Part 3 of Henry’s 2009 Interviews
so how are things going for you this new year? what have you been up to?
===== I spent the beginning of the year in Mali. I went to a music festival there called the Desert Festival. It’s held in Essakane. Since then, we have been getting two books of mine ready for release this year. The first one just came out and the other one will come out later in the year. I am getting ready to start work in a TV series called Sons Of Anarchy, that will take up a lot of the summer.
-what made you decide to do this stretch of spoken word shows in May and June?
==== I wanted to get some shows happening when I wasn’t working on the TV show and that was the time the production could cut me loose so we went for the dates.
-what is it about these spoken word engagements that keeps you interested? is it the storytelling, the art, and/or just feeding off an audience and their reaction?
==== All of that, certainly. I think it’s a great way to communicate and express. I just finished a 208 show tour but am glad for the shows I have this summer. I don’t have many so I am happy for the few I’ve got. This TV thing will take a good bit of time.
-is there something special about returning to the East Coast for you? Do you get excited about coming back and do youfind time to look up old friends while here?
===== It’s always great to be on the east coast for me. I won’t have any time to do anything but the shows and then back to the airport this time around though. I wish there was more time but perhaps later in the year I can get out there and not have to hurry. I am usually busy enough in LA to be distracted from that fact that I’m in LA. I get a lot done here although I have never felt all that “at home” here. It’s not a big deal as like I said, I am all about the work and one of the reasons I can get a lot done here is that I feel more like I am on location than anything else.
-following these dates, you head to Sweden for the Peace & Love festival and Belgium for Rock Werchter. What are those all about?
==== They are festivals that I am doing. They were booked before I got the TV stuff happening. There are about six shows on that run. It will be a fairly sleepless week.
-I saw your doing some hits for KCRW internet public radio station. How did you get hooked up with this and what’s it all about?
==== I have a weekly show, 6-8 pm Saturday nights. The station I was at for many years, Indie 103 went down and KCRW called and asked if I wanted to work there and I said sure. It’s been great. It’s the station I started learning about radio many years ago so it’s great to be back there. I am live on the radio, it’s not an internet only station. It’s NPR for southern CA. You can find my past shows archived on the site but it’s a very live thing.
-Following the summer, any future plans for the remainder of the year?
===== As soon as Sons Of Anarchy wraps in late September, I will be out in the world traveling into next year. I have some plans that I think are very interesting but don’t want to talk about any of it until it’s booked. I will be out and about until January I think. If all goes according to plan, I should end up in Africa in mid January and go from there to England and start the next tour, which should go about 12-15 months.
-Lastly, following likely one of the most historic elections in our nations, how do you feel about the results and the future? Also, how do you feel about Americans coming out in record numbers to have their voices heard?
==== I think America made an interesting decision. I am not happy about all the bailouts and the whole “too big to fail” thing. I don’t like the idea of upping the ante in Afghanistan. I think no good will come of more troop strength in that region. The Russians lost mightily there as did may others. As they say, it’s where empires go to die. I think it’s great that Americans are finding their voice. The more people voting the better. It’s their country so it’s about time more people got involved with their future.
-Do you enjoy DJ-ing…and is this just another way to extend yourself as an artist?
=== I like playing records for people and turning them onto cool music.
So, it must have been a big decision to move away from DC to join Black Flag, and I’m sure you were met with different responces from friends, however it’s very possible had you not made the move you wouldn’t be where you are today. Do you ever wonder where your life may have ended up had you stayed in DC? Were you ever worried during that time you were making the wrong decision?
===== I don’t wonder where I would be had I not left DC. I left DC and went out into the world. I really don’t see the point in wondering what would have been, etc. No, I never worried if I was making the right choice. Another day at 3.50 an hour scooping ice cream or singing for Black Flag. Those were my choices. I made my choice and went for it. Balls.
We have read you words in lyrics and books, seen you on T.v. and movies, and heard your voice oin spoken word and in song. These are all quiteimpressive, however, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, is there anything you want to be known for, a specific area you want to be remembered in?
====== I never think about that really. I don’t care about what I am remembered for. I will just go until I can’t go on from there. What people make of it at the end of the day is up to them, not me.
I always wondering with a lot of the early hardcore singers (Danzig, Mackaye, Biafra, yourself), So many of them seemed to be mainly acknowledged for their early career, despite the massive accomplishments that have come after. Is this ever frustrating? Was/is is hard to shed the “Henry from Black Flag” label?
====== People don’t really talk to me about Black Flag nearly as much as they talk to me about what I am doing now. So, no, I have no frustration in that area. I just go forward, year after year. I don’t shed anything, I just go. Black Flag is certainly part of my history but it was a long time ago and I have covered a lot of ground since 1986.
What current bands do you find yourself listening to currently? Biggest musical guilty Pleasure?
====== I have been listening to the new Flin Flon album Et Cetera. There’s been some cool releases on American Tapes that I have been digging. The new Deerhoof album is great. Early Man has a new EP which is really cool too. Guilty pleasures? I don’t feel guilty about anything I listen to.
What do you view as your biggest accomplishment/is there anything you have done/been apart of that you’re most proud of?
======= I think my biggest accomplishment is that I am still able to tour and do my thing at almost thirty years in. I have no sense of pride about anything I do. I have a sense of duty though.
Have you ever gotten offers from companies asking you to push their product in a way that was so laughable you weren’t sure if it was for real?
What do you think the biggest danger facing America/American politics is right now?
===== Neocons and republicans.
Gay marriage is seeming to be making headlines more and more. I’d like to think that as more and More states embrace it, that the surrounding states will be forced to follow as well. Do you see this becoming a heated issue in the future? what is your stance on it?
==== I am sure some states will still be stuck in the murky cowardice of christian hypocrisy but perhaps more and more states will come ahead and face the fact that the world is full of gay people and it’s all going to be ok. I obviously have no problem with Bill and Bob getting married. It’s not like their having their honeymoon in my bed and wiping off their cocks on my curtains and besides that, if two people want to get married, what business is it of anyone else’s? God people can be such a pain in the ass.
