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About Hank III (Hank Williams III)
The career of Shelton Hank Williams III (aka Hank3) has doubled as a sort of crusade in which he breaks all the rules of country music while somehow managing to honor its traditions at the same time. As he put it back in 06, Everybody calls themselves outlaws and all that stuff, but thats whats missing in country music. Everythings so clean and pretty and perfect, and you need a couple of peo ple in there that arent perfect and that dont sound the best. Thats the way some of the best guys were, man.
Since the third-generation rebels most recent LP, 2010s aptly titled Rebel Within, hes gotten off Curb Records and launched his own label, the Megaforce-distributed Hank3 Records (the new moniker to distinguish/a representation of his post-Curb career). Hes also been busy, to say the least, writing and recording FOUR albums at onceGhost to a Ghost/Guttertown, a double LP of refracted country music, the literally unprecedented 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin and the sludgy Attention Deficit Dominationand theyre all hitting on the very same day, Sept. 6. We dont believe anyone has done such a thing beforeor even thought of doing it, for that matter. Its too damn crazy.
Its been intense, man, says Hank3 of the undertaking. Havin my own label hasnt cut into my creativity so far, and that was the main thing I was worried about. Since I did all four records at once, there was a lot to organize and a lot to deal with in general. I do it all on my end as far as the layouts and the art and all that shit, and then send it to em. Megaforce has stepped up and helped me create my vision, cuz no one else would be into puttin all that product out at once. That was huge for me, man, to approach it like that. I wanted to come out of the gate full-on, and so far, so good.
You might think this massive project was years in the making, but Hank3 somehow managed to slam together the whole enchilada in just a few months. He parted ways with Curb on Jan. 1 and started writing the songs for this massive project the very next day. The four albums were made simultaneously at the Haunted Ranch, Hank3s home and studio on the outskirts of Nashville. They were recorded on his trusty Korg D1600a $400, 10-year-old piece of hardware that liberated the artist from temporal and budgetary constraints while providing his records with a sonic presence thats not exactly hi-fi nor is it low-fi; lets just refer to it as face-melt-fi. I got like five of em now, man I take em with me everywhere I go, he says of the D1600. I was just glad to finally find a machine I could halfway work. When the energy hits, it needs to be captured; thats the main reason why I keep it on those little machines.
He approached the challenge of writing and recording the 60-odd songs in his characteristic wayopting for total immersion. They were all done at once, Hank3 explains. Once I was in that mode, I was stayin in that mode as far as pumpin it out. A lot of it had to do with how I was feelin, since I played drums on everything.
Packaged together, Ghost to a Ghost and Guttertown find Hank3 further mutating his trademark hellbilly sound, while the latter LP is heavily seasoned with Cajun accents. Many of the tracks have a spooky vibe, as if the music was being performed by a crew of shit-kicking zombies. In truth, the players are all fully alive: Andy Gibson on steel guitar and banjo (he also did some of the engineering), David McElfresh on fiddle and mandolin, Zach Shedd on standup bass, Daniel Mason on banjo, super-picker Johnny Hiland on guitar, Billy Contreras on fiddle, Rory Hoffman on accordion and Hank3 on everything else.
Some special guests are also sittin in here and there. None other than Tom Waits shows up on the title track to Ghost to a Ghost and Guttertowns eerie Fadin Moon, while Alan King of Hellstomper, Les Claypool of Primus fame, Dave Sherman and Troy Medlin also join the party. And making his recording debut is Trooper, one of Hank3s canine family members; the Doberman/black-and-tan hound mix lends his doggie vocals to Troopers Hollar and Troopers Chaos. (As you may have noticed, there are no apostrophes in Hank3s world.)
I dont think a lot of the country record is gonna be as familiar to my fans, he reckons. Some of its gonna be harder for them to swallow because its just me bein me a little more. Yeah, there is a few country songs on there, but there is also quite a few songs thats not necessarily country. The Guttertown record is paintin a picture in ambience and lettin all those movie people know that, yeah, I can create my own sounds and do all that stuff, tookeep me in mind. I make those kinda ambient sounds for the kids who are ridin trains and the kids who are takin mushrooms. Im takin them through different moods, the happy, the sad, the weirdIm expandin their minds in a country Pink Floyd kinda way. So a lot of that is basically for the tripping kids.
