Toronto Press Conference - 3.15.97 ...
On Saturday, March 15, 1996, Henry Rollins held a small press
conference at the London Suite, in the Sutton Place Hotel, in
Toronto. In attendance were myself, and about twenty other members
of various university media organizations. After the record company
folks showed us a twenty minute video on the making of the new album,
and other background, Henry took his seat at the front of the room.
It's very hard to make these things not kind of uptight. So, move
your seats any where you want. Make yourself as at home as possible.
God... [looking at between ten and twenty tape recorders on the
table beside him] the 1997 pocket audio showcase. [Leans back, sighs]
What do you want to know?
QUESTION: On your latest spoken word album you use the talents of Charles Gayle and
Rashied Ali. I was curious to know how you came upon your love of improvised jazz, and how
has that played a role in your writing and your music?
Umm... I was raised with a lot of Miles Davis my mom played. But more stuff like Birth of the
Cool, Sketches of Spain, not the heavier like 70's electric Miles which was way more
exploratory. In the late 80's a guy who's working in my book company gave me an Ornette
Coleman record - the split quartet record. One quartet one channel, and one on the other. I
started checking out Coltrane. I had always been sort of checking jazz here and there, but not
really hearing it. Then, one time I was hanging out with Thurston Moore over at his house and
he had a lot of Trane stuff. I said wow, you're really into this stuff. "And you're not? You
crazy? This is the best stuff there is." Okay, tell me 10 records I should go check out. So, he
wrote them down and I went out and got them. Started playing these records and said yeah, this
great stuff, but I'm not exactly hearing it. I'm not hearing it all. Then one day I was playing one
of those records and all the tumblers clicked and I went wow. And that was it, I was a jazz
fanatic. And that was about ten years ago.
QUESTION: Are those the ten records from Thurston Moore's "Jazz Underground" that nobody
No it was a primary colors. You know, check out Charlie Parkers Dial sessions, check out Live
in Seattle by Coltrane, check out Live at the Village Vanguard by Ayler. You know stuff like
that. I already had a lot of Alber Ayler records. I was into him for a long time. And I was
already into Sun Ra, stuff like that. With jazz the more you explore the better it gets. There is
so much good jazz it's not even true. And so, as far as influence, it's definitely influenced me on
the spoken word stuff. Because that's like verbal free jazz, compared to what I do musically
which is way more locked down, kinda verse-chorus, unless we're making it up on stage --
which we do a lot. As far as that one spoken word record... Charles Gayle, he's on my label.
He's played with the band a lot. We have about three hours of him in the can, playing with us.
There's lots of weird stuff we've done with Charles. So I called him on the phone, asked him if
he wanted to get in on this speaking record, and he said sure. I gave him the text and he read it
and he liked it. I said can you find Rashied Ali? Because I knew they played together, and
Rashied was Coltrane's last drummer, and played with Sun Ra and lots of people like that.
Charles lives down the street. Rashied lives down the street. Monday I made the call, and
Thursday night we were in the studio. And I produced the session, mixed it, and flew it into the
mix. And that's how we did that.
QUESTION: Is it the intensity of jazz that you love? Is it the complexity? Or is it the whole
I love the package. The classic bebop jazz is to me the great part of the civil rights movement.
It's one of the only times you can listen to music and apply the word genius. I don't think there
is any genius in rock and roll music in 1997. And I think the word genius gets thrown around
too much in music. When you listen to someone like Charlie Parker or Lester Young or Monk,
that to me is genius. This is music they had to fight for. No one got rich in jazz except for
Miles Davis. A lot of these guys barely survived it. There's a great book. It's by Ross Russell.
He owned the Dial label out in LA. He's the one that sprung Charlie Parker out of the looney
bin. It's called Bird Lives: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker. That's a tremendous book to
read. Because it basically gives you his life story and also the basic story about 52nd street and
the whole scene. And these guys carried straight razors, they took a lot of drugs, they drank a
lot, they cut each other up, they got put in prison. They were thoroughly racially outcast. And
yet they came up with this burning genius music. And that's why I'm in love with that kind of
music. I think it's the highest art form music ever attained. And I think these guys are heroes
with the shit they had to put up with. A guy like Duke Ellington playing three nights soldout in
Chicago, to about 10 000 people -- all white. Yet, he can't sleep in town because he's black.
How can you be as amazing as Duke Ellington? And if you're Duke Ellington you know you're
that good. And the band knows its that good. And then have to put up with that kind of racial
predjudice. How do you contain yourself? How do you remain cool year after year, in the
middle of that utter horseshit. That's why these guys are so inspirational to me, way more than,
you know, who needs to name names. It makes so much rock and roll look like a bunch of lazy
guys and girls who get intense by turning up louder. Listening to jazz made me look at what I
do musically, and what contemporary music does a lot differently.
