EXCLUSIVE HENRY ROLLINS
By: Mike Heck
One of the
most interesting tours to grace the U.S. this year, would have to be the
LOLLAPALOOZA FESTIVAL. This historic event, brainstormed by Perry Farrell of
Jane's Addiction, proved to be a very consious-raising event. Not only did bands
perform for a 10-hour long extravaganza, but artists also showcased with huge
tents set up displaying various people's work. Political awareness was a main
focus of the festival with activists and liberal groups, who set-up stands to
distribute their material, to get people involved, making the festival
educational as well as entertaining. Among the groups set up included: P.E.T.A.,
Greenpeace, The League of Women Voters, Refuse & Resist, Rock The Vote, and
in Ohio, Rock Out Censorship.
The diverse range of bands performing for
this alternative fest were: Jane's Addiction, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Henry
Rollins Band, Living Colour, Nine Inch Nails, Ice-T and Butthole
Opening this historic show was Henry Rollins and his band. An
appropriate choice without whom the whole American new wave movement might never
have happened. Henry & his band's performances are intense studies in power
and proved it with almost all new material this day, smacking the crowd with raw
power and paving the way for the nine hours of music to follow. My interview
with Henry proved to be an outspoken, up front and very intense talk from a man
who sees the real world told with an honest view. THIS IS HENRY
Henry Rollins: Let's do it.
Mike Heck: I'll start off
pretty basic. I'm sure everyone has asked you this...
HR: Wait! How did
we get on the Lollapalooza tour? Right!
MH: Close, close. How has the
Lollapalooza Tour gone so far?
HR: Oh well, we're havin' a good time. We
get to play everyday, people are nice to us, we eat. That's about as good as it
gets for us. It's good, no complaints.
MH: Do you think this package tour
will bring more well deserved recognition to you guys?
HR: Well to answer
that I'll rephrase your question. Well deserved, I don't know what we deserve.
Definitely more people will see us than would have if we were in these towns by
ourselves. What they think of us, I don't know. But we do get in front of more
humans than if we were on our own. Who knows, they could all just hate us except
for the 35 up front. We are definitely around a lot of people and that's good.
It's great for any band. And who knows, maybe some of these kids will walk away
going like, 'I never knew what that band was like but those guys are alright. I
didn't hate them, they were cool! Maybe we might make some new friends out
there. That's always good. A band should always be looking to break through to
new people, new listeners. That's what it's all about, well one of the things
that it's all about.
MH: Personally I thought you guys were the hardest
band on this tour. It's great there'ssuch a variety of bands but I can't think
of anyone who packs as much wallop as you do.
HR: Well we don't play pop
music I'll tell you that.
MH: Everytime I've seen you play it's intense.
How would you compare the Rollins Band to your former band Black
HR: I like this band better in that we share the music. It's not
like with Black Flag. I had no problems with it but it was well understood that
it was Greg Ginn's band. And that's OK. Greg would write a log of the songs and
the lyrics. He would come in and go, 'all right here's how you sing it, let's
go.' And you would do it. With this band I didn't want that. I didn't want like
ok fellas to do this. I mean I wanted to be in a band. When we write music it
usually comes out of jams where all of us are contributing and it's really
organic. All of our songs come from the ground up. And that's good and hopefully
the playing is more intense because we don't have these line-up changes like
Black Flag had. It's Tuesday, bring in the new drummer. We've had the same
line-up since day one. The first real sound man we ever had was Kayo and that
was it. So it's pretty much been the same gang for almost 4-1/2 to 5 years. That
has got to help the music. The fact that we can play off each other and exchange
a lot of musical ideas and not have some kind of weirdness about it.
Black Flag was such a legendary and controversial hard-core band. Did you have
any censorship problems?
HR: We got censored a lot. We had problems with
the cops in Canada, we had a lot of harassment by the cops in L.A., sometimes at
gun point. Phone taps, undercover cops posing as bums outside of our place. One
cop posing as a bum came in and tried to tear the tape out of the machine while
we were recording DAMAGED. I mean you'd see a bum living on the street drinking
Lite Beer. I mean, come on! He's got on his Rayban sunglasses and we go, Good
morning officer and he goes, hey I'm no cop man, I'm likeyou. Like get the fuck
out! They used to do shit like open up our van. We'd come in the morning and our
van would have all the doors open and all the windows down. All of our shit
would be gone. In the evenings we used to watch this silver, what are those
cars, anyway these cops would get out and fuck with our van or look through the
windows of our place with binoculars. We used to look back at them. All of this
was happening when I was like 21 and 22. It was really wild. I joined this band
and all of a sudden cops are calling me faggot, following me to the laundromat,
threatening me when I'm out with a girl. They would follow me into a restaurant
and keep riding me so I would have to leave. It was pretty weird because the
cops are scary. I'm not like this big guy who can go beat up cops, so it's like
shit. So yea we had some real problems with censorship. We don't have any kind
of problems like that now with the Rollins Band so far. I haven't encountered
any of that with my reading gigs either or my books. So for right now everything
MH: Can you tell us why Black Flag split up?
we didn't get along anymore.
