sure I’m paying respect to the roots of country and having acoustic, the fiddle, the steel, the banjo, the mandolin, stand up steel guitar and all of the roots.
Q: That brings us to country. Your work is country roots oriented not like the new country, which is really rock with a twang or a slide, right?
HANK3: No doubt. There’s definitely a difference. The pop country thing, you know, it’s been on top for probably over 10, 12 years now. It seems like that style has stuck around quite a long time. I’m pretty unplugged with it, but most of it’s, like you’re saying an electric guitar, vocals and maybe steel every now and then. Guitar oriented pop rock.
Q: Twenty-years ago it would have been on the pop charts.
HANK3: It’s weird. Like I said I’m pretty unplugged in that world but if you look at Taylor Swift, the Country Music Association 10 years ago said they don’t condone her and didn’t want anything to do with her. She also has received an award that only one other person’s gotten this award is Garth Brooks. So in way, they are kind of condoning her. I never had understood the business. I’ve just done what I do and then very thankful that there’s a group of people out there that relate to the work ethic and to my songs.
Q: Are your fans made up of country music or punk rock/metal rock lovers or both? Do the country music people stay for the first 2 hours and leave or do they stay for the whole four hours? How does that work?
HANK3: Some people do hang around and some people don’t. Either way they still get the same show night after night after night. But it’s not for everyone and that’s why with the shows I’ll make sure that the majority of the people get their money’s worth. I never want to make the audience feel like they got ripped off. I could go out there and do a shock rock performance of two country songs, speed metal, doom, Hellbillly then back to a country song. I just never have done that because it would make them feel disrespected.
Q: Growing up with the Hank Williams and Hank Williams, Jr. legacy, how did their music influence you or did it?
HANK3: I never had compared myself too much but you know, of course Hank Williams, rhythm guitar playing, his singing and me having a nasally kind of voice, has offered me a lot of inspiration. And, writing songs has really been kind of tough for me with the Dyslexia and the ADD. You know spelling and writing has just been pretty hard. For him, it was a very natural process. It just used to pour out of him. Both of them were playing rock ‘n roll before rock ‘n roll was. And if you really, really look at it, my movement toward punk rock and heavy metal is just a natural kind of Hank Williams progression. I’ve just kind of gone with the time and noticed how music has kind of changed a lot more and so for me it’s been a lot of rhythms that I’ve picked up from Junior and Senior but also trying to carve my own niche, especially since Junior is still out there in certain circuits. I’ve done everything I can to stay away from those circuits. I just stand on my own two feet. I was raised by my mother. I wasn’t like Jack Osbourne, Ozzy’s kid, who was basically raised on the road. I had a very normal upbringing and only saw my dad just a couple of times a year. Through the years I just had a gift for drums and playing music and just always went with it. You know, I knew my direction at a young age.
Q: Your dad did a video with Van Halen back in the 80s for a song called “My Name is Bocephus”, you have a story about that.
HANK3: I told him, when I saw him, I said, “Hey do you know one of the biggest rock ‘n roll bands in the world says they go into Bocephus mode before they take the stage?” He’s like, “No, who is that?” I said, “A band called Van Halen.” And then within two months, boom, they made that video. In high school, Junior was always known as Rockin’ Randall Hank. His “Young Country” video, I was the reason that Suicidal Tendencies and Fishbone were in that.
Q: The music you listened to growing up was very diverse.
HANK3: It just kind of goes to show I was raised on country but also Elvis, ZZ Top, Ted Nugent, Queen, Gary Numan, and then I heard the punk rock radio station, I have a natural ear for that stuff. Very diverse. And it goes back to I’m still doing a lot of diverse stuff. I mean, I pay respects to certain genres but then I also work on other genres that people would just totally have no clue why I would even be doing that. And it just goes back to creativity for me and a drive for art. Certain producers or certain directors they’re usually pretty open-minded. They don’t stick to one thing. And that’s kind of how I am. I pay respects to that one thing but I’m also intrigued by many of it.
Q: These last albums you’ve been strictly hands-on, taking over the job of producer, arranger, mixer, and just about everything else. Tell me about that.
HANK3: I’m very hands-on with the project. A lot of artists don’t like to be, but for me, if I wake up at 5:30 in the morning and I feel the energy to start recording, I don’t necessarily want to wait for another engineer to show up because by the time he gets here it might be gone. So, the last probably, six to seven records, you know, I’ve basically been doing most of it myself.
Q: Tell me about your Dyslexia and ADD.
HANK3: School was very tough for me. They were always trying to figure out what was wrong. How come it was a lot harder for me to grasp onto certain things. I’m kind of like David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, he doesn’t understand music theory, like he knows how to write songs, record songs and execute his ideas and he has a good ear for it. And, that’s how I am. I don’t understand theory. I would like to one day but it’s not me for some reason.
Q: Do you have a method to your songwriting?
HANK3: Probably 75% of the time I just pick up a guitar and I just start singing. I might have a certain idea in my head and I’ll just start singing with a recorder and then I’ll go back and listen to it and then start piecing together the words. Sometimes when I just sit down and try to write it’s almost like the pen and paper is kind of blocking me, where if I just hit record it’s a natural flowing kind of process. You know, like that song “Crazed Country Rebel” that just came out of me and I wasn’t singing it, I just wrote all the words down and boom there it was.
Q: You have two releases currently – Brothers of the 4X4, which is roots country and Fiendish Threat, which is thrash-metal-rock stuff.
HANK3: Yes, that’s the county record [Brothers of the 4×4 ] and a Fiendish Threat is kind of a throwback record. It’s a record paying respects to all my heroes for me. It was my own way of just saying thank you for all the inspiration those bands brought to me.
Q: Anything else you want to add?
HANK3: I always tell folks there’s no opening band so if it says eight o’clock show time that means we’ll be on stage at eight o’clock. So be on time. Especially if you’re wanting to be there for the country part of the show. And we always say hello to everyone after the show. If anyone wants to shake my hand or pay their respects we’ll be there. Hopefully we’ll be feeling good and dialed in and ready to take it to another level when we get back there.
Hank3 will be touring the west coast in support of two new releases, Brothers of the 4×4 and Fiendish Threat. Hank3’s albums are all available on vinyl for those who collect, so check out the website for that and much more.
Hank 3 Website