QUESTION: You kind of issued us this topic when you said there is no genius in 1997. What
are you're feelings when three months into the year we've already seen a crooner release a metal
album, and the worlds most over-hyped band launch a tour from a department store? What do
you think of the state of music today?
I think it's business as usual. Pat Boone... Okay, Pat Boone's defence: This chicken-shit, corny
motherfucker's defence on why he destroyed the songs he did by covering them. I saw him
interviewed on Tom Snyder the other night. Tom Snyder said "You know a lot of people don't
like you because you 'white-atized' all this great music." And he said "Tom, the only music that
music got played is because I white guy covered it. No one's going to play Little Richard's
version of 'Tutti Fruity', but they played mine. And hey, the guy's music got through." That
might be one side of the debate. I just wished the airwaves weren't so screwed up and if you
were black and you couldn't get heard you were represented by this corny christian asshole. And
I have that record. I got that record for free -- that In A Metal Mood thing. I listened to it, and I
just wanted to go stick it up his ass. And as far as U2, I've said this before and I'll say it again.
U2 to me, I said this yesterday on the radio, is like you smoking a joint in your bedroom and
your dad coming in and going "Hey, give me a toke of that mary-jane. Let's get fly. Hey man
I'm dope. Hey let's ill here on the fed. Let's get phat. Let's throw down bro." That's U2 to me.
"Hey look we can play the blues. I'm so sad. I'm so sad. Look, we've even got a negro -- an
authentic negro. So we're really doing it. We went to Sun studios where some famous people
stood around and were great. So we bought the place for a few nights and now we're great too.
And now we're going to have a shopping mall on stage to show how cool kitchen American
white trash is." Here's a band who can not go out and play their old songs with a straight face.
They can't play "Bloody Sunday" because that was a different pose. That was when bubble-butt
had the white flag, waving it around saying "Let's surrender. Everyone be nice to each other."
Now shithead is wearing a gold lamay suit, slicked back hair, mirrored shades, and he's coming
at you from Kmart. Okay, so they are the Pat Boone. They are the Death Star. They are Darth
Vader. They are the death of music. And the fact that they sell so many records is such a
shame. It's so bad. Too bad it's not Heather Nova. Too bad she's not selling a million records,
and dum-dum is. But that's the way it is.
QUESTION: I listened to the new Body Count album. And I also read an interview with
Ice-T on it. And he said that even if it sucked, which I think it does, that he'd be
guaranteed to sell at least 300 000 copies. I think that sounded a little cocky, and...
QUESTION: That's Ice?
Yeah, that's Ice. You know Ice, you were in Tank Girl, and that really sucked. And he
goes "Man, they paid me $800 000 to do that. And for that money," and this is a quote,
"for that money I would have dressed up like a monkey." Ice is coming from a whole
different world. You know, a lot of his friends are dead. His neighborhood, where he
grew up in , I have never been there. I will never go there for any price. I've got no need
to got to Compton, no need to go to South Central, no need to go to the sewer he crawled
out of. So for him, he's a black man in a white man's world. He's going to go for the
money first. And I didn't understand that kind of thing until I went on tour with them for
Lollapallooza. I never understood the whole thing with gold. You know the gold chains,
the gold rings. Until I hung out with the Syndicate guys. Nice guys, nicest people. You
know, I really like Ice a lot. He's a brainy guy. If you ever get a chance to talk to him
you'd totally dig him. He's really sharp. But I'm like, what's up with all that? Why?
Then I figured it out. If you're white in America you can walk into any resturaunt, even
looking like Bob Dylan on a bad day. Looking like a hurricane blew through your clothes.
And they are going to serve you and they know you can pay the bill because you're white.
But, three or four black guys walk in to a place. Everyone's all "Oh Shit! Battle stations.
Umm... Can I help you?" These guys have to show that they can pay the bill by
externalizing. They don't have the white skin. So they have to go look "I can pay. Yeah
that's right. This is a gold chain. You saw what I drove up in. You saw the three guys.
Yeah, that's the kinda motherfucker I am. I got three guys who are packing to protect me.
You're damn right I can pay the bill." They have to externalize their equality. And that
blew me away when I came to the conclusion. So a guy like Ice knows that he's an inch a
way from being out of the game. And if you ask him, if you say "Ice, what are you?" He'll
say "I'm a player." Where I think artistic integrity is in there, but the paycheque is more
QUESTION: I went to a show last night, and there were a bunch of teenagers...
Not them again!
QUESTION: and they were wearing Black Flag shirts. I went up to them and was like "What
do you think of the Rollins Band?" And not one of them said anything about the Rollins Band.
It was all "Rollins man, he's a sellout." So they don't like the music because of what you are.
