Metal Hammer Interview - March 97..
"There's a lot of confusion and a lot of hurt in the rear-view mirror!"
says Henry Rollins of looking back at his life. The topics of shame,
relationships, rejection and many more difficult emotions are covered on
Rollins Band's new album, 'Come In And Burn.' Martin Carlsson checks on
Hank's mental health
The last time I visited Henry's Hollywood house a couple years ago, it
was as sparsely furnished as you would expect by the barefoot performer.
There was a desk, a computer, a wall of CD's and vinyl from his old DC
days, a stereo system and a weightlifting unit. All the essentials were
methodically positioned, with no unnecessary crap in sight. Not so this
time. Without anyone demanding it, Rollins has decided to personally
sign the first 4,000 copies of his new book, Do I Come Here Often, the
follow-up to the 50,000 plus selling journal Black Coffee Blues. Thus,
the main room is completely jam-packed with books.
"Nah, this is nothing. You should've been here yesterday," Rollins
shrugs. "It's just an hour a day. It takes six minutes a box, and I
just put on a record and sign books for a while."
How many other overly productive 35 year olds with a career
spanning almost 20 years, would take upon themselves the time-consuming,
not to mention BORING task of signing 4,000 bloody books? It would seem
Henry has lost none of his fire.
At the end of March, his musical vehicle, the Rollins Band,
release their most hard-hitting album in five years, "Come In And Burn".
"At this time in my 'career,' what's important to me is to make great
music," Rollins explains. "We really don't have any excuses not to.
What's the matter? Record company didn't have it together? No.
Addicted to something? No. Didn't have a guitar? No. Don't know what
good music is? No. If we make a bad record, we have no one to blame.
"It's about time everyone expected us to pull off some 'eeh#
record. I'm sure everyone's waiting for us to put out a 'la la la'
record and get fat."
In case you didn't get it, that was some Rollins irony for you.
It's nothing new if you've read his books or attended one of his
brilliant and surprisingly witty spoken word performances. Rollins Band,
however, is no avenue for light entertainment.
"Lyrics is where I go when I'm pissed off, depressed, angry and
feeling bad. I do so many things word-wise that I assigned that thing to
the band", Rollins reasons.
On 'Come In And Burn,' we primarily find ourselves in the company
of a man contemplating the hardships of love and relationships between
men and women.
"Birth on Planet Earth. Come in and burn. Have a relationship,
get your first apartment, go into the world. Auch!"
There's 'All I Want,' "a tale about a girl I was really into, who
blew me off in a very unimaginative way." But there's also numbers like
the far more desperate 'Spilling Over The Side,' which see Rollins
basically saying and doing anything to win over a woman, only to wake up
the next day embarrassed and full of regrets. And then there's 'Rejection,'
which is well, quite self explanatory.
Don't look to Henry Rollins for advice on how to succeed in your
love life. That department is still something of a mystery to the muscle
"Yeah, nothing's ever really worked out," he says pensively.
"Every few years I find a woman I'm really interested in and they're
always the ones who initiate it, but it never seems to work out. But you
always seem to get one to three songs out of it. When one leaves, you
go, 'Yeah, that's the A-side."
The fact that most of the album was written in New York where the
rest of the group reside and where Rollins rented an apartment for a
year, shows up in 'During A City' and 'The End of Something." The latter
track demonstrates the singer's contempt for Wall Street suit people, so
strong that he wishes he could bite them!
Perhaps most intriguing of all is the cut 'Shame,' which, he
admits, deals with "things that have happened to me that I can't face and
can't really talk about, and they've had a big impact on my life."
This is a surpising confession by someone so brutally honest,
both in his oral conversations and in his published journals, that there
seems to be no place to hide anything.
"I put it all out there, yeah," Rollins admits. "But everyone
has things they've said or done or been that they're ashamed of. I don't
think anyone gets out clean. There's a lot of confusion and a lot of hurt
in the rear-view mirror. Some of it, I've been able to face and some of
it, I'm working towards. It's a process. But I know there are some
things that eat me up and hurt, so I decided to write a song about it.
One important aspect of an individual's personal growth, Rollins
teaches in 'Starve,' is to go to the mountain: "It's basically about
people abusing drugs or food or whatever. Go without a coat when it's
cold; find out what cold is. Go hungry; keep your existence lean. Wear
away the fat, get down to the lean tissue and see what it's all about.
