Hank3's Family Tradition: Doing Whatever the Hell He Wants

Don't confuse Hank Williams III with the ones who came before him. This sure ain't Bocephus' music he's playin'.

Hank Williams III, or Hank3, as he's known to his fans, is hardly the honky-tonk musician of old. Despite being descended from country-music royalty -- he's the grandson of good ol' Hank Williams, and his father is the infamous Bocephus -- Hank3 has opted for his own path well outside the confines of traditional country music.

Instead, he's swapped the "Family Tradition" for a hybrid of hellbilly, psychobilly, metal and punk, forging a solo career while also playing with his metal band, Assjack. The ornery sound embodied in anti-country anthems like "Dick in Dixie" initially created more than a few Hank3 skeptics. But those days are long gone now.

With 15 years of music under his belt and a catalog of raw, original albums in tow, the youngest Hank has found his own place well past the naysayers, and carved out a nice little niche as one of the most eclectic country/punk/metal artists around. So just how, exactly, does a guy from such royal country lineage wind up on such a different musical path?

"Basically most outlaws or rebels march to their own beat, and I've always been kinda independent and I've known my style and sound, and where it comes from," says Hank3 in his trademark leathery croak. "It's still got some of the country roots to it."

It wasn't always all Assjack and roses, though. Hank3 spent a lot of time trying to silence the critics, pushing forward with his unique musical hybrid despite the outlined expectations of the folks watching his career take off.

"[I]t doesn't matter if you're Dale Earnhardt Jr, Frank Zappa, or whatever. If you come from anything famous, you're expected to live up to people's expectations for you, but I've stayed true to that sound in some ways while doing my own thing, and that's kind of over now," Hank3 says.

"And if you listen to that version of clean pop, that bubblegum stuff, there's not much of the country roots in it," he says. "Fifteen years ago the old-timers were questioning what I was doing, but they saw how I kept the roots of country music in my music and in my playing while I did my own thing."

Even if Hank3 knows what his "own thing" is, it's still impossible to confine him to just one genre. As a solo artist, he spends a good amount of time paying homage to the music of both his grandfather and daddy Bocephus. But as important as those country roots are to him, Hank3 places equal importance on the punk and metal elements.

It makes sense. Hank3 wasn't raised around that rebel-rousing country music the elder Hanks were known for, leaving Nashville for Atlanta after his parents' divorce. During that time, he fell in love with even heavier music, playing drums in punk bands like Buzzkill and Bedwetter.

"[E]verything from Heart, Elvis, Waylon Jennings, Queen, and older, rowdier bands -- Black Flag, Misfits, and Johnny Cash," he lists. "Playing drums helped me branch out when I was younger."

Find out about the Hank3 concert experience on the next page.

Perhaps it's that divide between the name he's inadvertently famous for and the music he indulged in as a kid that makes Hank3's style so Jekyll and Hyde. His latest move, a triple-threat of same-day releases -- the double country album Brothers of the 4x4, and a punk single-shot A Fiendish Threat -- is slated to hit stores next Tuesday, further evidence of that personality split Hank3 wears so well.

His concerts follow that same layered pattern; part of the show is devoted to his country-music heritage, with the rest spent sawing into other genres with Hank3's serrated musical edges.

"It's four different genres of music during the concert, and we're always trying to make sure the fans get their money's worth, with the first half of the show totally devoted to country music," he says. "Those who don't wanna stick around to hear the rowdier stuff can leave and thanks for comin' out.

"Those who want to hang in there with us can stay," continues Hank3, matter-of-factly. "That's when we get into the hillbilly and punk-rock sound, and then 3-Bar-Ranch [metal] stuff."

But don't let that clear split between genres scare you away from requesting a song or two. Hank3 is as malleable with his set list as he is with his genre-jumping.

"If there's a fan that shouts out a song, we try to play it for them," he says. "It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, we try to do that for them."

Just don't expect him to wax poetic on anything political. He'll play you a tune or two, but doesn't get into any of his father's infamous musings on politics. In that anti-Hank Hank3 style, he's chosen to stay mum on the subject, in direct contrast to his outspoken pa. Asked about his silence on the subject of politics, Hank3 takes a minute and quietly states his thoughts.

"For right now it is what it is," he says. "A lot of rockers can get by doing that, but a lot lose focus on the music. I just listen to the kids who've just come back from war, and the ones from back during Vietnam, and that's where I get my views from."

Hank3 and his musical hydra perform Monday, September 30 at Scout Bar, 18307 Egret Bay Blvd., Clear Lake. Doors open at 7 p.m.


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