Do you think that's unfair to your band that they won't be heard because...
Because I'm such a bad person.
QUESTION: because you are the media icon.
Okay, tell me in your mind, what would be the ideal situation for me? Where should really I be,
instead of where I am now?
QUESTION: Umm.. I don't know...
Help me out here. I'm not asking you to defend. I'm asking you to illuminate me. Should I be
living in a squat, at age 36, putting out records on a dodgy independant label that 3000 people
worldwide will hear? And borrowing rent money from my mother. And getting drunk at shows.
And playing through shitty P.A.s where you can't hear the vocals. And not doing interviews
with big magazines. Being elitist. "I'm too cool for Rolling Stone. I'm too cool for MTV. I'm
too cool for all this. I'm only playing to the cool people." Next time you see your Black Flag
shirt wearing friends, you let them know that Greg Ginn did as much as he could to get Black
Flag into the mainstream. If there was MTV hitting full on in 1985, trust me. We would have
been fucking going through every access to get in there. Know how we advertised Flag shows in
LA? We would spaypaint the side of buildings. We would book the Santa Monic civic. 3500
people for a quote, punk rock band. We wanted in. Not to get rich. Not to get famous. Okay,
the idea is you think I'm underground. You think you're relegating me to the cellar. Fuck you.
Fuck Rod Stewart. Fuck Kiss. We are coming in. We're eating you're food. We are moving
you out of the way, because this music is made to be heard. Now, the kind of logic of "Oh, he's
a sellout." No record company has ever told me what say on a record. Every record I have ever
done. It might not have sonically been up to my approval, but I have never once pulled back a
single punch or a single line. I've always tried to take advantage of any media I could to get
across. In 1987, ten years ago, I was trying to get on MuchMusic -- like a mongol burning hot
for cotton. I got that out of National Lampoon in 1975 and I still don't know what it means. So,
I have not changed. I'm still the same as I was in Black Flag. We used to put up flyers for
weeks before a show. We wanted to sell the place out. We wanted you to buy our records. That
whole thing or artistic integrity -- it's up to the artist. Doing a movie doesn't blow your artistic
integrity. It just infuriates narrow minded people who want you to play in a room this size and
keep you all to themselves. It's like the father says "You're a grown man now. But you have to
live at home." You know, we like you as long we can pat you on the head, and take you out for
a walk. But when the puppy grows up to be a big dog and wants to jump over the fence and go
see what's out there. Everyone goes nope, the other side of the fence, no. None of those people
in the Black Flag shirts have to pay their own rent and pay taxes and have to go out into the big
cruel world, where there's other people trying to get their job. So, that topic to me is neither
here nor there. I'm 36, and I've been around doing this shit longer than anybody in this room.
I've played more gigs already than Green Day will ever play in their lives. I've done that. I've
already recorded more albums than Pearl Jam ever will. I've already played more gigs than
Eddie Vedder will ever play until he's 50. I've already done it. You want to fuck with me. You
better bring something heavy. I've been shot at, stabbed at, phone-tapped, maligned, deported.
You name it, it's been done to me. I've been harrassed by cops. Had their guns in my face. All
that stuff. You never had me miss a gig. At this point, you better get up pretty early in the
morning to try and stop me. The nay-sayyers, we'll see how long the paint sticks to their chassis.
When they are bankers, and their guts coming over their belt, and they're mellow. I'll still be out
there, lean and mean, kickin' their fucking asses every year.
QUESTION: What motivates you now? We saw in the video before you came in, you don't
have any dependencies. No drugs, alcohol, wife, children. Nothing to hold you back. What do
you see as being your goal. Where are you heading?
To create. To do stuff. That's why I have all these labels. And that's where all that money I
make goes. I have this little part in this closet, in my apartment. It's the shit I have done shelf.
And it's all the books we've put out and all the CDs we've put out. And in the last two and half
years, between two labels, I've released about this many records. [spreads his hands apart about
two feet] No shit. Released a lot of books. Done a lot of records. Then there is the stack of
stuff I've produced. Then there is the stack of stuff I produced a demo of. There's all this stuff.
And, where's it heading? It's heading forward to create more stuff. And, to explore and to
express and to get off and illuminate myself and to experience other things. And what motivates
me? Love and rage. The love of these projects. The love of music. The love of literature. The
love of life, performance, and communication. And fury. Just the normal amount of fury that
courses through my blood-stream at any given moment. Being an American in 1997. Living in
the middle of that. Living in the middle of racism, hypocrisy. And a disgusting government is
enough to keep me going. For me art is revolution. My book companies, my record companies,
to me is fuck you. That's why I love going to the mainstream, making money of Tristar, taking
it away from Tristar, and putting it into the hands of Charles Gayle, and Matthew Shipp, and
Alan Vega. "Ok boys! We've got some dough from the big house, now go make you
avant-stuff." And that's me throwing my monkey wrench into the machine. I'm not blowing up
banks. "I'm not holding anyone hostage. We're exploding like Clifford Brown exploded. I'm a
young black genius. You won't let me do this. You won't let me do that. Watch me play this
horn. You can't even get to this kind of math." [imitates a sax/trumpet with his hands] That's
what I'm trying to do with this art. For me it's the good fight.