I believe a lot of who I am comes from my lineage; my name is a part of that. What are your feelings on this? What made you want to change your name?
====== Lineage, mine at least, means nothing at all to me. “Where are your people from?” I don’t have that. I am homo sapiens, that’s all there is for me. All of who I am is due to my parent’s influence and my own thoughts, not where their ancestors climbed out of. Name change is for distance.
You have said several times that you do not want a wife. Is it just the marriage part, or are you opposed to whole notion?
===== I am opposed to the whole notion. That I need paperwork to seal a deal between two humans because we love each other is asinine. It’s a sucker contract. Someone gets half of all the money I have earned by slamming my guts against the wall? Fuck that. Never happening here. I’m free, it’s great.
When was the first time a stranger recognized you as a celebrity, and was that a big adjustment?
===== It was probably the first show I ever did with Black Flag. I got asked for autographs, offered drugs, sex, etc. It was definitely an adjustment. Now I don’t remember what it’s like to not have constant recognizability as a factor in my life. It definitely makes things complicated at times. Camera wielding men turn up in some strange places.
I imagine you get request for interviews frequently, what made you say yes to this one?
====== I think it’s the right thing to do, to be accessible. I would rather not do them though.
Is it uncomfortable to be told you are someone’s hero? Do you become numb to it over time?
===== It’s not uncomfortable nor is it a numbing experience. It makes me remember to be responsible for my actions, for what I say and do because it’s obvious that someone is paying attention. This isn’t anything that has a censoring effect, just a reality check on consequences of action in the public arena.
In all the interviews I have read and seen, I don’t remember anyone asking you about religion. What are your thoughts on organized religion, and are you a member of any particular faith?
===== I was never raised with religion and have always thought it was made to control a whole lot of people at once so they can do what the power structure needs them to do, fight, breed, etc. It is pathetic. Islam, Christianity, it’s all the same to me—cults for people who can’t think for themselves. It is interesting how many intelligent people go for this kind of thing, Obama for one, it’s one of the things I don’t understand, how intelligent people can go for fairy tales. I certainly understand how the average do, but not the smart ones. The manipulation is amazing. However many virgins await you in heaven? Who the fuck wants to spend a night with a virgin? Too much fear of death in religion for me. The homophobia, hatred and hypocrisy is too much for any rational person.
1) Can you offer some insight into the fearmongering by the American media in regards to universal health care, a world class public school system, and social programs for every American citizen? What are the cons when it comes to America investing in itself? And why can’t we get a straight answer from the media to that question?
2) Not since the depression or even the early days of settlement when the early pioneers were blazing trails through the country has there been a better time for the American people to put all differences aside and rebuild struggling communities. With all the divisions between people from religion to politics are you witnessing any signs that make you feel optimistic about that possibility?
3) The current economic crisis seems to have opened up and maybe even sparked other fires burning at the moment, from the mexican drug wars to pirates off the coast of Africa and crooked bankers, it seems that a lot of people are taking advantage of the situation. Other than the drug cartels, illegal immigration and ‘sexting’ what other issues are lurking in the dark that might see the light of day for the media and public to be up in arms about?
4) The election of Barack Obama and his foreign policy of open dialogue suggests that the country turning a social corner. We already see how most of the world percieves this new American way of thinking. What benefits can the U.S. citizens expect from a new peception of one time enemies and rival nations.
5) In thinking about your own community, which one of the administration’s policies do you hope will have an immediate and direct impact?
1. X has had a tremendous (positive) impact on you and your career. What was/is it about X that you found yourself drawn to?
======= I always admired X because of how many memorable songs they wrote and how well they are able to render them live. They are easily one of the best live bands I have ever seen. If you are in a band and aspire to be good live, you are very aware when a band is able to deliver the goods live and as many times as I have seen X, I have never seen a bad X show. Also, the timelessness of their music is remarkable. Those records sound great now like they sounded when they were first released.
2. I remember reading that one of the reasons you were drawn to X was because of their anti-violence stance. Is that correct?
3. If not, could you clarify?
==== I never thought of the band as being pointedly anti-violence. I never saw any violence at their shows, just people having a good time.
3. In what aspects does the band influence you and how?
===== I admire the songwriting and the performance value. As a unit and as four individuals, they are all very good at what they do. They are also very unique. No one sounds like Billy Zoom, etc.
4. Why is X so important to you?
===== They are one of those bands I have been listening to and seeing live over half my life. When you have listened to a band that long, you can attach certain points in your life to songs and albums of a band and that’s when the music attains a real resonance in your life. In a way, their songs become yours, that’s one of the great things about music.
5. What is your favorite memory of/moment with X?
===== I remember seeing them once at the Avalon in Los Angeles 26 years ago. I was talking to John Doe before the show and he was sick as a dog. I felt bad for him, he should have been in bed but the show must go on. He went out there and played and sang so well that night even though he must have been feeling awful. That was inspiring.
6. Three years ago, you revived Rollins Band and toured with X? How did that tour go?
======== It was cool to get to go to an X show whenever you wanted to for six weeks.
7. Have you worked with X on other projects before that tour?
8. Were you present at X’s Hollywood Rock Walk induction?
==== Yes I was. I inducted them. Hello!
You said that you’re on set. What are you working on?
====== I am working in a television show called The Sons of Anarchy.
I read that you’re filming a series of documentary specials for the IFC network. What are they about and when will they air?
===== They aired last year. They were set in New Orleans, South Africa and Northern Ireland. They are a mix of interviews and travel stuff tied in with a show onstage in the cities we shot in. New Orleans, Belfast and Cape Town.
Do you have any plans to appear in movies or on television shows anytime soon?
===== I have this one TV thing. I went for some auditions for other stuff but didn’t make the cut.
What does spoken word do for you? What do you like about it?
==== I like that the shows correspond to where I am at these days. I can travel all over and take those stores and thoughts right to the stage very quickly.
