Wrapping the microphone cord around his fist multiple times, Henry Rollins paces the stage, ranting passionately to those in front of him, expounding on what ever has crossed his mind in recent months. Whether it be politics, dating or Wal-Mart, Rollins will make you chuckle at the absurdity of life while making you realize just how absurd life is in and of itself. Not only that, Rollins has the power from his own intense energy to get you riled up to want to make a difference. Prior to his career as a spoken word artist/stand up comic and writer, Henry Rollins led the epic hardcore punk band Black Flag and Rollins Band. However, his stage presence has changed very little from punk musician to spoken word artist. Recently, I was able to have a chat with Henry Rollins about his current tour, his thoughts on the Middle East, his career and dating.
You've begun your most recent spoken word tour in celebration of the end of the Bush era, what should fans expect to hear at your shows?
There’s not much to say about Bush at this point. It’s almost over, the damage is done, the jokes are old and sore and we are left with a broke ass, broken country. I will be talking about where I’ve been and what I saw over the last several months, this is what I usually do. The last several months have been very eventful.
You're known for an aggressive and powerful stage presence. Where do you believe this intensity comes from?
I am an angry person and it comes out onstage a lot. I am not mad at the audience, quite the opposite actually. I am mad about stuff and it is the thing that powers my curiosity and makes me go all over the world, write, etc.
What motivated you to get into spoken word?
I just started being part of these multi-person shows in Los Angeles in the early 80’s. Everyone got ten minutes or so. I went from there to shows with less people onstage so you got more time, etc. I liked the idea of being onstage without the band, it was interesting and I saw that it had a lot of potential so I stuck with it. I think it’s the only thing I have ever been remotely good at. [pq1]
You have some great material about dating and relationships in your spoken word, I'm curious, what’s your worst date experience?
It has been a long time since I went out on one of those. I guess the ones that are not so good are when you know there will be no connection and you hang out with this person for hours, going through the motions and it’s really a waste of time. It’s really bad when one person is really into it and the other one isn’t. that’s happened to me a few times, the woman thinks it is the start of something but really it’s the end.
In "The Henry Rollins" show on IFC, you were able to sit down and chat with some amazing musicians and actors, which interview stands out to you the most and why?
I think the two that stand out, although they were all pretty damn cool were Gore Vidal and Werner Herzog. I am a big fan of both men and it was incredible to meet them and speak to them. Vidal is an amazing intellect and Herzog has left a huge mark on cinema, they are both undeniable giants in their fields.
One of your "Letters from Henry" was to Ann Coulter, which was a justly harsh critique on her work, what would an open letter to Sarah Palin look like?
Perhaps a plea for her to get out of politics before she does more harm than she has already. She should stick to the hockey mom thing and leave the rest out. I am hoping to see her packing her bags for Alaska sooner than later.
Recently you did a spoken word tour through Israel, how do you think your work would be received in countries like Iran?
I think it would go well with students. I have been to Iran and spoke to many people there. I had a great time.
It seems that we start wars very easily now and the American people don’t seem to be too concerned about it.
Regarding international politics, what concerns you the most?
I am very concerned as to what our role is in the world, what we see ourselves as in relation to all these countries and peoples. As it is now, it seems like we’re a bully that breaks people’s stuff and pushes them around, that can’t last. Something has to change and I hope it does soon. It seems that we start wars very easily now and the American people don’t seem to be too concerned about it. That is an unsustainable stance and it also has to change.
Who are some of your major literary influences?
Thomas Wolfe, Henry Miller, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jarry, Breton, Rimbaud, Leautreamont, Vian, Selby. I am sure there are others.
What is the greatest threat to music these days?
You've been a long time supporter of gay rights, what kind of progress would you like to see accomplished in the near future?
I basically want the religious nuts to leave people alone. If Paul and Tom want to get married, I don’t see the problem with that. Some people really need to mind their own damn business. I don’t see it as a “gay” issue as much as a human issue. Homosexuality is a part of life. It will always be around. These people with their prehistoric logic is tiring.
I basically want the religious nuts to leave people alone...I don’t see it as a “gay” issue as much as a human issue.
You've collaborated with a lot of musicians, what other artists would you like to work with?
I might ask them to work with me so I can’t talk about it at this point but the ones I want to work with are the ones I am going to ask at some point. Past that, I really don’t think about music all that much.
Years ago you worked with William Shatner on the song "I Can't Get Behind That." What was that experience like?
Bill is a really great guy. He has a lot of energy and is very fun to work with. He works very hard. I have been going to his house for a few years now to watch the game now and then. He and his wife are always very friendly to me.
Can you tell us about some of your tattoos? The one's that are most meaningful and if you regret any of them?
I’m sorry, I can’t. It’s too boring to write about. Thanks for the interest though.
What's the most recent thing that excites you?
What future plans are in store for Henry Rollins?
I hope to get a lot of travel in next year and perhaps even get that started at the end of this year. I don’t plan too far in the future. I don’t think I have all that long.
For more information on Henry Rollins and his recent tour dates visit Henry Rollin’s website: http://21361.com/
Photo credit: Maura Lanahan & Ben Swinnerton