FHM June 1997...
Quote, Unquote: Henry Rollins
US punk veteran on clean living, gay porn videos and his best friend's death
What's the most annoying question you're always asked?
"'How many tattoos do you have?' How boring."
So, how many tattoos do you have?
"I don't know. Probably between ten and 13."
What made you get your first tattoo?
"I was 20 years old and in pursuit of self-definition. For me, tattooing
was a way to not look like my Dad. Now they're just like freckles."
You're well-known for imploring audiences not to destroy themselves with
alcohol and tobacco, but have you ever had a pint and a Castella?
"Never had a cigar. When I was 17, I got drunk a few times. I didn't
like it, never have. Don't like the taste, don't like the feeling, don't
like throwing up on my sneakers."
Aren't there other things that it might be better to warn the audience
against, like heroin?
Oh, I tell them that's bad, too. Cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, pot...I
think it's all fucked. It's a waste of time. I think marijuana should
be legalized, though. I mean, I think alcohol's fucked, but it's legal.
I'm not going to slap joints out of people's hands or go stand in front
of people shouting 'No!' I just go, 'Man, is that all you can do? Damn,
So, have you ever had a cigarette?
"Yeah, I tried smoking. I never got through one, though. A fter a couple
of inhalations, I felt like I was going to power-vomit."
What's the stupidest thing you've ever seen anyone do when they've been
off their face?
"I saw a guy get stabbed in the stomach and stand there, not feeling it,
while he bled like a stuck pig. He just stood there bleeding and we were
all like, 'Oh my God, look at that guy go.' He had white pants on and
they turned red."
How off his face was he?
"He didn't feel it. Didn't even look down. This was in upstate New York
in 1982. A guy walked up to him and stuck him. The guy just stood
there. Didn't seem to notice it. After a few minutes of standing there
going, 'It's cool, man, it's cool,' he just got in his car and left.
Nobody did anything. This guy had tried to kick me in the head during
the show earlier that night, so none of us were running up to help him.
Maybe the guy who stabbed him didn't like him doing that to me."
Ever tied up a woman during sex?
"Oh no, I would never do that. I've been asked to, but I'm not into any
kind of restraints or hurting or anything. Women have asked over the
years, but i don't want to hit any girls, don't want to tie any girls
up. It's not my thing."
When you first got into punk, did you do the whole safety-pin-and-ripped-
"No, that was England. That wasn't the American vibe. It's like those
postcards of punks with 'Welcome to London' on them. Most things that
come out of the UK are so corny. Britain is not a country I take very
seriously on a cultural level."
Most of us would say that about America...
"Oh yeah? You might say it, but you ain't following what you're saying.
You guys fucking love America. If you didn't, you wouldn't rip off the
blues, be-bop, rock 'n' roll. I mean, the Rollins Stones grew up on
American blues, so did Led Zepplin, so did Eric Clapton. Jimi Hendrix
didn't come from here-he came from America, like James Brown, George
Clinton, Prince, all those motherfuckers...Nobody in America is trying to
be Paul Weller, OK? But Pail Weller was trying to be the Supremes for a
Musically, that might be true, but if you ask your average Englishman to
sum up America, they'd say McDonald's, Coca-Cola, 'Have a nice day.'
"Yeah, and they're eating at McDonald's every day. And they're buying
Levi's and doing all that American stuff. I'm not defending America-I
think it's a turgid fucking cesspool that's dangerous and racist and
hellish, and I stick around because I like to fight the opposition. But
when I read in Vanity Fair that London is the next cultural mecca, I'm
like, 'Just wait till culture seekers get up on this grimy, overpriced
dump.' Wait till they get up close on all those rotten teeth and that
bad water and the horrible food and the shitty rooms and the moist clubs
and all these bloated people who've been living on generations of fried
and boiled food. Wait till they get up close on this mecca of
civilization. That's going to be such a joke."
Apparently, you called Steven Seagal 'a cuking jerk' because he once kept
you waiting for 20 minutes. Has he come back to you on that?
"No, he probably doesn't remember me. The guy was an asshole and he
knows it. The guy's a dick, but I'm not going to go up and get in his
face. The guy would kill me. He'd dispatch me with one hand. I am not
doubting his prowess, his size, his capability. He's a big dude and he
knows his shit. Didn't have to be such an asshole, though. He knows
what he is. He knows he's an abrasive, pushy guy. I'm not the first
person who's said it."
Are you always punctual?
"Yes, I do my best. Put it this way: if I'm not, I'm really fucking
sorry. I see it as showing respect."
I've heard you haven't read much porn, but a friend once showed you some
"Yeah, Larry the black fag. He was my buddy and one night we went up to
his Super 8 thing. The had no music, so we put on the Wild Cherry album
while we watched a film. It was called 'The Military Boys' School' and
everyone was standing there in their uniforms. Then it was like, 'Okay,
have we established that it's a boys' school? Great, get your clothes
off, start fucking and sucking.' It was just awesome. By the end
there's this huge daisy chain of men fucking. Then everyone pulls out
and jerks off one each other's backs and the movies over. I said
to Larry, 'You're into that?' And he went, 'Yeah!'
Didn't you think he had a hidden agenda?
"No, he didn't try anything on me. I don't think that was his game. We
just laughed hysterically throughout. He wasn't jerking off next to me.
He just sat there grinning with a look that said 'So what do you think?'
I just said 'Whatever, but I'm into chicks.' He said, 'Well, I used to
be, but I just love that big piece.' He used to be married and his wife
called him Mr E, which meant Mr Everything. Great guy."
Did they ever make a sequel, Military School 2?
"They've probably done that, yeah, I mean, what a great theme-Boys'
Summer Camp 5. Basically, what you want to do is get to the action. It
doesn't matter what you're taking off. They seem to need to establish a
plot in porno-must be to make it kind of seductive. But I dont' really
watch porn. It doesn't really do it for me."
Your best friend was murdered next to you and yo've used the story in a
comedy routine. Some people would say taht was rather twisted.
"No, I just told the story. A lot of people started crying. The first
half of that show was very funy, but then I said, 'I want to tell you
a story about two guys who were best friends,' and I went into this whole
thing and the place got very quiet."
How come you weren't killed?
"The guy missed. He shot at me twice. Missed by about an inch on my
left, and he went a little wide ont he right. I was standing dead still
with my hands up and he was firing on the run. I had my back to the guy
and I had no idea until the next day when the detective made me stand
there again. My groceries were still on the ground where I'd left them.
They froze the whole scene. I had been standing in the living room.
What happened was that they came out of darkness on the sidewalk. My
friend died on the front lawn. I was the guy with the key so I went in
and waited for instructions. I heard gunshots, then nothing. Then my
feet just started moving and i went out the back, ran around the corner
and called the cops. They never caught who did it."
You've survived a shooting, but do you really think you can survive the
next ice age as you have prophesied in the past?
"Oh, I think taht was not so literal. That was more just like, 'I'll
survive the nucleur holocaust, you pussies.' That's where that's coming
interview by Ivor Baddiel