Rollins Live (Updated 1.12.06)
Wednesday, January 11, 2006; 2:00 PM
Actor, musician and spoken word performer Henry Rollins was online Wednesday, Jan. 11, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss his career, pop culture, the news and anything that's on your mind.
Rollins has come a long way since growing up in D.C. He first made a name for himself as lead singer of '80s punk band Black Flag. Then, with his own Rollins Band and as an actor with appearances in movies ("Johnny Mnemonic", "Dogtown and Z-Boys") and TV. In the past decade, though, Rollins really hit his stride performing one-man spoken word shows -- addressing topics ranging from politics to the environment to sexuality to his own neuroses. He's also host of "Full Metal Challenge" on the Learning Channel and the upcoming (April 1) "Henry Rollins Show" on the Independent Film Channel. Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, Rollins has also toured with the USO to perform for troops in the Gulf.
Washington, D.C.: You clearly know the difference between supporting a war, and supporting the people who have no choice but to fight in that war. What's your take on why so many Americans don't understand that you can support the troops without supporting the actual war ?
Henry Rollins: I think the president has done a very good job. Fox News has done a very good job and a lot of conservatives have done a very good job in blurring those lines. I think there was a concerted effort to make people who ask questions about the war seem unpatriotic. Which is completely offensive to me. Because you can't rationally attack someone who has a conflicting point of view any other way on this topic.
Maryland: Hey Henry --
Two things: First, I wanted to thank you for something not mentioned in your introductory write-up, the fantastic stuff you've done with 2.13.61 publishing -- not only bringing us your words, but important works from writers ranging from Nick Cave to Joe Cole, from Iggy Pop to Hubert Selby.
Secondly, to get a little more irreverent, how did you wind up recording with the almighty Shatner, and what are your thoughts on the results?
Henry Rollins: The Shatner project was a request from Ben Folds, who is a great musician. He was producing an album for Shatner and asked if I would take part and I said life is too short -- and said sure.
What was interesting is that we had no song. We just went into the studio and recorded what happened. The result was great and I've spent a few evenings at the Shatner home since and it's been great. He's a very nice man.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Henry,I'm curious about your thoughts on satellite radio and other avenues, such as blogging, that are now allowing us to exercise our right of free speech.
Henry Rollins: Satellite radio I think remains to be seen how well that's going to work. In theory I like it. I just don't know if people are going to dump traditional radio for it.
As far as blogging, I think it's great. Perhaps it'll teach Americans how to write, and form a sentence. And I think having an opinion is a very healthy thing and blogging gives people a chance to articulate without impacting much else on someone else's life.
Arlington, Va.: I really enjoy your spoken word shows. I enjoyed the story of your train trip across Russia. My favorite was your story of going to see Kiss live.
I would give you a hug for all of your USO work.
The Question:Were you a vegetarian at one point? Did you give it up ? If so why?
Henry Rollins: I am basically a vegetarian who will sometimes eat red meat when there's no other protein option. For example, in the middle of nowhere on a USO tour. Past that, I'm a vegetable and fish guy.
Potomac Falls, Va.: How do you stay so healthy and train when your schedule calls for so much travel -- is it just finding a way to pump some weight, do cardio, stretch and eat well?
Henry Rollins: Eating well is becoming easier on the road as more places are health conscious. Gyms are easy to find anywhere there's electricity and traffic. Time is the hard part, but I do my best and I learned a long time ago that without recuperative sleep, good nutrition and constant exercise, this high stress lifestyle of traveling, etc., quickly takes a toll.
And how do I do it? I just see it as a very important thing and make sure I get it done.
Washington, D.C.: Mr. Rollins,
How has the experience of growing up in the DC area affected your music/acting (i.e. are you more politically aware than if you grown up in Kansas)?
Where in Arlington did you live?
Henry Rollins: Growing up in D.C. affected me musically by nature of being in the D.C. music scene and having people like Ian Mackeye be such a heavy influence on me. My mother spent her whole career working in the government, basically trying to help Johnny to learn to read, so politics was always around me.
As far as my acting, I'm just trying to get through that day, so where I came from will not help or hinder. Fear of failure gets me over that wall.
In Arlington, I lived right behind right behind the Marriott on Pierce Street. The apartment building has apparently been leveled.
