Unknown Hinson Tells Us The Difference Between Squidbillies and His Stage Show.
It's hard to get to know somebody like Stuart Daniel Baker.
Despite being one of North Carolina's most respected studio guitarists and touring with acts like Billy Bob Thornton's Boxmasters backing band, Baker almost always appears in public as his alter ego Unknown Hinson. And much like Andy Kaufman's Tony Clifton character, Hinson never breaks character in public.
The Hinson character is a sort of amalgamation of '50s country western troubadours with tinges of B-movie camp and elements of vampirism thrown in for comedic purposes.
He first came to prominence as part of a mid '90s cable access television show. Since then, the hillbilly vampire with an affinity for party liquor and chasing fine “womerns” has been splitting time releasing albums, touring the country with his comedy-laced throwback western act and providing the voice of Early Cuyler, the main character from Adult Swim's Squidbillies cartoon show.
Prior to Hinson's gig this weekend at The Kessler. we spoke with him on the phone from his tour bus. During our conversation, Hinson talked about the similarties between himself and his Squidbillies character, his favorite party liquors. Plus? Why he hates hippies.
As much credit as you get for being a songwriter and voice actor you're actually a pretty badass guitar player. Do you feel a bit underrated in that aspect?
No, no. Not at all. I'm very happy to enjoy doing what I do — get up there, plug in and go. I always have a good time, y'know? No, it don't bother me none at all. I don't feel under-recognized. It don't bother me a bit.
How much of your own personality do you put into your Squidbillies character and vice versa?
Well, y'know, there's a lot of parallels between me, Unknown Hinson and Early Cuyler of Squidbillies. He loves his party liquor, y'know. He loves to chase womerns. He uses colorful language from time to time, he likes to shoot his gun, and not unlike me, he's slightly mentally-challenged. My teeth ain't perfect, I got two good teeth. That's all I need. His whole attitude and his voice. His voice is Unknown Hinson's voice, pretty much. So, yeah, that's a lot of similarities.
What would you say is your favorite of the party liquors?
I don't never drink no party liquor I can't see through, so I always drink the clear. I don't trust party liquor I can't see through.
For me, it's the vodka — typically in the half-gallon size. You get more for your money that way.
With all your TV work and albums you've put out, how does it feel knowing that at the moment it might be possible that more people know you as the voice of a cartoon squid?
To me, the Squidbillies cartoon, like you said, if they didn't know about Unknown Hinson first, then they've seen Squidbillies. Then there's people who learn about Squidbillies because of Unknown Hinson. So it works both ways. It's kind of like one hand or the other, y'know?
You have such a recognizable voice, do you ever use it to fuck with people at drive-thrus or like when you get calls from telemarketers or anything like that?
I mean, I use it when I talk. That's the way I talk. So I mean, yeah, I don't think about it as having fun. It's just the way I talk. Y'know, if I had to talk to a law officer, I'd be talking to him like this because it's my voice.
Do you ever find yourself talking to somebody though and they recognize your voice from the cartoon or things like that?
That's a good question, but I get recognized because of my face. If I wear a sunglasses and a hat, they still recognize me. Y'know, my jet-black, chart-toppin' hair and my jet-black, chart-toppin' eyebrows. I got a slightly pronounced nose and chin, so, y'know, I've had people recognize me in my plain clothes. Not even in my show-day clothes.
Hank Williams III's has your face tattooed on his bicep. How do you feel about that?
That's a honor. That's a real honor. Hank is my good buddy. I've knowed him ever since we did a tour together back in the fall of 2002 and he's a good boy. He's the real thing, he sings from the heart and he's good people. If you ever get a chance to go see him, by all means, do.
Is there anyone's face you'd feel comfortable getting tattooed on your own body?
Y'know, I ain't real fond of needles. I appreciate the beauty of a good tattoo, but I ain't a needle person. I never have been. I guess you could say I got a phobia about needles. You might not want to print that cause if somebody want to have fun with me. they might stick me in the ass with a needle, y'know? So you might not want to print that. I'm serious, too, because you know how people are.
Who is the one musician either living or dead that you'd most like to share a stage with?
Oh, that's easy. Faron Young. To me, he was the original country and western troubadour. He sung from his heart and his soul. He had a voice that I'd say was right up there with [Enrico] Caruso, y'know? And them four tenors.
What is it about hippies that turns you off the most?
Them drugs. Y'know, takin' drugs. They take them drugs and it makes their minds see things that ain't right.
They hallucenigize when they take that mess. They totally remove they self from reality. When them hippies take that mess they might see some lights flashin' and think 'Oh hell, there must be a Christmas parade rightchere.' But, in reality, it's a state trooper that come up they ass to take 'em to jail. Because when they find that mess in they car, that's where they goin'. You know that song that I do? “I Don't Take Dope”? It's right there in that song. At least liquor is legal to buy and to sell.
Unknown Hinson performs Saturday, June 2, at the Kessler Theatre.