MH: Is that all you're gonna say about
HR: That's it! Why did you get divorced from your wife? Because you
don't get along anymore, right? Me and Ginn got divorced. People break up, it
MH: You have your own book publishing firm named after your
birthday. How did that happen?
HR: I just started it. I wanted to do my
own books and do books of other people, so I started a company. And there it
MH: Who are some of the other artists you have?
HR: Right now
we're working with, besides me, Jeffery L. Pierce, of the Gun Club, Alan Vega
from Suicide, we're working with a certain legendary singer from Ann Arbor who
used to front a legendary band from that town. His name I can't really say it on
tape yet because we haven't signed the contracts.
MH: His real first name
wouldn't be James would it?
HR: Sorry I can't say anything until its
press release time.
MH: Any censorship problems for the artists you
HR: No. We put out Nick Cave's lyric book in America. That was
fun. I don't have any good censorship stories to tell you.
MH: How do you
feel about censorship personally?
HR: I think it's great! Ha Ha. I don't
want to see it you know. I think it would be really fun to do some creative
censorship. Like not to allow Warrant to release a record again ever. Make them
apologize and make them cry until they piss their pants and promise to never do
it again. I'd like it if Edie Brickell was never given an opportunity to record
again. I'd like to send her to Siberia actually until she pees in her pants and
promises to never do it again. I mean everyone should have the right to go off
and do their music or do their books. The people who are in the position to
censor they're really not down to reality where that certain artists are coming
from. I debated Jack Thompson for two nights. He's the one who got 2 Live Crew
into trouble. I spent a few days with him.
MH: How did the debates
HR: Personally I think I won. His thing is he wants to get rid of the
weed by chopping off the top of the dandelion. He doesn't want to get the roots.
So I put it to him like this. Do you think perhaps you wouldn't have someone
like Luther Campbell if you had educated him, given him a good home and taught
him how to read and write and offered him the same opportunity that you and I
had? Maybe that's more interesting to write about than calling women bitches all
the time. And don't you think maybe that Luther Campbell's pretty fucking
amazing for coming out of a ghetto with very little education and winding up a
multi-millionaire? I don't think you have done it and I don't think I've done
it. So I put it to him and he didn't have an answer. All he's interested in
doing is just turning lights out and saying he's solved the problem by taking 2
Live Crew records off the shelves. That won't stop rape and cruelty to children
and women like he says it will. He tries to come off as this good guy who's
doing you all these favors and he's not doing any favors. He's this white-bread
chickenshit fucking Christian guy who's never been to a ghetto. He has no
concept of a kid living in Compton who is either gonna blast his way out of
there or die. He's not gonna get all smart and leave. His Dad is gone, been gone
for years. His Mom is an alcoholic, his brother is in jail and someone hands him
a gun and goes, "want some gold chains or do you fuckin want to look at this for
the rest of your life"? Fuck it! I'd take the gun in a second. I'd be like Jesse
James man, I'd go, 'fuck it or kill me. Let's go! Anything but Compton for the
rest of my life." And I said, Jack, I don't think you'd get to that you know. I
think it's through love and education and turning people on and giving people
equality. Luther Campbell, no one would buy his records. Every one would go, ha
it's stupid. It is so boring. It's just not a good record. The hardest part for
me about the 2 Live Crew record was getting through it. And I mean for the same
reasons I don't buy Poison either. I don't think it's good. I wasn't even
offended by 2 Live Crew. I think there's like 15 year olds out there who can
crack out more intense fuck stuff than that. I just isn't very
MH: Wow! That's a very intense answer Henry.
it's just what I see around me man. I live in a neighborhood where there is some
pretty intense shit. I don't see bad people, I just see people who didn't get
the same chance I did. When you come out of the womb, there you are, bonk! My
Dad never hung me upside down in the closet and beat me. I always had three
meals everyday. I just think that one of the hardest things in the world to be
is a black male. I mean everyone hates your guts. White men are afraid of you.
White women are afraid of you. The cops hate you. The government wants you dead.
Your own people want to shoot you for what you got. You just can't get over it.
And even if you are able to get over it you're forced to do it on the white
guy's terms. You know, smile for the camera nigger!
MH: Here in the
Midwest we seem to have that attitude. Here in Ohio we've met some people who
are into Metal as opposed to Alternative music. Some are even in bands and
they're like hillbillies and are all caught up in the whole racist scene. I'm
not saying everyone, but we have ran across a few.
