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ARTS - Raising A New Flag - Henry Rollins Interview

Author: Ara Jansen
Monday, 14 April 2008
You’d be hard pressed to believe it, but Henry Rollins considers himself a depressed person.

“Oh yeah I am,” he says with a large amount of enthusiasm. “It’s what makes all the other stuff happen in my world.”

Even though he’s admitted it, it’s still hard to believe that the energetic dynamo the American press call “a hardcore renaissance man” and an agent provocateur would be anything but buoyant. He’s adamant; it’s that black hole which propels him forward, travelling around the world and wanting to talk about it since he turned his hand to spoken word.

The former Black Flag and Rollins Band singer and frontman has become a regular and much-loved fixture on the Australian touring circuit, recently being back here as part of the Big Day Out. This time Rollins spoke, rather than singing, making him the first artist on the bill to do so.

If you know anything about Henry Rollins, you know he has a keen sense of observation, a strict moral compass, a love for the underdog and the ability to walk into places, take their temperature and deliver a heart-felt monologue about their state of undress. He punches hard but he fervently believes in what he’s saying. He’s also damn funny.  

Rollins often spends Christmas with the US armed forces overseas, travels to places because he’s curious, or like last year’s trip to Iran, simply because he wanted to see it before it was “turned into a car park”. Lying by the pool at an expensive hotel is not his MO and he’s more likely to head into one of the world’s hot spots, go into the streets and find out how the locals think.

“I force myself and go enthusiastically towards it as I want to see and learn,” Rollins says of his travels, often into uncomfortable places. “It’s easy to oppress and ruin a bunch of people very quickly and bring a country to its knees. It has happened over and over again in our lifetime.

“We can try and be economically responsible or we can dummy-up and just sloganeer and do nothing. So for me that’s why I have a stage. That’s why I have a stage and write books, in my own Barney Rubble kind of way. I research a lot and try and qualify the things I am saying. That’s also how I learn. That’s the difference between doing nothing and doing something.”

In recent years Rollins has continued to prove his versatility by launching his cable chat show The Henry Rollins Show. The show is on hiatus for 2008 and instead he is about to start work on a hardcore documentary about the stages of hunger. He’s just made a movie tentatively titled Ice 44 with Cuba Gooding Jr, in which he’s got a pretty “chunky part” and has plans for some kind of aid project in a small South African community.
“I play it better when I’m more in people’s faces so the cable station has also asked me to do some live specials,” he says. “With a film crew we’ve got some remarkable footage about the HIV pandemic crossed with local music coming out of places like Cape Town to try and portray how amazing the place is.”

You can bet some of Rollins recent adventures have provided perfect grist for his mill when he starts talking his way around Australia again.

If you want more after he leaves the country though, Movie Extra is screening three shows next month: Henry Rollins: Uncut from NYC (9 May, 10pm), Henry Rollins: Uncut from Tel Aviv (16 May, 10pm) and Henry Rollins: Live from Melbourne (pre-recorded live on this tour screening on 16 May, 10pm).

WHAT: Henry Rollins live
WHERE: York Theatre, Seymour Centre
WHEN: Wednesday 23 April, Thursday 24