Henry Rollins seems to be on a mission to achieve as much as he can out of life before its gone, the singer, writer, DJ, actor, traveler, spoken word artist and publisher is living the famous Benjamin Franklin quote.“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” He spoke to Ten-Midnight.com about his wide an varied experiences.
Before your awakening to Punk music what were you listening to as a kid growing up around your family and friends, is there music that you have revisited and still enjoy today?
I listened to a lot of FM radio, which was really good in those days. I had records by Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Aerosmith. Anything with a big guitar in it was good. I still have those records and play them. I had Beatles records until high school but kind of lost track of that when I wanted more aggression in music. I still play them as well. I still like the music I heard growing up, especially the radio stuff like Gladys Knight, Earth Wind and Fire, bands like that.
As a child, you suffered from depression and low self-esteem, what changed inside you to have the courage to make those initial steps to sing in front of people for the first time and what were the feelings you had after achieving this? Is it something that you took a long time thinking over, or was it a spur of the moment act you just went for?
As difficult as it was to be amongst people, it was never difficult to be in front of them. I’ve never had stage fright or anything. Quite the opposite. When I started doing shows with a band, it felt like it’s what I should be doing. When I’m on tour, it’s still the best part of the day.
Black Flag was not the globally recognised name they are today when you first joined, but they were an established punk band with a following. Did you feel you had to create a front man persona at that time of joining to make an impact, or were you immersed in the experience that gave you the energy to perform the way you did and it grew from there?
I only thought of doing the songs as best I could. I never thought about what it should look like. We served the music, that’s it, really. For us, it was a very utilitarian idea. The thing to do was to get out of the way of the music and let it do the talking. How I was onstage was what it was doing to me.
You were still very young when Black Flag ended and you started your publishing company 2.13.61, how did a young Henry Rollins have the knowledge to move in this direction at this time? Were there people around you who had experience or was this the DIY Punk attitude of “I can get up and do that!”?
Between being around Dischord and SST, I didn’t think of doing it any other way. If you wanted to make a book, you made it. Those days were very formative. I still work that way. Henry Rollins 2.13.61
Having your own band (The Rollins Band) gave you the freedom to have the last word in the music you wanted to put out, rather than all members having a say on the direction. Although successful you stated “I don’t want to play old music” when you brought the band to an end. Do you think there are other areas for you to explore musically in the future having such a great love of music yourself, or do you think your talents in this area have brought you as far as you can go personally and you would only be satisfying others to return to it?
Many years ago, I ran out of lyrics. I woke up one morning and it occurred to me that I was done. It thought about it for awhile and my mind didn’t change. I called my manager at the time, told him and went on to other things. I never really looked back. It feels like a long time ago. I’m not a musician, so it was a thing I did, something I served and when it was over, it was over. I never think about being in a band again. It just feels like something I would be doing again and not something I’d be doing next.
Your ‘Spoken Word’ shows have had an amazing response around the world, what were your first steps in to this area like, while still with Black Flag, getting on stage with no other members and only your isolated voice and the audience in front of you, it must have been daunting to say the least?
At some point in 1983, I was given a 5 or 10 minute slot one night at some poetry reading thing at a venue in Hollywood. It paid 10 bucks, which means I could eat. I read two things I had written and told a brief story about something that happened a few days before when a guy tried to run Greg Ginn over with his car. The time went fast and afterwards, people asked when I would be doing another show like that. I never thought there would be another one but there was. Within a few months, I was doing longer shows with poets and monologists and it just kept going. Pretty much anything about being onstage has always felt okay.
Henry Rollins sings, acts, writes books and poetry, does ‘spoken word’ performances, runs his own record label and book publishing company, and is also a TV film critic, and radio DJ. What gives you the most pleasure and satisfaction from all those roles, also would you say you intentionally challenge yourself as a person to go into these uncomfortable areas to try to conquer them?
Of all the things I do, I like being onstage with an audience, after that, I like being on the radio and then writing. I’m nobody from nowhere, so I’m lucky to be able to do any of this. I definitely go into things that I’m not sure I can pull off. It makes me work harder. When you’re not sure you’re going to make it, everything you do will be real. When it’s all real, then you stand a chance of doing something good. I have nothing to go back to, so I figure I might as well just keep going. It’s not about money or fame. It’s about experience, defiance, confrontation and curiosity.
You have been publicly active in voicing your opinions on Human Rights and getting behind campaigns you strongly believed in, has there been a time where you have considered politics as your next big challenge?
I grew up in Washington DC. My mother was in politics. It never held any interest for me. Even some of the politicians I kind of like seem to talk around issues instead of facing them head on. I would never want to be like that. Wearing a suit and hanging out with people who don’t like you, I don’t know why anyone shows up for that.
Henry Rollins is now a globally known name from starting out as potential manager in an Ice-cream shop, after all that you have achieved, what have you still got in common with your younger self? And would you as a young Punk approved of the person you have become?
I still know that to get anything done, you have to show up and work for hours and hours. Past that, I think that so many laps around the track, if you will, all the things I’ve seen and been through, it’s broken me up to a great extent, so I’m probably a lot different than I was. I don’t know what a younger version of myself would think of me now.
You’ve said the Ramones 1st album was a defining moment in music and your life, opening the door to another world of Punk Rock sounds and a different way of thinking.
From all the music you have heard since then, what one album would you hand to a young kid today with the thought of giving him the same electrifying experience you had?
I think Raw Power by the Stooges would be it.
Henry Rollins Tour Dates: HERE
12/6/2018 The House of Culture – Helsinki, Finland BUY TICKETS
12/7/2018 Studio 2 (DR Concert House) – Copenhagen, Denmark BUY TICKETS
12/9/2018 Muffathalle – München, Germany BUY TICKETS
12/10/2018 Schlachthof – Wiesbaden, Germany BUY TICKETS
12/12/2018 Im Wizemann – Stuttgart, Germany BUY TICKETS
12/13/2018 Kampnagel – Hamburg, Germany BUY TICKETS