What do you have to say to your critics?
===== They have a right to say whatever they want. To me it’s a checked swing as far as a livelihood. I could never live that safely.
You’re an activist and very vocal when it comes to supporting gay rights. What do you have to say to people who think that gays should not have the right to legally marry?
==== Well, it’s sad that that’s the conclusion they have come to. When you hear their justification for their stance, it usually doesn’t amount to much more than simple prejudice. They might tell you otherwise but at the end of the day, that’s what it is. It’s very simple to me at least; homosexuality isn’t a choice, homophobia is. There’s no gay marriage, just marriage.
You’re outspoken about many things. What’s one thing that really pisses you off?
===== That America has so many solutions staring it in the face and won’t grab them. This is everything from alternative energy sources, education, science, environmental issues, foreign policy, etc.
Is there anything else you’re working on that readers would find interesting?
====== Hell, I don’t know. I have two books coming out this year, the first one is out already, it’s called A Preferred Blue and the other, A Mad Dash, will be out in the fall. They are journal/travel stories from 2007 and 2008. I am working on a photo/essay book I plan to release in two years. Past that, I have some interesting travel plans for after the Sons wraps in September.
For people who have never seen you live, what kind of show can they expect?
========= I am going to talk about where I have been lately, what I saw, how I feel about it, etc. That’s what those shows are about. I travel far and wide and hopefully, the stories dragged back make for worthwhile listening.
Your spoken word material has gone through some evolution. At first your works were more poetically structured and now all of your performances are basically you speaking your mind about your experiences, travels, and career.
When did you make the decision to not perform your old work anymore, and what attracted you to the more storyteller format you work in now?
======= I thought reading things off paper was too easy and had to be boring as hell to watch and listen to so I discarded the paper and went for something much more difficult. Reading from paper in front of a bunch of people is cool for a few minutes but then it drags and I didn’t want to do it any more.
Your work on ‘Family Man’, differs very much from what was seen in ‘Watch A Grown Man Cry’, was this intentional or just an evolution in your writing style?
===== I just write it how I feel it. I don’t ever try for anything but clarity. I don’t know if I have evolved, that means I got better. I think I just go where the thing takes me.
Rollins band did some amazing music, I had the pleasure of seeing you perform twice and I wanted to know why did you choose to stop playing music? Do you ever miss it?
===== I don’t want to go out and sing old songs like a human jukebox. I don’t know what I can do with music that I have not done many times before, especially live. I miss it sometimes but there’s other things to do in this short life.
‘Family Man’ was released as a Black Flag album and a spoken word record never really surfaced from that era under your name. Is there any unreleased spoken word from that era that you plan on releasing?
My favorite album from the Flag is ‘In My Head’, when writing the lyrics for that album, where were you in your head? Where was your head?
====== I only wrote a couple of songs on that one I think. I can’t remember where I was mentally then. I remember being depressed seeing Greg Ginn’s talent start to wane, that was hard to take.
1. You are author, musician, moderator, actor and frequently on tour with spoken word performances … so you’re a modern days workaholic. When will you take your time to record a new album with the Rollins Band?
===== I have no band or band plans. At this point, I really don’t want to take the better part of a year to make a record. I want to make trouble in other areas and see what else is happening out there in the world.
2. Many people in the United States feel the squeeze of the symptoms of the economic and financial crisis. After two legislative periods of G.W. Bush the new President Obama is confronted with complex and difficult political challenges. What can artists do – possibly with social engagement – to help the people to get back on track?
========= In my opinion, not much. When people are broke, I don’t think they run to Lenny Kravitz for advice. I don’t think anyone looks at Obama’s troop surge into Afghanistan and wonders what the guy in Green Day thinks of the situation, in order to get some clarity on the matter. I am in no way trying to put these people down, I just don’t think artists have much to do with the way people shape their opinions. If all those cool Dylan and Marley songs couldn’t stop wars then no song or artist can. Bono is a very powerful voice but he’s nothing compared to a board member at Union Carbide, unfortunately.
3. In an older press conference – I guess it was Roskilde – you said that you didn’t want to become a politician. So, has your attitude changed yet, can’t you imagine to become the mayor of a bigger city or even … or even governor like Arnold Schwarzenegger?
(regarding the appearance that symbolizes strength)
===== No. I am not cut out for that kind of thing. I would rather have the mobility I am afforded in the private sector.
4. On the one hand many people complain about the global political interventions of the USA, on the other hand lots of people expect the US Army to control democratic developments in repressed countries. What do you think? Is it still a desirable intention to bring democracy to the people, even in the Middle East or should the USA concentrate upon domestic problems?
===== I think America’s attempts to spread democracy are merely campaigns to spread capitalism. USA goes into places, softens them up and takes all their stuff. I think USA should try to get along with the world and be a part of it, not run it.
5. What’s the biggest advantage to be American?
====== We have been taking everyone else’s stuff for so long, we have a lot of everything and don’t understand shortages of any kind, for now. I think ultimately that this is a disadvantage and the beginning of the end of America. Americans are afforded a good deal of freedom and comfort but again, it often comes at the expense of vast numbers of other people and is not sustainable.
6. Thanks for the interview. But here’s one last and a little more profane question: Which role in a big movie would be a great challenge for you?
===== One that required me to have to act.
1. How did you make the transition into spoken word?
===== I started opening for poets in 1983 at the behest of a local promoter in Los Angeles. By 1985 I was touring America, by 1987, Europe and then on from there. So, it’s been a long path but it basically started in LA in 1983.
2. Do you notice a different crowd for the spoken word than when you play with the band?
==== They always seem to be about 50-50 male female for the talking shows, a little more male heavy for the band shows. Younger, narrower demographic for the band shows, much wider for the talking shows. That’s about all the difference I see. That’s a bit clinical but past that, I am working on getting something across onstage and don’t really notice much else.
3. Record companies are reporting Cd sales at an all time low, major players in music are making there own labels, What do you think this means for the record industry and music culture itself?
