Since his debut in 1981 as Black Flag's fourth, last and best lead singer, Henry Rollins has been the emissary of intelligent hardcore punk rock and its accompanying ideals. Through his five-year history with the band, from the LPs Damaged
to In My Head
, he brought an animalistic, poetic spirit to the band. He began his tenure with the band as a bald, lithe, Iggy Pop-style frontman and ended it in 1986 as a long-haired tattooed road warrior in small black workout shorts and a world-weary mind.
After Black Flag broke up, Rollins began his own rebirth in earnest as an author and public speaker, and started a new band of his own in Rollins Band. His increasing beefy physique was a far cry from the skinny hardcore kid he was a decade before. He even appeared on MTV Sports
talking about fitness. Coming from the man who sang "Slip It In," it was a tad jarring.
Musically, apart from Flag, he is best known for the Rollins Band singles "Low Self Opinion," "Disconnect" and "Liar," which is arguably his modern-day calling card. The video's inclusion on Beavis and Butt-Head
probably helped bring Rollins a whole new reverent audience in the '90s. Untold amounts of kids more than likely got into hardcore just through one showing of a Rollins Band video on MTV back then.
He also began a long film and television career with 1990's Kiss Napoleon Goodbye
, and would include 1994's The Chase
, Michael Mann's police drama Heat
, David Lynch's Lost Highway
and both Jackass
films. He had his own IFC show for 21 episodes, The Henry Rollins Show
, featuring interviews with various musicians and film folks and always ending with a killer musical performance in-studio. Last season on FX's biker drama Sons Of Anarchy
, he played the muscle for a rival white-supremacist gang.
Apart from music and acting, Rollins' speaking and writing career has been his main outlet. He travels the globe relentlessly, encountering all forms of injustice and political strife and relating his experiences back to audiences in halls and theaters across the map. He has written ten books and released countless live spoken-word albums, including the Black Flag tour document Get In The Van
Tonight Rollins brings his "Frequent Flyer Tour" to Houston, for a night of his own brand of political commentary and railing on anything else that rubs him the wrong way. Rocks Off talked with him recently about the Obama administration, Fox News' Glenn Beck, and we geeked out over noise tapes, Bad Brains, and the upcoming Stooges Raw Power
reissue he has been helping organize.
Rocks Off: What do you think about Obama's first year in office?
Henry Rollins: He walked into a room that looked like three tornados hit it. You have a war in two places; you have a broken economy, and a health-care system that needs...something. That's what he inherited. A deregulated out of control banking system, an impending mortgage crisis that was not his doing. And one of the biggest deficits the world has seen. That's what landed on his desk, day one. If a year and a month in the place still looks a little messy, I don't wonder why.
Obama seeks to get bipartisanship with people who hate his guts on every level. They will never come over, ever. Even when they vote "no" to the stimulus package, they still take the money and take credit for helping their state. Then they turn around and call him a socialist. I wish Obama had more backbone, and the same goes for most Democrats.
I will be the last person surprised if Barack Obama is a four-year president. It's a pretty simple argument: you either support the people or you support business. But business needs to be regulated.
I think I am one of Obama's most faithful critics, and I voted for him. But I don't want to be in Iraq or Guatanamo anymore. I don't want to put 35,000 more troops in Afghanistan. If you are going to do this "overwhelm and suppress" thing, you go in with 300,000 and have every bad guy wake up with three Marines going "Hey man! What's happening?"
35,000 more troops just means more target practice for bad guys, and the country is full of bad guys. If you look at their history, they get rid of invaders and occupiers from 330 B.C. to now. And why America thinks it will different for us than it was for Alexander, Ghenghis Khan, the British, the Russians...