A FEW MINUTES WITH: Wayne “The Train” Hancock

November 9th, 2016, 2:00 pm by Greg

By Don Wilcock

“Two things will make me walk out of a restaurant,” explains Wayne Hancock. “One of ’em is if I go in there, and it’s full of cops, I’ll turn right around and fucking walk out of there. The other one is if I go in there and they’re playing country radio.” Hancock plays the Hangar on the Hudson in Troy on Friday night (November 11).

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Never mistake Wayne “The Train” as retro. Yes, he plays juke joint swing, and he hasn’t touched his computer since he bought it five years ago, cracking the screen before he flipped its switch. But he’s retro like Dale Watson, Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen are retro. He’s inspired by all styles of Texas music from hillbilly to rockabilly, western swing to rock and roll. He’s shared the bill with Watson and was a last minute replacement for Jimmie Dale Gilmore with Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen in the 1994 musical, “Chippy” about a West Texas hooker. Hancock describes the experience: “It was like being in a porno movie that you know your parents might see and doing it in front of people.”

Hank Williams III is quoted in Hancock’s press release as saying, “The only other guy who has more Hank Williams in him than me is Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock. Very few people can be real purists, but Wayne is a purist all the way.” According to Hancock, Hank III was “looking for songs that sounded like his grandfathers’ that weren’t written, and I was the perfect guy. Nashville was trying to make him something he didn’t want to be, and unfortunately for them, he (went) with my music and twisted them off. I’m proud and honored that he used my songs.”

And if you think Hancock is pissed off that Hank has had more success than he has, think again. “That’s the way life is, brother.”

The 51-year-old Hancock has no set list and a repertoire of more than 100 original compositions. “You want to keep them guessing. Always stay one step ahead of everybody. Somebody is going to make a lot of money off the resurgence of this. I doubt it’ll be me because, if you ever notice, the ones that usually kick the door in are the ones that get remembered. The ones that make the money are the guys that come in after, you know?”

Blues artist Johnny Sansone told me this summer that too much of today’s music sounds like candy. “Candy made with substitute sugar,” adds Hancock. And it’s because the suits run the business end of things and the music. Not here. “You gotta know when not to take the money, man. It’s all a big gamble for these people. As soon as you get anything decent coming out, the record company will grab ’em up. I could never figure it out. They were trying to grab them up when they thought they had talent, and they could use these people.”

In the late ’90s Hancock recorded three CDs for Miles Copeland’s Ark21 label. “They were trying to change me. They wanted to roll my cuffs down, take the grease out of my hair, put drums on my record. I don’t remember all the stuff they were trying to do.

“One or two of my albums had drums, and the reason that they’re on there is because of Miles Copeland (record executive and brother of Stewart Copeland of Police fame). Here’s a guy who knows how to make money, but he doesn’t necessarily know how to make music, and he’s telling me you can’t command respect without drums. So, I put drums on those albums like he wanted. I put ridiculous drum solos on them, ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ stuff like that and even ‘Misery.’

“Actually, ‘Misery’ sounds good with drums. They got those kettle drums on it, you know. But the rest of ’em, it was me basically flipping the finger at him musically, man. ‘You want drums? I’ll give you fucking drums.’ The best people I could find to play ’em.

“We don’t use drums, no. It’s just not part of my style. All five of us contribute to that album. You think you hear a snare and a kick? There’s no snare, and there’s no kick. That’s me, the lead player, everybody at one time going (clunk) like that. What you hear is the sound of that bass slapping and my hands on that guitar. There’s no drums anywhere on my new album.”

Slingin’ Rhythm is Hancock’s 10th album. “(My band) is so good I put pictures of ’em on the album to entice them to stay.” The CD was recorded in mono to sound like you you’re right up in front of the band. The songs are new originals. “Your songs all come at once. It’s weird. Sometimes, they’ll come in the middle of the night. Sometimes when I’m driving, but with these ones I wrote about six songs in two or three months. They all came at one time.

“I can do it any place. I’ll get a tune. I’ll get words stuck in my head. I got one in there right now. I swear to God I heard it somewhere before. You know, we’re talking right now, and I’m figuring it out in my head. I haven’t written it yet, but what we do, is we go in the studio. I’ll take a bunch of notebooks in with me, and I’ll put these down. The band may or may not have heard these songs most of the time ’cause they’re brand new. Usually I might do one or two of ’em on stage with the band, but lots of times that’s the first time they’re seeing material, and we just go and cut live.

“The reason my albums sound the way I sound on stage is that’s the way we cut. We cut live. We usually do five cuts on each song, three to five cuts and you can get as many as five or six cuts a day and, man, in two days you’re done.

“They’ve got these little tricks. I’ll do Autotune occasionally, but I don’t use it like these air heads (you hear) on the radio. I guess they can’t sing. I don’t know. You use it sometimes. If you flat a note at the very end of it or something, you know, which is obvious maybe one second. We don’t have to use any of that stuff. You put down a track. If it’s really fucking good, you’re like, “Man, I don’t think we can get a better one. Maybe, if the guitar player wants to fix something, he can go back and fix it, but generally never, usually once a song is done, it’s done, and I like it like that, man.

“We don’t rehearse songs. The players can rehearse the songs at home so we know how it goes, and me and the bass player have to play the song as it is. The two lead guitar players and steel player, they know the song, but I encourage them to have at least two or three leads for each song so you never hear it the same way twice. So, it’s possible to go to one of my shows seven days in a row, and I’ll bet you the set list always changes because the audience calls the songs and the leads are constantly changing.

Guitarist Lloyd Maines has produced all ten of Hancock’s albums. “He hears what I think. We have a really insane psychic connection.” Maines won’t be with Hancock in Troy, but he is travelling with a three-piece band including Rose Sinclair on pedal steel and Curtis Sigurd on bass. “You can put a question mark on (the spelling of his name), and blame it on me.”

Hancock will be driving the van to the gig as he always does. He carries a two-inch thick Rand McNally trucker’s atlas with him and talks to the Lord while driving. “I’ll never be rich, dude. I accept that; not rich like in money. Money rich? Wealthy? I’m really wealthy. I’ve got lots of friends, a great thing with my music, and I have a great relationship with the Lord. Life is a bitch, but I love that as well.”

WHO: Wayne “The Train” Hancock
WHERE: The Hangar on the Hudson, Troy
WHEN: 8pm Friday (November 11)

LIVE: Wayne “The Train” Hancock @ The Hangar, 9/30/15

One thought on “A FEW MINUTES WITH: Wayne “The Train” Hancock”

  1. J. Welf says:

    So good. Best attitude.

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