You could say that Henry Rollins is constantly on the move, but you'd be wrong. To be 'on the move' suggests that the subject has the ability or inclination to stop at some point. By contrast, Rollins seems to be in a state of constant motion, by turns visiting the four corners of the globe, writing a new book, or talking about important stuff on stage in the Nation's capital. So really, Rollins isn't so much in a state of constant progression as he is an infinity symbol divided by zero… or something like that.
Just recently Rollins wrapped up his tour of all 50 capital cities, ending the tour in washington DC on election night. He's also re-releasing the ripping End of Silence demos on vinyl, spinning the wildest and weirdest cuts on KCRW every week, as well as narrating a documentary about graffiti, go go music, and a hip cat named Cool "Disco" Dan. In order to see what Rollins thinks of some of his projects, Punknews Features Editor John Gentile fired up his Delorean to 1.21 gigawatts, and met Rollins in his own rapid timestream, where they had a brief chat.
Last year you were on the Capitalism Tour when you ended the last show in Washington, DC on election eve. What significance did that evening have for you?
Ultimately, it's a show and you have to get out there and do it, so where you are loses relevance once you're in it. For me, it was good to be back in DC, and good to be onstage on that night with the audience, as we prepared to see what history would be made the next night. It was very cool to have that be the last show on that particular leg of the tour, having just been through all of America, and trying to get an indication as to how things would go on election day.
Where do you see the country four years from now?
I would like to be more optimistic, but unless something happens for Democrats in Congress in 2014, I think we will be very close to where we are now. I think more states will go for marriage equality, and some states might go legal for marijuana. That will be a hurdle for a lot of states, as they make a lot of money arresting people for the stuff. Getting out of Afghanistan will perhaps make people reconsider America's military posture in the world.
On the Capitalism Tour you visited cities that you had not previously seen. Does any one place stick out particularly in your mind?
Not any one single place. I will say that not one of them wasn't worth going to, and I hope I can put all of them on the next tour schedule. Cheyenne, Wyoming had armed security, Second Amendment remedies and all. America is full of really cool people. It's easy to forget that sometimes. That's the thing I was reminded of on that leg of the tour.
You've been granted the rare distinction to visit North Korea. News of North Korea often deals with the governmental structure, and not with the individual citizens. Would you describe just one person that you met?
The few people I was allowed to meet seemed happy but I think they are the designated ones you interact with. I drove by a lot of farmers who looked poor and unhappy. It's a very manipulated tour. You must ask permission to take each photo, etc. Everyone you meet, pretty much, tells you how great things are, how powerful the military is, and that America is very, very, afraid of the DPRK, should they see fit to destroy America or whatever.
Overall, it was sad. The people are good; they're like people anywhere else, of course. Their government is the problem. They deserve much better than what they're getting. This is true in a lot of places I go. Tibet, Iran, Burma, parts of Africa…
You are a well known proponent of traveling. Is there any one thing or things that someone should always carry on their person while traveling?
If you are going very far out into the world, you will want to bring some food you can trust. You will be grateful for an option. A place like Madagascar, central Mali, or a lot of Arkansas, you will perhaps benefit from an option. Clif bars, nuts, things that travel well. Coffee doesn't travel as well as tea bags do. Also, if you find a good place to get safe water, triple up on it. You might not get any for awhile.
Often, in papers, you are portrayed as a very angry man. Henry, are you as angry as publications would have us believe?
I am angry all the time. It is not an anger that manifests itself in destruction of property, and I am not looking for a fight, but if you have a sense of right and wrong, and your head is pulled out, there is a lot to be angry about. If you think everything is ok, then to me you're ok with everything, from marriage inequality to people trying to vote down the Violence Against Women Act. You can't let these cowards get away with this stuff.
You recently re-issued the excellent End of Silence demos on vinyl, following a re-issue of most of your CDs. How do you view those recordings some 20 years removed from them?
I don't think about them much, honestly. Any record I was on reflects the best I could give at that time. Once it's done, it's light-years behind me, and I am onto the next thing. I had to listen to the EOS demos over and over in the mastering process and they sounded strong to me. That was a good band.
Henry, you are a music fanatic. What is something that we have likely not heard, but should definitely check out?
I can't tell people what to listen to. I can tell you what I listen to, though. Lately, I have been listening to guitarist Steven R. Smith, and all his side projects. A lot of stuff from Finland; they have an amazing folk/psyche/drone scene there. I listen to a lot of Japanese avant music, free jazz from Italy, like Virginia Genta. I like My Cat Is An Alien records a lot, Fursaxa, KuuPuu, Aan, Ashtray Navigations, anything on the American Tapes label, Boris, High On Fire, Om, Sleep, Drunjus, Arctic Sleep, Undersmile, The Evens, Bong, Nadja, Onna, Keiji Haino. I don't know if any of this would hold any interest to anyone else though.
Likewise, what music have you heard many times, but still generates a profound resonance for you?
Stooges, Sabbath, Zeppelin, Velvet Underground, Hendrix, Clash, Ruts, Damned, UK Subs, The Fall, Lurkers, Buzzcocks, Minutemen, Coltrane, Dinosaur Jr., Ramones, Devo.