The devil’s seed
Hank III’s ‘Jekyll and Hyde Show’ has something for the kids in black, the cowboys and the grandmas
It’s clear that Hank III’s style of country and hardcore punk is all his own. But his music also contains stark and somber reflections, much like granddaddy’s blues. “He was the Shakespeare of hillbilly music,” said Williams III.
Hank III’s music is a far cry from his father’s good-ol'-boy sound. Hank III even expressed distaste for a song his father recently wrote with Kid Rock called “The F Word” ("In country music we just don’t use the f word … “), and sings about his sentiments toward Kid Rock in the song “Not Everybody Likes Us": “Kid Rock don’t come from where I come from: Yeah, it’s true, he’s a Yank, he ain’t no son of Hank.”
The son of Hank was raised on equal parts country and punk rock and began playing drums for his father at the age of 10. Williams III released his first record, Risin’ Outlaw, in 1999, and he truly broke the mold of what might be expected from a “Hank” when he joined former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo’s now-defunct project Superjoint Ritual in 2001 (Williams III and Anselmo plan to team up again in a new band called Arson Anthem).
Says Hank III: “If you’re coming to see me, you’re not coming to see Hank Williams. I might look like him and sound like him, on a good day, but you know it’s the Hank III show. He’s dead and gone and won’t be back, man. I’m carving my own niche.”
CN&R: Was there one guy or band growing up that was a main inspiration for you?
Hank III: There was a few bands that changed my life. It started with COC, Animosity, Dead Kennedys, Misfits and the Sex Pistols. Then the hardcore and speed metal really started kicking in. As far as one person … I would have to say Buzz Osborne from the Melvins and Dale Crover the drummer.
Is there a popular contemporary country artist you listen to?
Not really; I haven’t bought a Dwight Yoakam album for years, but he’s probably the only guy.
How about Bob Dylan?
I like some Bob Dylan. I just turned down … everybody is pissed at me for turning it down, this movie about Bob Dylan.
They wanted you to do it?
Well, they wanted me to sing in it with a band called Calexico. Man, but Richard Gere as Bob Dylan? I can’t grasp it.
They can’t let that happen …
Well [laughing], that’s the way I was looking at it.
So, you have two bands. The Damn Band plays the country sets and Assjack plays the rock sets, right?
We usually play an hour of country, then the middle ground. With the middle ground you still got the stand up-bass, you still got the steel guitar and you still have the fiddle involved, and that’s what I call the “hellbilly” sound. And then we officially stop and take a break and come out with Assjack for the hardcore fast, screaming punk rock. So it’s definitely the “Jekyll and Hyde Show.” You know, man, I’m just trying to cater to the kids in black and the cowboys and the grandmas.
I think about how they painted your granddaddy in his day as too hardcore, but no one remembers that, and now they are painting you as too hardcore.
I hear ya; it trips me out how you can’t drink over four drinks in the U.S. at some bars without going to jail. I don’t mean drinking and driving, I mean just getting up and walking. Yeah, while kids are dying for our freedom, they’re taking it away more and more. And they’re kicking this off in Texas at the home of our president, imagine that. Yeah, America is getting pretty fuckin’ anal.
It doesn’t seem like any of you all have had to try to be other than who you are. I mean, did you learn this from your dad?
Well, he wasn’t ever around really to tell me anything. The only advice he gave me is: Whenever you get on this stage, tell them to kiss your ass just like I did. And I do that, and then he goes and writes that song with Kid Rock called “The F Word,” and that’s the biggest hypocritical move he’s made.
I read some things about your grandfather where they called him a sin-eater; that he would take on the life struggles of his audience. You strike me, too, as more of a sin-eater than a straight-to-hell type of guy.
Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that, you know, and even though I talk about the devil and stuff, in the end I’m kind of a nice guy.