We all left home and migrated across the Key Bridge. I became an Arlingtonian. It was finances. I worked for $3.50 an hour in 1979.
Arlington, Va.: Will a version of the Rollins Band tour again? When?
Henry Rollins: I hope so. And I am working towards that.
Anonymous: Can you lift more than Joe Piscapo?
Henry Rollins: I doubt it and who cares.
Sacramento, Calif.: How do you adapt your spoken word shows to international audiences? Do they get the stuff about Walmart or do you talk about the things that have more mass appeal (like your trip in Siberia)?
Henry Rollins: Good question. I do a lot of shows internationally. I am very aware of losing impact if I tell a story with too many "inside" references. So when in Germany, I leave out the Fox News names because I'm going to leave them behind if I talk about O'Reilly or Hannity. That is not to say that I dumb down the message, because the audience isn't stupid. But there's a way to have impact with an audience and concentrate on broader themes and that's where the travel stories come in marvelously.
Silver Spring, Md.: Can you share with us one of your fondest memories from your childhood/teenagerhood with Ian MacKaye?
Henry Rollins: I think my fondest memory would just be having Ian as my friend for over 30 years and there's been so many good times, it'd be hard to pick out one. It is one of the good fortunes of my life to have him as my friend. He's truly inspirational to me. I often ask 'What would Ian do?' and he's been a great help to me.
Washington, D.C.: Dear Henry,Why should we listen to you? What is your aim in adding your voice to the public discourse. Money, fame, responsibility or something else. I'm not saying that you're not intelligent and articulate but I'm thinking in more general terms. With the constant spin and occasional bald lying that are thrown around in today's public discourse why should we believe that you are not infected by the same insane bias and underlying agenda.
Henry Rollins: There's a great possibility I am somewhat infected. And I would never assume to be so important than anyone should stop what they're doing and listen to me. I do think I tell a pretty good story. Past that, your point is absolutely valid as far as could I be as corrupt as anyone I say I am against. Absolutely. But money or fame or an agenda are really not part of my agenda.
Freedom of speech and expression is what I'm after.
Silver Spring, Md.: I just started reading "Devil's Knot : The True Story of the West Memphis Three" by Mara Leveritt. Are you still involved with the defendants? Has any progress been made in freeing the boys or obtaining retrials?
Henry Rollins: Yes, I'm still involved. There was today an alarming news byte where state governor Huckabee (of Arkansas) says in his opinion there has been no new info brought to light that would make the case in any way compelling to be retried. In light of the fact that DNA evidence from the crime scene was processed and from what I know the results are waiting to be analyzed, I don't know how he can say that. Those who find themselves interested in this case can go to the WM3.org Web site. Or read Mara Leveritt's very fine book.
McLean, Va.: Henry,
I have seen several of your spoken word shows and really enjoy hearing about your travel adventures (I cannot enter an airport without thinking of your "standing in line" rant). What are your top three favorite places to visit and why?
Henry Rollins: Afghanistan, because while dangerous it is unbelievably fascinating to me -- historically and geographically. I have been there twice with the military via a USO tour, but given the opportunity, would love to stay for an extended period to learn more.
Parts of Africa I have visited have made me very curious and inspired and made me want to explore more.
The other very interesting place: Russia, where I visited five times and find the people, culture and history fascinating.
Los Angeles, Calif.: While in Iraq did you perform classic Black Flag songs such as "Revenge," "No Values," and "Damaged"? And do you think you might become the next Bob Hope?
Henry Rollins: On USO tours I go on my own in what is called a handshake tour. Much like what Brad Pitt and George Clooney do -- you hang out, tell stories, crack them up, etc. No music has been performed as of yet.
As far as being the next Hope, we'll leave that to Wayne Newton's very capable dyed black coif.
Silver Spring, Md.: Because you have been doing your spoken word tours for so long,you've covered numerous topics. Is there anything you regret saying or any major ideas or beliefs that you have completely changed on?
Henry Rollins: No. Not as far as spoken word. As far as life experience, the more laps you take around the track, hopefully your mind changes as you go. As a young man, I had a fairly narrow scope -- which is one of the great things of youth. As a middle aged man, I see a slightly bigger picture.
