Baltimore City Paper

Hank’s grandson is still raising hell

Hank3—as Shelton Williams,

the grandson of Hank Williams, is known—is the baddest motherfucker in country music. He's toured constantly, playing three-hour shows at every stop—both country and punk/metal/thrash in several different bands, with different names. Like his father, Hank Williams Jr., he has legions of devoted fans that border on cultish. His 2006 record


Straight To Hell

was the first country album to sport a Parental Advisory sticker and spawned thousands of imitators. He played bass in heavy-metal supergroup Superjoint Ritual with Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo. And, at 41, he looks and sounds a hell of a lot like his grandfather, Hank Williams, the greatest country singer of all time. But he shuns fame in favor of living a simple life in Tennessee, rescuing dogs and cutting grass. Hank3 was in Morgantown, West Virginia, getting ready for a show on a Thursday afternoon, when



caught him on the phone in advance of his show at Rams Head Live on June 20. (Travis Kitchens)

City Paper: Who is in the lineup for this tour? I heard Duane Denison [The Jesus Lizard] is back with you.

Hank 3: Yeah, he's doing us a favor right now just filling in on this first run. So you got Duane on the electric guitar, Daniel Mason on banjo, David McElfresh on fiddle, Matt Bohli on the drums, Anthony Galler on standup bass, Phil Cancilla is the 3 Bar Ranch drummer, and Bobby Hattenburg is the A.D.D. [Attention Deficit Domination] and A Fiendish Threat drummer. That's just on stage, not including behind the scenes. We got a crew of 12 out here giving it all we got.

CP: How did you initially link up with Duane? He goes back to the Risin' Outlaw [Hank3's 1999 debut] days.

H3: Well, I was a fan of The Jesus Lizard and used to go to their shows anytime I could and just by chance got to meet him at the right place at the right time, and he had a break and was willing to try some different stuff so he came out on the road with us. He probably did close to two and a half or three years with me. We're glad to have him. It's a trip sometimes working with some of your heroes.

CP: Speaking of heroes, how did you get involved with Superjoint Ritual?

H3: Well I met Phillip [Anselmo] when I was 14 or 15 over a drum kit because Pantera made their records in Nashville, so he would go out and see local bands. And Jimmy Bower, I got to know him growing up, he came over to the house when I was younger so that was kind of the "in" with it. It helped out quite a bit.


CP: You opened up for Fugazi in Nashville once, what band were you with then?

H3: Buzzkill was that band. Fugazi and Public Enemy were probably our two big shows that we got to do. That was back when people got a lot more excited about live shows. Nothing against the internet, but you just couldn't go to YouTube and watch your favorite band. The energy in the rooms used to be a lot more intense. That was back when they were doing the $5 show runs—those are memories I'm glad to have. It was an honor to be able to do it.

CP: You are also a friend and admirer of David Allan Coe. What do you admire about his work? Did his experimental approach to making country records influence your approach?

H3: Oh yeah. He's been around, he's one of the last true outlaws of our generation, and I've been lucky enough to be around him since I was a kid and see him go through a lot of different changes. He's kind of done it all, you know. He's had the number one songs, he's had 'em stolen from him in a courtroom, and all kinds of stuff. So I admire his songwriting abilities and his voice and his drive. All in all, he's a great songwriter, an amazing singer, and he's been almost like a family figure to me. He's someone I can call anytime I need to, to get any kind of advice or just to say hello. That's a good thing to have in my corner. There's not too many folks I could do that with that have as much history as he has.

CP: You occasionally play old-time music with Leroy Troy. Are you also influenced by the old stuff like Uncle Dave Macon and Grandpa Jones?

H3: Of course. I look up to those guys. They bring so much energy and such a great thing to the table. My style is always changing. If you look at a song like "Gettin' Dim" or "Possum in a Tree," it was written for Leroy Troy. Those guys are an inspiration, amazing singers, amazing shouters, and great people. I'm very fortunate to know them. Right now I'm doing some pretty intense raw shows and if I make it to 50 who knows what kinda shows I will be doing then.


CP: Tell me about your new recording project.

H3: It's just a wild project. I asked a lot of big people, a lot of underground people, a lot of people in different genres if they had any time or interest to be on it. It will be more of a side project, not a Hank3 record. Usually I make records in the winter time and tour around May, that's the plan I've been sticking with for quite a while.

That's usually how it's done, since I do the engineering, the playing, all the behind the scenes stuff. I don't have a producer or engineer or any of that stuff, for right now, so it's all DIY. I'm happy to go the extra mile while I can—one day I might not be able to, but right now I'm lucky enough to keep it rolling.

CP: How did you start to use [experimental filmmaker] Craig Baldwin's film Tribulation 99 in your show?

H3: I've always been a fan of fast-paced editing. Anybody that does that style of moviemaking I'm a fan of. And for him I was lucky enough to have his blessings to do it. And it just fits really well with what we do. It's an honor every tour we get to do it, right now it's always a big deal for us. It's a big part of the show, some people get it, some people don't, that's the way it's supposed to be.

CP: Do you often find inspiration in other forms of art?


H3: Inspiration for me comes out of music or madness or depression. Sometimes happiness, or every now and then documentaries.

CP: What do you see changing around you in Nashville in terms of the music industry and the culture?

H3: I've never left. I've never gone to L.A. or New York. I've always stood my ground in Tennessee. It's where I was born and raised and I'm sure that's where I'll die. But yeah Nashville is changing. There's a lot of outsiders moving there, nothing wrong with that, but now we have two o'clock traffic and a football team and all that stuff. Nashville always had a scene for metal, jazz, bluegrass, country, it's not all just Music Row. It's a very unique place, it's a special place, and it's just a lot of people who are now tapping into it. They get it: It's just part of the South scene, you either love it or you don't. And I'm one of the kind of people, I don't do well in big cities. That's just me. I do good on tours, but with as much creativity there comes destruction and I gotta be outside and be around land. I just like the whole vibe of the South. A lot of California is moving there and a lot of New York is buying it up.

The biggest thing right now is trying to keep mountaintop removal out of Tennessee. That's the biggest goal. There's a Chinese company that owns 40 miles [of mountaintop] but we are trying to keep it underground and keep doing it the way it's been done for so many years instead of ruining the mountains. I'm in West Virginia right now, the mountains are beautiful and unfortunately there's already been 2,200 miles taken out of West Virginia. Even coal-mining families would try to say keep it underground as much as you can. So that's something that's important to me, for generations to come even after I'm long gone. That's something you can't replace. Especially since it's not even staying in the state. Most of it's being taken and used elsewhere so that in itself is a letdown.

CP: Last time you were in Baltimore, [the doom metal band] Earthride opened the show. Do you have anything planned like that for this show?

H3: I've always been a fan of Earthride, always will be. There's a lot of great music that's come out of Baltimore, a lot of great doom and metal bands, a lot of great players out of there. Bobby Liebling is someone I've always looked up to very highly as a singer and songwriter, a guy that's been through a lot. He has a great voice. That band [Pentagram] is America's version of Black Sabbath, there's no way around it.


I tell all the folks if it says 8 o'clock, there's no opening band so be there at 8 o'clock. We'll be doing the country, Hellbilly, Fiendish Threat, A.D.D., and 3 Bar Ranch as the night goes on. And for the people who want to buy the vinyl, is the best place to get them.

Hank3 performs at Rams Head Live on Friday June 20 at 8pm.