It goes without saying that Henry Rollins is one of the most prolific people in music, with a career that has seen him venture out into the world of spoken word, acting (who can forget his cameos in Bad Boys II and Lost Highway), hosting his own TV show (check out his interview with Iggy Pop) and journalism to name a few. He’s certainly someone you would love to sit down and have a coffee to discuss his amazing life. Which is just what State does, albeit via the medium of the Internet.
We recently spoke with a band called Tera Melos, and Get In The Van (Rollins’ infamous account of life on the road with Black Flag) came up. They mention that when things felt tough on the road they thought of how you did it all those years ago, and without the help of Skype to stay in touch with friends or family. In your opinion, does modern technology make life on the road any easier or does it almost hinder the experience? How do you think that would have impacted Black Flag if they were starting out today?
Being able to advance shows and work on logistics from a moving vehicle is a great thing for touring. A good deal of the time, you are on the move and needing to be in contact with venues, press, etc. So, the ability to be contact when you need to be is obviously great. As to how modern technology would have impacted a band that broke up 27 years ago, I don’t know. Is it worth it to make things up? You use what you have at the time and you get on with things.
“Their songs were devoid of filler”- your own personal description of Black Flag and such a positive review in many ways. You must get asked this a lot but do you still remember that feeling of being asked to join your favorite band?
It was one of those situations that makes you so excited, you go slightly numb. That wears off fast and then you have to do something about what has been offered. It’s one of those things you figure that this is it and you have to jump.
Over the years, some of your accounts of life on the road are immensely positive, a work ethic that’s second to none. Others are quite harrowing; what got you through those tough times?
I had nothing else happening but being on the road. I didn‘t want to go back to real life, punching a time clock. Things were tough sometimes but at the same time, it was an adventure, so you just do it.
Life post Black Flag and you’re still on the road as a multi-platform artist, you’ve presented a TV show, acted, you’ve a spoken word show, a radio show, you’re a writer. You’re successful on all counts; where does that fearlessness come from, that drive? You don’t seem to let anything stand in your way.
Yes. I just don’t let the past stand in my way. I wish you could do the same. Life is short. I stay angry and keep fighting. Satisfaction will destroy you.
In Our Band Could Be Your Life it mentions how you spent some time at some at military school as a kid, as harsh and difficult as that sounds did that instill the kind of self discipline you must have to stay on top of your many commitments?
It was a prep school full of rich kids and frustrated teachers who wanted to be somewhere else. I did get a lot of good lessons instilled in me there though. Mainly, the thing that gets me from task to task is anger and the inability to be satisfied. Discipline is also key to getting all this stuff done.
At this stage, if you had to choose just one focus what would it be and why?
Writing; it is the hardest, takes the most time and renders the highest failure rate.
During your Long March tour in Dublin last year; you mentioned Korea and Haiti among the many places you’ve visited in recent years. After everything that you’ve experienced on the road, in recent years, can you single out one event that’s particularly memorable or important to you?
There are a lot of those, so you do that at risk of devaluing something else. Meeting a bunch of kids in Uganda who had been abducted by the LRA and made to commit atrocities was intense. You’ve kids made to hack people to pieces, etc. That’s hard to get your head around.
You’ve spoken quite frankly about how certain bands pale in comparison to your experience of the hardcore scene during the Black Flag era. Is there an emerging band out there at the moment that has impressed you?
There are a lot of good bands at any time, anywhere. As to what is a hardcore experience, I thought, as soon as you call it something that means it is dead already. By the time you could call a music “hardcore” it had already been tamed and put in a petting zoo. I really like Pharmakon. It’s a one girl band. That’s some hardcore music.
What advice do you have for artists who have chosen a similar path to you?
The day you can’t hack it, the 99% world of mediocrity awaits with a smock and a counter to stand behind.