Henry Rollins Live In Studio

We get a lot of special artists in our studio here at WERS, but it’s always humbling to be treated to a truly renowned guest. This Tuesday afternoon, Henry Rollins stopped through to do an exclusive interview about his new “Capitalism” tour for his spoken word. The KCRW host, spoken word artist, actor, and former Black Flag frontman had a lot to say on air and off, all wrapped up in his typical polite manners and worn tattoos.

The “Capitalism” tour has Rollins stopping in every capitol in America to perform some of his spoken word and to raise awareness about the importance of voting. Interestingly enough, a lot of the capitols didn’t have venues for him to perform in. The space he wound up using — often school gyms — wasn’t a concern. “The audience – that’s how I judge a place,” he said. Many of the capitols are places he’s never been in his many years touring: Juno, Alaska (“a beautiful part of the world”), Cheyenne, Wyoming (“I thought I’d see firearms safeties popping off, but everyone was so nice”), Helena, Montana (“just breathtaking”). According to Rollins, nothing stood out in these places “apart from the fact that they all stand out in their own way.”

“We load in from the back of a venue. Rarely do I see the lobby or hallways… Just the stage with no one in the seats, but you come out in two hours and see them all filled. Then you wait out in the back of the venue, sign the things, get on the bus, and leave. Maybe the back of the parking lot changes, but… You do that for 160 nights and it gives the lie that ‘Wow, you’ve seen a lot.’” he said in a sad tone. “Sure, I’ve been all over Australia… one parking lot at a time. I do a lot of work to get out of that.”

Soon the interview transitioned from poetry to song, specifically about his hardcore days in the early 80s. Henry Rollins touched on the DC scene and how his friends were “funny guys.” “Ian MacKaye and I pride ourselves in being able to tell the story,” he said. ” I liked being able to be onstage and think, ‘Yeah I got something to tell you.’ While they played guitars, I could fill in between the gaps.” Now, however, those twenty song sets are replaced by twenty poems with no snares, guitars, or drums to cover up mistakes.

It’s no secret that Rollins’ time in Black Flag helped shape and arguably form the likeliness of bands’ success in an independent lifestyle. Black Flag, along with other groups such as Minor Threat, Fugazi, Hüsker Dü, and The Minutemen, sold their albums, booked tour dates, and practically did every component of being and becoming a band themselves — no promoters or managers necessary.  Rollins, however, shied away from taking credit or pride in this: “If you do that, it will color the performance. Just do your thing. Rumble, young man, rumble.”

Possibly the best quote from his whole interview was regarding satisfaction and being pleased with your work. “Satisfaction I never make myself a friend of,” said Henry Rollins. “It’s interesting, but then you need to shove it off and look at the dagger of the next night’s show. Never be satisfied. Satisfaction should be a very short amount of your life — maybe 120 to 180 seconds and that’s it.”
People often are under the belief that Rollins has more gruff and edge to him than kindness, something he has never understood. “I think I’m just a funny, cute, quiet guy with razor wit,” said Rollins. “I get asked like once a week why I punched this guy in Philly in the summer of 1989… The thing is we were brawling beforehand and that guy hit me  three times before. I wouldn’t hit you for no reason – who needs it? Here’s the guy putting a cigarette on your leg all night. What else would I do?”

While Rollins himself knows interviewing politicians could not go well (“Are you kidding? They can’t be seen on my show.”), he is heavily invested in politics. The importance of  government  never  occurred  to him until he was older, but now he wants to spread its importance. “Who you vote for is not my concern; that you vote concerns me. Basically if you want democracy to be as transparent as it could be, then vote.  It very well could be that. The American democracy really needs everyone to vote. And you should.” Rollins then turned the political weight onto our own host, Bentley, asking him if his college circle was engaged in the upcoming election (to which he happily could say yes).

Rollins is performing at the Berklee Performance Center tonight before moving on until the end of the tour, where it will finish in Washington DC on election night “and keel over on its side.” His show can be watched online for free for three days and then, as he so ominously said, “it belongs to me.”

By Nina Corcoran

If you liked this, check out:
Calexico Live In Studio
Frightened Rabbit Live In Studio

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