Since joining the Washington, D.C., punk band State of Alert back in 1980, Henry Rollins (born Henry Lawrence Garfield) has been rocking out, ruffling feathers, and speaking his mind in damn near every medium you can imagine. Rollins’s nearly three-decade-long career has found him moving from frontman of the groundbreaking California-based Black Flag to lending his voice, personage, and opinions to a near-uncountable number of books, films, television shows, radio programs, video games, and songs. This Saturday, October 11, Rollins will return to SOhO for another stint at the mike – this time delivering a verbal onslaught in the form of his own signature brand of stand-up comedy and social commentary. Rollins recently touched base via email to talk about his life as a luminary. What he had to say follows.
You’re infamous for speaking your mind, did that ever get you beat up as a kid? No. I got beat up but not for anything I said really. I only started speaking up later in life.
I still am amazed by the idea of you and Ian MacKaye working at a H¤agen-Dazs together? What were those years like? Do you and Ian still have a strong connection? They were very good and relatively simple times. I ran the place. Ian worked part time for a little while. It was a great time to be young and in the music scene. I feel very lucky to have seen the shows I did. Everything was happening very quickly and we knew we were part of something very special. Ian and I are still best friends.
The punk rock documentary has become a booming genre in recent years. Usually they at least mention you and Black Flag, even if the focus is not on the 1980s California punk and hardcore scene. What’s your opinion on these movies? I’ve never seen any of them. I will be interviewed for them now and then, but I have yet to see any of them. I don’t know if I want to. I have my memory of things, but don’t feel the need to go back there, honestly.
Have we seen the last of them, or are people just beginning to analyze the impact punk rock has had on American culture? I think that people will be checking out that time period with great interest for some time. I think it’s a worthwhile pursuit. I just want all the records to stay in print-there were so many good ones from those times. I just want anyone who is interested to have access to the source materials. I hate rare records.
You’ve done a lot of USO tours, yet you’re obviously a very politically opinionated guy; how is your show there different than the one we’ll see in Santa Barbara? When I am amongst the soldiers I only seek [to] make them laugh. They know where they are and they don’t need a backseat quarterback telling them that which they already know better than I ever will. I like the troops, not the war.
How does spoken word compare to music for you? Is the experience in front of the crowd different as a performer? The talking shows are harder. It’s just me up there, there’s no back up, there’s nothing to hide behind. All you have is the truth and silence, so you have to keep it going. It’s not an easy thing to do night after night, but I seem to get it done. I think I can make progress and changes with the talking show, where the music, by the nature of how it is, seems more static to me at this point.
You have a T.V. show, a radio show, a Web site, books, spoken word performances, movies, and of course music; where does the impulse to be so omnipresent come from, or is it just an effort to find the best medium to express yourself? I like to work. I have nothing else going on and it’s the only thing I am remotely good at. Sitting still is very difficult for me. It’s not a desire to be all over the place, but more a desire to keep excited about things, so changing things up seems to do me good.
Henry Rollins will bring his special brand of spoken word performance to SOhO this Saturday, October 11, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $28 and the show is open to those 18 years and older. For more information, call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.