==== It’s bad if you’re Sony but really good for the fan of music. You will have more bands doing the record they want more often. You can go to their site, get the jams and you’re all set. I think the majors are getting what they have been asking for. I am sorry that all those people are losing their jobs.
4. When you perform, who do you perform for?
===== The people there that night. It’s very much an in-the-moment thing for me.
5. Whats the best advice you can give to “starving musicians”
===== Stay with it for as long as you can. You might look back at those times and remember them far more fondly than you may imagine.
6. With the rise of “emo” bands and culture in America it seems everyone going to a live show is there to be seen and not to listen to the actual musician, do you have any thoughts on this?
========= I think that people go to shows for all kinds of reasons. I went to shows to be seen, to connect, to check out the bands, all at the same time. Now I just go to see the bands. I don’t think we should be too hard on young people finding their way into the world. If they go to the show to be seen, I don’t see the real harm in that. They’ll get the music no matter what they’re there for.
7. Do you want to people to leave your shows with something to think about the rest of there lives, or do you want them to leave blank minded and thinking that what they saw was just another form of entertainment?
======== Hopefully there will be something lasting from the show, even if it’s just some form of inspiration. I don’t think I am doing anything life changing up there but at the same time, I don’t think it’s mere entertainment.
8. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
===== I would make war obsolete.
9. Ever been in a dangerous situation with an animal?
10. Music styles are constantly changing. In the last 5 years it seems as if all the new bands that are coming out are just riding the tails of the bands from the past. Do you think there will be a music revolution with fresh music that will blow our minds away?
===== I don’t know what you’re listening to. There’s great bands happening right now. Crystal Castles, Dax Riggs, XBXRX, The Horrors, Pepi Ginsberg, The Mae Shi, The Amazements, Fake Shark Real Zombie, etc.
11. Pop songs and rap dominate the top 40, what effect will this have on rock and roll?
===== Pop songs have always dominated the top 40. Rock survives just fine. Ask High On Fire, Heaven and Hell, Om, Sunn 0))), Earth, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Mother Superior, etc.
12. What do you think about the bands and musicians that are charging $120-$500 for less than perfect seats at their shows? Will this effect how live music is performed or viewed.
==== I think it’s sad they would do that but at least no one’s making you go. Eventually, those bands tap their fans out and it’s over for them. I can’t understand why a band would do that to their fans.
13. Any last thoughts?
==== The real torture stuff hasn’t hit the fan yet. I think this thing will be with us for a long time.
1 - Hey Henry. First of all i´d like you to introduce yourself as singer, actor, author, publisher, performance artist, record company owner and radio presenter. (this question is because we´re in a far away country and I think many people must know about you and your history)
============ I do all these different things to try and keep myself busy and a little off balance. So far, things have been pretty interesting. I come from the normal working world of minimum wage work and went into music from there. All the other stuff I do has been me just persuing my interests.
2 - What made you start your own publishing company? I was browsing your site and I was surprised how you manage everything.
===== I knew early on that no one would want to publish me and I wasn’t going to waste my time with a bunch of rejection notices, so taking what I learned from Dischord Records and SST, I started my own small company. It is a lot of work doing things this way but it’s rewarding in that you have control over your output and you’re calling the shots. It’s good but like I said, it’s a lot of work.
3 - By the last years you´ve been touring with talking shows. What´s the connection you see about talking, writing and singing in a band? What are the issues you talk about in the newer gigs?
====== Well, it’s all words and communication. Lyrics for me, can be a bit restricting at this point. Band shows are almost like poetry recitals, you do those words and thoughts every night and that’s cool but it kind of locks you into those words every night. I like the talking shows because I can move with events at the speed at which the world and my life is going. The talking shows are very much about where I travel and what I see. I go fairly far and wide. Iran, Syria, parts of Africa, Burma, Pakistan, Laos, etc. I see a lot of things and bring all that to the stage. A lot of people where I come from don’t travel.
4 - I´m a big fan of David Lynch, and I know you worked with him in the classic “Lost Highway” (1997). How it was? Tell us about the other movies you worked, your recent movie appearances and the best experiences you had as a movie actor. Just to mention, Night Visions was on TV here in Brazil some years ago an I liked so much watching you as the presenter.
===== David Lynch is as cool a guy as you would ever want to meet. He is all you would hope he would be. He’s very friendly and way out there in a cool way. I didn’t do much in the film but it was a good time. I did it because he asked me to. I get small parts in film now and then. It is for me, work I get between tours. I like to work so when the acting thing comes up, I take the work if I can. I have done a lot of films now and I guess I am getting the hang of it. I am in the middle of shooting a television show now called The Sons Of Anarchy, where I have a small part.
5 - I gotta ask this. I saw my friends in the van playing Rollins at Def Jam!!! I know it´s a stupid question but how do you feel as a video game character?
====== I really don’t have any feeling about it. It was a voice over job for me. It took me 90 minutes and then I went to soundcheck. Sometimes I get work like that and I take it because I work for a living. I have never seen or played the game. I wish I could get more work like that.
6 - Black Flag was one of the most influential bands ever in the hardcore history. Then you have all this lifetime history which inspired generations of singers, writers and DIY publishers. Tell us what inspires YOU?
======= I am inspired by current events. I think we live in very tense and interesting times. The human struggle is very inspiring to me. As far as people who inspire me, one of them is someone I have known for over 30 years, Ian MacKaye. As the years go on, he continues to impress.
7 - Your last recordings with Rollins Band were released by 2001. Are you guys still playing or the Rollins Band is over? Do you remember that classic gig at the beach, free for all, here in Brazil by January 2004? I was there and it was awesome, blood in the face, lots of energy…
===== I have no band or band plans. I like music but honestly, got tired of all the rituals. All the people in the band, soundcheck, practice, etc. I had done so much of it for so many years, I wanted to do other things and so that’s what I have been doing, other things. Music was a good time though.
8 - Well Henry thanks a lot for your time and for the fast reply. Please leave a message for all your brazilian fans.