QUESTION: Question for you. Going back to the Black Flag days, do you ever see yourself
doing a project with Greg Ginn?
Haaaaaa! No. No. No. No.
QUESTION: I find it interesting that you play characters that you don't particularly like, and
that you rage against in your music, and...
Like the cop in The Chase?
Yup. It's a comedy movie, eh. I get to play a dumb cop. I ran at that. Like I get to be a dumb
cop and get to make up my own lines. You know all that stuff... You ever see the movie? I
improv'd it. There was no script after, like, the second day because the stuff we were making up
was funnier than the script. We just went "Fuck it. The script goes out the window. You're
dumb cops. Be funny. Ready? Go." And we spent three weeks running around in these cars in
Texas, goofing on being cops. And the dumber and more moronic I got, the more fun it was. It
was a blast. And I'd do it again in a second. Like, it'd be another dumb cop, like if they did The
Chase II, I'd be "Oh, Oh, Please!" [rasing his arm like a kid a nerd in math class] The shit was
QUESTION: I was going to ask you what happened with Greg Ginn and Black Flag, but
we're on to movies. So, what was it like working with David Lynch? And, did you
understand that movie?
No. I didn't understand it. I read the script and was like "Haaa?" Didn't get it. But, I
did that movie because David Lynch called me. He said "I'm a fan of yours." Really...
Didn't know that. Because I'm a big fan of his. I said "Man, I like what you do as well."
And he said "I've got a few small parts in this film. Would you be interested? I know it's
a small part and I don't mean to insult you." You're not insulting me. I'd love to work
with you. It'd be an honour. And so I went on the set and he said "How bout a prison
guard?" And I'm like "Fine. Garbage man, prison guard. I don't care. I wanna be in a
David Lynch film." And it was a cool experience. It was a week. I got to work with Bill
Pullman. I met Patricia Arquette a few times. She was awesome. David Lynch as a
human is totally great. As a director, really wild, really cool. He's like Jimmy Stewart
from Mars. Like, the stuff he says is just incredible. I gave him a CD of Count Basie --
this best of. He was like "Wow! Now, do I get to keep this? Or do you want me to put it
on cassette and give it back to you tomorrow?" I said "No David, it's a present." "Well
thanks a lot!" I'm like "Okay..." "Hey, when I come to New York, we can go to lunch.
I'll pay!" "That's great David." "Yeah!" And I went to the hotel where he's staying.
And he came out of the elevator and his hair's like "Weeruuung!" It's just like flying out
of there helter skelter. "Hey man, remember me? It's David!" "Yes, of course I
remember you." He's just like really cool. So it was a great week.
QUESTION: Between the movie work, and the producing of records, and work on your own
records, and writing, do you ever feel that you've ever been too over-exposed in the media?
Through different outlets, or do you think...
Yeah. You have to be careful. There are times when you get a lot of saturation, and when that
happens, you get the Backlash. You know "Hey man. You're a dick." "Ahh, come on. Is that
all you can come up with. I'm working hard here. Don't fuck with me." Yeah. You have to be
QUESTION: What do you do combat that? Do stay away from it for a while.
You just tell them when they can and when they can't. With the media, I can do that. We can
call pretty much any major publication and say "Henry would like to talk to you." And they'll
go "How bout tomorrow." I mean, I wouldn't do that too often. I can call Jay Leno. Get his
producer on the phone and go "Hi, I'm in town for three weeks. I've got a new book. Can I get
on there?" "Ya. Sure." Seven minutes on the couch. Big deal. It's nothing for him. But, what
we do is we time it. Do a little bit a press for that. We've been staying low in the press lately,
just because we knew it was going to be this for nine months when the record came out. So
we've just been kind of giving everyone a break. Cause you don't want to make people sick of
you. That's never the intent. But, boy you sure can do it. Well, you can have the media
basically do it for you.
QUESTION: I was going to ask you, you mentioned your new book. In the piece written
for NME, I think it's called "Random Bad Attitude", you sort of bitched and complained
about bands and record companies putting out singles and forcing the fans to shell out the
extra $10 for twenty minutes of music just to get the new song. But I also read that the
track you did that's has two sets of lyrics, I think it's called "Disappearing Act" and...
