Henry Rollins: Churning Out Knowledge [INTERVIEW]

Henry Rollins Interview

Henry Rollins: Churning Out Knowledge [INTERVIEW]

Alejandro De Luna

From time to time, I like to watch and read interviews with Henry Rollins. I also like to go through those opinionated pieces on LA Weekly and his radio show on KCRW – where he mutates into some sort of obsessed music fan / urban musicologist / underdog protégé.

Last August I’ve witnessed a provocative and insightful conversation between Henry Rollins and Suicide, his favourite New York duo. I went to the Ace Hotel in London to see the ex-frontman of Black Flag leading a Q&A session with Alan Vega and Martin Rev (Quietus did a brilliant job with the transcription of this conversation between underdogs.) A couple of days later, I went to the Suicide gig at the Barbican and before the New Yorkers hit the stage, Henry offered a smart wrap-up on the importance and cultural impact of the New York noise precursors. The gig was beyond memorable and Rollins’ commentary just summarized with eloquence what we’d seen on-stage.

The Washingtonian and punk survivor is armed with an informed and honest point of view when it comes to relevant subjects like music, politics, the American (and global) dysfunctional society, the deplorable state of this planet, and who knows what else. When I asked him a week ago about his views on the modern world, Henry Rollins – who travelled extensively to more than 80 countries – answered: “[the world] is getting smaller and warmer, while there is less natural resources for an ever growing human population and ever more endangered animal population.” Days later, I’d read a feature article on The Guardian where Henry Rollins goes even further: “our species is a ruinous pain in the ass.”

What I like about Henry Rollins is that instead of presenting himself as an arrogant and pretentious rock ‘n’ roll-like personality, the man shares his passion with eloquence, but from a well-informed fan-like perspective.

It’s a pleasure to present this short Q&A with Iggy Pop’s greatest advocate and the man who’s been a musician, journalist, performer, actor, book author, radio and TV host, publisher and activist among many other ‘jobs’. But more importantly, Henry Rollins is an authentic music fanatic blessed with a sharp tongue empowered by the punk ideology and colossal knowledge.

Henry Rollins for TSOD


On Donald Trump and America…

“America has been poorly served by its public educational systems. It fills battlefields and prisons. Meanwhile, Americans are told they are the best. They are exceptional and the rest of the world should take their orders from this amazing country. Don’t travel, can’t find Iraq on a map, poor health, stupid, violent—and you’re the best. This is what’s happening in America. Millions of Americans will never know what hit them. They will have been looking the wrong way.”

On the immigration solution…

“End the war on drugs. It’s a scam. That will lower stress in Mexico, Colombia etc. It will stabilize those countries and maybe lead to less people wanting to escape them and come to America. People all over the world all want the same basic things: water, safety, security, a future, etc. You give those things and they stay put.”

On characters like Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Bill O’ Reilly and Sean Hannity…

“They’re entertainers who don’t believe all the things they say 100% of the time.”

On being a music curator and radio host…

“I like to use the radio show to get the music of independent label bands out there as best I can. This isn’t to necessarily combat other bands but I definitely use the show as a tool to bring people to music they might not get to otherwise. If you’re not doing that at least part of the time, then you’re not taking advantage of the tools at your disposal.”

On your boring job…

“Change your life or get used to the one you settled for.”

On his record collection…

“It’s a fair sized collection but I have seen much bigger. The most valuable are the least interesting to look at. They are test pressings and acetates, the latter being very hard to get. The collection is the product of almost 40 years.”

On essential records and books…

“There are a lot of bands or artists that I listen to now and then. If those records disappeared from my shelf, I would be okay but there are some that get listened to over and over, decade after decade. Damned, Buzzcocks, Hendrix, Stooges, Bowie, VU, UK Subs, Ruts, The Fall, Coltrane—these are records that I would quickly replace as soon as I found them missing because to me, they are essential. As to books, I only read a few writers over again. Beyond historical / music reference, I read Thomas Wolfe, F Scott Fitzgerald more than once.”

On modern underground music…

“It’s very alive and very well. I would go as far as to say that there are so many great records coming out these days, it’s hard to keep up. The major labels are back to doing what they do best—churning out the mediocre. The independent labels can work far more freely now that the majors lost interest in the “lower tier” acts. It all worked out for the best.”

On danger in rock ‘n’ roll these days…

“I think people live in an age of easy access and transparency. You can do whatever you want. A lot of what used to get you beat up by cops is just another night of rock and roll. It is not a matter of things getting tamed as much as it is all became marketable.”



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