Assjack – Assjack
(Another recycled post. I wrote this one a year ago, and I tried to clean it up and fix the grammar a bit so it makes more sense. I’m not sure how successful I was at that.)
Today’s CD is Hank Williams III punk metal project’s one and only record, so far, Assjack. A record in my opinion that is more interesting in theory than in practice. Though I will say that you should really check out the band live, it comes off much better than the CD.
Since this is my first Hank III related record in this series, I suppose I could tell my Hank III story. Back in 2001, I was working as a freelance stagehand and I was asked to work the Hank III show at Rosebud. At the time, I wasn’t sure what he was all about. I think I saw a little clip of him on MTV that summer but didn’t really pay attention to what his thing was. So, I think when the show was booked, I was expecting it to be a country show. It seemed to make sense, his name was Hank Williams and the show was sponsored by a country radio station seemed like a good bet that it would be a country show.
But during load in I was noticing a lot of road cases that had Slayer, Black Flag and Misfits stickers all over them. Plus, the backline seemed to be more of a rock or metal backline than a what you see with a country artist. The backline for country bands tends to be more Fender Twin Reverbs and smaller combo amps. Hanks bands were all Marshall half stacks and SVT bass cabinets, which is usually what you would see with rock or metal bands. So anyway, we get everything in and on stage and the band is setting everything up. At this point, they didn’t really need my help so I’m was sitting on a road case in front of the stage in case they need a hand. In comes in this guy about my age, with long hair, wearing gas station attendant shirt with The Misfits logo on it. He walks up to me and introduces himself as Hank and shakes my hand thanking me for helping load everything in. From there we talked about the Misfits and The Ramones for a little bit. I had just worked a Misfits show where they were doing The Ramones and Black Flag songs along with Misfits material, so I was telling him about that show. Anyway, we only talked for a few minutes and he came off to me as a cool guy who was nice and down to earth. From there he and one of his bands mates start talking about how they couldn’t sleep the night before and the various methods they used to get to sleep, but we won’t go into that
So after a while, the band is sound checking and I finally get an idea what the band was about. I must say it really made an impression on me, even though it would be 11 years before I finally got around to checking out any of his records, I distinctly remember him doing the song ‘Hang On’ during sound check and really liking it.
A couple of hours later and doors are open and the crowd starts coming in and I can’t help but notice that there were a several country type folks with cowboy hats on. At one point, I found myself in a conversation with this one guy who was a straight up country guy. He wasn’t some mall country suburban douche with a cowboy hat, he was the real deal. We get to talking and he was asking me what Hank III was about. It seems this guy had no idea what kind of music Hank was playing, but he was a huge country music fan, and a big Hank Williams Sr. and Jr. fan and was there just because of his name. Now, this may sound stupid, but at this point, I had never met anyone that was as much into country music like I was into rock or metal. My experience has always been that country music fans just have it on as background noise and aren’t really into music like I was. But this guy was all into the history of the music and came to this show out of curiosity and his love of the music.
At one point this guy asks what does he look like, he had heard that he’s a spittin’ image of his grandfather, which he is, and was wondering if that was true. It just so happened that Hank and the band were walking through the bar, and I said to him, “See that guy with the ponytail? That’s him”. The fact that Hank had long hair seemed to blow him away.
During this same time, I worked at an after-hours club that was around the corner from the venue I was working at, so I left for a little bit to clean it up and get it ready to open at 2 am, so I ended up missing a little bit of the first half of Hanks set. When I came in, it was during the country set, which reminded me of his grandfather’s classic sound, except with a lot more profanity and drug references. Hank has his hair tied back and had a cowboy hat on and is doing the whole classic country thing.
Also by this time, the room was full, and it was a mix of country people with cowboy hats and the Gooskie’s and Dee’s Cafe crowd. For those of you outside of Pittsburgh, that’s basically the rockabilly, punk, and tattoo shop crowd. Despite the vast differences in the crowd, everyone was hanging out and having a great time.
Eventually, the country set ends and Hank announces that the rock set will start set soon. But before he leaves the stage he warns the crowd “now this ain’t no 38 Special or Lynyrd Skynard type of rock, if you don’t like punk rock and heavy metal, you might as well leave now”. Despite this warning, no one leaves just yet. About 15 minutes later the band comes back out and Hanks has a black t-shirt on and has let his hair down and looks totally different. The band launches into ‘Tennessee Driver’ and all the cowboy hats take a step back. Hank steps up to the mic and does a few death metal growls and with that the all the cowboy hats in the building start B-lining it to the door. In less than 30 seconds he managed to clear out half the room. To this day that is one of my favorite moments in my career in working live music. It was awesome.
Now as far as this CD goes, it’s an interesting listen, but like I said in the intro, I think it comes off better live than it does on record. I think that is because Hank plays all the instruments himself and it lacks the energy that you get from the live show with the full band. That is something that I have noticed with Hanks career, once he finally broke with the record company and started doing exactly what he wanted, and usually by himself, the music suffers. Though he’s extremely talented and a brilliant visionary, I think he really needs other musicians to come to and to bring his vision to its fullest potential. This point is proven when you see him live. Stuff that sounds weak and thin on record totally kicks ass live.
So instead of trying to point you toward and song or two on this record, I strongly suggest going to see him live if you ever get the chance. He puts on such an amazing and varied show; you are bound to like part of it. From what I understand at this point he breaks it down into four different parts, country, psychobilly, punk/metal, and some crazy 3 bar cattle calling thing, which is some like cattle calling mixed with grindcore metal. It fucking crazy and you should really check it out if you get the chance.