And those changes have always been aired on stage.
New York, N.Y.: Henry,
In light of his recent passing, I was wondering if you could comment on Richard Pryor's standup and how it has perhaps influenced what you've tried to do with your spoken word shows.
Henry Rollins: There can't be enough accolades laid on Pryor as far as his bravery and what he did for the genre of comedy. As a young person, I remember those early records and he perhaps helped white America understand black America through comedy better than a lot of other attempts to bring Americans together.
Henry Rollins: His bravery is not lost upon me.
USO Shows: Are you allowed to say what you want on your USO shows, or do they ask that you keep your political (e.g. anti-war) views quiet? I hope the troops out there understand how many people are like us: supporting the troops and hating the politicians who put them in harm's way.
Henry Rollins: Great question. Believe it or not, never once have I been told to cool it or to not say exactly what I want. And I have. I also go out of my way to let these brave men and women know that no matter who Americans voted for, about 99.999 percent of America supports the troops. That no matter what an American's take on the war is, support for their safe arrival back home is absolute.
What is distressing is how many soldiers did not understand that and think they are hated at home.
Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Henry,
What kind of music have you been listening to lately? How do you usually come across new music?
Henry Rollins: The first half of the question is way too broad. I like what I like and that seems to take in every genre of music I can think of -- even country western and techno -- where I'm not all that conversant.
How do I get music? Curiosity makes me buy CDs by the pound. Recommendations from people and things people very graciously send me. Basically, I am open to anything where the musicians have given their all to the piece.
Sterling, Va.: Hi Henry,
Just got through reading Fanatic! and am psyched to hear that Harmony in my Head is back on the air. For those of us poor working stiffs on the East Coast who can't listen to the show live, are there any plans to archive the new shows so we can listen to them later? (The last one I can find online is Nov. 2004)
Really enjoyed the Birchmere show last fall, and look forward to seeing you again when you're next in town.
Henry Rollins: Yes. At http:/
Also, those who are curious, please go check out harmonyinmyhead.com for annotated notes of the songs and streaming information. I get letters from people all over the world who listen to the show.
Washington, D.C.: I have been a big fan of yours for years -- I saw you with Black Flag, saw you again with the Henry Rollins Band (it was heaven seeing you and the Butthole Surfers back-to-back on the original Lollapalooza tour!), and have managed to catch a few of your spoken-word shows as well. I would like to know what inspired your move into the realm of spoken-word performance -- was it something that was always there inside you or did you have any sudden inspiration or "aha!" moment?
Henry Rollins: As a young person, there was always a premium put on being able to tell a great story. Amongst my friends being able to imitate everyone else and crack everyone up put you high up on the teen food chain. Of course, this is not unique, but I never lost my love of storytelling, imitating others, etc.
As a scrawny, Ritalin-addled youth in HS, which was all boys, I learned to stave off the beating, by making the gorilla laugh before geometry class. Hence, the opportunity to go on stage without a band, tell stories and express attitude, was extremely attractive to me when first offered in 1983.
Aldie, Va.: Henry, in all your shows, books, music, you act like an angry guy and don't hesitate to say you are one. But you seem like such a nice guy, and would be willing to help anyone if you could. How do you reconcile the two personalities?
Henry Rollins: I don't think being helpful or nice doesn't allow you to be really pissed off. My anger is mostly a civically oriented one. I am tired of the little guy getting bullied by the rich, the mean and the opportunistic. This sentiment, of course, is not unique, so... anger is good when directed in a positive way and so, yes, on occasion I am a pretty nice guy, but I hold my anger in high regard. If it ever goes away I will know I have lost the plot.
Ectomel, IA: Hi Henry. We share a common favorite band; Black Sabbath circa 1974. (How incredibly cool was it to be a supporting player in the genesis of that reunion?!)
I know you have been on close terms with Sharon and Ozzy, so what I wanna know is this; I have always read between the lines of Ozzy's seeming addle-headedness and thought that he was actually pretty smart and damned funny, too. What's your take? Is the Ozzy that you see on TV what you get, or is he crazy like a fox?
Henry Rollins: First question about how cool was it? Are you kidding?! It was very cool to be with Black Sabbath for their reunion shows in Birmingham, England.
