Wayne “The Train” Hancock, master of juke joint swing, performs like a visiting country doctor, or maybe a preacher, ministering to the rural folks in three-hour, boogie healing woogie doses. He sat still for a moment with PopMatters 20 Questions to tell us that what he sees outside his car window often becomes what he sings, as in “Life on the Road”: “It sure beats diggin’ ditches, livin’ life on the road…”
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Not very many movies have made me cry, but I watched The Notebook with my wife and had to leave the room several times because there was something in my eye. I met the actor Ryan Gosling. He came out to one of my shows in NYC, and told me it took “balls” (courage) to admit that The Notebook got to me.
2. The fictional character most like you?
I would say Peter Griffin from The Family Guy because he’s completely insane, he’s goofy.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Hank Williams Sr.: 24 Greatest Hits. Can’t give much reason, it just is.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars. I went to see it when it first came out I liked the special effects, and I also like the story line because it rivaled that of an old western and it was funny.
5. Your ideal brain food?
A good drive on the interstate usually gets my wheels going, and I also like to vipe. (Can we say that?) I wrote “Flatland Boogie” while headed north on 385 and I was looking to the west and the land seemed so flat, you could see to the west coast. I wrote that song in 20 minutes. That’s what a good drive can do for me!
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I feel like I’m making a difference in music. I’ve had a few people come up to me and tell me they were thinking about taking their own life, until they heard one of my songs, and it made them feel they weren’t alone and everything would be alright.
7. You want to be remembered for…?
Being someone who cared more about making music than making millions, and being true to the music and sticking to my guns.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Hank Williams, Johnny Horton, Ernest Tubb, Fats Waller, Gene Krupa, Roy Eldrige, Faron Young.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
Thunderstorms and neon signs (like the song, “Thunderstorms and Neon Signs”). I was 24, living in Austin and there was a great big storm coming in, and the city lights were so bright, I couldn’t see the lightning. So I wrote that song because I was missing the storm and remembering years back the way things used to be.
10. Your hidden talents…?
Believe it or not, I’m a good rapper. But I’ll never do it in public so don’t ask me.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Don’t sell out. I stand by that still today. My music is based on true life, in real time. Selling out is like working for a corporation, if I wanted that, I would go get a “real” job. Instead, it’s better to be yourself and be content then to live in the shadow of sorrow.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
My guitar and my wife’s wedding ring. I stole a pack a gum when I was five, can’t remember much about it, so that doesn’t count. I borrowed a pedal steel player’s shirt once.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
Definitely Levis. I don’t even know what an Armani is. I do like Dickies, I like good work clothes, stuff I can sweat in but they still look good on stage.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
My wife, my family, Will Smith, Tom Hanks Gary Sinise.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I would like to go back to the ‘20s and look for the good bands. Go see the Ray Noble Orchestra, buy one of those suits, and go hang out with Woody Guthrie and made the walk to California and entertain all the workers with him.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Hit man. Let someone else handle my stress. Though I don’t have much stress anymore today. I do have another means for handling stress, but not sure if I can mention it here…
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Snuff, strong coffee, an occasional Orange Crush in a bottle. I love those Mexican cokes, and I love frosties. I’m a driver, I need fuel too. Oh yeah, bacon and eggs and good swing music played very loud.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Country, hands down. In the Pacific Northwest; Washington, Idaho, Oregon; in the South, there is only Texas. Oh, but there’s Louisiana too – shout out to Don’s Seafood Hut—but Texas is where I feel at home.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
I’m gonna keep this one short. Good luck.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Right now working on getting this band together and getting things tight for these upcoming tours!