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With his backwoods Count Dracula suit, bloodsucking fangs, overgrown Elvis sideburns-from-hell, NASCAR accent and enigmatic moniker, you might expect Unknown Hinson to be more about shtick than musical prowess. He is, after all, from the land of Jesco White, the cough syrup-drinking outlaw clog dancer. But while shtick has an important place in Hinson's act (he staunchly stayed in character throughout our interview), the scary thing is he can play his ass off. Think Eddie Cochran or Carl Perkins; think "Blue Suede Shoes" or "Summertime Blues." Along with live performances and recording duties (he recently released Target Practice), Hinson is also the voice behind lead character Early Cuyler of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim late-night smash Squidbillies. He counts Reverend Heat, Hank III (who has a tattoo of Hinson's face on his arm), Tim Robbins and Billy Bob Thornton among his boosters.
Houston Press: How did a heartless major label conglomerate like Capitol find Unknown Hinson?
Unknown Hinson: They seen me in Nashville. I was just sittin' here in Charlotte drinkin' liquor when the phone rang. You gotta realize everybody wants to be part of the Unknown Hinson Ecosystem.
HP: What would that be?
Hinson: The way it works is simple. The womans all wants Unknown Hinson. Now if womans come to see Unknown Hinson, the mans will come, pay for the womans tickets, buy 'em drinks 'cause they think they're gonna get lucky that night even though the womans really wants to go home with Unknown Hinson. The bar staff is happy 'cause the mans tips 'em good 'cause Unknown Hinson is helpin' the mans get lucky with the womans. That's the Unknown Hinson Ecosystem.
HP: Where do you get musicians who can keep up with a hard-traveling road dog like Unknown Hinson?
Hinson: Unknown Hinson's got work, and musicians needs work. I just looks for a drummer with a strong back and a pay-at-the-pump gas card. That's about all the requirements I got. Now if these guys start messing up, you know, not paying for pizza pies they order, chargin' up long distance on the hotel, well, I has to make some changes.
HP: How did Cartoon Network find you for theSquidbillies role?
Hinson: My last Capitol record, Rock 'N' Roll Is Straight from Hell, I does some talkin' betwixt songs and they heard that. So the producers got in touch with me and I read for the part. I guess they liked me.
HP: The network describes the Squidbillies in their publicity as "a family of in-bred squids tear the ass out of all creation…it's not all drinking, brawling and reckless gunplay. Sometimes they use crossbows. There's also hate, love, sex, an international drywall conglomerate…" Your character "spent 15 years in the joint, owns three teeth and a hair-trigger temper, inbred to the point of blacking out, fun to drink with." How do you fit in?
Hinson: I reckon I must've been perfect for the part.
Unknown Hinson performs Saturday, January 13, at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, 713-529-9899.