Wayne Hancock: "The Whole Alt-Country Thing is Bullshit."
Even though country singer Wayne "The Train" Hancock was born in the '60s, he comes across like a man from an entirely different generation. His look, mannerisms and style of music are much more akin to someone raised in the Roaring Twenties, though Hancock's first album was released in 1995.
Speaking from his home in Granite Shoals, Texas, and in anticipation of Saturday's performance at the Granada Theater, Hancock spoke with DC9 about his take on roots music and how he really hates the current state of country music.
You have lived in both Austin and Dallas, correct?
I lived in Austin about ten years ago. My momma lived in Dallas and I would spend a few weeks there sometimes. You know how it is. Going back and living with your folks never seems to work out. I was born in Dallas and lived there in '65 and '66 and then moved on from there.
What was the music scene like then?
Man, I don't really know. My mother and father met at the Lone Star Ballroom when the war was over. That was '44 or '46 or '47, something like that. Dallas had a pretty good music scene, but I haven't lived there in some time. I don't want to offend anyone in Dallas, but Austin, even though it is a big city; it still feels like a small town. Austin's had a great music scene since the early '60s. I'm not sure why Austin's scene has outlasted other towns. Dallas had a great scene going in Deep Ellum. That was a good scene for a lot of years.
When you left Dallas, is that when you joined the Marines? Where were you stationed?
I was in Hawaii. It was all right, a pretty nice place. There were some pretty women there and some ugly ones, too. I was in the Marines from 1984 to '90.
Any engagements during that time?
No, I was single. That's a bad joke, but there really wasn't anything really going on. There was a coup attempt in the Philippines in around '87. I'm not sure of the date. I should have a better memory than that. That coup attempt was the closest I ever got to combat.
Were you writing songs at that time? Did you perform in Hawaii?
Yes, I wrote songs all of the time. I played some venues there. It was pretty good. There was a good music scene there.
You're often referred to as an alt-country artist. What do you think of that term?
I think it's bullshit. The whole alt-country thing is bullshit. I think whoever thought of that needs to be hung up by his thumbs.
Would you call yourself a traditional country singer?
I would just call what I do swing. I play more swing music than anything else. Not just Western swing, but juke joint swing. That's a term I came up with. It's a large band sound for a very small room. I don't have drums in my lineup and without drums, you save yourself six or seven feet.
What do you think about the country scene in Nashville?
All things, once they become incorporated, the product becomes watered down. Once somebody starts making stuff in mass production, you're going to lose something original. There is going to be less detail. I don't listen to country music myself. I haven't listened to it since the mid-'80s.The country music of today is foreign to me.
What do you listen to?
I like to listen to big band swing and some rock and roll. I also like some jazz and hillbilly music. Everything that's not allowed on the radio is what I like.
Your debut album, Thunderstorms and Neon Signs, came out in 1995 and got great reviews. It also sold over 20,000 copies. When you were making it, did you have the feeling you were making a great record?
Yes, there was a lot of good energy put into that record. It was my first album. It took me a long time to make it. It was the longest I've ever spent making an album. I think I spent a week and a half making that record. And it felt painfully slow. I guess it was the luck of the draw. 20,000 is a lot to me.
Your last album was 2009's Viper of Melody. Are you working on a new effort?
I am thinking about going into the studio in May or July. It's been three years and that's too long. I have a shitload of songs. I have to go back through my files in my brain. I hate to put out an album just for the sake of putting out an album. Then you have five or six songs that ain't worth a shit.
Is your writing process pretty much the same as it was in 1995?
Yes, it's pretty much the same. I try to stay away from songs that refer to the economy and stuff like that. A lot has changed since I was 29 or 30 years old. I am about to be 47. I'm sure that I've changed a little. The best thing is I have more experience and I know what I am talking about.
Will the new album be on Bloodshot Records?
Yes, if it ain't broke don't fix it. That is a good, little label. They specialize in roots music.
Will Lloyd Maines be the producer again?
Of course, I can't imagine using anybody else. Lloyd can pretty much read my mind. He knows my ideas even before I tell him. We have a psychic connection.
Your music has always been compared to Hank Williams. Is that too simplistic a comparison?
No, I don't think so. In my younger days, I listened to a lot of Hank Williams. Nowadays, it's not that strong. I don't remember hearing a Hank Williams record with trombone on it. People just like to be reminded of someone they like. They try and find some kind of connection between you and what they like.
What would Hank Williams think of the current state of country music?
He would fucking hate it. He'd probably take a shotgun and take out the TV and the radio. One time, I was in Chicago in my hotel room and the Country Music Awards were on TV. Garth Brooks comes out in the alter-ego shit he was doing, that Chris Gaines thing. He was giving a piece sign and that hippy shit and I thought it was a joke. But he was serious. I turned off the fucking TV in disgust. I haven't watched a country music television program since. That was the end of it for me.
Wayne Hancock performs with The King Bucks on Saturday, March 10, at the Granada Theater.