Hank von Hell’s Life Is No Longer About Self-Destruction
Former Turbonegro frontman Hank von Hell has gone from "Erection" to Egomania, but his party-god complex went in the opposite direction. With his new solo album and upcoming North American tour, Hank is now focused on giving fans the best climax possible, rather than wrecking himself for infamy.
Hank von Hell has returned to rock and roll for the first time in nearly a decade. The singer pursued a sober lifestyle after leaving Turbonegro in 2010, focusing on self, family and other forms of entertainment outside the scene. The rock and roll bug didn't stop biting, however, and led Hank to reunite with his face paint (and a Jackass legend) for the comeback single "Bum to Bum."
We spoke with Hank to get the full story on Egomania, the man's new party philosophy and his highly anticipated return to North America.
Welcome back to rock and roll. What's your life been like since leaving Turbonegro?
Well, I was doing a different kind of music. It wasn't rock and roll. And also I was — and still am, by the way — I'm acting a lot in both movies and musicals. So I've been doing a lot of different sorts of entertainment, and also a couple of cookbooks, a barbecue brand and shit like that. I had to do something different.
What have you been focusing on, after Turbonegro, that has helped you stay creative?
You know, when you're in the band, you're in the collective. Then it's pretty much set, what you're going to do creatively. I spent the time away from Turbonegro trying to figure out what I wanted to do creatively, personally. I was aware that it was going to be a bumpy ride. I just had to do a lot of things and that I couldn't have done within the frame of the band. So I kind of did some sort of soul searching and creative searching and figuring out some personal shit. I realized that there's a lot of personal shit.
When it comes to rock and roll, did you miss the stage at all? Being able to play that style of music?
Yeah, of course. A lot of people have the misconception that I didn't like the shows and the stage and the loud noises and the sexy asses. That was never the case. I always missed... and I did all the time miss those magic moments when I'm standing in front of my favorite kind of people on the planet and making sure that they are having multiple orgasms. That was thoroughly missed all the time and I'm just fucking stoked that I wasn’t forgotten at all. I was actually welcomed back. It was as if nothing had ever happened. The crowd was still my crowd. The gates were still intense and rock and roll is very much what it is. Fucking awesome!
When it came time to shoot the ‘Bum to Bum’ music video, what was the process of getting Steve-O to come to shoot with you?
I’ve been friends with the Jackass guys for some 15, 16 years. Steve-O and me had been in contact after the Turbonegro exit, also. So within having a friendship during all those years, the process was pretty straight-forward. It was a text message: "Do you want to be part of my comeback rock and roll video?" And then I got a message back asking when and where, and a hell yeah! And then it just happened.
What's it like hanging out with Steve-O now that you're both sober?
Well, it’s not that different... actually. It's just that we're not making clowns out of ourselves at moments where we should be a little bit cooler. I think we're just being cooler and we know exactly when to goof around and we know exactly when not to goof around. We're still having the same fun. We're still preoccupied with really fucked up punk rock shit and laughing our asses off at really stupid things. It's just that we don't have to do that in the hotel room at 4 o'clock in the morning and being thrown out by the police and shit.
If you were to look back at those years of Jackass and the CKY crew, what's a favorite memory that sticks out?
Well, this may come around a little bit soggy, but the last time I was with Turbonegro in L.A., we were having a lot of fun with the Jackass guys. One time there, I was having a very deep conversation with just me and Ryan Dunn, one afternoon, on a rooftop bar at the hotel. That was maybe the first and last time; just me and Ryan kind of got under each other's skin and came to know each other a little bit deeply. It became more like a friendship than just a buddyship, ya know. That meeting, that afternoon, and that conversation, for obvious reasons stands out.
I'm glad you got to have that conversation with him. He always seemed like a really great guy.
Yeah, he was very reflective, and very deep, and actually a very caring guy. It was a terrible loss.
Would you say it's more fun partying in your 20s, 30s or 40s?
I've never been partying for fun. I've been partying for destruction and havoc, and my idea of fun had never been getting wasted. It was never supposed to be fun. It was just supposed to be extreme and intense. I've never been a good audience. I've never been good in crowds. I've never been the guy that puts on a silly hat with beer cans, and beer bongs, spring break kind of guy. I've just been into that getting wasted thing and using it as self-medication or some sort of recreational activity to get my mind away from shit, ya know.
But giving a party to people; that's a different story. Making the party crowd have a super time. Having shows, DJing, playing gigs… And that party crowd actually had the time of their lives. That is speechless and I will always cherish the fortune I have and privilege I have to be servicing through other people's parties. I don't have to be partying myself to do it. I can stand there in any sort of condition and just entertain and kick ass and see people becoming happier and happier.
Now that you’re not being destructive internally anymore, do you find that you're able to give people a better party?
Well, I've been doing a lot of shows in the past where I was self-policing a lot… but of course. There were times in my life where I was dependent on being under the influence, just to able to goof about and entertain, but I think those moments were more situations of misplaced self-confidence. So I actually thought I was being more entertaining than I actually was. Being able to be aware of when I'm on the stage actually brings about more precision. The people who know me say, “You are actually 10 times more entertaining when you’re sober onstage than when you're drunk or high." I think I'm doing a better job of being self-aware, being my own true self.
What was the Eurovision experience like?
[Laughs] Well, it's weird because it's something very, very different. A professional musician is working year after year, touring, recording, stuff like that. To be part of that circus is just so different, so unreal, that you just have to embrace it and see if for what it is. It's just a soul amusing circus. It has some really different elements than normal professional musicians are experiencing. I think it's more or less very similar to being part of America's Got Talent or American Idol or something like that. So you just have to take it for what it is.
The upside of it is, I got a seven-camera production. I got to use a shameless amount of the budget on costumes and pyrotechnics and stuff like that. So I wouldn't miss it for the world. Of course, it was not like my new career was going to do stuff like that every couple of weeks.
It seems like that kind of thing might be a little too business-like or a little too superficial.
Yeah, it's a TV show, and it caters to other needs than being a dedicated rock fan. What was nice about it is a lot of dedicated rock fans just wanted to see it. How will one of our own underground punk rock assholes do in a setting like that? It became quite spectacular and fun. I've just been getting awesome feedback from my hardcore rock fans, that it was just hilarious and fun to see and the show was awesome. Of course, it's a TV show and it's all about the TV viewer.
I told the guy, "I will never participate if I'm not going to be able to deliver a song that I would put on any other Hank von Hell album.” And that was accepted, so I didn't have to kind of compromise with my own thing. The ‘Fake It’ song has been played live. It's lived its own life where it belongs; in the rock scene.
This will be your first North American tour in a very long time. I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun. What can fans expect when it comes to the setlist and what are you looking forward to, being back here in the States?
The setlist will be pretty awesome. It will, of course, focus on the Egomania album. But there will be one or two surprises, I can promise you that. People will remember where I come from. Other than that, I have the greatest of musicians with me; really sexy, skilled, brilliant kids. Some of them have never ever been to the States, far less touring the States. So you will get a very eager and very enthusiastic bunch of kids that will kick ass.
On a more emotional level, I guess it will be very special for a lot of people to just be together again and meeting each other again. Me, up onstage, and my crowd on the floor. In some ways, it will be like nothing's ever happened and in other ways, it'll be like something totally amazing has now just happened. It will be pretty up-to-date, evolutionary-speaking also. So it'll be a punk rock show in 2019. It will not be like a nostalgia trip or something like that.
Thanks to Hank von Hell for the interview. To grab a copy of ‘Egomania,’ click here.
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