Henry Rollins is a punk rock icon. This is largely a result of his tenure as vocalist in Black Flag, a California based hardcore punk band. Rollins was active in Black Flag from 1981 until 1986. During his years in Black Flag, Rollins formed a reputation for his tenacity to tour, his unrelenting work ethic, and the raw energy with which he performed.
Less than a year after the disbanding of Black Flag, Rollins formed the Rollins Band and returned to the microphone. Rollins led the band with the belief that you give the the audience everything you’ve got. The band was active from 1987 until 1997, then again in 1999 until 2003. The Rollins Band reunited in 2006 for several live performances but have since gone on to an indefinite hiatus.
Rollins started acting in 1985 and he has appeared in, or done voice over work for, a long repertoire of movies, television series, and video games. He has also hosted several television series, including History‘s “10 Things You Don’t Know About,” National Geographic‘s “Animal Underworld,” and IFC‘s “The Henry Rollins Show.” Not being one to turn down work, Rollins also hosts a radio show on KCRW, a public radio station, and a podcast titled “Henry & Heidi.”
In the mid 1980s Rollins formed 2.13.61, a publishing company and record label. The name is a reference to Rollins’ date of birth (February 13, 1961). Through 2.13.61, Rollins has self-released albums by the Rollins Band and all of his spoken word material. He isn’t performing musically now, but Rollins, who is 55 years old, hasn’t lost his edge or slowed down. He continues to tour the world as a performer of spoken word.
Rollins is also a writer, both of narratives and poetry. He has authored and published 17 books, all of which have been released through 2.13.61. Rollins is also a regular columnist for LA Weekly. His column, which first appeared in 2010, has grown to become one of the paper’s biggest draws.
In 2014, Rollins received the prestigious Ray Bradbury Creativity Award. He receives the award in recognition for his lifelong contribution to the arts, his passion for social activism, and his intelligent conversations regarding how cultural preservation and common sense will save the world, as well as his intense praise for the importance of maintaining books and libraries. In a press release Rollins stated, “It is an honor and quite a shot in the arm to be acknowledged by Woodbury University for creativity. To create from a mere thought into something that could inspire others and unleash their imagination — this is what I live for.”
Henry Rollins will perform his spoken word on Sunday, October 9, 2016 at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. Doors open at 7:00 PM and the performance begins at 8:00 PM. Tickets are available online and range in price from $33 to $43 (first 11 rows).
10 Questions with Henry Rollins
Most people know you as a vocalist, writer, actor, or a performer of spoken word. In addition to all that, you’ve hosted radio shows, television series, and podcasts and you also released a book of photography in 2011 titled “Occupants.” Mentally how do you shift between projects and prepare yourself to start something new? Do you have any habits, routines, or rituals linked to your process?
For me, it’s all basically one thing. It is work. While different, they all require pretty much the same things. Focus, dedication, total commitment, discipline, honesty. My routine, no matter what it is I am doing, is to do as much preparation as I can. I don’t think I can ever do enough. Before talking shows, I usually quote parts of Lincoln’s 1838 speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum that he gave in Springfield, IL. It’s a good focusing exercise. I have been doing that for years. Before talking tours start, I say the stories out loud to myself so I can hear my voice say them. Any writing I have to hand in for a publication, I like to let the first draft sit for 24-hours, if I can afford the time. I find when I come back for the second draft, whatever the piece needs will be more obvious.
Are you currently traveling with any photography gear? If yes, what equipment and what is it that you seek to capture in the photographs you take?
I’m not, sadly. I am carrying everything, so I have to go as light as possible. If space and schedule were not a concern, I would take a Canon 5D body with the 16-35 lens on it. That’s pretty much all the camera I need anywhere. I like to be on the street or in villages. Wherever people are.
You’ve been a working artist in one capacity or another for more than three decades. Looking back on your body of work, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
None. I don’t have feelings of pride. I just do one thing and then do another. Once it’s done, all I want to do is start something else. The last thing I like to do is think about what I have done. I am only interested in what I am doing and what I’ll be doing next. The best part about finishing a book is that I can start another. I have kept myself this way since I started. That’s how we were in Black Flag. Always onto the next thing. That’s the best way for me.
Over the course of your career you’ve collaborated with a number of individuals and groups, Iggy Pop, William Shatner, and Public Enemy to name a few. What collaborations left you the most inspired? Additionally, how do you prefer to approach a collaborative project?
It was amazing to be in the studio with Iggy. We did the vocals together, standing next to each other. Same with Bill Shatner, that was cool. I don’t collaborate all that often. I am rarely asked. I reckon the best thing to do is approach it as what it is—a totally unique situation. I think the less “stuff” you bring with you from any other collaboration, the better.
What weight do you put on having a strong, even if small, behind-the-scenes team whom you can trust and rely upon?
That’s a big part of things for me. The woman who manages all my companies and affairs, Heidi, has been at my office for 20 years. I rely on her for her smarts, organizational skills, hardcore work ethic, honesty, etc. I don’t know what I would do without her.
We work with other people as well, Lisa does all of our internet stuff, Gina handles accounting, Carol is responsible for business and editing, Dave works on layout and design, Ward on road management, Angel handles merch(andise), Merch Collective does mail orders, Rita and Nancy are the travel agents, and Matt and Matt at Creative Artists Agency (CAA). I lean on these people completely and couldn’t get out the door without them.
You are 55 years old. If you could, what advice would you give to a twenty-something year old Henry Rollins?
I wouldn’t have listened. Probably to listen more and talk less. Have more patience. Think things through a lot more before I tried to do them. I have never been good at any of that but I try.
What have you learned about yourself through your career in the arts?
That I can lose the plot very easily. I need a lot of time to get my head around things. I am not always quick on the uptake. I have anger issues. I need more rehearsal than others might. Many of my instincts are the perfectly wrong course to take.
What is the genesis of your current material? Is it a continuation of or a departure from previous material?
It’s what I come back with from traveling, from connecting dots from other experiences after finding causal links between them. It’s always a departure because the information and settings are constantly changing but the method of gathering hasn’t changed all that much. More work goes into understanding the accumulated information dragged back from all the miles traveled. I am becoming better at getting more out of experiences.
I’ve obtained a number of book recommendations from you in the past. You were one of the two individuals who really turned me on to author Henry Miller. Who are you presently reading and what writers do you consistently look forward to releasing new material?
I just re-read “Love in Vain – The Story of The Ruts & Ruts D.C.” by Roland Link. Recently I read George Christie’s autobiography, “Exile On Front Street: My Life as a Hells Angel… and Beyond.” Earlier this year, I read Thomas Dolby’s autobiography, “The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology.” He wanted me to write something for the back cover. Great read. I will read anything by journalist Robert Fisk.
I don’t read as much as I used to. The books I read now are very hard to get through and cause me to take a lot of notes and have to look up things. History mainly. When I read for too long, I feel I should be writing. I think that might be an age thing. I feel I should be more active now.
What will 2017 hold for you?
I have a few manuscripts that are done but need to be edited and fact checked. Hopefully, I will have the time to work on those. I will have one book out for sure next year but I will be trying for two. I will be looking for acting and voice over work next year. The tour that I am on now is about 150 shows in 19 countries. I won’t be able to go to all these places again for awhile, so I will be looking for other things to do. I have no idea if anything will come my way.
Keeps it interesting to say the least.
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