"The only time you define your character is when you go without.
In times of hardship, you find out what you're made of and what you're
capable of. If you're never tested, you'll never define you character."
Even though he now lives a comfortable life, far from the violent
struggle that marked his first years with the legendary hardcore outfit
Black Flag, to this day, Rollins continues to test himself.
"You always have to keep redefining yourself, pushing for further
self definition," he believes. "Absolutely. Otherwise you're just
coasting and that's not for me."
'Saying Goodbye Again' is the singer's emittered reaction to the
stupidity of people dying prematurely due to drug abuse. The last verse
is about a close old friend of his, who was the drummer in the Stains
until he OD'd.
"What a waste, what a great guy. That shit makes me sick, it's so
needless. I'm sure right as he was dying, he probably knew what he'd
done: 'Damn it! No way out of this. Here I go.'"
Rollins is, of course, a health freak, who gets up early in the
morning, works out, puts vegetables and grains on the dining table and
doesn't go near anything remotely mind altering.
But he hasn't always subscribed to this superclean lifestyle.
"I smoked pot once, got drunk a few times when I was a teenager,
tried mushrooms a couple of times and that's it," he states.
"Never liked it and it never rocked my world. Some peope, their
body chemistry doesn't like that stuff. It just bummed me out. So you
can fit all my experiences with alcohol and hallucinates into what some
guys do in four days."
But what really bummed Rollins out is that you lose control of
yourself and your environment whilst under the influence of substances.
And 'control' is the key word to this workaholic.
There's already a gameplan that has the next two years mapped
out. This includes: no more movie appearances, although he can briefly
be seen in David Lynch's new flick Lost Highway, along with Marilyn
Manson, an Anthology book to be issued in the fall by America's biggest
publishing house Random House, plus re-edited re-releases of his literary
back catalogue and a new title next year.
"What I want to do is put out one Black Coffee Blues type of
journal every year. The next one's gonna be bigger and include the
recording of this album and the entire tour," the writer
promises. However, on a whole, the next couple of years will chiefly be
dedicated to the Rollins Band.
"My manager said, 'Why put out the next album when you're 50?
You've already kept people waiting.' When the tour is over at the end of
this year, we're gonna write songs for two weeks and record them just
like that. That record should be out in November 1998."
Only Henry Rollins can take on that kind of a work load and deal
(this is the bit from the sidebar of the interview)
Lyrically intense gems from Henry Rollins
"You wear disgust like a crown" 'Low Self Opinion'-The End of Silence, 1992
REPULSION RATING: A PUTRID 5/5
"I'm a lying liar with my pants on fire" 'Tearing'-The End of Silence, 1992
DISHONESTY RATING: A SELF HATING 4/5
"You're pathetic and you're weak/You're a fake and you lie/I'd like to
crush you like an insect" 'Step back'-Weight, 1994
INTENSITY OF FEELING RATING: AN UNDISPUTED 5/5
"No such thing as spare time/No such thing as free time/No such thing as
down time/All you got is life time" 'Shine'-Weight, 1994
DISCIPLINED LIFESTYLE RATING: A HIGHLY FOCUSED 5/5
"I hear you say you hate pigs so much/Then why the hell do you act like
one?" 'Civilized'-Weight, 1994
HATE RATING: A BILE PACKED 4/5
"I'm not a rapist in waiting" 'Wrong Man'-Weight, 1994
SEXUAL AGGRESSION RATING: A NON THREATENING 4/5
"Will you smile when the sheets get soaked in blood?" 'Neon'-Come In And
STAINED SHEETS RATING: A NEVER TO BE WHITE AGAIN 4/5
"I can't unchain the best that screams inside me" 'Shame'-Come In And
TORTURED SOUL RATING: A TORMENTED 5/5
"If I saw your body burning in the street I'd put you out with gasoline"
'The End Of Something'-Come In And Burn, 1997
REPRESSED VIOLENCE RATING: A HOSTILE 5/5
"Rejection never felt this good" 'Rejection'-Come In And Burn, 1997
LOW SELF ESTEEM RATING: A SELF DEPRECATED 5/5