Well, okay, yeah. The thing I was railing against is a thing they do in the UK to get a
single to re-enter the charts. They put out one single, you know, they'll put out "I Love
You Dearly" with the unreleased b-side. Then in two weeks, they'll put out the same a-side
with a different b-side. So what the punter does, is he goes out and buys it again because
he wants to hear the other song. It kicks the record back into the charts. It's common
practice there. They all do it. And they wanted to do it with me. "No. " "Well, it'll get
you..." I go "Fuck you. Fuck your charts. Either put the two songs on and we're done.
Or you don't get to put the single out at all. I'm not going to do that to people. I will not
QUESTION: Okay, is that two-songs-for-one thing appearing on the North American
release at all?
No. What we're going to do... We recorded twenty-two songs for this record. So, there's a
lot of out takes. To help combat, the Japanese have a problem with their imports. Where
their imports come in cheaper, and they ask you for an extra cut. Same with the
Europeans. So we gave Europe an extra cut, and we gave the Japanese two extra cuts.
And, at the end of the year, hopefully, we are putting all of this on one CD. Album length,
EP price. Like when Alice in Chains did Jar of Flies. That's what I want to do with this.
Make it super-cheap. All of it on one hunk. And in Europe, they do singles and b-sides.
They don't really do that America. So we won't be doing that in America, but the single
for the second single has two extra songs on it. I just approved the mastering the other
day. And then the Japanese have two other songs. And yeah, there's this one song that
has two different vocals. Vocal 1 is on the Euro version, and I think Vocal 2 is on the
Australian single. Which is a little bit of like sending the collectors scurrying. But, I fully
intend on putting it all out for cheap on one record at the end of the year.
QUESTION: Turning to your book company, I was listening to an interview where you were
discussing the Henry Miller release Dear, Dear Brenda. I was wondering how it came about? I
was absolutely fascinated by how you could get a hold of it...
That was lucky. The guy who used to publish it, Josh Zindel called me and said "I've got the
Dear, Dear Brenda book. I'm a fan of your company's and I'm not in the book world
anymore." I said "I remember the book." I bought it when it came out, like about twelve years
ago. And he said "You wanna put it out?" "Very much. Love that book. Love to work with
Henry Miller. Even if its posthumous." And so, we were getting into the harness with him and
all of a sudden Brenda Venus called up and went "You don't own the rights to that book. I own
the rights to that book." So Josh called me up and said "Ummm... I don't own those rights
anymore. I just out. I got a very angry call from Brenda. Ummm... Here's Brenda's number if
you want to talk to her." I called up Brenda. Went and had lunch with her. Brought her to my
house. Showed her my Henry Miller collection. She said "My, you really like Henry don't
you?" I went "Yeah man, he's the man." "Well you love Henry Miller so much, and you're an
exceptional young man. I think it'd be wonderful to have Henry's book come out on your
label." And so we did it. And I went through the letters with her. There's 1400 letters of his
that she has. And she threw about five inches of them in my lap one day at her apartment.. I
just went through these letters. And we found another twenty, thirty pages of stuff to put at the
end of the book. So there's unreleased Miller stuff in this new edition. So that was lucky. That
was one of those ones that just fell into my lap.
QUESTION: Ummm... You wrote Weight in ten days?
QUESTION: You told us last year...
No. No. No. A lot of the initial songs, like a big hunk of them, were written really fast.
"Volume 4", "Fool", "Disconnect", and "Liar" were written in like two days. Then there's
another burst that gave us another hunk. Then they were groomed, argued over, mantled,
dismantled, different bridge sections put in. Then the rest of the record took the rest of the
summer into the fall.
QUESTION: Okay, so sort of a similar situation then with this record. It was worked and
reworked. And the material...
This stuff we worked like into the dirt. We wrote over thirty songs, recorded over twenty. And
the twenty that we did record we just hemmed it. We just went over these things with a fine
tooth come. To the point where we had to walk away from it. That's when we brought in the
producer. Because we didn't even know if we had a record or not at this point.
QUESTION: You told us that Michael Binhorn popped by...
We brought him in. Well, I brought him in. No one in the band was really into but me.
QUESTION: Did he give you any input?
Oh yeah. He's a put down artist. He said "I don't know what you guys are thinking you're
doing here. One of the songs is okay. I don't know what you guys are thinking about with the
rhythm section. I don't understand how the bass is locking in with the kick drum." And at that
point Melvin Gibbs had heard just about enough and had gotten up out of his chair and was
walking towards him. I was like "Sit. Shut up." I was like barking commands. Michael is not
a guy who really kind of endears himself to people. He stayed for an hour, but within seven
minutes of him talking, there is no way he was on that project. We brought in quite a few
people, but Steve was the guy.
QUESTION: How do you know it's time to make a Rollins Band record? The years in between
records? How do you know it's just time to sit down? I mean do you tour, and then take some
time off, and then decide it's just time to write?
