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Sex. Drugs. Rock íní roll. Itís a regular laundry list of hackneyed exultations. Be that as it may, Hank Williams III is certainly no stranger to them. I know because Iíve seen his tackle box. He wonít catch many fish with whatís in it, but he could keep a gaggle of addled strippers and roadhouse lackeys entertained for a couple weeks. Think Hunterís suitcase in Fear & Loathing.
ďOh, yeah, Iím always into the girls who like to do that. I got my little collection for sure,Ē Williams says smirking, talking vaguely about the toxic tackle box. He pauses for a moment when asked to share a particularly debauched road anecdote. There must be a ton to run over in his mind.
ďWe had fucking David Allan Coe and [the late] Dimebag [Darrell] come out to a show. Tons of coke, tons of strippers, making a lot of music and fucking, doing a lot of fucking. And doing a lot of singing, doing a lot of screaming. The sheriffs were asking us to leave after a lot of shit broke out. Itís hard to tell. I donít know, man. I canít go into all the details,Ē he says.
Williamsí drawl carries with it the unmistakable echo of his granddaddy, the first Hank, and like his father and friends such as David Allan Coe, Hank is the proverbial iconoclast who bleeds rebel red. While he has cashed in ó to some limited extent ó on his pedigree, heís certainly done it, uh, his way. On stage, he follows up his crooning country sets (which are peppered with numbers by Waylon Jennings, George Jones and, of course, Hank Sr.) with loud aggressive, metal shots by his other band, Assjack.
ďI couldíve taken the easy way, but I chose not to, man. My dad was a really rich man and I was only around him a couple times a year. You know, and itíd be like going to see Fantasy Land or something whenever I was around. My mom worked 9 to 5 every day, and I saw how hard my mommaís side of the family worked. Then I see how people were just trying to do music to make it a scheme and make their money, and thatís all they cared about. I donít know. The real people who play music in the end do it for the sake of doing it. Thatís kind of our thing,Ē he says.
ďI could be the nice clean Wrangler-wearing guy trying to be George Strait or whatever. But thatís not me. I believe there needs to be a whole new generation of outlaws. The way I talk and the way I do my thing is not the easiest way to get by. Iíve been lucky enough to tour 10 years on the road until I had to file bankruptcy. And in 10 years Iíll probably be doing the same thing again,Ē he says with a morbid little chuckle.
The bankruptcy was Williamsí means of escaping his contract with Curb Records. Recounting the label shenanigans would take an entire chapter, but suffice it to say Williams has had very little creative control, and because of the legal stalemate with the label he has only two albums to show for his decade in the business. But after more than two years in court, the end seems near, and Williams will finally be able to release a new album, tentatively (and aptly) titled either Thrown Out of the Bar or Not Everyone Likes Us. Though, he has yet to sign a new record deal.
ďWeíre still doing some figuring out with the lawsuit. But itís coming along, man. Iíve been working on the new record. Itís basically done. It should be out pretty fucking soon, though I donít know who itís going to be out with or any of that bullshit. But it should be here soon, the way we want to do it,Ē he says, before admitting, less hopefully, ďIíll believe it when I see it. Thatís kind of the deal.Ē
Williams played in a number of metal and punk bands in his youth, primarily as a drummer, until he was 20. He might have kept on that way, but it seems Williams had himself a very expensive one-night stand in the early í90s that came home to roost in the form of $45,000 in back child support. Curb Records, the label home to Tim McGraw and LeAnn Rimes, came to the rescue, putting out Three Hanks: Men With Broken Hearts, which, thanks to studio wizardry, brought together the Williams singing clan.
His relationship with the son he had to ďsell outĒ to pay for hasnít fared so well.
ďSheís [the mother] remarried, and her dadís a fucking cop, so I could go to court and try to get visitation rights, and they could make me look like the biggest fucking drug addict, alcoholic motherfucker in the world. But I donít have basically anything to do with him because theyíve been totally uncool about it in every way possible,Ē he says. ďIím not in a good position to be any kind of a father right now; I can barely take care of my fucking self. Itís just one of them things, but I make sure they have what they need.Ē
Of course, as Williams readily admits, the band enforces a pretty hardy kick-up-yer-boots regimen. He tells of a fan who slipped him an acid Mickey Finn while in concert. He stayed up for nearly 72 hours.
ďThey just gave me a shot of whiskey that had fucking a lot of liquid acid in it. I got through it. I took like eight Xanax, still couldnít go to sleep. Then at like 9 in the morning I was like, ĎFuck it, Iím just going to start going back up,íĒ he says.
Whatís a country-metal star to do on a brutal morning of gig? Why, get a tat, of course.
ďI got drilled on for about four hours in the tattoo chair and then went and freaked out at CBGBs. Definitely that show is where I had planned on tripping. I was up a day later still feeling the effects of it. But, whatever. I was more concerned about the country voice and being able to sing because I was already hoarse.Ē
The condition of his voice is something to worry about with so much touring that sees nightly triple-shots of country crooning, guttural metal growling and enthusiastic debauchery.
ďNobody can do what we do, switching it up live between country and metal, or whatever the fuck I am. I can only do that for a while. When I hit 50 itís over for me. Thatís my deal,Ē he says. ďYep ó gonna kill myself out here as long as I can. And then enjoy a little life on the other side.Ē
Appears Monday, Feb. 21, at St. Andrewís Hall (431 E. Congress, Detroit; 313-961-MELT) with Assjack and Hazard County Girls.
Chris Parker is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.