I was more than psyched that when I reached out to Henry Rollins, he agreed to answer some questions for us. I mean, come on. Henry Rollins! People my age used to see his face daily on MTV. It wasn’t until years after the days his Liar video was on heavy rotation, that I learned more about this man. His history with Black Flag, his life long depression and his spoken word tours. When I saw him speak at the Wacken festival, he impressed me so much, that I caught two of the three shows, and that only because I was late for the third. For those of you that have not yet done so, pick up a copy of his audiobook “Get In the Van”, and prepare to be blown away. It was my absolute pleasure to ask this, to me highly inspirational man a few questions.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! How’s life in the world of Henry Rollins these days, what do you fill your days with?
Currently, I am off the road. I am preparing radio broadcasts for the upcoming months as I will be out a lot this year. Other than that, press, writing and working out logistics for upcoming shows with various agents. Basic office / admin stuff.
You are a busy man. Radio performances, podcasts, spoken words tours, a solid tv/movies career, you could say you’re into anything that requires a passion. What did I miss?
I write for different publications, which is time intensive. As well I have my own writing projects, which take as much time as I can devote to them.
Of all your current endeavours, what makes you happiest?
Happiness it not a feeling I register. I mean, I am perhaps happy at times but don’t think about it. I like to work, so when I am working, when I am doing something, adhering to a schedule, I am at my best. The least stressful of all the things I do is the radio show. It is a great thing to be able to lay out a bunch of music for people and hope they enjoy listening. Knowing that people from all over the world are checking out the show is really cool.
Most of our readers will know you best for either your Black Flag days, or your work with the Rollins Band. You stepped back from making music a while ago. Do you ever miss it?
I don’t. I played very hard and gave it all I had. I can’t think of anything I could do musically that wouldn’t be a repeat or a cash in and neither interest me.
It’s been some time since your latest music release. What are your views on the current music scene?
I can’t keep up with all the great records that are coming out. 2016 is going to be a great year for new releases. Music has always been fine.
Is there still something that maybe called a Punk scene these days you think?
That’s nothing I pay attention to. I don’t want to be a part of any scene. I don’t think there has ever been a time in music where you couldn’t point to a band or bands and the scene around them and not call it Punk. When Hendrix crashed the London music scene in the 1960’s and started playing the music of their sacred cows back at them, like Beatles and Clapton, that was punk. I think there will always be something like that around.
Punk music to me is about wakeup calls, about rebellion against a flawed system, about speaking out and standing up. Wouldn’t you say the current world needs a good punk scene?
I think it needs more people saying no to war, to corporatism, corruption and other mechanisms that manufacture misery. Music won’t solve these problems. It can provide a meeting place, a soundtrack, help form a consensus but real change happens when enough people have had enough.
I know you’ve told multiple journalists before that you’re not returning to music. Is that still your current standpoint? I think the world could use some more Henry Rollins right now.
I can only do what I think is honest. The last thing I want to do today is go to band practice.
Your current tours are spoken words tours. I’ve seen you perform at the Wacken festival twice in two days. Both performances were different, with only a small overlap. How do you prepare for a show like this, how much is improvised and how much is prepared?
It’s all prepared. I have always prepared. The last thing I want to do is waste an audience’s time. I strive for precision, clarity and impact. I can’t achieve that through improvisation.
To me, seeing you speak was a very powerful, impressive thing. Where it comes to message, what medium you think works better to get thoughts out there, music or your current tours?
For me, it has always been the talking shows. There is nothing else to hear but the words. This is why I am very careful to be prepared as best as I can be. All I have up there is the words, the ideas.
In preparation of this interview I re-listened to the audiobook of your award winning memoir Get In The Van. No matter how much I listen to it, I can’t get over how different, alien the world you describe is to me, compared to mine. Have you changed a lot since those days, as a person? How do you look back at the you of those days?
I am sure I have changed in ways I am not aware of. I think that’s what age does. You move, evolve, shift, etc. Those were some rough times. Things are not nearly as rough for me at this point. It would be logical to conclude that I would be different as my surroundings are different as well. I think I am hopefully more patient than I was in those days, more understanding of others. One thing I notice is the cumulative effect of many years of adventurous living and sailing the seas of consequence, as David Lee Roth has said. I have seen and been through some unfortunate situations. I can’t say that they have not had an effect.
I know what you bring on stage, with or without a band backing you. For those that have not yet heard you speak, how would you describe a current Rollins performance?
Story telling, reportage, editorializing. I think there is about a thousand hours of me online which can be viewed for free.
Where will we able to see you live this year?
I have some European festival dates, shows in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and North America yet to do. I am about 14 countries into the year so far.
What music do you listen to now these days? Do you have any recommendations for our readers?
I listen to a lot of different music. Perhaps the best thing to do is check out my radio show. There is a site that has years of it for free. You can see the play lists, listen to the show and hear what I think is good.
Do you have any last words for our readers?