No. We usually just tour and go right back into writing. We usually end a tour around
Christmas time, because it's too cold to go out. Nobody's lettin' you do gigs anyway.
Everyone's going home until next year. We usually shut it down around the end of November,
no later than December 10. Then that time we all kind of go home and catch our breath.
Usually I'll go right out in mid-January and do speaking dates for two months. And go right
from the tour into band practice in New York. We had been together for about 19 months
straight doing the Weight thing. Writing, recording, and touring. There was no break. It was
one long inhale. And so, at the end of that. We're all like yeah, if we write songs now...
There'd be nothing to write about. "I was just on a bus for 19 months. I know how you smell."
I mean there's nothing to say. So everyone said look "Let's just run away from each other, and
kinda get a different taste in our mouths, and come back later." And we took a few months off
from each other and reconvened in April or May of the next year. But in that time, everyone had
gone off and done this guy's record, that guy's record. I was in that movie Heat I think. I had
edited some books. I had done some studio projects. Everyone kept busy. We purposely stayed
away from the band for a minute. Just when we came back it was like "Okay. Let's get into
something new." The writing period ended in August 96 and we just went. "We are so burnt
on this music. We don't even know if any of this is good." And that's when we brought in
Steve and played him the whole shit. And we said "Are we out of our heads? Is there anything
in this?" Because we were so close to it at this point. We didn't know what we had. And he
said "Yeah. You got great music. You're playing too many notes. You're not swinging
enough. You're not groovin' enough. But you have a great album, and I'd like to do it with
QUESTION: You were talking about the groove. And that's what I really like about this new
album, is the groove. It reminds me of old funk -- old P-Funk and things like that. Is that one of
the important things about the Rollins Band? To hit that groove, and ride it as much as you can.
Yeah, I think groove is important. It takes a long time to hit that. When you have a rhythm
section as good as ours... Not many times can really groove, or really swing. When you tell a
band swing it. There like... You should see my guys do there really funny impressions. They
can impersonate any genre. You go like "Downtown New York Jazz!" And all of a sudden Sim
starts going... [makes really awkward, mechanical drum motions] It can get very cruel in the
band room. "Girl Band!" and everyone's like starts being Free Kitten or something. We have it
all on multi-track tape. We were going to do a whole album of this, umm, pretty regressive
stuff. You go like play the blues. "Right man..." And it's so stiff. And that's how most bands'
approach to music is. Or, like "Let's do a go-go beat." And Sim will start kickin' the go-go
groove and Melvin will look at him and go "Ha. You wish! You're not even close. Just stop."
And, so those guys can really play. The producer heard the songs and said "You guys have such
a great rhythm section. You guys are so uptight. Loosen up. Henry, loosen up. All of you,
loosen up. Play less. Melt into the songs. You're so uptight. This isn't Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Just cool it. Get deeper into it." And that's what we did. If you heard the demos, and heard the
album, you'd see what I mean. There used to be notes everywhere. Everything used to be....
[does a Zakk Wylde solo type thing with his hands] Instead of just laying out for a minute and
"Boom!" hittin' it and quittin' it for a second. We worked really hard on that.
QUESTION: Was David Lee Roth working with you somewhere?
I helped Dave put together his autobiography. I basically helped him get the right person to help
him do it, and I got him to a label to put it out. I'm not putting it out. Basically on that job I
was just a facilitator. He's a friend of mine and he said "What do I do?" And I said "Let me
make some phone calls." and I did. We kinda got it together. He hauled it over to a label. And
the book is awesome. It's his book. But he wants to be the one to announce it to the world, so I
don't want to say anything about it. He'll do it in his own unique fashion.
QUESTION: You mentioned stumbling across Dear, Dear Brenda, and your friendship
with Dave, David Lee Roth. How did you come to meet Hubert Selby? What's the...
I called him on the phone. Hubert Selby, for those of you who don't know, he's an author
who wrote Last Exit to Brooklyn. It's probably his most famous book, but by no means his
best. Brooklyn born American writer. He wrote a handful of novels, and some short
stories. He's just really amazing and I can suggest him with all confidence. In 85 and 86
I'd torn through all his books and realized that I'm a shitty writer. And I shouldn't be
allowed to hold a pen in my hand. And should just go worship Hubert Selby, and go mow
his lawn if he had one. And this turned into a thing with me where I just couldn't write
anymore. So, I heard he lived in LA, so out of desperation and I opened up the phone
book, and there it was -- his phone number. So I called it and said "Don't hang up. I am
not a maniac. I'm a guy in a band. And I like your books. And I'd really like to meet
you. And if I could just say hello to you. You mean a lot to me." And he's like "Sure.
