Hank 3 delights and shocks Mugsy’s crowd last Saturday night

By Gus Bode

Factoid:For more information on Hank 3 and Assjack, go to www.hank3.com

By 8 p.m. the place was packed. But by the time 9 p.m. rolled around, Mugsy’s Entertainment Center was near its maximum capacity and still filling.

The first act of the evening was the local country and bluegrass jam band Woodbox Gang. Woodbox Gang played a rather enjoyable set of its self-termed “trashcan Americana” style of music. There was the occasional mishap such as a malfunctioning guitar or mandolin, but it scarcely detracted from an otherwise superb performance.

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These minor inconveniences were more than made up for by the impressive coordination of percussionist Alex Kirt. In many of the songs, Kirt would blow on a harmonica, strum his specially gloved hands on a washboard, and press his foot down on a high hat pedal all at the same time.

Once Woodbox Gang left the stage, gray tarps were removed from Hank 3 and the Damn Band’s stage set. Images of marijuana leaves were stenciled in white spray paint on the speaker cabinets, and on each cabinet was a buffalo skull with three vertical bars on each forehead. It was perfectly clear who would be taking the stage next.

As soon as Williams stepped through the back door, the crowd went ballistic. Williams and the Damn Band hit the stage and played over an hour of country music ranging from songs off of his current releases to covers of songs by his famous father and legendary grandfather among others.

Some of the songs he performed from his current album, “Lovesick, Broke and Drifitin’,” included “Mississippi Mud,” “7months, 39 Days,” the somber “One Horse Town” and “Trashville,” a song which rather bluntly criticizes the current state of the country music industry. At one point, there was even a guy who jumped off the stage into the crowd.

Throughout the performance, Williams had a smile on his face and a charming twinkle in his eye, which are both very reminiscent of the late Hank Williams Sr. And then there’s the voice, which made the entire Hank Williams reincarnation complete.

After the first hour and 10 minutes were up, Hank 3 stepped up to the mic and announced that unless a person enjoyed hearing a lot of screaming and loud guitars, they should feel free to leave. The band left, and ten minutes later, Williams’ hardcore punk and metal band, Assjack, took the stage.

Assjack is meant to be a release for some of Hank 3’s early hard rock influences that affected him just as equally as country. And rightly so, for what seemed like an eternity of bliss to some may have become an audio and visual nightmare to others. Williams and Assjack thrashed about the stage, producing a fast, blistering heavy metal-driven sound. The enchanting voice heard just prior transformed into a blaring scream and tried in vain to shred every eardrum in the place. He even let his hair down.

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Upon completion of the last set and an extended period of time consisting of dismantling, stowing away the equipment and drying off (they were all very sweaty), the Daily Egyptian’s Pulse was granted an exclusive interview. What transpired was an in-person discussion with Hank Williams III and Assjack guitarist Kevin Bond in Williams’ inner sanctuary:the back of his tour bus.

DE:When did you decide that music was something you wanted to pursue and make a career out of?

Hank:I was in my first band when I was 15, but I started playing drums when I was 10. I always thought I was going to be a drummer. I never thought I was going to be a front man or a singer or whatever. I was a drummer for as long as I could be. I had a one-night stand that waited three years to tell me I had a kid, and the judge told me that playing music was not a real job, and I needed to get my ass to a real job.

So, my little way of saying ‘f*** you’ to the judge was by going down to Music Row. I have the name Shelton Hank Williams III on my birth certificate. I was planning on getting into country music, but it just pushed me ahead another 10 years because I wanted to be as pissed off as I could be while I was pissed off. Then you can be mellow and play country for the rest of your life pretty much because your fans can grow old with you and all that.

I grew up seeing my dad’s shows, and the excitement and craziness and the bus and all that stuff. The only other thing I can do is hang garage doors and pump gas and sell dope.

Kevin:And I’ve done one out of the three.

DE:Hank, why do you think it is that the country music industry and country radio have yet to pick up on you and give you recognition?

Hank:Oh, it’s just because of what we’re doing and what we’re saying, and I’d rather not even be picked up by the country music industry the way it is.

