OCTOBER 2009: by BRADLEY MASON HAMLIN for MYSTERY ISLAND MAGAZINE
BMH: Mr. Rollins, what have you been up to in Amman, Jordan?
ROLLINS: I was in Jordan for several hours on a layover. I was on my way to Saudi Arabia. I have been here for a few days. Itís been an interesting time, especially in Riyadh. There are some very rich people here, as you know and itís strange seeing the way they spend their money. Walled off property goes for blocks, custom cars all over the streets, itís like a city of lottery winners and the people who clean up after them.
BMH: Tell us about your work with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of War.
ROLLINS: Iraq and Afghanistn Veterans of America (IAVA.org) is an organization that looks out for veterans. I help in a small way by doing voiceover work for them, hosting stuff, etc. Basically, when they ask something of me, I do it. Best thing to do is go to the site and let it do the talking.
BMH: Weíve really enjoyed the work youíve done on the radio. As you know the pickens are mighty slim out there these days in terms of good music, [on the radio] therefore, an eclectic play list is definitely the way to go. In your opinion, has modern music (in general) lost its balls? Has pitch correction and Protools ruined the music business?
ROLLINS: Perhaps the music you are encountering has lost its balls but in my opinion, music is just fine. I buy new records all the time that I think are quite good. I think if you are looking in the more major outlets, you will get mediocre results. Greed messed up the music business on the major label level. Independent music is just fine by comparison.
BMH: The music we "encounter" on Mystery Island, the music we live and breathe with daily with our collective play lists, derives from a composite of the most interesting bands/musicians/singers of the past, present, and all those crazy good new monsters stepping out of the fire to make their mark on the future.
[See: Those Darlins: http://mysteryisland.net/thosedarlins].
When we were kids, Henry, the radio stations did play good music, both on AM and FM channels. Now, by large, they do not. That would be the point. The great stuff is always under a rock or inside a garage somewhere. Or on satellite radio, but you have to pay for that privledge. Wouldn't it be nice to have great radio again? I'm not sure. Maybe, or maybe it's actually more interesting to have to go look for the good noise.
Tell us a little about the aftermath of your album of Black Flag songs for the West Memphis Three. Did it have an impact? Is there an update on their situation? We heard there were new hearings over the summer.
ROLLINS: We put out the record and did the tour, the profits went to the WM3. The defense is in constant need of money so we provided a drop in that bucket. As to the case, best to google the case and read the updates. Things are happening but itís better that you read something more together than me trying to recount what I read.
BMH: Okay. Youíre one of the only real punk personalities that has won a Grammy, (Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag). [Iggy was nominated for ďCold MetalĒ but I canít think of another example]. For a lot of people, that kind of attention would go straight through their necks and blow their heads up like a balloon. You seem able to keep a realistic perspective. What keeps you sane inside the circus?
ROLLINS: I gave the grammy away years ago, about a week after they gave it to me. I work on my own and donít live in that world. I donít know any of those people. I drive a Subaru and buy my own groceries. The bottom line is that I have work to do and it takes a lot of my time.
BMH: Although fairly pragmatic in your personality, and a genuinely giving person -- you have had your share of ďreactionsĒ to the beast crowd. At times, when assaulted on stage by a fan, (or just some jerk) you feel compelled to assault back. When this happens, does it make you feel closer, more connected to the audience Ė as in say a form of brutal performance art Ė or does it make you feel more alienated?
ROLLINS: Sometimes situations occur and you need to react. Threats need to be neutralized so the objective can be reached. It doesnít change the way I feel about the audience in any way at all.
BMH: When poetry is read silently on the page, itís no longer ďspoken word,Ē but we like it that youíre not calling yourself a poet. The word does tend to carry portentous weight. Have you come up with any other terms in place of poetry, possibly for a new generation of writers laying down the blood script, but not wanting to associate themselves with coffee shop hippies? We asked Michael Madsen about this and he said, ďInner dialect,Ē but Iím not quite sure that covers the territory.
ROLLINS: I write and publish it, those who are interested can check it out. Onstage I talk. I tell stories and editorialize, thatís about it. Sometimes itís funny, sometimes not, sometimes itís both in one sentence. The titles, spoken word, poet, etc., they are just things that slow you down and marginalize you. I say just do it and then do something else. Life is short.
BMH: What do you love most in life that your audience generally doesnít know about?
ROLLINS: I donít know. I think I talk about everything. I donít know if thereís anything secret I am holding back from anyone. I probably like sleep more than I should because I am always short of it.
BMH: Ever been in love? Explain the love of Henry Rollins.
ROLLINS: I am sure I have but that kind of thing is hard to determine. I think that kind of thing is in my past, I donít get worked up over women like I used to and donít take much time to pause to allow something of any substance to manifest itself, you never know though, there could be hope for me yet.
BMH: Your musical heroes, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, James Brown? Others?
ROLLINS: Iggy, Ian MacKaye, Hendrix, Coltrane, the list goes on.
BMH: When you look back on your busy career, what product [sorry for the ugly word] gives you the most satisfaction or joy? Is there one album or book in particular that you look at and say to yourself: Thatís pretty fuckin cool.
ROLLINS: I donít look back really. I consider the overall to be one long lucky streak to have had the opportunity to do the things I have. Thatís all I have for it all really, gratitude. I guess the best part of the whole thing is that I still have an audience. Again, I am grateful for it and damn lucky.
BMH: Your fondest memory of performing with Black Flag?
ROLLINS: I think we were a good band. It was Greg Ginnís band and it was great to have been a cog in the machine. Thereís no single memory that sticks out, perhaps my audition to be in the band, that was an insane day.
BMH: One of the most interesting things about Henry Rollins is that he has made a life decision to be a genuinely nice and helpful person to his fellow countrymen despite how fucked up any of them might be. Tell us about some of the organizations that youíre involved with that are worthy causes in your opinion.
ROLLINS: Iím not always that nice but I try. I have been able to be cooler because people are cooler to me than they used to be. I react and when the stimuli is antagonistic, I have to deal with it and wear a reputation that sometimes lacks context. I contribute to a few different organizations. Some that I think are worthwhile:
BMH: You said in one of your standup routines that at 18, 25, 35, and 40 you wanted to ďfuck on the floor and break shit?Ē Still true?
BMH: Okay, Mystery Island, that was Henry Rollins. For more things Henry, check out the links below:
HENRY ROLLINS WEBSITE ::
HENRY ROLLINS MYSPACE
ďHenry Rollins Interview" by Bradley Mason Hamlin.
Edited by Lucy Hell. © 2009 by Mystery Island Publications. Published: 10.27.09.
All rights reserved.
All photos of Henry Rollins are the property of henryrollins.com.
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