Come over." "Really?" "Well yeah. How else are you going to meet me." "Oh yeah,
okay." And that was December 9, 1986 and we've been friends ever since. One of the
most wonderful people I've ever met in my life. He's more of a father to me than my own
father. And he's just the man. We just did an audio version of Last Exit to Brooklyn.
Thirteen hours in length, and he read it. When you hear Selby reading his writing with
the voices he's putting on these people, and the pacing he's reading it at, you can listen to it
all day. It's magic.
QUESTION: I heard a bit of it on a spoken word compilation. Is he still speaking? Any
plans for him speaking with you?
Yeah, sure. He's a bit frail. It's hard to transport him. He's really old, and he's one of
those guys who's really skinny. The wind blows and it's "Whoa. Get him out of the way.
He's going to fall over." He's just really old. He's just kind of frail. Not in his head... At
all. The body. The guy had several ribs removed from TB when he was 18. So, his upper
body has old-school zipper scars. He kinda sags. He had one and a half lungs removed.
He breathes out of half a lung. The other one was removed. The other one is partially
closed down. And so, those long plane flights, we're really careful whenever we take him
anywhere. We brought him out to a festival in Holland. It was like "Okay. Are you okay?
If you don't feel like doing it..." And he gets up there at this point and he's like "Hi. My
name is Hubert Selby." And it's like "What?" I mean he's really kind of ghostly. Full of
good cheer, but kind of low on muscle mass. You know how old folks, they start
shrinking? It happens you know. Hopefully, we'll all grow old enough to where we start
becoming kindling. Yeah. He's still doing stuff.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the Rolling Stone review of your new album? It's half
complementary, half "More of the same from Henry Rollins."
It's the only review of this record that I have read. It's the only one. It's the only one I've seen.
I was in Australia and my manager said here... I was doing press there for a couple weeks and
was like "Whatever... They'll never be in Ornette Coleman's band. Oh. Okay, well that helped
me a lot." I think the guy quoted one of the songs. And he used a line from one song, and a line
from another, and like put them together. "Gee, thanks a lot. Thanks for that." Yeah, and he
says "more of the same from the Rollins Band," which I don't agree with. I don't think this
record is like the last one at all. I think we really pushed ourselves. I'm very proud of us.
Lyrically, I pushed myself lyrically, and I pushed myself vocally, and it was really hard. Half
those songs were really painful to write. A song like "Shame" -- that was really hard to write.
But then I knew I had to do it. If I approached any topic in my head where I felt "Nah, I can't
do that." Then I said "Fuck it! I have to do it now. The guantlet has been dropped." And that
was my mission on this record. It was not to try and do what I always do. Musically we were
trying to do what we don't always do. And, I also I think that reviews don't really matter. That
review is not going to stop me from getting to the stage. The review is not going to dampen my
love of music. It's one guy's opinion -- big deal.
QUESTION: But on a positive note, they find that you are doing something musically important.
You're pulling together a jazz improvisational element to your music -- hard rock. You and the
guys from Helmet...
Yeah, and then he lumps us in with Helmet. Who's fine. That's there best record -- the new one,
I think. They're great guys. But, I don't want to be lumped in with anybody. That's why I
don't pay attention to reviews all that much. I mean, especially when the guy misquotes you and
says all this dumb shit. I just can't care too much.
QUESTION: You sort of mentioned it there. I was going to ask you, at this point in your career,
are you sort of indifferent to critiques of your work? Or, because it's such a creative process,
you sort of open yourself up so much, more than other professions do, are you still affected by
what people say -- positive and negative?
No. When I was younger a bad review could hurt my feelings. Because you put a lot of time
into the music, to make the stuff right. You should have seen several weeks of the writing of
this record. It was really hard. I wore out many miles of pavement, walking the streets of New
York, working these songs out in my head. I spent many weekends just sitting down with a
piece of paper, just trying to get this thing to work. Months and months and months. Burning
many calories in the studio. Much aggravation. This is my sixth week, seventh week, of straight
press. I've been to like fifteen countries. Okay, shot two videos. I've put a lot of time and
concentrated effort into this thing. So, when someone puts you down, it can be very hard to
take. In that you go "Wow. You just shit on 18 months of very intense dedication." Probably
more dedication than that writer ever put into anything he's ever done, besides staying alive and
staying fed. So, that can be very hard to take... If you chose to take it personally. But, I know
something he doesn't know. He wasn't there. He doesn't know me, this guy. And like I said
before, you wanna stop me from getting to the show? You better bring something heavy man,
cause I'm not fucking around.
QUESTION: I've been noticing on the new album you've been using a lot of voice effects.
And, your voice doesn't seem to over the power the band as much as it has. And, I
remember you mentioning in a spoken show that you went to the same voice doctor as
Michael Bolton. How is your voice holding up after so many years?