HR: Sure, sure,
there's a lot of it out there. In the Midwest there is a lot of it. The Midwest
has strong factions of the Klan. In fact, the Klan is now taking over a lot of
the responsibilities of the White Aryan Resistance out here. And hey, that's
fucked! That's real scary! The Klan and the W.A.R. is like which two gates of
hell do you want to walk into. Jesus Christ! You'd never believe that people
would get into that kind of shit. It's just so sad. Young people must realize
there is no reason to have to discriminate anyone or to feel the need to carry
around all that fucking baggage.
MH: Yea, I try to tell some of these
guys about this, because I'm about your age and I've been playing drums and
guitar for 16 years. I try to tell some of these musicians who are racist that
if it wasn't for people like Jimi Hendrix and the black blues guy, they wouldn't
be playing the stuff they are today.
HR: If it wasn't for the black
musicians there would be no music, ok. You can take any contemporary musician on
the planet and I don't care who it is. I mean I challenge you as a concept to
find me any musician on the planet that you can't break his or her music down to
Robert Johnson, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix, guys behind bars
singing spirituals, American Southern Gospel or James Brown. James Brown
invented so much fucking music we'll be living of the meat on his ribs until
your son is dead. He left so much, he left such a great set of blueprints. I
mean like when he goes I invented disco, I invented rap, I invented soul.
Rolling Stone said it best when they wrote, "if you believe James Brown, he'll
tell you that he invented rap, soul, funk and disco, that he invented the
groove." And the thing about James Brown is that he's right. There is no white
musician who you can say that about. Beethoven and Wagner? Well that's nice, ok.
But that music really doesn't matter to me. But you want to talk about genius
its not Kenny G, and its not Eddie Van Halen. They're great, there is genius in
what they do, but if you want to go backwards to the source it's the source
material that will fuck your shit up. If you want to hear some fury listen to
John Coltrain. That is like music on its purest level. So when some of these
metalheads or these racis guys who are like, "fuck these niggers, what are they
good for," it's like, well you wouldn't have all those dumb ass patches on your
jacket if Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones hadn't been so in love with the
blues and righteous soul music. Take it back Keith Richards and he'll tell you
straight up. Robert Johnson and Chuck Berry. We got all of our shit from Chuck
Berry. We used his material mercilessly. Keith Richards will tell you. He goes,
yea man Chuck Berry. And listen to Bob Dylan. He grew up with gospel, spiritual
and all that stuff along with a lot of Oakie music, like mountain music. But it
all comes from black music. And it's America that has cornered the market on
great music. We gave the world music. America, not Europe, America did. Over the
past two hundred years, with very few exceptions, there has not been much
amazing music that has happened outside of America.
MH: Maybe that's why
England has so many of the weekly trends. They look to see what America does and
it prompts them.
HR: I think that in England what you are dealing with is
people who live with a lot of music coming out of London. It's basically one
town will dictate the music for a whole country. It's like one DJ will be in
power for like the whole summer and he'll make this new music. All the clone
bands will set up. One band on the great idea and eight clone bands will set up.
One band on the great idea and eight clone bands will follow. Everyone goes on
tour and the press agents go, "this is it, this is Manchester, this is the new
music." And you listen to it and you go, "like suck my dick man, get the fuck
out of here." But you can thank England for not letting American blues die.
Because in England you don't have that racism thing going. It's the English who
kept the blues alive and a lot of contemporary blues guys in the '50's like
Lightning Hopkins and Fred McDowell, they couldn't make it in America. They went
to Europe and England and they had like Mick Jagger in the front row taking
notes. People like Eric Clapton, he idolized them, he idolized these people.
These little old funky black men playing acoustic guitars. One of the most
devastating guitar players that has ever been is Fred McDowell. I've got every
record he's ever done that I have been able to find. He's a monster! Every once
in a while I get to drive through his hometown. I drive through Como,
Mississippi on the way to Memphis. It's cool to pass through Como. You're like
"fuckin-A man, this is Fred's town."
MH: It sounds like you have some
really diverse influences.
HR: I wouldn't necessarily call them
influences but a lot of diverse interest in music. Just what I've learned over
the years. You should know why you like a band and know where the music came
from. Unfortunately today young people are raised on Guns 'N Roses. But they
should do their homework and go back to at least Led Zeppelin and when they get
older and can swallow some of their ego maybe they can have enough stamina to go
back to where they got it, and then they will really be rewarded. That's what
I've been doing with jazz music. I found out about Thelonious Monk. If you want
to hear some music get Miles Davis or Charlie Parker and that shit is just like
pure sunshine. You can't fuck with it. Hendrix and all that, you can't touch it.
A lot of these bands today, you can't sell me on a lot of these bands. I saw
Zeppelin, I saw Hendrix, I saw Nugent, I saw Aerosmith on the Toys In The Attic
tour. You can't fuck with me. I've seen hard rock. I grew up with the Bad
Brains. I've seen some real shit go down. And these days you can't sell me on
Anthrax. I'm sorry. Nice guys I'm sure, but sorry.
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