Last Wednesday, I went to the second of back-to-back Hank3 shows at the Mateel. My date and I drank Jim Beam. He moshed in Chacos. Some hot country punk chick showed me the lacy lingerie hiding under her camo overalls, without any prompt at all. The stage was packed to overflowing with speakers and amps. The mosh pit had eau de B.O…. It was all very outlaw country cray.
And Hank3. He has no opening act. It’s straight up Hank3 and the various people that back him for the musical odyssey that is his 4-plus hours performance. For real, the show went from 8:30 p.m. till like 1 a.m., and from country to punk to doom metal. I’m pretty sure Hank3 himself didn’t leave the stage once that whole time. He’s got hella stamina.
I did a brief phone interview with Hank3 the next day. Here’s the meat of our convo, if you want to check it out. He talks Humboldt, he talks weed, he talks about the movie he plays during the doom segment of his performance and he talks about how he’s never been to check out “The Hill.”
OTP: I caught the show last night. It was awesome. I had a good time. Thank you. You have really nice hair.
H3: Ah, it’s hangin’ in there. My dad said it would fall out by the time I was 25. So, it’s hangin’ in there.
OTP: How old are you now?
OTP: Alright. On this tour, Southern Humboldt is the only place you play back-to-back shows. Why two shows in Humboldt and nowhere else?
H3: Last year, I did two nights at the Observatory [down in Santa Ana], so there’s certain spots where I’ll do two nights.
And I know this time of year, everyone is really busy, for the locals. That’s one of the reasons, just because I know how busy everyone is… Just giving the folks that might want to come out and see the show an opportunity to. And it takes a lot to get here and to do what we do.
It also goes back to — there’s a certain vibe that the crowd has here. It’s really hard to explain. But that’s another part of it, the energy that people bring, all the good friends we’ve made, from the eight-year-olds all the way up to the 80-year-olds. Just got a little more of a deeper connection around here, compared to some of the other places we play…
I can remember my first time, playing at the Mateel. I’ve played some other places in Humboldt as well, on farms and stuff. But the Mateel seems like a good place where everyone can come out and have some fun, not too much trouble. There was maybe a little more trouble last night [Wednesday] than there was on the first show, just with kids pushing the envelope a little too hard. But it seemed like it went well. Had a couple of technical difficulties compared to the first show, but we pulled it off the best we could.
OTP: I thought so. You make a good point about people being busy this time of year. I know people appreciate the chance to come off The Hill to do something like this.
H3: Yeah, in reality, I wasn’t even supposed to be on the West Coast. Someone in my camp messed up, they took a show without my permission. So to be a professional, I had to book a whole tour. I don’t do fly-dates. I either do a whole run of shows or I don’t. So to not burn a bridge, I had to book a whole West Coast tour. And that’s why we’re here, just a little early for everybody.
But it made sense, and everyone was available. We always love the scenery around here and just a lot of the vibe. It’s like the last Wild West in it’s own way, when you talk to the people and everything that’s going on right now, if you really get in the political world, which I’m not that involved in. But to me, it just feels like the last bit of the Wild West that’s left.
OTP: It is an amazing place, I think. It’s raw. I love it.
OTP: Weed in this area is a huge deal. For a lot of people, it’s their careers, their livelihoods. I’m going to ask you an open-ended question here. How do you feel about weed today, just off the cuff?
H3: Well, I smoked for 25 years and then I took a break from it, just for my voice, doing these super-long shows and everything. I’m saving it to get back into if I ever get to retire.
But my stance on it, always, from day one: It’s a no-brainer. It’s a way to keep farmers in business. It’s a way to keep everything more green. It’s got many more plusses than minuses. Jello Biafra sums it up very well in his speech, “Grow More Pot.” He definitely shows all the plusses and all the uses that can come from it, just what it can do for farmers throughout the whole U.S.
It’s a shame it’s where it is right now, how it’s been so complicated. Even though I’m taking a break from it, my stance will never change. I’m around the smoke and I’m around the alcohol basically every night that I play. And some bars are OK with it. And then some bars aren’t. I get to see both sides of the spectrum. But there’s definitely many, many more positives than negatives, if you were just to straight up compare it to alcohol. It’s a no-brainer… But I know there’s also a lot of people that don’t want to see it officially go legal as well. I’m sure it’s really tricky.
I’ve never full on gone and seen an operation, in-person, on The Hill, just because I’m here to play my music… And I would never want to put anyone in a bad position. Some people offer to take me up and show me what they’ve been working on. And, out of respect, I’m like, “Well, I know you’re working hard, I bet it’s beautiful, but just keep it in mind for me.” So I’ve never got to see it in-person. I just know a lot of people are here, and how much hard work goes into it and that it’s definitely not an easy job…
If I was ever up here and not on tour, it might be different. But when I’m running on tour, it already feels like we’ve got the big eye on us anyway. It’s just one of those things. I’ve never got to see Humboldt or The Hill when I’ve been on my own. So that might be something I get to experience in the future.
OTP: So you said you’re taking a break from cannabis, potentially till retirement. But in the past, did cannabis factor into your creative process?