I’d rather have a career like Reverend Horton Heat. He never got no MTV; he never got no radio play, and almost everybody knows who he is and he can go out and play and have a good crowd. And that stuff is satisfaction to me. I don’t need a million dollars, and I don’t need to be on all these award shows.

DE:Essentially make it on the whole DIY, do it yourself thing.

Hank:Oh yeah! I’ve already sold 350 handmade bootlegs of “Bootleg No. 3.” If I made $2 million tomorrow, Curb Records would sue me and take every dollar for the bootlegs I’ve put out.

Kevin:For a rock record they won’t put out.

Hank:Yeah. I don’t know. I mean even though I am a pot smoker and a little bit of a slacker, I’m still as DIY as I can be.

DE:Is that why you don’t support the Outlawz Street Team sponsored by Curb Records?

Hank:I said, ‘You know who needs street teams? Hardcore bands and bands that aren’t signed to major labels.’ That’s what street teams are about, man.

If it was a rock album, our Assjack album, I might consider a street team on that because no one knows that old Hank 3, even though it may not be your cup of tea, nobody knows that he freaks out on this kind of music.

DE:How did you get involved with the Black Flag tribute CD benefiting the West Memphis Three?

Hank:I think I owe it to Henry Rollins’ current guitar player, Jim . He’s always been a fan of ours. We played with Rollins not too long ago, and not Henry, but his band was hanging out with us, and I think Jim went up to him and said:’You know Henry it might be cool. Hank just loved Black Flag’ blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Henry called up and I said, ‘I’ll do whatever the f*** you want man.’ So I recorded a one minute and 30 second song.

DE:Have you started any work on your next country album?

Hank:I’ve got seven songs written, but Curb wants 10, so as soon that gets done, and they tell me to come in, that’s when it’ll get done.

DE:Do you have a recording of your other band, Assjack?

Hank:Oh yeah. I’ve got two. Curb gave me $120,000 to make the rock album, we hired a supposedly cool producer, they give us all this money to record the rock album, then they read the lyrics and say they’re not going to put this out. And the lyrics aren’t even that bad.

Kevin:It’s better when compared to some of the other stuff out there.

Hank:Right. So they’ve sat on that album for two years. And like I said, I put out two rock bootlegs of live shows and the third bootleg I just put out. I went in the studio Sept. 1, and recorded 11 songs, and put out a demo version on “Bootleg No. 3.”

So it’s eight songs recorded in the studio with a so-so mix on it done by myself because I should already have out five country albums and three rock albums out by now if I had a real record label. I’m just doing what I’ve got to do to get it out because we’ve been on the road long enough that there’s a following who want some of those songs, or want to say ‘I have a copy of it.’

It’s just something I have to work on every day to get it released. And being in Superjoint [Ritual] helps. It helps to divert some people back into us who might not think that we’re into the hard rock or whatever.

DE:Because you’re dealing with two different groups of people?

DE:Since we’re on that topic, have you ever played somewhere where you got a bad reaction.

Hank:Oh yeah. The worst was probably in Lubbock, Texas, where there were about 300 cowboys and about a hundred rock kids. We’ve had a lot of beer bottles and whiskey thrown at us.

You can’t make everybody happy, man. I’m here to make myself happy. I could be the best songwriter and country singer in the world, and I still get sh*t for being the son or the grandson of [Hank Williams]. That’s why I like to make my own niche. Not many people can do the Jekyll and Hyde thing.

The conversation continued for a short while longer, eventually ending on the topic of where one can find a Black Flag T-shirt. By that time, Williams and Bond showed signs of fatigue from their intense performance, so it was then decided the interview should come to a close.

Once the guests disembarked the tour bus and headed toward the last two cars in the entire parking lot, the Hank Williams III and Assjack tour bus revved-up and headed down the road at about 3:15 a.m.

On Saturday, Oct. 19, Williams, Bond and Hank 3 drummer Joe Fazzio will perform at Pop’s in Sauget, Ill., alongside Eyehategod’s Jimmy Bower and Pantera’s Phil Anselmo in the hardcore heavy metal band, Superjoint Ritual.

Reporter Jared DuBach can be reached at [email protected]

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