As far as Ozzy. He is easily one of the most what you see is what you get people I've met. He's not putting on an act. Ozzy is Ozzy 24 hours a day. He is extremely childlike in that he has not lost his enthusiasm for music and life and he is tremendously big-hearted, which adds to his appeal to me and lots of other people.
Hence, his seemingly endless appeal decade after decade.
So, no, I don't think he's putting on an act.
York, Pa.: Do you feel let down by the apathy displayed by the younger generation in the face of war, America's ever declining worldwide reputation and heightening governmental invasion of privacy?
Henry Rollins: Those are three different topics.
Apathy. I think we are curing that problem. I think our newest crop of teenagers may be the most energized and politically aware young people we've had for quite some time. And that is why I am optimistic for the future of America.
America's reputation. President Bush has set America, in my opinion, on a very dangerous course. We are drawing lines in the sand and appearing as bullies in places where people will push back. Everyone knows this. The only thing that lifts my spirits in this depressing situation is our young people and their desire to turn things around and seek a better, peaceful and more rockin' situation.
Privacy. Good question. I don't know exactly where I sit on that, being someone with nothing to hide. If national security is at stake, I think extraordinary measures must be employed. What bugs me about Bush and his wiretaps is that he could have done it legally and chose not to.
Any of those wiretaps he sought, he could've gotten those warrants perhaps overnight, but his administration's arrogance and seeming attitude of "the rules do not apply" makes me pretty angry.
Silver Spring, Md.: Henry-
You always thank Mitch Bury of Adams, Mass., on your liner notes. I used to live in Adams, Mass. Who is he? I always thought he was a voice coach to help you with your singing, but I know there has to be a better story. So what is it?
Henry Rollins: Mitch Bury was Black Flag's road manager and very close friend of the band and myself. His family still lives on Crandall Street and I've just had a long friendship with Mitch Bury and to this day still see him, keep in contact with him and keep up my tradition of thanking Mitch Bury from Adams, Mass., on everything I put out.
Washington, D.C.: I'm in my early 30s and I'm pretty angry too. Do you think it has more to do with your personal make up or do you think it has to do with this issues of today? If it's the later, has your angry grown worse or stayed the same?
Henry Rollins: I think in my case at least it is a combination of both. I was an angry kid, an angry adolescent and am now an angry adult. Many factors have probably been a part of this. Washington, D.C., was an intense place to be young person in the '70s and '80s. As a child in the '60s, watching the riots, it had a profound effect on me. In my opinion, to be a conscientious American, you should be pretty damn angry.
Until things are perfect, we need to keep working. Anger and dissatisfaction are great fuel for change and betterment.
Henry Rollins: Yes, and my anger grows daily.
Anonymous: Since the White House staff is known to read these discussions, what would be your reaction should the Defense Department decide not to invite you back on another tour?
Henry Rollins: That would be sad and patently un-American.
Kensington, Md.: I saw you doing a MTV video countdown years back and when you had to introduce a video from U2, you rolled your eyes in apparent sarcasm as you talked about the band. As a U2 fan, I always thought that was hilarious. Did you just never get them or their music?
Henry Rollins: While I applaud Bono's humanitarian efforts with great admiration, I think the music is for those who have lost their will to rock.
Arlington, Tex.: Henry, enjoyed watching you speak when you came through Texas.
Do you think invention of online music stores is good for the artists?
I think you should look into using the Internet to get your masses more talking shows. It would remove any middle men that want to get in the way. The Pearl Jam guys have devised a great system to get bootleg music to their fans. Check it out.
Henry Rollins: I think the Internet has been great for musicians as far as bringing people to their music cheaply and efficiently. Hopefully, getting people who would would have never heard the music to hear it... which is what music is all about. Music wants to be heard. I do have a whole line of CDs that I sell from my Web site that never go to retail, which are extremely cheap and $1 from each sale goes to different charities.
So, dear writer, I do check it out and I thank you.
Washington, D.C.: Henry-
Do you keep up at all with the DC music scene? Have you heard our radio lately? It's horrible....
What cities have the best radio for progressive/alternative rock that you've heard, and do any of those stations stream online??