====== Thank you for the interest and kind letters I have gotten over the years.
1.) At this stage in history, I think no sentient person person can possibly be shocked, shaken or surprised by the foul venom or hollow rhetoric spewing from the mouths of politicians on both sides of the fence. They’re entertainers, and this is the dance they do for $$$. Lately though, I find myself being offended by, and taking extremely personally, the right-wing’s attempts to commandeer the “blue-collar, man’s man” ideal. As somebody who I’ve always looked up to as the “thinking man’s man,” do you find it at all offensive that a select group of puffy, pampered Republicans are trying preaching to the public (many of whom are listening) about what it means to be a man (clutch your cash, wave your flag and fear our god)?
========== Well, as far as all politicians being entertainers, I see your frustration but I can’t paint with a brush that wide. I don’t think you can ascribe that epithet to Russ Feingold and countless others on both sides. I think that by nature of the job, there’s a lot of preaching and huckster activity. As to the overpaid telling the broke ass that they are the ones looking out for them, it’s a good strategy. The tough talk plays into the very real toughness of a. the actual toughness of that demographic and b. the actual toughness of the situation millions of them are in. It’s too bad that with only a modicum amount of searching, you can find out that it’s the republicans who are the ones who put these people in the straits they are now. To get someone to vote out of their best interest is an amazing strategy to actually pull off. They do it over and over in broad daylight. Perhaps that’s how you do it.
2.) While I’m more optimistic about Barack Obama than I’ve ever been in regards a president before, it makes me a little nervous when I see people my age (and younger) walking around, free of any cynicism, with his face on their t-shirts, Jim Morrision style. The guy is definitely smooth, but he’s still a suit, right? I come from the “never trust authority” school, regardless of how it’s dressed. Isn’t it not only our right to not only stick it to those in those in power, but our obligation as well? Isn’t maintaining a jaundiced eye a good thing? Is a mass, open-armed embrace of our president—or any politician for that matter—a cause of any concern for you?
======== I voted for Obama. I think he inherited a mess and is doing the best he can. I am not happy with every choice he has made but I think we are better off by having him in office rather than McCain. I think the blissful nature of some people on the subject of our new president has a degree of naïveté but also it’s a reaction to the last eight years. It’s like the laps a dog makes around the backyard when you let him out after he’s been cooped up all day. Things will calm down and the real grinding work will start. I think that will be happening about now. He could very well be a 4 year president.
3.)These days, with the rising percentage of people who don’t believe in God and the falling percentage of Republican voters, is it possible that, in the wake of the debacle that was the last eight years, that Americans are actually getting wiser, evolving toward something better?
========== I think they are moving. I am not sure if it’s for the better, I think that remains to be seen. I think organized religion is losing traction because of the nature of how it works, what it currently represents and what it gets caught saying and doing. I want religion to be available to those who want it, I just want it out of the classroom and the laboratory. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I think this is perhaps what some people are moving towards, a break from the hypocrisy and the negation of science.
4.) I’ve often likened you to Carlin, particularly in the way you lament the emasculating of society. I don’t mean that swaggering machismo b.s .. but simply how important it is to never let our fire (physical and mental) go black. I’ve always wondered if this state of apparent womb envy something you see as a genuine social concern, or is it simply an annoyance/observation that you like to call out in your writing/performances? And considering the state of what passes for “modern rock ‘n’ roll” these days, is it possible that the pap sounding through our airwaves has something to do with that?
====== I think it’s more of an annoyance rather than something to be overly concerned about. There are certainly bigger fish to fry. As far as the weak rock music, that might be on big radio but I never listen to that and the hard albums I am buying are plenty hard and those bands are selling tickets. I think there will always be a market for soft rock music and thankfully, there will always be maniacs wailing away. The new Heaven & Hell album is awesome.
5.) In “Talking from the Box,” you said you’ve always believed in leaving “poetry for the poets ... sniveling, clammy-handed poets.” I’ve held on to that as a tremendously powerful line that never left me (I’ve actually stolen it a few times), epitomizing the sort “writing from life’s trenches” that contemporary art is so badly need of. Do you agree? How has the philosophy of “great writing is ugly” evolved for you in the 17 years since that recording?
=========== There can be a lot of beauty in the ugliness because there is often a lot of good truth to be found there. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. It’s how you want to render what you see and how you feel about it. I think as far as writing, there’s a lot of good writers who are tacking hard topics. I am talking about writing from Africa, the Middle East, Chechnya, etc. This is investigative journalism and reportage I am talking about. I think there will always be good writers and something to inspire them. I just think you have to look in the right places. As to my writing, I have moved more towards the reportage angle.
6.) You’re a world traveler. Given how every experience in life leaves us altered in some way, is there anywhere you have recently visited for the first time that had a profound change on your personal outlook?
====== I have been to Africa eight times. It’s always an education. I was in Mali earlier this year. The southern part of the country is very sad to travel through. A lot of hungry people there. Two places that moved me last year was Cambodia and Burma. Walking through the Choeng Ek killing field, picking up teeth, ribs, jawbones of people executed there had an effect on me. Going into the interior of Burma and seeing the farmers and how hard their lives are and how dysfunctional their government is.
7.) Lastly, would you mind giving us an update on your current and upcoming endeavors (other than the spoken-word tour), something that fans can cut their teeth on?
===== I am working on and off all summer on a TV show called The Sons Of Anarchy. After that I will be doing some travel until tour starts in January. That’s pretty much it.
The only thing I’m going to ask for beyond these questions is the standard journalism info: your current age (48?) and where you’re currently residing (Los Angeles?).
48, live in LA.
I have read you come from a broken home and being raised by your mother, how did this particular situation make you originally see the world and human interaction?
==== Very early on, I came to the conclusion that I had myself to count on and that I was very much on my own. That has all proven to be true, perhaps for the most part because that’s how I choose to go about things. Not having a family background has its upsides. To be self-reliant is no bad thing. Of course, there are many things you miss out on as well, I know that. Bascially it made me see that civilization is a hustle and one of the only things that can keep it sane is art.
