“I need to get back on the road man.” Wayne “The Train” Hancock says. On this occasion he wasn’t even referring to touring, he was talking about getting back on his motorcycle after a wreck that left him in critical condition for weeks. Riding is Hancock’s therapy and how he spends his time away from touring and he wasn’t about to give it up after his accident.
His latest album is titled Ride with good reason; the cover even depicts the view between some ape-hangar handlebars from the seat of a bike. “I thought it would be funny since my last album was Ride to call my next one Crash.” he jokes. He vividly describes the wreck that involved flying through barbed wire and breaking off the handlebars of his bike. He then moves into retelling the subsequent hospital stay where he was told his heart had stopped for a period of time. Without hesitation his thoughts continue to spill out about how the main frame of the bike wasn’t damaged and how he was ready to start buying parts for it again. The repercussions of the crash seemed to only solidify his desire and love of riding and playing music, but not without some side effects. “I was on tour in Australia and I was doing several songs and I would have to pause to remember how they went.” Hancock recalls, “It’s like a computer program that reboots, then I would remember the song and finish it.” He has since recovered from some minor short-term memory loss and is ready to take on live shows again with a fresh twist, a five-piece band.
The accident pushed him to tour with a full five-piece band, which is a rarity for him. “A five-piece band steers a lot differently than a three piece,” he says. He often tours with just a stand-up bass player and lead guitarist but has decided to put a bigger band into action. He has added a second electric guitarist and a steel guitar player.
When you see Hancock’s crew in full force you instantly notice how much talent he surrounds himself with. “Everybody’s a star on my stage,” he says, “You have a chance to gain a following. Love or hate me; you’re going to be 100% better in your playing.” He does however demand the most from his bandmates on stage. Hancock handles the rhythm guitar and lets the others provide the leads and textures for the music. As he sternly strums his acoustic guitar like a percussion instrument he dips his head and you can see that each of the others players’ parts are running though his mind and he expects them to be right. He requires professionalism out of the players he selects during each song. “I don’t really believe in rehearsing myself.” he explains, “Maybe this is a hard-assed look at it but I figure if you want to be in a band you should already have an idea what you are getting into before you get here.”
When his full band blasts into “Johnny Law” or “Juke Joint Jumping” you can hear the difference in the music as they keep pace and patiently wait their turn to step into the spotlight for solos. It’s hard to imagine “Thunderstorms & Neon Signs” without the whine of the steel guitar after you hear it, some instruments give songs an entire different feel. The studio versions of Hancock’s songs almost always have a full band on them to achieve the sound he wants. He isn’t eager to get a follow-up album to Ride out quite yet though. “I only put out an album every 2 ½ to 3 years,” he explains, “the reason I do that is because a lot of work, energy and writing goes into it.” For Hancock it is vitally important to put out quality music as well. He needs to keep the worth of his product high. “It’s not like I have a songwriting team, and I have to write good songs.” He laughs.
His tunes are usually nailed down and well rehearsed by the time he steps into the studio. He brings in his best personnel and puts together the best album that he can but doesn’t linger too long. “I like to be out of the studio in a day and a half, after that it gets boring to me.” Hancock explains, “If you spend too much time concentrating on stuff and fixing it, that’s cheating. I understand people want to get something right but we just do 3-4 takes of each song.”
A life threatening wreck doesn’t seem to have made Hancock any more timid. It was a minor speed bump for him and he seems ready to move back to the status quo. As long as he is above the ground he will likely never stop playing music or riding. He sums it up best concluding, “What kind of guy would I be if I stopped riding just because I got in a wreck?”
Nice interview. Wayne is an American original.