Henry Rollins: Okay. Yes, I keep up with the local DC music scene as best I can. Being a semi-frequent visitor to my beloved hometown, I go to as many gigs as I can. I will confess I do not listen to much radio, preferring my own record collection to that of a radio station. All I know is the music's always good on my show and the station I'm on does stream -- Indie 103.1.
As to what any other station is doing, I'm unaware.
Crete, Ill.: Henry, how did the idea come together for your film critiquing show on IFC?
Henry Rollins: The idea was that of Swift River Productions. Although they will not admit it, I know I was not their first choice. They came to me and pitched what basically became the show, since I love film, have an opinion on why I like and dislike them, and have done quite a bit of acting in film, they thought this might be interesting to me. It was, we made a pilot, IFC liked it, we made a season, they asked for another season, which we're already in pre-production on now.
And so far it has been really great. The name of the show has changed from "Henry's Film Corner" to the "Henry Rollins Show" and will now be weekly instead of monthly. There will be live music, some of the acts like Sleater-Keaney and John Doe, they're performances already in the can. Slayer and other acts are imminent.
Henry Rollins: I can't thank you enough for all of your questions, your enthusiasm, your interest. It may sound cheesy, but I mean every word of that.
Also, being stranded out here in LA, it is very nice to see the names of the towns these letters are coming from (Arlington, etc.), cuz I really miss that part of the world every day I'm not there.
Herndon, Va.: Your "Tom Waits Story" remains one of my most prized MP3's of all time. It's truly one of the funniest and best told stories I've ever heard. My Question is have you ever considered re-labelling what you do and using the More accessible term "stand up comedy" rather than the off-putting (to some anyway) "spoken word"?
Hnery Rollins: I have never liked that term either. I sure didn't come up with it! If I saw "An evening of spoken word with . . ." on a flyer I would run the other way in fear of being bored to death. That being said, I admire stand-up comedy and am a fan of the good ones but wouldn't want to have to make people laugh all the time. There's some stuff that's just not funny and I want to address that stuff without having to make light of it. Also, that circuit seems pretty intense in a way that's unappealing to me. Even a guy like George Carlin who's a pal and someone I greatly admire, must feel some pressure to keep the laughs going. I don't think I would fare well in that environment.
Los Angeles, Calif.: Do you think soldiers might be mistaken about America's support for the troops as a result of broadcasters such as Rush Limbaugh, who equate any dissent with treason and loathing for our soldiers? Where else would they get that wrong impression?
Henry Rollins: I definitely think that sentiment is propagated by those who are for one reason or another, in favor of what's happening in Iraq. I don't know how much of America is swayed by radio and television pundits and their opinions. I think the Bush Administration has done a lot of work, with evident success, to weld 9/11 to Iraq, Osama to Saddam, the response to the September attacks to preemptively strike Baghdad. If you don't diligently follow the spin and look at the real information, you could think anyone critical of the efforts in Iraq to be a negative influence. I am not saying though, that the TV/Radio right don't have an effect. They do. Your Hannity's are very forceful and their narrowness of scope often works to their advantage in attacking large topics. If you can fit it on a bumper sticker, it's not a reason to go to war. Novak left CNN and went to Fox! What a surprise!
Detroit, Mich.: I'm watching the Supreme Court nominations, while reading this online interview/blog -- and a question came to mind. Do you feel that the administration, as a whole, has done so much damage that it cannot be undone, or do you believe with a shift in power and a change in those who have it will lead to an eventual rebirth in American politics in which people, again, have a voice in their own government. And I commend you on your work with the USO. You're doing the individuals and the country a great service.
Henry Rollins: Only my opinion here but I think the Bush Administration has put us on an aggressive and dangerous course in South and Central America and the Middle East and parts of Asia most certainly. To me, they demonstrate the actions of men who have not been in many or any fights. They either don't understand or seem to care that there's always someone who will hit back or at least take their best shot at whom they consider to be the schoolyard bully. I'm not saying we should hug a terrorist today but we should definitely do something in an attempt to understand where all this anger comes from and go to that as one of our measures against further terrorist attacks. It's hard enough fighting an enemy that doesn't mind dying. I am however, hopeful. My hope comes from all the young people I meet. The level headed, energized people I meet who really want to address the hard questions and do something. I think we are headed for a dramatic and historic turning of the tide in our life time. That is to say, something's gonna give.