According to Hank3, the most countrified songs from this batch are Day by Day and Guttertown while the crossover tune is Troopers Hollar, which brings together his country and metal sides. as far as the Cajun stuff, he adds, I would say Gutterstomp is gonna be pretty legendary for the hobos of today. And of course, theres Fadin Moon with Waits. I finally got to meet him in person and go out to his place. We got to hang out and break the ice a little bit. Then I sent him a couple of songs and he felt real comfortable with the Fadin Moon song and that was that.
Attention Deficit Domination and Cattle Callin explore the two extremes of metal. Hank3 plays practically everything on both.
Attention Deficit Domination is Hank3s first foray into sludge, making it a radical shift in mood and tempo from the speed metal hes been grinding out in his Assjack mode. Thats gonna be a little different for the live fans who have been used to seein Assjack for the last 10 years, he says. Assjack was almost fast hardcore, and ADD is slow, Melvins, sleep-oriented doom rock. So its gonna be a lot different to see and feel compared to what most people are used to seein me do live. I been a fan of it for years; its just somethin else I needed to do. The record is dedicated to Layne Staley, and some of his voicings are on it. The linchpin tracks here, says Hank3, are Bend the nearly nine-minute Livin Beyond Doom.
On Cattle Callin, Hank3 has concocted a hybrid subgenre he calls cattle core, on which his driving, speed-metal-derived playing is juxtaposed with the sounds of auctioneers doing their traditional raps, with Hank3 sometimes laying his own high-register vocal treatments over the top. For a really extreme contrast, he brought in Mason to put some bluegrass banjo pickin on Cattle Callin Lonesome Blues.
Hank3 says the Cattle Callin record just kinda came out of the blue. I had to have somethin fun to do aside from bein so serious on the country records and stuff. That one was like, OK, this is getting to be more and more funIm gonna keep it rollin. What the hell, heres a whole new thing. Hip-hop has worked with auctioneers, and bluegrass has worked with auctioneers, but I dont think the metal world has ever seen the two. Its always been about the cookie monster vocals with the speed, and this just seemed like a really natural fit for it.
His biggest challenge was trying to convince the auctioneers to do the record. I tried to get em to see my vision and to let em know, I swear to God Im not makin fun of yall. I was raised on a farm, I been around livestock as a kid. Theres not gonna be any cussin on this recordand all these things for some of these old-school guys I had to work with. I paid em all a certain fee up front and got em to sign off. I told them I can guarantee them some exposure, and my big hook is that this is a new way to inspire young auctioneers. Thats the main concept of the record. Its gonna be the hardest one to reproduce live. Hank3s go-to cuts on Cattle Callin are Branded featuring auctioneer Mitch Jordan and Black Cow featuring the legendary Tim Dowler.
Because hes been totally preoccupied with the project throughout the first half of 2011, all the money has been going out and none has been coming in. So how the hell can he afford to rent a bus, take 12 people out on the road this fall and pay them all? The bank is broke, Hank3 admits with typical honesty. Thats why I save all these pedals and guitarsI put em on eBay to keep it goin. I havent had a CD on my merch table for 14 years, so that in itself will be huge for me. So I think Ill break even. Its been intense, man, but thats just what I do. I been off the road for a while, and Im lookin at two years of bein full-on dedicated to goin out there and doin what we do. Thats another reason why I wanted to get all four out of the way, so I could just focus back on the touring again.
Looking back on his latest achievement and down the road at the same time, Hank3 philosophizes, The way I approach records nowadays is it could be my very last one. So thats the big inspiration for it, and just gettin by each day and tryin to make it through another tourthats the deal. Im not tryin to get no big payoff or anything. Will I ever be able to do this again in my career? Probably not. Thisll be the only time Ill be able to pop out that much energy at once. But all in all, its just kinda bein like the Melvins or the Reverend Horton Heat. Im a bar band, thats what I am, so Ill be beatin down the road as long as we can, doin the show and sayin hello, man.
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