Keen-eyed comedy fans may recognize Wheeler Walker Jr., a reclusive country singer obsessed with jerking off, as stand-up comic Ben Hoffman, the former host of Comedy Central's The Ben Show. As Walker, he releases his debut album Redneck Shit on Friday, February 12th, via Thirty Tigers.
A mix of sketches and on-the-street antics, the 2013 Ben Show had a fan in Sturgill Simpson, who, like Hoffman, hails from Kentucky. When Hoffman decided to marry comedy with the country music on which he was raised and record an album, Simpson introduced him to his Grammy-nominated producer Dave Cobb. The result is Redneck Shit, a wang-dang-sweet-poon-twang collection of country songs about bad sex and broken hearts with song titles like "Fuck You Bitch" and "Better Off Beatin' Off." But look past the outrageous lyrics — think heavy-metal spoofers Steel Panther for the country set — and some bona fide country songs reveal themselves.
"When people say, 'What were the great country albums this year?' I want them to put this up there. I don't know why it should be considered any less because it's comedy," Hoffman tells Rolling Stone Country, before ceding the floor to his assertive alter-ego Walker — who performs a headlining show at Nashville's historic Exit/In club tonight — for a shit-talking Q&A.
What led you to record Redneck Shit and how did you coerce Dave Cobb to produce it?
I've been in Nashville for a while, bouncing around. I've had some bad luck in the music industry. I pissed some people off. Then my buddies said, "You gotta meet this guy Dave Cobb." And I said, "Well, if he makes real records, I don't know if he'll make this one." But I took my fucking life savings, which I don't want to mention here, 'cause it ain't much to brag about, and I gave it all to Dave and said, "Let's make the album without any fucking record company telling me what to do."
Clearly, because it's a pretty filthy record.
But we took the word "cunt" out. There's no cunt on the album. We had a song called "Shave Your Cunt," and Dave said don't record that. But just wait for Album 2, when I find a producer with some fucking balls.
Do you worry your lyrics could be considered offensive?
I was doing an interview on the radio the other day and I said to the guy, "Do you think the album is offensive?" And he goes, "It sounds like you're singing the way people talk." . . . So why can't I fucking do it? Country radio is so fucking shitty. Garth [Brooks] sounds like fucking Hank now. How many times have you heard someone say, "I like all music, except for country"? Every time I hear that, it pisses me off. I'd be upset if people thought I was making fun of country music or rednecks with this record. I am a fucking redneck, these are my people and I love country music. You can't make a record like this without loving country.
Is this a response to bro country?
It wasn't my goal to go in the studio and fuck with those people. I just wanted to make a good record and do it balls-out. Afterward, people are coming up to me saying, "Man, that's a great statement on bro country." I'm like, "Fuck yeah it is," pretending that it was my point all along. But I just wanted to make a real country record. . . I got my ass handed to me my whole life and this is the record that came out. "Fuck You Bitch" is serious shit. "Can't Fuck You Off My Mind" is a regular country song.
"Drop 'Em Out" may be the first song to use the word "cocker."
I was running out of rhymes there at the end of the session. That was everyone's favorite song and I didn't know how to record it. In my head, it's an Oak Ridge Boys song. The Oaks were everywhere growing up. I wanted their harmonies, but it's so hard to do it. I don’t want to give away the Oak Ridge Boys' secrets, but. . .what do I give a fuck? You just stack vocals and keep singing over and over until you have a perfect version.
The interesting thing about this record is you don't discriminate. You bash everyone equally, yourself included.
If someone put in a machine, "What's the way to sell the least amount of country records?" I did that. I pissed off every group.
Let's do some word association. What do you think of when you hear the name Luke Bryan?
We've got the same agent. Nice guy.
That reminds me of driving from Kentucky to Nashville and I'd always see "Twitty City" [billboards] and I'd think, "Who is that fucking asshole on there?" We never stopped. We did go to Dollywood though.
I don't think I could name you two Blake Shelton songs. Fucking dude broke up with Miranda Lambert. Dipshit.
Florida Georgia Line?
Complete horseshit. Stay out of the gym. All that time you're in the gym, man, you could be practicing. Just get out of the fucking goddamn gym and practice your fucking singing and your fucking guitar. You won't need Auto-Tune if you take some singing lessons. Get off the fucking charts — it's Wheeler's turn.