Henry Rollins is a man who does not know reluctance. Any challenge or venture presented before him is one he will undoubtedly undertake whole-heartedly. Whether it’s his famed tenure with the historic hardcore band Black Flag, his then created alt-rock and globally adored outfit The Rollins Band, his more recent spoken-word global tours, his author commitments, journalist responsibilities and even his progress into the acting world; conclusively he will leave no stone unturned if he is capable. It’s as if the crusader’s motto was written by famed French author with his legendary quote:
“You cannot create an experience. You must undergo it”.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a thrill-seeker, or brave or tough and I am not looking to outdo anyone or fight; I’m just curious. I’m hoping it doesn’t get me killed prematurely; it might, and I am not cool with that. At the same time, though, I am not going to sit home and worry.”
Henry clarifies – “I am going to go out and experience a failure where something didn’t work out. I’d rather that than living to 150 years old sitting in a yard.”
Failure isn’t a well-known fact about Mr Rollins (full name Henry Rawlins Garfield); possibly because it isn’t well publicised, but more-so because he doesn’t see it as a failure. Throughout the interview, not once does he even breach on the idea. Truthfully, Henry was livid about his globe-trotting throughout our conversation, namely his recent trip to Antarctica. As he elaborates:
“I paid my money and went on-board a ship full of scientists and did the ‘hardcore immersion’ course of learning about animals, geography and history amongst other things which came to about four hours of lectures a day. It was a vigorous time where I took a tonne of notes.
“It was an intense venture where I was either in class or on a boat hitting landfall and walking very carefully near penguins. It was beautiful, incredibly educational and unbelievably profound. That was exactly what I wanted.”
Being such a rarely explored continent unless an individual works for the Discovery Channel, this scribe was eager to learn more; surely there was an abundance of wildlife besides penguins?
“I have truly never seen anything like it. You look out the window to be greeted with a mammoth whale’s tale which was rather impossible to absorb. When you walk on the islands covered in ice with penguins walking by, the only thing I can compare it to are watching the astronauts walking on the moon.”
He continues – “All of my shipmates and other Eco-tourists were looking at each other in disbelief; I had actually made friends with the scientists on the ship and learned that some of them had been aboard for up to 14 years and when I asked if they ever got bored with it they looked at me like I was an idiot (laughs). I totally dig it; they completely love what they are doing and just one cruise after the next they keep returning. I really do understand why, though.”
As aforementioned, amongst all his commitments Mr Rollins tours the world hosting spoken-word shows about his life experiences and knowledge. Although this article thus far reads as if these performances are about his renowned travels to the most obnoxious places on Earth (unbelievably Serbia is on the list), there is so much more involved. Sincerely it is an emotional rollercoaster of enlightening story-telling, and it is far from a jovial affair.
“I go on tour with four to six hours of working material; mostly yarns and anecdotes that I can sling out there; then about a month in where I have connected one story to another and then something else will happen. For example in more recent times two huge people in my life passed away, being Lemmy and David Bowie. Those two people were enormous presences for infinite people in this world and me, being a massive music fan, they were two main staples of my diet. Having both of them go away within weeks of each other was very hard to take, really depressing.”
[Clears his throat] “So I have stories of hanging out with Bowie and Lemmy, which I was lucky enough to achieve. So this is a source of material for me, even though it is very sad, but I have these experiences with these amazing people, and I want to share them. I knew Lemmy for more than 30 years, and there was no man more generous, funny or kind-hearted out there. I’m not just saying these things about him because he is gone, I am saying them because they were true and I told them throughout my life. He was a gruff man with a heart of gold, and he would happily give you half of anything he had. A genuine sweetheart whom a lot of people wouldn’t know about him, he was also hysterically funny. He would always push to get a laugh out of you, and I miss him dearly.”
On the topic of comedy, it should be revealed that these shows are far from all doom and gloom. It may be unknown to some but common knowledge to others that Henry Rollins has a high capability of being rather funny, both on-stage and as an actor. But as he makes abundantly clear, stand-up comedy is not his forte.
“I think comedians have a very rare talent that I admire. I guarantee you I do not have it. I like the latitude in my little shows that I don’t have to be funny all the time because I have material that I’m using on this tour that will peel the paint off your car. I just prefer to be me and doing my show, being onstage talking, and if you are crazy enough to show up, I am crazy enough to talk to you for a few hours.”
And as for acting?
“If I had my choice to be in a comedy film or drama, I will always take the drama. Being funny onscreen is really difficult; I can do it and have done it. Actually, I just finished work on a really funny show called ‘Con Man’ and every scene was hilarious, this is season two, but I appeared in season one. Also, it’s a web series. Anyways I play this full-blown moron and everything I say, is based on conspiracy theory and ‘Muslims are taking my work’; the thing is every scene is funny, but my character doesn’t know how hysterical he is. Those laughs are hard to put across compared to being in a drama. So much of my life is more dramatic, and I am a serious person. So I gravitate towards that more.”
To finish it only seemed necessary to discuss music; it is well-known that Henry Rollins gave in yelling or singing into a microphone years ago. However, his obsession for music is still incredibly vigorous. Having heard on the grapevine that Henry had come to adore Melbourne metallic hardcore punk troupe High Tension, it seemed obligatory to ask further about his highly valued opinion.
“Oh yeah, High Tension! To my knowledge, I have all their records but one, a seven-inch and there is one copy on Discogs, and I really want it. So they should give me that record if they have a copy of it for free. I want the coloured and black vinyl, scratches and in mint condition.”