Portland Ore.: Henry, I've been a fan of yours since about 1991 when your spoken word helped me get through boarding school and broke me of my angst. I no longer blamed other people for my problems and looked toward myself. I can tell that the problems in this world bug you. They bug me too. Every time you come to Portland, inevitably someone yells that you should run for president. My question is this: Why don't you run for an elected office? You're intelligent, you relate to people and you kick ass. Isn't it time that you step up and live to YOUR full potential? I think Washington could use a little more punk rock than just the 9:30 club.
Henry Rollins: Damn do I love your city. I had a great time there the other night. I appreciate your confidence. I am however in no way cut out for office. I am of highschool education and I don't think I could do anyone any favors in that arena. Also, I really think I get some good things done being on the street and on the move. I think there's a lot more latitude out here than in an elected office. As far as living up to my potential, well, I'm not sleeping on that front, I assure you. Thanks.
McLean, Va.: I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your work with the USO and your efforts to bridge the gap of misunderstanding that has been created (and exploited) regarding the difference between supporting the troops and supporting the war. I have had numerous "discussions" with people who, because of my open opposition to the war and to the Bush administration, have accused me of not supporting the troops and even of being a traitor to my country. These discussions often end soon after I inform them that I served for four years with the U.S. Army Special Forces. While it is handy to have this trump card available, it saddens and angers me that it is even necessary to play it. I served and fought for freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom of association, and the freedom to dissent -- much of what you seem to be fighting for in your way. I think you are doing an excellent job and I wish more power to you.
Henry Rollins: Thank you and thank you for your service. Yeah, it's too bad you have to pull out your SF card. To me, being a traitor is having a party and cracking open the champagne whenever there's U.S. fatalities or blowing up something here at home. I don't know anyone who is remotely like that. Quite the opposite. When we lost that Black Hawk the other day, it's a year ruiner as far as I'm concerned. As far as being critical of an Administration, someone better be, even the ones who voted it into office. How else will we learn, be safe, not repeat mistakes, etc. Again, thank you.
California: Would you describe Bukowski as a Slurred Word Artist? Also, if anger is properly channeled, such as in your case, is it still anger, or something else?
Henry Rollins: Those Bukowski books were fun to read when I was in my 20's. A great ride. Good question about the anger. It is perhaps something else, an awareness, a catalyst. All I know is, when everything seems to be going well, it feels like a scam!
Washington, D.C.: Henry, I have long been a fan of yours, and you have certainly inspired me to be the independent person I am. Unfortunately life does not always allow this luxury. How do you cope with situations where individuality is not easily welcomed, i.e. politically or socially?
Henry Rollins: I guess it is a luxury come to think of it. When I encounter a confrontational situation, I usually run right at it. Where are you living? China, Arkansas?
Rockville, Md.: Hi Henry -- why everytime I see you do you have a black shirt? How many of those you own?
Henry Rollins: I wear a black one onstage because it hides the sweat but most of the time I wear a gray t shirt. It matches my hair. It's my way of going with it.
Santa Fe, N.M.: A case can be made that the Beatles played a major role in the fall of the Soviet bloc, do you think this a true and if so do you feel that any of today's music could cause change in the Middle East?
Henry Rollins: A case can be made that adult diapers played a major role in the fall of the Soviet bloc. I don't think it was the Beatles. I like that idea though. I think it was a lot of people wanting what their neighbors in the West have had for so long and all the stuff that comes with it. Mafia, corruption, MTV, all the good stuff. I have always maintained that if we dropped tons of Ramones CDs on Israel and Palastine perhaps we could get somewhere. I am more than willing to use music to cool out the Middle East. Let's send in George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars as the first wave, wait for the smoke to clear and then we come over the hill with Sabbath. Or, you could assault them with Britney Spears and they might just freak out and lose it completely. Honestly, I don't think music can do much to change anything. If it could, then it would have happened with all those great Dylan and Marley songs.
Detroit, Mich.: As many others, Black Flag made some of the most powerful music I ever listened to. Are you still at all in touch with Greg Ginn?
Henry Rollins: I saw Greg in 1989. I guess that's a long time ago. He wrote some of the best songs I have ever heard. I don't really know what he's up to now.
