Hank Williams III wants "to come out of the gate strong" as he launches his own label, Hank3 Records, after 15 years with Curb. And three albums, all of different genres, certainly qualifies as making a grand statement right off the bat.
On Sept. 6, Williams will release a two-disc country set called "Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown," a doomy heavy rock set "Attention Deficient Domination" and "3 Bar Cattle Callin," which creates "cattlecore" by meshing speed metal with genuine cattle auctioneer calls. "It's kind of like a new beginning, really," Williams tells Billboard.com. "This is just what I do, play music and create sounds and all that good stuff. Curb just sat on me for so many years and killed my creativity; to have that taken away from me for so long was just really frustrating. So for me the real big inspiration was just doing something different, tackling all three genres and just make a bunch of music, which I haven't had the chance to do yet, really."
Williams -- who also played in the all-star bands Superjoint Ritual and Arson Anthem -- spent January through June working on the three releases. "In the daytime it was country first," he recalls, "and at night it would be a little more fun and I would loosen up a little bit and kind of take it to the next level." The country set in particular, he says, "kept growing and growing and growing with all the experimental stuff. I started off with just 10 songs; then there were 15 and then 20 and then 30. The approach I took was, 'OK, this might be the very last record I ever make,' so there's a lot of different moods and different concepts on that record, painting some different pictures."
In fact, Williams notes that "there's maybe four or five 'real' country songs" on "Ghost of a Ghost/Guttertown," which features guest appearances by Tom Waits, Les Claypool and Alan King of Hellstomper. "There's a lot of stuff that's definitely not country and a little more ambient and experimental."
"Attention Deficient Domination," meanwhile, comes from Williams love of the Melvins, Black Sabbath, Pentagram and "the whole doom genre," while his vocal style is "dedicated" to the late Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley. "It was just playing heavy, playing slow and low," Williams explains. "It's just a new sound I wanted to get into."
"New" is an understatement for "3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin," which was inspired by his days as a youth on his grandfather's farm in Missouri, where he attended cattle auctions and "was always fascinated with the speed of the auctioneers. What they could do and metal just seemed like a good fit." Williams used nine auctioneers on the album but acknowledges many others turned him down.
"A lot of the really fast guys I didn't get to use because they didn't want their name associated with my name," he says. "They thought I might be making fun of their industry, even though I was assuring them I was dead serious about this." And even Williams seems surprised that "I don't say one cuss word on this record" in deference to some of the auctioneers.
Williams plans to play music from all three of the albums when he starts touring in early September, with the more tame country fare front-loaded into the shows and then moving into the more abrasive metal later on. He's recently done some recording with Junior Brown, but Williams says he mostly plans to spend the next couple of years on the road focusing on these three albums before working on anything new in earnest.
"I've always said I'm gonna work the road as hard as I can 'til I'm 50, then I might slow down a little bit," notes Williams, who's 38. "But then I look at Willie Nelson and Lemmy and some of those older guys that are still bringing it to the next level, who knows where I'll be. I'm just glad I'm finally able to just make music without it being so complicated or going through five different lawyers just to do one thing. This is how I've always wanted to do it."