The guy, the throat doctor... We went to the same throat doctor, as the Bolt-man, me and
Michael -- buddies, you know. My throat is pretty torn up. The vocal chords are... I've
already had some hunk of crap removed from the middle of one last year. That was a
funky operation. They literally just slice it open, get a gouger thing, and just pulled this
thing out of it. They also had it on video, and he kept rewinding it like "Watch this." I'm
like "Ow! Arrghhh!" Because on this 27 inch, on this monitor just about as big as this
[motioning to the TV in the room] perfectly lit, blazing full color. And your like
"UGGGHH!" And you see this thing, this quivering gouger thing cause he's doing it with
the stick looking through the video monitor, while he's doing it. You're like watching this
thing like, "Grrrrrahh!" clamping on to your vocal chord. And like "Krrresshh!" And
like this thing came out and he's like "It's the side of a grain of sand." I'm like "Oh,
okay." Because it looked like this huge ginseng root, ripping out of this stalk of muscle. It
was really gross. But your vocal chords are this big. [spreads his fingers about half and
inch apart] So the whole thing was like teeny, tiny. But it sure looked gross.
QUESTION: How do you view the music industry in 1997?
I think there's a lot of good music. Okay, I'm sorry. The industry. I think there are a lot
aspects of the industry that are grosser than ever. Since we now have such a visually oriented
music industry, I think more emphasis is put on good cheek-bones, firm breasts, and a tight ass --
more than good licks, great. lyrics, and chops. Now what's easier to generate? A good
musician or a beautiful boy or girl, who's camera ready? There are tons of beautiful people in
each citywho are. So what you do is you get these camera ready female and male models into
the studio and they can't sing -- you fix it with a pitch corrector. The guy can't play drums?
You fix it with a computer. You bring in the right bass player. And you get one single that's
catchy enough and you throw it up on the screen. And "My god that guy looks like... He looks
great. Doesn't she look great. Boy aren't those lyrics... What were the lyrics?" And I think that
we are returning to that time in the 60's where there's one song on the record and the rest was
filler. You're starting to get a lot of records with filler now. And bands can get away with it,
because people just hear the single they saw. We toured with the Beastie Boys in 1992. Here's
a band that are real musicians. They really care about their music. They really work on it.
They are very good people, and I'm big fans of theirs. And they get into all kinds of jazz
grooves and cool stuff on stage. They got the standup bass. They got the percussion going.
And so, we opened for them, and it's like "Fuck you! Where's the Beastie Boys?" "Okay..."
We did our thing and got out of there. I think we played up in Canada on that tour. Anyway,
they would go up on stage, and be doing their thing, and the crowd would just stand there. And
then they would play something from Licenced to Ill, one of the singles, and the place goes
apeshit. Then everything stops. They go into an instrumental passage. The crowd's like
"Whatca Want! Watcha Want!" You know, that song, "What you want?" the single. That's all
they wanted to here. They played the single, place goes nuts. The single's over, they play some
improv thing or one of the other songs that's not quite so well known off the record. Everyone
just stood still. "Wow. They're only here for the video." Our guitar tech went out with Filter
for a year. We were in the studio, he was on the road with Filter. So I said "How was that with
Filter?" "Well, you know they do the same set every night. They only have one album's worth
of material." And I go "So that's all they play?" "Well ya." So I go "Wait a minute. How
long's the album?" "Well, the sets like 40 minutes." So I go "And people don't beat them to
death for like $18 for 40 minutes?" "No, the encore with Hey Man, Nice Shot' and the place
goes nuts and everyone buys a t-shirt and leaves." And I go "Wow." We could never get away
with that. If we played for 45 minutes, if we played an hour and then "Thank you, goodnight",
younger fans would go "Yup. We're used to that. Pornos only play 40 minutes. Now what do
you want to do?" Older fans would go "Fuck you guys. You guys don't even get interesting
until 40 minutes in." I mean, it takes us that long to get over the saki we drank that afternoon,
right? No. Umm... So, I think what happens now is you have a record industry that is
manufacturing sound bytes, instead of music and developing models and sound byte artists
rather than long term artists. [at this point several tape recorders snap off on the table beside
Rollins] I'm wearing out these machines here.
At this point my tape ran out as well. There was one more question regarding Hank's DIY
yourself attitude posed by the same pretentious guy who started the whole thing off.
Henry said that Greg Ginn and Chuck Dukowski raised him at SST Records, and that's
where he learned to run his own companies. He said the do-it-yourself attitude still exists
in his work today. Nothing comes out without his approval. But, he doesn't ever force the
artists on his labels to do anything they don't want to. He might make suggestions as
producer or editor, but he makes sure the artist has the final say. And that's the way it
Transcribed by Steve Wicary