by Jane Roser
The original hardscrapple, Tennessee outlaw Hank Williams III aka Hank3, is back and it’ll be a “hell on wheels” kind of show at the Trocadero tomorrow night, so get your lighters ready because shit’s about to get real. The grandson of Hank Williams, Sr. and son of Hank Williams, Jr. spent his early years playing drums, but is a multi-instrumentalist in every sense of the word. He’s a virtuoso on the guitar, bass, banjo, vocals and most recently you can add mandolin to that roster of awesomeness. Basically, if Hank3 ever became a personification of Orphan Black, he could form his own band, he’s that damn talented.
“At first, I thought I would just be a drummer,” says Wiliams, “but as time went on, I just rotated with other instruments and things happened in life that I had to deal with. So as time went on, I came out from the drums and was a bass player/screamer in a band, then a guitar player/screamer, but I was slowly getting into the acoustic side of music and trying to sing more than scream.”
Williams explains that he never felt forced into a music career like his dad was, but had a very normal childhood that included attending an Adam Ant concert in 1984 that proved to be very inspirational. “That made a big change in me because he always had two drummers and his music was very rhythmic, which I could identify with. I was listening to country and new wave stuff and finally found punk rock when I was listening to an Atlanta radio station which just took me to a whole new level.”
Queen also played a big role in William’s musical education; he was first introduced to Roger Taylor’s drumming when his artist/drummer babysitter would come over playing Queen tunes while sketching Taylor’s drum kit. “They taught me how to play drums quite a bit,” says Williams.
Williams released his latest creations this past October- a double country album entitled Brothers of the 4X4 and a blazing punk rock record called A Fiendish Threat. This was no easy feat since Williams sang and played both guitar and drums. He also engineered, produced, mixed and mastered all the songs within four months out of his home that he fabulously calls the Haunted Ranch.
“I’m just doing it while I can,” explains Williams, “I don’t know how long I can keep up with that kind of schedule. If I wake up at 5am and want to start singin’ and playin’, I can. Plus, and this is nothing against engineers, but after two to three weeks of working on a project with a new engineer, people usually start getting lazy and for me, I just like capturing the moment while I’m in the moment.”
He continues, “I try to have as much of a foundation laid out as possible before I bring in the other players. It’s intense- back when I was doing the four records that came out at the same time and then I had two more after that- the repercussions of what might happen can get pretty intense. I might work on a project for four to five months and then will barely be able to get out of bed for the next two months, so it’s a create/destroy process with the way I make records. I get so obsessive over it until my body is saying screw you, you can’t do this anymore. But I care about my art and so I put a lot into it.”
Listening to the tracks off of Brothers of the 4×4, I found two songs that stood out as feeling very old-timey, almost like attending a hootenany in a holler. “No doubt,” Williams agrees when we’re discussing the song “Gettin Dim”, “part of the reason you’re hearing the mountains in that song is that was my first time playing a mandolin, plus there’s a clawhammer banjo in the background. With the high twangy, nasally voice, the distortion and the grit on the vocals, it kinda makes you go back to that time.” Williams’ pit bull mix rescue dog Royal walked in while he was recording that song and decided that he wanted to kick it off, so that’s “not an edit, that’s just how it went, that’s the dog in the front of it.”
Another tune that caught my fancy is the quirky and unique ‘Possum In A Tree” which Williams says was written specifically for a clawhammer banjo player named Leroy Troy. “He’s more of a purist in his style and is an amazing banjo player and mountain shouter/singer. He has a lot of picking parties here in Nashville and that song is a true story. I was going out in my field, laying down corn at night with my dogs and sure enough, there’s a possum up in a tree. Leroy has done a lot of possum songs and is very funny, so it was a good fit for him. That was also the first time I played the lap steel guitar; I went out to his place and we recorded it there live and on the fly.”
On this tour leg, Williams is trying to hit every place he wasn’t able to get to in 2013, which includes an east coast run, Florida and New Orleans. “It’s always a challenge to see how much I can deliver,” Williams says, “I’m still all across the board, trying new things, but I just try to give the best performance I can day after day and hope for the best, playin’ for the worst; it’s been a little while and it’s time to get the crew back and just do it 150%.”
Hank3 shows are legendary for their length and intensity, averaging three to four hours, starting with about two hours of The Damn Band during the country/Hellbilly set, then a 1/2 hour of the Punk/Rebelcore music, some Doom Metal, then ending with the 3Bar Ranch/Cattle Callin’ set. There won’t be an opening band for the show at the Troc, so be sure to get there early to enjoy a little piece of Dixie and a whole lotta hellfire.