Washington, D.C.: What was it like being interviwed by Stacy Peralta for the Dogtown documentary?
Henry Rollins: That was an all time great experience. I had not seen him in a long time and it was so cool to have him over at my office. He's a 100 percent great guy and someone I have admired since I was a teenager. I think I met him in the late 70's the first time and over the years would run into him here and there. It was great to be part of that documentary. Ian MacKaye and I got a credit on the film as contributors of some of the Jay Adams footage you see in Dogtown as we shot that stuff on my Super-8 camera many years ago.
Washington, D.C.: I know that there are some books describing your role in the history of the D.C. Punk scene, but have you written your own memoirs of those days?
Henry Rollins: I have written about some of those times here and there in books I have done but not in one concentrated effort. I have taken a lot of notes, trying to remember everything I could as those were some of the best times I have ever had. I still remember those days with a great deal of fondness.
Anonymous: Is there a release date for "Feast"?
Henry Rollins: Quite honestly, I have no idea. After I am done with a film, I never look back. I am only there for the work. What happens to it after I'm done is not really all that Important to me as there's nothing I can do about it and usually I am of such low level in a film, no one tells me anything. I don't get invited to the premier most of the time.
Silver Spring, Md.: Henry, do you still skate?
Henry Rollins: No. I wish I had the knees left to but I don't.
Washington, D.C.: Henry, Thanks for doing this chat. These are always a lot of fun and they get me through the work day. I read somewhere that you were in that terrible movie, St. Elmo's Fire, as a guy behind the counter at Haagen Daaz. Is this at all true? Were you simply behind the counter as they were filming? Is this a complete figment of my imagination?
Henry Rollins: Thanks. No. I was never in that film. You have a vivid imagination though. Had they asked me to be in it, I would have done it. I am always seeking gainful employment.
Northern Virginia: During your lifetime technology and the Internet have changed radically in ways that impact all of the work you've done (music, writing, movies). Having heard Ian on a roundtable discussion last year, I'm curious to hear what your feelings are about music piracy and the like. Also, have you noticed these things have taken a bite out of your income stream? Also, do you have an iPod (or similar device)? If yes, what's on it?
Henry Rollins: I do not lose any sleep about anyone downloading anything I have done. I am told by young people that they download my talking records for free all the time. They sometimes apologize and ask if I am going to attack them. I always say to them what I will say to you: There have always been mechanisms in place to keep the artist from his or her pay. Be it the club owner, agent, manager or record company. Now, it's the fans too. Why should they be left out?! The bottom line is, I would rather be heard than paid and no, I willl not chase you down the street for my 35 cents. Unfortunately, some of the records that people download of mine have part of the money made going to charities so in a way, they're working negatively against some organizations they would probably really dig. And, I'm not the only one in the band so they are also taking from others, some of them with kids. As far as what money all that takes from me, I don't make much money from records and I don't really check to see what I make on them and I am certainly not going to go after someone for a few bucks. I would have loved to have heard what Ian had to say about all that. He always has an interesting take on things. I have three ipods for different places and they are full of all kinds of music. I have the 60 gig ones so I can take a lot of music out with me on the road. They are a great thing.
Washington, D.C.: Henry, I love your writing and spoken word work. How much time on average do you spend every day writing?
Henry Rollins: Thanks. It depends on what I am doing. If I am doing a movie or TV thing, not much as the 12-14 hour day will be enough to drop me. The USO tours are hard to write on because of the exhaustion factor at the end of the day. On a good day, up to 8+ hours on and off. Most of the time, at least three. There are days at a time when I don't get anything done because of obligations and schedules. I have been writing a lot lately. More than usual.
Sterling, Va.: Henry, I recently read Roomanitarian and loved it. Do you plan on appearing in more films this year?
Henry Rollins: You liked that book?! What are ya, a nut?! Thanks. I have no film plans for this year so far but something might come up in the summer as I will be in LA a lot working on stuff. It's not anything I persue all that hard. There are two films that I was in that are to come out at some point this year. Feast and Alibi.
Bethesda, Md.: Hi Henry, I was wonder if you have noticed any differences in either the troops you see or the condition of the Iraq people and country in your multiple visits. Do you think it's getting worse or better? Certainly it has to be tough on the many troops who are doing their second on even third tours of Iraq.
