Hank Schyma Conquers the Old West as “Pecos Hank”
Hank Schyma is all of the following: storm chaser, photographer, accomplished YouTube personality with millions of views to his credit, actor, screenplay writer, director, filmmaker, snake handler, trained stunt driver, and, not to mention, a songwriter and charismatic performer. He likes to make the joke that he has a direct “genetic link” to Pecos Bill; fitting for a wild man whose true tales of wrestling weather, wrangling snakes and waves (one of his first loves was surfing) are indeed on par with the larger than life folklore cowboy.
“Hank is part animal, part bad ass musician,” stated Shaun Brennan, co-founder of Splice Records, Schyma’s newest label home. “He thinks like an animal, understands nature, and has instincts that are not typical in humans. This comes out in his songwriting and his music. He is authentic in his approach and it’s obvious it’s not calculated. I have never met a person that is more in the moment than him — on and off the stage.”
The founding member of the Southern Backtones, a Southwestern Rock band heralded for their voodoo rock, Schyma is alighting on a solo effort after 15 years. Stripping away the “devil may care rock and roll” from the undercurrent of Spaghetti Western honky-tonk style that flows through its core, Pecos Hank embodies the deep sound he defines as “what you get when you turn to the dark side of the roots.” A departure that Schyma describes as “new, new, new,” Pecos Hank is like a new town after a catastrophe, it is “a shiny, sparkly new start and that new car smell.”
“I wanted to separate the rock style from the roots blends because I felt, as a band, we were too spread out across the music spectrum,” he explained. “Roots music is the boiled down essence of all music, really, without all the bells and whistles of our ADHD society. It’s the simplest and purest form and it is also the hardest for an artist to create.”
A reflection of Old West standards, and a return to tradition, Schyma was influenced by the success of other local roots musicians like Craig Kinsey, Johnny Falstaff and John Evans in the making of this album of no name (as of right now). It was crafted and produced with no rules, no genre specific goals, and a middle finger approach to those who like to stereotype and pigeonhole artists. Its beauty is a coherency wrapped in a solid vibe of consistent dark gypsy blues.
Much like the way he conducts himself outside of music, it is obvious, pardoning the pun, that Schyma is a force of nature. A contagious energy surrounds his lanky frame, his speaking manner is calm, his wit bright. He presents as a wanderer with an affinity for sandy deserts, western fringe, and the curiosity that throbs in the mystery of New Orleans voodoo. Whether pursuing storm chasing, filming a scene in a historical western thriller, or ransacking a reptile habitat, Schyma lives and breathes the art of creation.
“Art surpasses all your basic needs and I literally can’t live without making records,” he states. “There is such a reward out of creating something so meaningful, no matter the medium or the subject.”
Active in music since the age of 13, when his mother offered up her personal guitar, Schyma still plays every song he’s ever written. Forming a rock band in his hometown of Cypress at 17, he recalls “packing it all up into a vintage Mustang” to head to California. Falling in love with surfing, music was on hold as his passion for weather was ignited. Focused on becoming educated and capturing the phenomena on film, his return to Houston, in particular the artist’s enclave known as Montrose, found him in college (studying Biology), and working with Dr. Neil Frank before the formation of the Southern Backtones introduced him to the Houston music scene and “some of the best music” he’s ever heard.
Recognizing that Montrose is more “art than oil,” Schyma knows that business is needed for art to flourish. Signing with the newly formed Splice Records, co-founded by longtime friend in music Craig Kinsey, he is hopeful Pecos Hank, and all of his wild adventures, will soon reach the masses.
“It’s all wrapped up in the successful template Houston has for its musicians and other creators,” Schyma says. “It’s happened before, and it can happen again. I think it’s safe to say we are all waiting on that storm.”