Interview by Stephen Sigl
Let’s kind of start back a little bit. How do you feel about that first album you put out on Curb Records?
Well that was a learning process. I was having to do what I was having to do, on that …with them. It’s always tough getting into the business and getting used to the transition. I got to have Dale Crover play on the record, it definitely has a different sound on it compared to what I’m putting out now a days.
Did the fact that Curb was so restrictive force you to go out of your way to find different songwriters to use on the album?
They just wanted me to use a lot of their people and I would have rather used people that I know or got to meet, or know, as a musician… people that just go out there and work hard for it.
The album was straight-up country, but on the road you were playing both country and heavier, more aggressive music. They didn’t have a problem with that?
No. They weren’t telling me what to do in my live shows. I’ve always just done what I’ve done: the first half is country; the second half is the harder stuff. That way everyone feels like they got their money’s worth, and that’s been the best formula over the years. I basically did my records, turned them in, then they would tell me what they had a problem with, I would deal with it and move on.
Do feel that if you’d started on a different label you would have had an easier time?
The whole thing just shows how limited they are, they didn’t want to try different things. If you really look at it, I wasn’t giving them one sound, I was giving them three or four sounds. They had tons of marketing and tons of abilities to try new things, but they didn’t. As Unknown Henson would say: “There ain’t no guts in that.”
These days, it seems like when you release music, it’s three albums at a time and they are a divergent blend of country, metal and even experimental. Have you just been exploding with songs for the last seven years?
It’s just what I do. I play music, when I’m not playing music I’m playing music. That’s what I do for right now. I’m a drummer, a guitar player, singer, songwriter, recorder, engineer. I’m involved with it in so many ways and that’s my creative side. I’m lucky enough to go out there and do what I do and have fans and feel connected when they come to the live shows.
In the beginning they were heavily marketing you as “Hank Williams the Third” and now you’ve taken on your own artistic mantel, so to speak.
It’s work ethic. I’ve always had a strong work ethic about my shows, and I’ve always been driven to do things a little different. If you look at every Hank Williams, most of them have done things a little different, it was a natural progression for me. It goes back to being creative and having those fans that have stuck with me over the years, not everybody gets it, but a lot of them do.
Since you’re focusing on playing shows for the next two years, do you feel like you’re compartmentalizing, where writing songs goes in the backseat? Or do you find yourself with some downtime and you get an idea for a song and you have time to chase it down?
For what I’m doing right now, I’m loading in at twelve, our soundchecks are usually done at six, and that gives us one hour to take a breath, put our stage clothes on then we’re playing until twelve thirty at night, then loading the bus. I’m involved with every aspect of that, even as a gear-hand. When I have a day off all I’m doing is sitting there being quiet trying to get my voice back and re-gathering my energy. If I wasn’t pulling as much gear as I’m pulling, if I only wanted to go out there and play an easy show for everybody I would have time to write some songs or be a little more creative. But with what I’m doing right now, we’re all working as hard as we can just to make the performance happen, have all the gear up and running, and to do that day after day after day.
That sounds grueling.
It is what it is, I won’t be able to do it forever, but right now I’m able to do it. We’re doing four different shows in our shows, and there’s a lot of different sounds coming off of that stage, so to try to capture each of the elements of those different genres, it takes a lot of hard work.
What was it like playing in Super Joint Ritual?
Back when Pantera was in Nashville making their records, I was playing drums in a band called Buzzkill and Phil would come out to shows on days he had off from recording. That was the first time I met him and for years I got to see Pantera in clubs and as time went on Jimmy Bower was a friend and that’s kinda how I got to play bass with him in that band, as well as drums with him in another band.
For about two to three years I was focused on rocking out as hard as I could for him and putting every ounce of energy that I could into doing the best job I could on those tours. It was great while we were doing it, then one of those things happened where it wasn’t a band anymore and we all moved on and he’s got a new thing out now and so do I.
After this next round of touring do you see yourself collaborating, in the same capacity again?
It’s always hard to say, I have so many different friends that are musicians, whether it’s blues, country, rock, noise, or even bluegrass, I’m always being creative and coming up with different ideas, and if I have the time to do it, I’ll always keep an open-mind.
Would you ever try a Rick Rubin-style, commercial album?
It’s hard to say, I’m very thankful about not being too big or too small. There’s a great thing about that: I’m able to stay close to my fans, I’m able to have intimate shows… When it goes above that, to that next level, things change, and I don’t know if that’s for me.
Over the last twelve years it doesn’t seem like there’s been an overwhelming sense of commercial consideration on your part.
I’ve always been creative, had a good work ethic and really known my own sound and those things, over the years, have helped me quite a bit. When I’m 55 years old and if I can’t play rock n’ roll or do the show I want to do, who knows what will happen? But right now I’m just thankful to have a strong fanbase, put out records and work with a distribution company that respects what I do.
Brothers of the 4×4 and A Fiendish Threat both out now!
Get ’em here: www.hank3.com/3bay