Henry Rollins: I have only been to Iraq once. I have been to Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan twice so far. When I was in Iraq, I met people who were two months in country and 14 months in country. The year-plus ones were the ones Rumsfeld held back for an unspecified period. They were angry. A lot of them had children they had not met yet. The ones who were in a couple of months were very focused and wired. I know at this point, there are people going into their third rotation there. I don't know what their morale will be like. Probably good. These are highly trained, highly motivated people. I am continually amazed at how great the troops are. It's very inspiring to be around them. As far as Iraq, I was told, when I was there at least, that there's more electricity in a lot of regions than ever before. That was the only progress report I was told about. That being said. I have seen a lot of reports that say exactly the opposite of what I was told so I don't know the answer to that one. Some parts of Iraq I saw were beautiful. I hope the place comes back all the way.
Bethesda, Md.: Henry I read somewhere that you attended Bullis HS and a teacher there was very instrumental in your decision to pursue an artistic career. Can you tell us about that? My kids attend Bullis and love it, but I wonder why I haven't heard your name mentioned there. Have they ever asked you back for anything?
Henry Rollins: I did go there. I had an English teacher who was very cool to me. I would write stories about blowing the school up and burning it to the ground and give them to him and he would help me with the sentences but told me to never show them to others. He said creative writing was good. I was very frustrated in that place. A good school but I didn't have a good time. I was asked many times to come on campus and speak over the years. I always politely declined and some years ago, they got the message. I have never been back since the day I graduated in 1834. It was a long time ago.
Washington, D.C.: So now that you are a big time Hollywood guy, when are they going to make you a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador?
Henry Rollins: As soon as I get a show on Scare America the home of Aggressive Talk Radio.
KC: Have you read any good books lately?
Henry Rollins: I really learned a lot from Ahmed Rashid's book "Taliban." I just finished reading Bulgakov's "Master and Margarita" again. Those were great.
Chicago, Ill.: I was really excited when you started 2.13.61 because it looked like you were going to reissue some old records worth listening to. I got the 30 seconds over DC comp, Trouble Funk live joint, and recently picked up the Negative Trend EP, do you have any other old gems in the works? Also which spoken word CD is your favorite?
Henry Rollins: I have some old stuff lined up but I am still working out the deals on them so it will take a while to get it all together. Best thing to do is check in on the site now and then or get on our mailing list and we'll let you know about releases if you like. 21361.com is the address. A favorite talking record of mine? I don't know. I make them and then make the next one. I don't really think about them as far as favorites.
Raleigh, N.C.: Hiya Henry! What's your take on the separation of Church and State? Rock on!
Henry Rollins: I hope they stay well away from each other for the sake of all sane people in America.
Woodbridge, Va.: With the recent revelations of the JT Leroy and James Frey being frauds, do you feel the literary world is fast becoming like the art world of the 1980's? Do people prefer entertainment to the truth? Or are JT Leroy and Mr. Frey using the tools of the culture against its ambassadors (Oprah, noted journalists, magazines, celebrity friends, etc...)? Consumer culture will purchase their products regardless.
Henry Rollins: If James Frey, a former drug addict made up some things in his book, anyone who would be surprised should maybe get a reality check. As far as books like that, if you liked it, got something from it, who cares if it's true? If you have to watch Oprah Winfrey to get your reading list, you deserve any literary hardships that come your way. A lot of people prefer fantasy to the truth. Wait until the upcoming State of the Union Address!
Washington, D.C.: Do you believe Nick Zedd's work has proved influential to your own? And if so, in what way? Do you plan any co-projects with Zedd. Additionally I was surprised to hear that you were on the Stern show. How was that and what precipitated your appearance?
Henry Rollins: Nick is great but quite honestly, the only thing I have ever gotten through was his book. I have never been able to hang all the way through the films. I tried but couldn't do it. So, I don't think there's been any influence and I certainly have no plans to do anything with him. I have been on Stern's show twice and always found him to be alright to me. They asked and I went. I'd go again. I don't mind Howard. His thing with women at first bugged me but now I see he's just infantile on that front and not misogynistic. I didn't get that at first. I think he'd be the first to admit that. I like the guy.
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