Mojo (May 1994) + short review of Weight
"I'm not afraid to stand up and go F*** you, man." by Mark Cooper
THERE'S NOTHING HENRY ROLLINS LIKES AS MUCH AS A busy schedule - except maybe black coffee or a major workout with his weights. Dead time does not sit too well with Rollins, perhaps because it is when the hours hang heavy on his hands that he is obliged to dig inside himself yet again for the self-knowledge that emerges as comedy in his Spoken Word performances, self-scrutiny in his 'diary' writing and rage in his rock lyrics. Rollins's workaholic commitment to extracting an unvarnished, hardboiled truth from his inner life has made him Godfather to the Grunge generation. Today he is in England -a country he often professes to despise - in order to promote Weight, his band's second album for Imago, a pulsating combination of meticulously honed riffs, freeform thrash-jazz attack and howled defiance. Rollins may be increasingly famous for his tat- toos, his muscles and his ability to cut the bullshit but, at 33, it is his band's uncompromising, improvisation-based music that remains his first love.
His interview schedule runs through till late in the evening but right now it is midday and Henry is just getting started. Rollins may look like a combination of drill sergeant and comic book heavy, but his musical palette is an increasingly eclectic blend of jazz! blues and New York free-form teamed with the hardcore punk and '70's metal on which he cut his teeth. "We're more an avant-garde, arty band than any- thing else," he explains with a shrug. "What we do now reminds me of something like Japanese performance art; it's rocking but it's not rock'n'roll. It's not crippled and weighed down by four-four and there's none of that Oooh baby, baby; fire and desire stuff. This is spontaneous, something that just happens - like life happens. I put a lot of merit in rehearsal and being prepared: we rehearse too much sometimes. But when we play, we're thinking on our feet, we're not just going through the paces. We make music that matters, but it's not pop music. I don't think we'll ever be a big band."
Despite the fact that the Rollins Band did 162 shows in 1992 and are already embarked on a world tour that lasts well into .1995, Henry is increasingly in danger ofbeing more feted for his other activities, including his publishing company 2. 13.61, his own books, his spoken word shows, his talk show appearances and nowan acting career that includes a role as a cop in Cha!lie Sheen's new movie, The Chase, and William Gibson's 40 million dollar Johnny Mnemonic. Why does the media love you so much, Henry?
"They like me because I make it really clear that I can take them or leave them. Whenever I'm on a talk show the ratings go right up and I get more mail than anyone they've ever had on their show. I mean I'm no rocket scientist but I am articulate enough to get my opinion out in a very few words and say exactly what I think. I'm a very typical American as in early thirties white Caucasian male from a middle- class dysfunctional family. There's millions of me. I'm generic. A lot of people in my generation grew up disillusioned with a country that still says, We're the best, we're the coolest, we're the nicest, we're the most generous. But look how the whites in power positions treat minorities...It makes me mad and I'm not afraid to stand up and go, Fuck you, man: you guys piss me off. There's a lot of people who feel that way and maybe they don't have a voice, they're too busy working for a living. I just figure I got nothing to lose with the truth. Perhaps that's why they stick me on Tv; because I'm a live wire."
Terrible things have happened to Henry Rollins. His childhood was a battleground. His best friend, Joe Cole, was murdered in front of him at their Venice apartment in 1991. He accepts that his itinerant lifestyle and his determined rejection of anything approaching vulnerability make it unlikely that he will find a close companion in the foreseeable future. He has made himself what one of his books calls One From None, and he's not about to surrender an inch of his hard-won selfuood. Meanwhile, he remains very clear which of his many activities still gives him the most pleasure. "Ifl had to do one thing tonight - be in the movie, write a book, go on TV or whatever-l'd rather rock out because it gets me off the most. But I can't do it all year. I like to mix it up with something else. It's like a full plate -a bit of meat here, vegetables over here, potatoes, bread. It's a balanced concept."
Rollins Band - Weight - IMAGO
YOU COULD EITHER LISTEN TO this record or punch yourself hard in the guts: the end result is the same. Rollins' intensity leaves you winded. He's the conscience of a sick world, and from the opening brimstone of Disconnect he vomits rage in hardcore spasms. Veering between raw, raucous bellowing and weighted spoken-word poetry, he deals in bitter truths about personal relationships (Liar) and venom about the state of the world (Civilised). Utterly unrelenting, Weight gets you in its grip and shakes, hard. Henry Rollins isn't for the faint-hearted, but this record is damn fine. TJ
Thanks to Bojan from Bosnia for the transcription.