The other man in black
Henry Rollins barbs Bush in all the right places
Dating back to his early days in seminal ‘80s punk band Black Flag, when he would often get onstage and just talk with the crowd, Henry Rollins‘ sometimes funny, sometimes thought-provoking version of spoken-word has always been important to him. So much so, in fact, that he decided to book his current “Provoked” tour with as little downtime as possible, performing 50 dates in less than two months. And that’s not even counting the international tour he’ll begin in January.
“Usually on nights off, around 8 p.m., I wish I was onstage anyways,” said Rollins from a tour stop in Bellingham, Wash. “If Chico wanted me every six months, I’d be that much happier.”
Rollins has done his fair share of acting (he also hosts The Henry Rollins Show on IFC.), and has influenced many as the frontman for Black Flag and later for the Rollins Band. These days, however, the intensely opinionated 46-year-old is channeling his restless energy into more pressing matters on his spoken word tours.
Always outspoken, Rollins has openly expressed his disapproval of both the Bush administration and the war in Iraq, as well as other issues of importance to him, including gay rights and the decline of the education system in the United States. And though he is often perceived as being somewhat of an imposing and intimidating figure, his genuine concern and passion for the well-being of our country comes through in intelligent and easily relatable ways on stage.
“I’m not there to try and bait an audience or try to provoke anyone,” Rollins said. “I don’t think I say anything that provocative. I’m not advocating massacring 12-year-old girls or whatever else [laughs]. I’m not pro-heroin.”
An admitted travel junkie, Rollins likes to use his experiences in other countries as the framework for his spoken-word shows. This year left him with no shortage of unique experiences, as he visited Lebanon, Syria and Iran. The problems plaguing these countries had an obvious impact on him, and as a result he describes this particular tour as “kind of heavy.”
Rollins spent time in Tehran, and eventually veered off the beaten path, receiving dinner invites to people’s homes and enjoying the company of what he describes as “really friendly, funny, generous people.”
“As an American [in Iran], you need a tour guide, but that’s usually like three hours a day, so I got rid of him by 1 p.m.”
Back on the home front, Rollins is often critical of various media outlets (particularly Fox News and its pundits, Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter). He went off on a report he had seen recently that suggested a link between Al Qaeda and the recent Southern California wildfires.
“It’s not necessarily disinformation … it’s just kind of provocative,” he said. “They’re on an agenda. They’re there to make you hate and fear Islam, or just stop thinking. That’s the goal: Stop thinking.”
Despite his reservations regarding the current war, Rollins maintains a passionate support for the troops, traveling to bases in both Afghanistan and Iraq to perform USO shows.
“The last thing you wanna say when you’re in a place like Iraq is, ‘This war is bullshit!'” Rollins said. “It’s really not a topic that comes up much, and it’s very interesting how apolitical these environments are.”
But even if he keeps his personal beliefs at bay during the shows in order to offer some much-deserved humor and entertainment to those putting their lives on the line, don’t think for a second Rollins is sympathetic to the guy who got them there … or the people who put him in office.
“This is what I say to Bush voters—I hope you like what you got. Hope your job doesn’t go overseas. And when you break your leg and your insurance isn’t there because there’s no health care, I hope you’re cool with that. Because that’s what you voted for.”