H3: I mean, I used it a lot. Like I said, 25 years. It was everyday from the time I would wake up till the time I went to sleep. And definitely many, many songs been written on it. And many performances were done on it. I don’t think it ever hurt my ability, just as much as I have to use the voice. You can tell right now, my voice is kind of scratchy. It’s hard to hold on to the kind of voice that I try to present every night. For my chemical build, the way my body is, my lungs just had to take a break from it. I was also smoking tobacco as well.
So for doing the 4-hour shows, I had to change some things up while I’m running this hard. But it never caused me to miss a show. The only time I’ve ever had to cancel a performance in my whole career, more than twenty-plus years on the road, is [from] having the flu.
Just about every other musician I know out there usually partakes in it and enjoys it and gets a lot of benefits from it. Going back to Jello, he would say he’s not into the Dead Head, mellow vibe that might be for some people. But it does the opposite for a lot of people, it picks a lot people up. And it also calms a lot of people down. It just depends on the situation and which kind it is, and all that.
It’s an art form in its own way, just seeing it throughout the years. It’s like the Moonshiners that I know that take it real serious, it’s not an easy thing to do. It goes back to the hard work. And people are proud of their work. Time will tell what the future holds. It’s a weird time for everybody, seems like, right now. And the next ten years will probably be very interesting.
OTP: You’re right. And you’re right about cannabis being complicated. It’s all complicated.
H3: Yes. I’m not even that political, and I can tell how complicated it is. Where I come from in the south, Kentucky and places like that, [people] have their own little operations all around there. It’s a totally different world. But it is what it is. No matter how long or how hard they try to stamp it out, it will never go away. It’s just one of those things. It will never die.
OTP: The show last night was marathon, you went for a long time. Toward the end, you get into the doom and the metal music and you have a video playing in the background. And it’s a lot of male energy and it’s dark, intense, I thought —
H3: It is. It goes to the moods that’s coming off the stage. It’s like an experience, seeing the whole show. The first two hours is more of the happy-go-lucky kind of vibes, every now and then there’s a sad song. As the show goes on, it just gets a little more — how doom is supposed to be. A little dark and a little grim.
That movie that’s played is called Tribulation 99 and it’s made by Craig Baldwin. In reality, if you listen to it… he’s speaking in a weird voice and doing his own narrating. So it fits — if you watch it all and it’s all done right and I have enough time to do it — it fits well with the doom part and a little bit of what I’m singing about. And at the very end of the movie with 3 Bar Ranch (when we’ve got the cowboy hats back on), it has a lot of the cowboy images and the Marlboro man, and the ranchers and a lot of the hot rods and the burn outs and “game over” stuff going on.
The reason I have the movie up there is I’m up there for so long. It’s not like I’m doing a bunch of dance moves or being a full-on front man. I’m kind of limited since I’m holding a guitar. It’s another way to bring another element to the show and to bring another mood to the show. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be doing it.
I have some of the old grandmas come up to me and go, “How much longer are you going to be playing the weird movie?” It’s interesting to hear what some people get out of it and what others don’t. Every time you watch it you’ll see something different. And some people really understand it. They probably get it more than I get it. There’s a lot of things in it that I don’t historically know that other people do.
It’s just like in the 60s, they always had the trippy water on the backdrops. And Pink Floyd, using the lights and just the trippy elements to the show… It’s my way of making it more of an experience with the different generes throughout the night…
My stuff is a little light-hearted — 3 Bar Ranch, compared to most back metal and full on satanic metal. What I do is pretty light-hearted compared to a lot of those guys that take it so serious and try to put so much of the dark twist on it. What I do is more like the Melvins, how there’s a certain bit of anarchy that just naturally happens throughout the night of our shows…
It’s bringing the different moods, more than anything. That’s why I say, “Thanks for coming out for the country part of the show. Now we’re gonna be moving on.” And a good bit of people stick around here and watch the whole thing. In a lot of places, I’ll only have maybe 15-20 people left at the end of the night. So not everybody stays and watches the whole show.
Who knows how long I’ll be able to keep holding up with it? It’s definitely an intense thing, to keep trying to pull off every day.
OTP: Anything else you want to say to Humboldt, Emerald Triangle people out there?
H3: Yeah. Thanks for having us. Enjoy your last week of getting all your harvest done. And we hope to see y’all soon. I’m sure one day we’ll either try to do a Redwood Run or some different things.
I’ve only had one bad experience. We played somewhere and the security and the place it was held — it was just a little tricky. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about that, how it was a bad experience. So for those people that had a bad experience at that farm, just know that that was not my doing. That was rules and — it got tricky. I can’t remember if it was Ryan Creek —
OTP: Dean Creek?
H3: It might have been that one. Yeah, just so the people know, I did not try to put them in that position. It’s just one of those unfortunate things that happened. All the other experiences have been good around here. And sorry about that one. Some people were kind of mistreated… It had to do with alcohol. No one was supposed to drink. And when you put that combination with my kind of crowd, it puts a lot of people in a bad place. But this time it went well.
Enjoy the rest of the year. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks everyone will get to take a deep breath and relax a little bit. Thanks for having us.
And it’s hank3.com if [people] want to get tour dates or vinyl or t-shirts and all that stuff. Me and my mom running our merch… That’s the update that I’ve got right now.