IS STILL RAISIN' HELL
by Jonathan Williams
Photos by Frank Mullen
From the March 2006 issue of Prick Magazine.
He's known to most as Hank III, the
grandson of country legend Hank
Williams, Sr. But the pale, reserved
guy with the sincere handshake introduces himself
as Shelton. Based on the boisterous outlaw persona
he portrays onstage while tearing through
sets of country, hellbilly and metal songs each
night, the shy, contemplative guy you meet offstage
seems like a different person altogether. But that
doesn’t mean Shelton will hold anything back when it comes to talking about
his tattoos (his Grateful Dead piece on his back is the result of lots of time
spent dropping acid with hippies), his ongoing problems with his label, Curb
Records, or anything else for that matter.
He'll tell you about how he has to sell bootleg copies (burned CD in a Ziploc bag with
hand-drawn artwork on the disc) of his Assjack metal songs because Curb, a traditionally
country label that also puts out stuff like Ultimate Christian Hits and Ultimate Hymns of Faith,
doesn't want to release what some would consider to be Satan's music. And he doesn't hide
the fact that he had to record his latest CD, Straight To Hell, on a machine in the back of his
tour bus in order to do it on his own terms.
"I just want to put out records, man," he says. "They just want to build it up so much
and that's what goes back to making bootlegs
and selling them at shows. You can stay with
Curb for two or three more years and be
completely done with them or you can leave
right now as we are and every time you try
to release something, it's going to put you in
court. It's a real hard fucking call.
"Even just this album, Straight To Hell,"
he continues, "that is a huge fucking issue
with somebody like that. Even if it's a simple
cover of just having a goat-looking dude playing
a guitar, for Wal-Mart, which is 40 percent
of country sales, that ain't gonna happen. But
you can have a DVD there that says every
fucking cuss word in the book and people's
brains getting blown out and all this shit. It
don't make sense, man. It's that Bible Belt,
clean country thing rising up a little bit."
But it seems that Hank and Curb
were able to come to a compromise with his
latest release. Released on a new imprint
called Bruc Records, it not only includes
songs like "Country Heroes" and "Thrown
Out of the Bar" that have become staples of
his live shows, but it also features plenty of drug-and-alcohol-fueled sin-fests like
"Pills I Took," "Smoke & Wine" and "Dick In Dixie." It also comes with a second
disc of stripped-down country tunes and experiments that sound like they were
recorded while he and his band were tripping on shrooms near train tracks and
"It's not as gritty as I could have made it," he says. "You only get so many
opportunities to try to make a record sound a certain way. The way we went
about recording it was pretty hands on, but the way it sounds in the end, it's still
a little clean. I definitely was able lyrically to say what I want to say and do what
I want to do. I had control of the art and control of the lyrics and we'll see what
happens with it."
While the self-destructive behavior that comes across in these new honky tonk
songs likely comes from what Hank was going through at the time the album was
recorded, his emotional pain not only inspired a rocking batch of new country tunes,
but also some new ink.
"Everybody goes through their highs and their lows and ANTiSEEN has always
been there for in my lows," he says, referring to the tattoo of ANTiSEEN's Jeff Clayton
on his ribs. "In December , some heavy-duty stuff happened in my world and just
cranking those CDs, listening to those lyrics and jamming to those songs is what gets
me through every time. Cranking them up and getting drilled on for two days.
Assjack singer Gary Lindsey.
"My old lady for six years, she was wanting to get married and I'm married to
the fucking road," he continues. "There are some girls – just like Dimebag [Darrell] for
instance, Rita was with him for 17 years and they were never married – but they know.
So my shit went bad again right in the middle of my recording and
trying to finish up our country record. I warned her previously, 'This
next month is going to be really fucking rough. So if I'm a bit weird
and I'm sketched out and I'm fucking freakin', don’t trip on me
because making an album takes a certain part out of you a little bit.'
It's almost like doing time in jail. So she chose to kick me when I was
fucking as low as I could be.
As a member of Superjoint Ritual with Phil Anselmo,
Dimebag's death hit pretty close to home for Hank as well.
Joe Buck on bass.
"Then a couple of other friends passed on, man," he says.
"One of them was an unexpected death before she was even 24
years old, the other one was a friend who had some issues healthwise
and he just went ahead and went for it. Just a lot of weird stuff,
so I've been trying to halfway stay positive because I'm around a lot
of negative and into a lot of negative."
With all that behind him, Hank is ready to take his country
and metal show on the road again. And even though he would like
to see Assjack get a proper release by a record label, he admits that
he has two distinct audiences as different as Hank and Shelton and
putting the country and metal stuff together probably wouldn't go
over so well with some of those fans.
"I've always kept is separate for a reason," he says. "There are
those older folks out there and then there's those kids out there
that hate the fucking country music and dig on the other side. I've
got tons of tapes that have been sitting around for years. Maybe in
the bootleg box set one day [I'll release them together]."
Hank III will be on tour in March and April.
For more information, go to www.hank3.com
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