I also read read you are a big fan of Rimbaud (as am I). Both of you were raised and educated by your mothers, was this why you fell in love with his work? What is your favorite work of Rimbaud’s?
===== I checked out Rimbaud because I read that Jim Morrison did and it made me curious. Of all Rimbaud’s writing, I like his writing on war and his letters. He is inspiring to read even now that I am older and much of that kind of thing no longer resonates with me, Rimbaud still does.
You admitted in a previous interview that your writings at school were mainly about “blowing up my school and murdering all the teachers.” It seems these days kids have such a difficult time venting this way rather than resorting to violence, what would you say is different between you and the kids of today?
====== I would write things like that on my own time, never to be handed in as an assignment. It was a way t vent frustration. Kids don’t change, their surroundings do, the technology around them does, morality shift occur, trends, marketing, etc. Young people are the targeted demographic for every advertising campaign besides insurance and Viagra. The difference between my youth and yours is the internet, cell phones, things like that. These things allow you to go further, faster, get into bigger trouble and debt. There are many upsides as well, mostly upsides but there are some bad parts too. In my youth, you didn’t think about getting shot at a school dance, etc.
On to the music, I read that a moment of “revelation” hit when you and Ian MacKaye bought your first Sex Pistols album. What was that revelation and how did it change your world?
==== When I heard that music, I realized that my scream had found a mouth. I had found my tribe, my ship had come in. I was sure of it. That was a huge turning point for me. I felt like my feet had hit the ground and I was now operational. Punk Rock made me look at authority and government differently, made me look at everything differently. I am who I am in large part due to all that.
Your notoriety for being an up and coming front man must have grown fast, as you were even being pulled on stage by H.R. from Bad Brains. What led up to this? What did it feel like, your first time on stage?
========== The first time I was ever singing or whatever in front of an audience felt normal. There was no nervousness or hesitation, it was where I was supposed to be I reckoned. Until you find that stage, you treat everywhere you are as a stage, the breakroom, the elevator, anywhere there’s people. Ian and I were both like that. HR used to tell me I was going to be a singer. One night he dragged me up onstage to sing with the Bad Brains, it was pretty cool. Perhaps he was just trying to get out of some work!
One of my favorite pictures to this day is you and Glen Danzig helping to push a tour van, which Jerry Only had shared with me that it was taken outside of his house, what do you remember of that moment?
======= Honestly, I have no memory of that at all. It was probably either in the winter of 1981 or the summer of 1982. In summer 1982, we were hanging out there and the Misfits were having practice and Danzig didn’t show so I sang instead, that was really fun.
Aside from the music your spoken word has always been nothing short of inspirational, how did you find yourself starting to shift from music to it? Was the first time you did it at all intimidating?
===== I started doing the talking shows in 1983 and it felt like a natural extension of being in a band. It was and still is, a great way to connect, communicate, express, etc. I like it more the older I get. It allows me to report to an audience right after I have been somewhere and I can react to current events. It’s a great medium in times like the ones we’re in now.
One of the most inspirational moments I saw for your spoken word was the special you did in Israel. Being an Israelie myself, what did you think of your time there and how has it impacted your life since you were there?
====== I have been there twice. I thought the country was beautiful, the people were great, the food was fantastic. I have been there a couple of times and both times, the audiences were really amazing. I don’t think I’ll be going back there though. I don’t agree with their treatment of Palestine. I hope they get it together, both territories. Too many people are dying.
It would seem the people of the 60s were not the only activists; you are a strong one for the tragic case of the West Memphis Three. What sparked your interest in the case? Have you kept in touch with any of the accused boys?
==== I saw the documentaries on them and called their people and got involved. That lead to the benefit album and tour and other stuff. I think they got a raw deal and it will take the private sector to help out and so chose to be a part of that. I keep in touch with Damien’s wife Lorri mostly.
Rafi: What are you currently working on?
===== I am in the middle of a show that shoots until Sept. called The Sons Of Anarchy, I have talking shows here and there when not doing that. I am working on two books, I have two coming out this year as well. I have the radio show and company stuff as well. I am always up to something, or at least trying to be.
Rafi: Out of all the paths you have travelled; singer, writer, actor, writer, and activist, which one do you enjoy the most and why?
==== The radio work is the funnest because it’s the only one that doesn’t stress me out. It’s low impact and I don’t have to memorize anything or be seen. It makes weekends in LA good for me. I like all the other things I do and I am lucky to have those avenues but they are stressful and come with a price.
You witnessed the birth of hardcore punk scene in the US. What are your dearest memories of that age and what for? When you fast forward from that time to the present, what are the biggest differences between now and then, musically speaking? Do you think anything like that, which I mean the really strong DIY-spirit, will ever happen again? And I have to ask you if anyone tried to give you hard time because of your military school backround?
==== Well, I can’t possibly list all the good parts. It was a good time to be young and going to shows though. Seeing bands like the Cramps and the Bad Brains in small clubs were some of the better nights of my life. I was at the first Minor Threat show, that one will always stay with me. It was a time when you knew you were on the ground floor of something that was very important and you knew that you were in the right place and time. These days, there are still lots of great bands of course but with things being the way they are, you don’t really have to do so many things in such a primitive manner. It’s easier to make records, they can sound really good and are very cheap to make, the internet is a huge help. All of that feeds into the DIY thing, which I think is very alive and well. I went to a military prep school. It’s not like we were drilling with rifles, we were just yelled at a lot. I got sent there because I was a problem in other schools, fighting and whatnot. The school I got sent to promised my parents that they would deal with me hard if I got out of line. It was an adjustment.
I read that you used to work as a roadie for some of the Washington area bands. What are your memories of that era?
==== The scene was extremely small. I used to carry my friend’s gear into the venue with them. I would show up with them and load in. With the gear they had, we were done in a few minutes. You have to remember that these were very small venues, etc. It was a good time, of course.
