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Dallas Morning News
Chicago Sun Times
By DAN AQUILANTE
LIKE his grandfather and his dad before him, Hank Williams III is going to try to turn country music inside out for his generation of fans.
"I just like real hard country music that sort of punches you in the face. I don't like pretty-boy stuff - I like my music rough around the edges," Williams said. That's apparent with one listen to his just released ass-kicking disc "Risin' Outlaw."
Williams is 26 years old, the son of Hank Jr.'s second wife. Throughout his teens and early 20s, the boy rebelled against his musical heritage and the Nashville establishment by appearing in a series of punk bands.
These days his music has more in common with his granddad's style than it does with either his pop's or the Sex Pistols, but when it comes to his record company and Nashville he's a rebel without a pause.
In a conversation from his single-wide in Nashville, Williams is chatty, likable, humble - a good ol' boy with a big talent.
Post: Your album "Risin' Outlaw" is one of the most outrageous discs out of Nashville this year. Does your live act differ?
Williams: What you hear on the album and what we do live are different. Live we're real, more hillbilly. I didn't have the respect to do an album like that - they were worried about the radio play.
Post: Who's they, and what do you mean about respect?
Williams: They is Curb Record. For instance, I've got 28 songs that I wrote myself, and all I could get on the album is a couple. It bothers me, but it's the old story - I was too country for country.
Post: Why don't you and your record company see eye-to-eye?
Williams: Well, they're looking to make money, and I'm trying to make me happy.
Post: Can you speak a little about "If the Shoe Fits"? That's one of your songs, isn't it?
Williams: I've been trying to get the label to get behind that song. I got the [Nashville chapter of the] Hells Angels to let me use their clubhouse for the video, and all these biker guys are in it. And now I don't know what all is going to happen with the video.
Post: It seems that there are some pretty big fights in your life right now.
Williams: My record company has sat on me for close to four years, so my biggest battle is with them. I do everything for the band, and it has me is pretty scrambled. We have respect on the street, but not in the business.
Post: Why not?
Williams: I think it's because we go against the grain, like writing songs about the realities of Nashville.
Post: Do you play old-time country?
Williams: Yeah, and there's a lot of people who hate old country. I know you can't make everybody happy, but I'd rather get the respect of Texas than the respect of Tennessee - you know what I mean?
Post: Your new album deals with drinking, drugging and a murder. These aren't the nice things about life.
Williams: Well, all that comes from my dark background. When I write a ballad, there's heartbreak and horror in it. That's just where I come from. Right now, we're at the bottom and we're hoping to move up. So these are the kind of songs and the image that fit us. I'm not a happy-go-lucky GQ model.
Post: Then what are you ?
Williams: I'm just here, broke and drifting, and just playing hillbilly music.
Post: What's the hardest part of being Hank Jr.'s son and Hank Williams' grandkid?
Williams: I guess it's hard when people come expecting to hear a whole Hank Williams show, or they shout out 'You'll never be as good as your daddy.' That's fine, I know I'll never be a showman as good as Hank Jr. because I'm too insecure and too simplistic. And as far as Hank Williams, he was such a gifted singer and songwriter, I'll never be as good as he was.
Post: How do you fit into the family tree?
Williams: I owe way more to Grandpa than I do to my dad. My dad is much more a rock guy. We do simple country music - I play guitar and sing the songs.
Post: Recently I read an article about you that portrayed you as a real stoner. Is that true?
Williams: We were telling it like it is.
Post: Do you believe pot should be legalized?
Williams: Well I don't know, but it's in every state you drive through. Pot has its good and bad points.
Post: Does it work for you?
Williams: It gets me by. Like Merle [Haggard] once said, if it wasn't for weed, the whiskey would have killed me by now. I'm young and dumb, and I have plenty of time to get mature. I'm not into speed or needles or anything like that. I try to keep it simple.
Post: You played in punk-rock bands before you went country. What have you learned from rock and brought to country?
Williams: The sorrow, the depression, the misery, the street life. In time, if I could put together the right band, I'd put out an album of the punk songs that I've never released.
Post: Is making music easy to you?
Williams: When I'm making it, yes, but there's all the other stuff.
Post: Such as?
Williams: Music is a total business. It's got politics, you need the guy on the phone b------- all the time, you have to have a road manager, you even have to worry about buses and keeping the fuel bill paid. Fifty percent of my time is involved in s--- I don't want to be involved with. The other 50 percent of my time is looking for a lady and trying to write songs.
Players are another thing.
Williams: I can't find guys who'll stick with me. Everybody in Nashville is spoiled. They want fancy buses, they want to get paid $700 a show, and everybody wants to hop around. Like I get a kick-ass fiddle player and a guy like Billy Ray Cyrus comes along and says, 'Boy, you can play that thing good, I'll [pay you] twice as much,' and boom, the fiddler is with Cyrus. The only guy who's stuck with me from the beginning has been my bass player [Jason Brown].
Post: What gives with the boots on the cover of your album?
Williams: I still wear those to this day. Some old guy in Nashville even offered to buy me a new pair. I've had those eight years and there's holes in them, hillbilly chrome [duct tape] on top, but the fit is right. I had a fight over those boots. The guy at Curb said to me, 'What do you want on you album cover?' I said, 'I don't want my face, I want artwork.' He agreed, and then two months later he sent me 20 pictures, all face shots except for the boots picture. So I said, 'That's the only picture I'll accept.' ''
Post: Why didn't you want your face on the cover?
Williams: I was trying to be different from other new guys in country. I was trying to be creative. Whenever you try and get creative, you get shot down a lot.