Actor, Author, Activist, Musician, TV Host Henry Rollins: “I Need A Job”


Henry Rollins is not a man who likes to sit idly by. Actor, author, activist, musician, journalist, TV host, spoken-word artist; he’s got as many careers as he’s got tattoos. Which it to say, a lot. He doesn’t do the relaxation thing well.

Henry Rollins: The Long March is at Joe’s Pub November 8, 9, 10, 12, and 13.

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Rollins’s intense mien and no-nonsense approach served him well onstage in the early-to-mid-80s with seminal hardcore icons Black Flag as well as later in the Rollins Band, his no-bullshit Renaissance Man/Neanderthal persona garnering him a lot of dude fans and media admirers. And, oh yeah, he acted in Heat along with like-minded heavies DeNiro and Pacino.

In recent years, Rollins has eschewed music in favor of more serious-leaning artistic endeavors, including his current “The Long March” tour, featuring socio-political commentary with entertaining yet pointed commentary and anecdotes about his travels in North Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Sudan, Haiti and Cuba. The man who once wrote such incendiary lyrics as “I wanna crucify you to your front door with the nails from your well stocked garage family man / …saint dad! father on fire! I’ve come to incinerate you /
I’ve come home,” has lost none of his punk fire, he’s just channeling it in a different direction.

What did you do election night? Did your election predictions come true? I watched it for hours, until the end, and yes, I did get what I wanted. Elizabeth Warren was the first bit of good news, more was to follow. Akin, Mourdock, Walsh — done. Karl Rove goes back to square one.

Since your current tour is about timely commentary, will you adjust your New York gigs with regard to Hurricane Sandy?

I don’t think there is much I could say that would add to the conversation at this point. I am careful to avoid seeming patronizing. I hope the city is recovering quickly.

I understand that the “Capitalism” tour is all 50 state capitals and DC, but what is the content and conceptual difference between those shows and gigs you perform during your “The Long March” tour?

On that leg of the tour, I talked a lot about voting and how important it is. I think that part is over with. Other than that, I talk about what I see and who I meet, this is what I normally do. It’s more story telling than anything else.

With your gigs and even the Capitalism 2012 You Tube series — what is your goal and ultimate message? Do you feel you’re often preaching to the converted?

I talk at whoever shows up. I can’t really control that but of course, you’re preaching to the perverted. I do get quite a few people who would perhaps vote against me but still show up because we disagree respectfully. I don’t know what to do about the fact that an audience goes to see people they like/agree with.

You’ve spoken about the Ramones’ debut album being influential to you. Did you know Joey Ramone, and if so, any good stories?

I met Joey many times in my life, but would be hesitant to call him a friend. He was always really cool to me, which means a lot to me. I remember one time we stood next to each other at CBGB and watched the Dictators, that was a great night of my life.

Since you’ll be spending time in NYC during your Joe’s Pub residency, what specific “only in New York” things do you like and plan to do?

Eat good food and do good shows. When I am in show mode, I am all about that more than anything else. I used to live there and really like the city a lot.

Your career has so many aspects. If, say, the guy at the dry cleaners asked what you do for a living, what would your answer be?

I always try to be low-key with that kind of thing so I tell them I work at a publishing company, which is true. I am the owner, but I still work there. [2.13.61, which has put out Rollins Band albums, all of Rollins’s spoken-word work, and books including “Get in the Van”] Often I am recognized before the topic of “what do you do” comes up.

Regarding your role on Sons of Anarchy, what feedback were you allowed to give regarding your character, a white supremacist gang leader? Did your punk background help you get the role?

I took a meeting about the part, (producer/director) Kurt Sutter asked if I wanted it, I said yes and that was it, pretty much. I didn’t question the I script or anything, it was all pretty straight ahead. I have no idea what got me the part to be honest.

Was there one particular incident that got you into activism? How did your work with the West Memphis Three start and what made you believe in their innocence?

As soon as I was making enough money to where my life was somewhat stabilized, I could look around and help others. It was more that than anything else. It’s hard to help when you’re treading water yourself. I saw the documentary about them and figured that if I were in the same situation, I would really want someone to help me out, so I went for it. It seemed like the right thing to do. It was to me, quite obvious that they were innocent or at least not given due process of law.

You’ve done USO tours and been to IRAQ. Do you watch Homeland, and/or what are your favorite recent political-leaning shows/movies/books?

I have not seen the show. The last political book I read was Eric Foner’s The Fiery Trial. It’s about Lincoln and his views on abolition and slavery. I really liked Margin Call as a film as well as Too Big To Fail.

You’ve indicated that you’d love to do music still/again, but don’t know what new you’d create? Is that accurate, and can you explain further? What was the last concert you attended?

No, actually. I have not had a band for many years. I don’t really think about it at all. Last show I saw was the Stooges in Katowice, Poland.

How often do you listen to your own music? How do you feel about songs like “Gimme Gimme Gimme” and “TV Party” 30 years after the fact?
I don’t, actually. Greg Ginn wrote the two songs you mentioned. I think they are very good, especially the former.

What’s in store for Henry Rollins, 2013?

I need a job. I have book work to do and voice over work that I do a lot of but as far as something that would take up a good bit of my time, I don’t have that yet. I have been in meetings and hopefully, something comes up.

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