When you moved to the LA, you’ve said that you got harassed by the police. What was that all about? How different was it compared to the intense situations you encountered during Black Flag show’s, where things were really getting crazy with you and the audience? And to add: how difficult such situations with the audience were for you?
======== Black Flag had many ordeals with the police in Los Angels and in any beach town we lived in. They didn’t like us, our music, our audience and their lack of control of the situation as they saw it. I always thought they made things more dangerous when they chased kids around and beat up on people. At our shows, sometimes, you had people acting out, taking out their frustrations on the singer. I dealt with it as best I could but some nights it was the only memorable thing of the show, was how well broke some guy’s nose.
You began your spoken word career in the 1980’s. Were there any other artists doing spoken word albums and shows at that time? Were there anyone you look up to? I’m asking because I know you’ve influenced a lot of people yourself as a spoken word artist. And when did you started to add humorous aspects to your spoken word acts? I’ve seen a couple of your stand up / spoken word shows and enjoyed them a lot.
===== I just started opening for local poets in LA and it went from there. The humor aspect just found itself as I got more into a story telling mode. It’s nothing I try for, it just happens. Humor follows me home, like a dog. It’s almost an accident. I always admired Lenny Bruce. I never tried to copy the guy, I don’t know how you could. He’s just always someone who went onstage by himself that I always thought did the right thing.
When the big audiences found you, and your music was started to been played at the MTV (my English is horrible) and such, what were your first impressions of those people at the MTV?
===== The people who work there are incredibly nice. They are working for a living, they are not much different than anyone else. It’s in the higher echelons of the MTV structure where you might find some people who are without a soul. All the people I met there, the presenters, etc., were all really cool.
You’ve been collaborating with many bands during years. Can you say which of them has gave you the most? Has there been any collaborating that you did not like that much after all?
===== I have not really done all that much with other bands. Here and there, I have added a vocal on something when I am asked and have the time and interest. None of it really sticks out in my mind as being bad. At worst, the song was not all that memorable but not horrible.
You’ve done a lot of TV-work. Has it been everything you thought it would be? Do you prefer doing radio than TV? I have to ask because I personally love doing radio a lot more than TV.
==== For me, TV is work. I work for a living and so, it’s work I am happy to get when I can. I am in a TV show at the moment and it’s really great. From the cast to the crew, everyone is really cool and great at what they do. I am grateful to have the opportunity. Of all the things I do, I like radio the best. It’s the least nerve wracking of all the things I do.
And how about movies? There’s a lot of movies where you’ve been. What’s been the most memorable thing to do with movies? Was it fun to meet David Lynch, who happens to be a big fan of coffee also?
==== It was great to be in a David Lynch film. I had an extremely small part but that was fine with me, just to be on the set for a week was a blast. He’s a really good guy. I saw him a few months ago, he’s doing very well.
What does it mean for you personally that Obama became the president of the United States of America? Are you afraid that he may become a disappointment after all?
======= I voted for the man. I think we have a very good man in office. I think it’s an amazing time for America. He has an incredibly difficult set of challenges ahead of him. I don’t think he will be a disappointment, I think he might not get all the stuff he wants to get done finished as there are so many things America has to clean up from the last eight years of Bush, he might spend all his time doing that.
You’re coming to Finland this summer to perform a spoken word show. What can we expect to happen, and how big is your tour?
===== I will be on my own, onstage with a microphone. I will tell the audience about where I have been, what I saw, etc. There are not many shows this year as I am busy with TV and other stuff. The big tour starts in January of next year.
And oh, I almost forgot: what is your favourite coffee, and how do you like it?
===== French roast. Black.
1) You’ve been a member of bands including Black Flag and the Henry Rollins Band. You’ve acted in several features. You’ve gone on several speaking tours and had shows on IFC. You have written books and you also have your own radio show. You’re a media renaissance man. What was your favorite part and least favorite part of each and if you could only do one, which would it be?
====== The best part of all of them is that you get to do different things and break up your work detail. It keeps you sharp and a little off balance, which I like. It snaps me out of whatever rut I can get in. Also, I think doing the one thing makes you better at doing the other, etc. They feed into each other I have found. The not-so-good part is that there’s a lot of work and obligation attached to all this fun and merriment and sometimes, you really don’t want to be all that responsible all the time but it’s what you signed up for, so you do it. If I could only do one, I guess it would be writing. As much as I like being onstage, it’s the writing that is the hardest to do and the thing I would like to be good at. Radio is the funnest as it’s a very low stress environment. I feel lucky that I get to do any of it.
2) Having been a VIP of no less than three influential bands to developing metalheads, at what point did you feel that your art and your talent were at the same level and most reflective of what you were trying to say? What’s the album/song that defines Henry Rollins at his most pure?
======= I think where I was in sync with the overall was with the End Of Silence album. I was basically the same age as the audience and felt really in the pocket of things. As to being reflective of where I am/was at, I think that’s everything I do as I call it as I see it. I think everyone has “their time” or whatever it is you want to call it. Doesn’t mean that what comes before or after isn’t good, it’s just that there’s a moment and you know it and nothing is the same again for better or for worse. Fun House for the Stooges, Rocket To Russia for the Ramones, etc.
3) This is a question from my subscriber zakryan79: Due to the current trends in music today and what is being listened to the most in our society as “popular genre”, where do you see music going say 5 or 10 years from now, And what kind of music “in your opinion” will be the next big thing?
===== I have no idea as to what’s happening in mainstream music. It’s not a world I spend any time in. Where it is and where it’s going are of no concern to me. As to music from the fringe as it were, I think that’s getting very interesting. I think the future is more bands recording and releasing their music from their own sites and establishing an entire network that is quite free from the more normal outlets and routes. This is very interesting and exciting to me.
4) Even though you’re most known for being involved with hardcore bands and music, you have spoken at length about other great artists that are no where near the rock music scene. I remember seeing a video of you talking at the celebration of Miles Davis’ album Kind of Blue. What would people be surprised to find in your record collection and what type of music would you have loved to try playing?
