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He offers more than the famous family lineage--Hank III, son of Hank Williams Jr. and grandson of Hank, also continues the country tradition of bad labor relations. His debut with 1999's Risin' Outlaw also launched Hank III's constant bickering with his employers at the Curb label. The label had already embarrassed him with an earlier release that combined all three of the Hanks via creepy technology. Hank quickly distanced himself from the stale honky-tonk of Risin' and managed to show off his true strengths with 2002's Lovesick, Broke, & Driftin'.

The album was far from commercial country but totally sincere and plaintive. Hank III wasn't looking for a niche, though. He was working out his other ambitions as bassist for the metal act Superjoint Ritual, fronted by Pantera's Phil Anselmo. Meanwhile, Hank III was once again at odds with his country label, selling t-shirts proclaiming "Curb Sucks" after the label refused to release his 2003 albums This Ain't Country and Thrown Out of the Bar.

Now those bleached-bone country tracks have finally seen release as Straight to Hell--including the bonus CD that features a single rambling track that turns into a bizarre country-psych soundscape. The album's actually released on the new rock-imprint Bruc label, but Hank III's not complaining. Well, at least not about that. He's got plenty of other things on his mind, as seen while Hank talks to Mr. Skin from his sprawling acreage outside Nashville.

So what do you think of Reese Witherspoon (Picture:1) winning the Oscar recently?
Who's that?

The actress who won the Oscar for Best Actress this year.
Naw, I haven't watched the Oscars in about eight years. I have no idea what's going on out there in the real world. Did you say Reese Witherspoon? See, I know the name, but as far as what he or she does, I don't know.

She just won the Oscar for playing June Carter Cash in Walk the Line.
Oh, is that her? That's cool, man. I haven't seen the movie, you know. Fuck all that shit.

We know you're not sentimental about the past, anyway. It's a surprise to see that Straight to Hell bills you as "Hank Williams III" on the spine.
No, it says "Hank III."

We're looking at it right now. It says "Hank Williams III."
No shit. See, those guys at Curb think they're being smart. It's not supposed to say that, but it goes back to Curb jerking me around. Okay. I'm glad you told me that. I've got a meeting coming up where I'm getting ready to kick everybody's ass. They're just trying to get away with shit again.

For all the trouble with your label, Straight to Hell is a pretty amazing record. It's hard to believe that it isn't exactly the bizarre masterpiece that you set out to release.
As far as recording it ourselves, and the way we went about it, I think it's going to create our sound for the future. That's one of the more positive things about it. Everything's coming around. I'm always trying to get working on the next one.

The big hold-up was just the fighting and the lawyers, and Curb always holding us back. They wouldn't even sit down with me in a room. You've got to at least meet halfway to talk things out. Outlaw talk is outlaw talk, but you've got to do business. Don't waste my whole life. They were just taking their sweet time and wasting mine out of spite.

Things aren't better now that you've got the record out?
No, it's like what you just told me about my name on the CD. They keep throwing these curveballs at me, trying to get that extra dollar in there.

The album's second CD sounds like the first ever country prog-rock record.
Oh, man, I don't consider it hard rock.

No, prog-rock. It's--are you familiar with prog-rock?
Give me an example.

King Crimson.
Wow, I just wish I could play that good. Those guys are ripping. I think I just made this spaced-out, weird CD. It's got some stripped-down country songs on there, and some of it's just me and my guitar. Half those recordings are done on an old hand-held tape recorder. It's kind of like Ween unplugged, back when they were messing with their country thing. It's something for the stoners and trippers.

Is your live show still a mix of stripped-down country and amped-up rock?
If you come out to see us live, you get an hour of country and then an hour of what we call Assjack. It's more of a heavy-metal sound. I'm still trying to keep a metal act going. Superjoint Ritual isn't doing anything, but I just finished recording a new project with Phil Anselmo and Mike Williams from Eyehategod, and this kid Colin playing bass. It's raw hardcore punk rock. I might be working with Harley Flanagan from The Cro-Mags soon. I've got a stoner project, and country projects, and a little bit of everything I can get my hands in.

Do you keep a lot of projects going in hopes that one of them will pay off?
No, it's just what I do, man. I'm just keeping busy. The income is okay right now. It's not something I have to worry about. My kids are being fed. That's all that matters. I'm just trying to keep my brains occupied. One day, I'll have my own record label for all this, or I'll hook up with someone I respect.

Does touring allow you to give all the other projects a rest?
No, I take my work on the road with me. As far as enjoying the road, maybe if we were one of those bands that went on tour and played for forty minutes and then stopped. That might be fairly enjoyable, to just play and then get the cocaine and the whores and get wasted.

By the time I've finished with a show, and said hello to everyone who came, I feel like I'm about to have a heart attack. I mean, I can't breathe. Country music is just country music, but then I'm out there singing heavy metal and banging out all that shit. It takes a toll. Now I'm getting older, but we're trying to keep the shows as long as we can. We've all been getting ready for this tour. I've been cutting wood and running the dog and trying to get my lungs whipped into shape.

Considering the problems you've had with the country market, it's interesting that you still live in Nashville instead of, say, Los Angeles.
You could never get me to live in a place like that. For a thousand bucks a month, I can have sixty-five acres just about nineteen minutes from downtown Nashville, with my dogs walking around. In L.A., I'd have ten feet and people walking around me all the time. I'm into having a little bit of space and living cheap. When it comes to the bar scene, Nashville isn't anything like L.A., or even Austin--but my life is like living in a bar when I'm on the road. When I'm home, the last place I want to be is a fucking bar.

So you're not interested in the rock 'n' roll nightlife?
I've always been pretty antisocial. Maybe it's because I grew up just always feeling like somebody's trying to take something from me. I'm a pretty sketchy guy, you know. I've done a lot to my brain, and I take my private life pretty seriously. Half of that is me being in my basement, playing guitar or drums or trying to luck into some decent lyrics.

It sounds like you're a serious artist.
I don't know about that, but the thing is, I never feel like I've got enough time. There are a lot of people who just want to take time away from you, and get you stoned in return, and then they want nothing to do with you. My reputation is that I'm some wacky, freaky alcoholic, but I keep my shit together pretty good. I've never missed a show due to being messed up. I'm proud of that.

images of Hank III all courtesy of Hank3.com website

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