Henry Rollins is an angry man. It's not directed at you, just at the general situation. "The man," he says. You should be glad he's angry. It's the fuel to his fire. It has motivated him to make music, to do spoken word tours, to travel the world, to host a television show.
He was the frontman for Black Flag and the Rollins Band, but these days, his focus has been more on the world, the war and a strong distaste for the current administration. His current spoken word tour, "Provoked," is sure to touch on all of those subjects. Rollins recently spoke by phone from his L.A. office about all of those things. Here is the interview in its entirety:
"This is Henry."
Hey, Henry. This is Jeff Hahne from Creative Loafing.
"Hey. How are you?"
Doing alright. How are you?"
Are you in L.A. right now?
Where do I start? Every time I look, it seems like you're into something new. What motivates you to stay so busy?
"A couple of things; not always anything very enviable. I'm angry and my anger kind of gets me going. You know, gets me out of bed in the morning. Also, I utilize work in a way to medicate. Keep busy, which makes me avoid myself, that's what the girls at the office tell me. They think I don't have the courage to be real. (laughs) So, the bottom line is I always thought that one should work vigorously. That's what you should do. That's what the job is. You should just really ... (sighs) Put it this way, that's what all my heroes did — Coltrane, Miles, my friend Ian McKaye — they work all the time. I'm not equating myself with them, I'm just saying that's just what I think one should do. And also, it's interesting. I think sitting still would be very depressing for me and extremely hard to do."
I'm looking at your schedule for the upcoming tour. In the same way, you don't take many days off. I guess that's part of it — not having a day off so you can keep going, but does it not get tiring with all the travel?
"Well, I'm not driving. I'm on a bus. I do these kind of tours on a tour bus because I'm on the road so much. If I had to fly from show to show, that would be pretty hard to do. So, I'm on a bus, Tim is driving. I've got my own bunk. I can watch film. We have online on the bus, more often than not — sometimes in the middle of nowhere you can get no reception, but quite often I can be online. There's a flat screen TV in there. I bring some DVDs. We can watch cable or satellite and there's a shower in the back, so ... how bad is it really?"
Doesn't sound bad at all.
"Yeah, it's not so bad. This is luxury for me. I've done a lot of tours where you're crammed into a small vehicle, and you sleep with your cheek up against the window."
With the band and everyone else ...
"Yeah. It's not unique — every band from R.E.M. on will tell you that's how you do it. So, when they say here's a primo bus you're gonna live in, I'm like, 'Well, yeah!' And also, a night off — you usually have your nights off in somewhere like Joplin, Missouri, which is no bad place to be, but it's a point between two points. So, your night is a cheap motel, the interstate for your view and, um, wow ... there's a Denny's. I'm not gonna eat there. Well, um, how much does it cost to take a taxi into town and maybe find some real food, 30 bucks? Well, I'm not doing that either. And so a night off for me is I usually go back to the bus where there's usually better reception online and I just set up my little office environment on the tour bus and I spend the night off in the tour bus. Every once in a while, you get a night off in a place like D.C., Chicago or New York. Well, yeah! Let's go see something. Put it this way, if there's a night off in the middle of nowhere or 20 miles down the highway there's a small show that you can do in a small town, I'll take the show. Gladly, and be so happy for the work. That's why the schedule is vigorous. And again, if you're on tour, why don't you just go work?"
You touched on so many things I wanted to ask about, I'm not sure where to go next.