====== If you have ever heard my radio show or read any of the books I have written on music, I don’t think you would be surprised at anything you would find on my shelves, really. I don’t have any Brittany Spears albums or a great deal of mainstream music but there’s a lot of records here from all over the world from pre-war stuff to what is coming out next month. I am not a musician really so I am quite limited in what I can bring to the table. What you heard is what I got basically.
5) Do you have any upcoming music projects now?
6) Your speaking tours are great because people get to hear about social issues from someone who refuses to hold back and is completely blunt and honest about situations. How do audiences react to your specific commentary on life and why do you feel that your tours draw so many people?
===== The reaction is generally good. I am sure there are those who don’t agree with what I say and that’s fine. It’s not like I am advocating rape and abduction. I perhaps have ideas of where tax money should go that make some to the right of me bristle but it’s not like it’s fighting words or anything, just fundamental disagreements. I think that’s fine. Why do the tours do so well? I don’t know, but they do and I am grateful because I really like doing those shows and engaging with the audience in that way. I like it more as I get older.
7) I remember watching you on TV when you did a speaking tour in Israel and you told the audience that the way to solve the arab/israeli conflict was to drop two different Ramones records on the warring factions and have them swap records. What are the major issues you’re getting at on this particular tour and could you give us an example as to how you would solve one of them?
====== Due to the travel I have done in the last several months, I have seen a lot of hunger and thirst, poverty, results of war, mines, etc. That is a part of what I will talk about. As to solutions, well, we as a species have to be better stewards of the planet. As we’re going now, there will be a lot of have-nots all over the world. If you’re cool with that, then go have a nice life. If you’re not, then there’s work to be done. How to fix things? It’s a top-to-bottom overhaul in my opinion, a re-set, new ways of going about old things.
8) Having done so many things in your life and having been a part of different scenes/lifestyles and succeeding in almost every type of media outlet available (from radio to video games), what other goals do you wish to accomplish? What have you not conquered yet?
9) Many people also consider you to be the ultimate badass. Here’s a question from my subscriber Euthanize Religion. How did you become such a badass? Also are there any lessons in badassery that you could give to the readers of this interview?
==== I am not a badass. I can’t shoot a gun or ride a motorcycle, fix an engine. I don’t know what a halfback does in any sport and don’t want to know. Mohammad Ali is a badass in my way of thinking.
10) And the final question comes from my younger brother who noticed you had a barcode tattoo. If someone scanned Henry Rollins how much would he go for?
=== Your younger brother, like Rush Limbaugh, needs to get better material.
2016October July June March
- 03-28-16 Henry Rollins Announces Two New Zealand Shows
- 03-10-16 Henry Rollins at Largo (Los Angeles, CA) at the Coronet this December
- 03-08-16 Henry Rollins returns to Australia this September
- 03-20-15 Henry & Heidi Podcast: Henry & RuPaul
- 03-13-15 Henry & Heidi Podcast: Henry/Ian/Petshop
- 03-06-15 Henry & Heidi Podcast: Talking Shows
- 07-26-14 Double J Show #04 27–07–14
- 07-18-14 Double J Show #03 20–07–14
- 07-11-14 Double J Show #02 13–07–14
- 07-03-14 Double J Show #01 06–07–14
- 07-02-14 Henry Rollins ‘guest in residence’ Double J Radio in Australia info
2013May April January
- 01-23-13 THE LEGEND OF COOL “DISCO” DAN - World Premiere!
- 01-16-13 West of Memphis: Voices for Justice - Available Now
- 01-15-13 West of Memphis: Exclusive Movie Clip and Album Stream
- 11-29-11 No Fear of a Black Friday
- 11-27-11 Drop In The Bucket Benefit 11/30/11 @ THE AVALON IN LOS ANGELES!!!!!
- 09-10-11 9-11-01 – 9-11-11 TEN YEARS IN A DAY
- 09-05-11 STOOGES USA SHOWS POSTPONED DUE TO INJURY—- READ
- 03-23-11 World Water Day
- 03-22-11 Henry to perform at Reading and Leeds Fests this August
- 03-21-11 Comedy Above the Pub Interview
- 03-17-11 Who’s Afraid of Peter King’s Islamophobia Hearings?
- 03-08-11 Henry interviewed by Culture Brats
- 03-08-11 The Defense of Marriage Act Blues
- 03-08-11 Henry on Chelsea Lately tonight
- 02-28-11 Lithium Magazine Interviews Henry
- 02-24-11 Henry in Australia
- 02-23-11 ***CHECK OUT GRAY JOEL - LINK HERE***
- 02-15-11 Prefix Mag Interview Henry
- 02-12-11 *** RON ASHETON CELEBRATION W/ THE STOOGES ANN ARBOR MI 04-19-11 ***
- 02-11-11 Two new DC area interviews with Henry
- 02-02-11 HENRY NOW IN THE PRINT VERSION OF THE LA WEEKLY
- 02-02-11 20 Questions with Henry Rollins
- 02-02-11 FIVE HEIDI & HENRY BATTLING TOPS VIDEOS IN THE VIDEO SECTION. FREE CELLULITE.
- 02-02-11 *** FRESH LINKS FOR FREE DOWNLOAD SHOW #2 AVAILABLE HERE ***
- 01-31-11 Pop Matters Interviews Henry
- 01-24-11 New Tour Pre-sale
- 01-24-11 LA WEEKLY COLUMN #23
- 01-20-11 01-19-11: 12-25-10 DOWNLOAD RE-UP. COME AND GET YO JAMS!!
- 01-03-11 BIRTHDAY SHOW IN DC 2-13-11: SECOND SHOW ADDED
- 12-15-10 Born to Rage Interviews
- 12-12-10 GRINDERMAN ARTICLE FOR LA WEEKLY
- 12-06-10 National Geographic Channel’s “Born to Rage” Airs December 14th
- 12-01-10 Henry Rollins “50” Dates Announced