That punk on TV

{mosimage}Henry
Rollins
is one of the most active characters I have ever
interviewed. He has
done almost everything in the show business, from singing in a hardcore
band to writing poetry, acting and touring as a stand-up comedian.
Nowadays
he hosts a talk show on independent American TV. This summer, YLE
Teema brings to Finland the first season of The Henry Rollins Show. Read what Henry Rollins told FREE! He speaks loud and
frankly. He is not afraid to say anything.

 

 

 

 

How did the
idea of show start?

The producers
asked me if I was interested and then we found a TV station interested in the
program. After the first season, they asked me do you want to continue and I
said yeah, so we did another season that just finished in the US. It wasn’t my
idea. I never thought about doing a TV show, but I like doing different things.
It keeps me awake. Now it takes quite a long time of my year. It needs detailed
planning and it is not easy to make good interviews to people. It burns a lot of
calories.

Do you
choose the guests?

Yes, I do.
I’m interested in a lot of people, so my wanted list is huge. We call them and
most of them say: No! There are various reasons: “I’m not interested”. “Henry
Rollins? I hate that guy!” “We are busy, we live on Mars, we cannot make it”.

Mention
some of your “dream guests”.

There are tons
of them. Bob Dylan, Al Gore, Keith Richards, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese,
Brian De Palma… There are a lot of interesting people in the world, doing great
things from art to reporting. For example, there are many investigative
reporters, like Greg Palast and Christian Miller.

What about
the live performances? Do you also pick the bands?

I didn’t
pick some of them. Since it’s not my money, I don’t get to make all the choice,
so there are some bands that stick out for their MTVness. Nice people, anyway.
They showed up, they played well, but I have none of their records. The rest of
the bands I both know them and love them or I have toured and played with them.
I’m a fan, I play their songs on my radio show. In the season we just finished
we had Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Peaches, Manu Chao, who made his first American
TV appearance ever. He’s huge all around the world, but not in America. He’s a wonderful
guy, very humble. He came to play at the Coachella festival and all the TV stations
invited him, but he said no to all of them and yes to us. Why? I don’t know. We
were lucky. The Good, The Bad and The Queen played also. That was a highlight
for me. I walked into the the studio, turned around the corner and there’s Paul
Simmons
, the bass player of The Clash. Wow!! Also Fela Kuti and Tony Allen… I
was like yeah! I love this job.

Conan O’Brien
is very popular here in Finland. Do you watch his show?

I think
he’s good. He does a very normal kind of interview show. They interview pretty
famous people about being famous and pretty. Conan is very talented and funny.
He used to write for The Simpsons! He’s a very funny guy, but it’s not the kind
of TV show I watch. I don’t care about an interview with half of the cast of
Friends. I fall asleep. I don’t care.

You are
very politically outspoken. Do you also follow the events in Europe?

Somewhat…
but quite honestly I’m more concerned about the current Administration in the
US. I’m not trying to devalue what goes on in Europe, I think that America
could learn a couple of things from Europe. I primarily focus on and research
on the daily catastrophe in Iraq. I try to understand our relations with Iran
and Syria and what the president is doing to destroy our Constitution. Right
now Europe is not a priority for me because I’m watching my own country going
up in flames.

{sidebar id=4}In spite of
being clearly against the Iraq war, you went there and did a tour for the
American troops.

Yes, I did
it. I disagree with the policy, but I don’t disagree with the troops. They go
where they are told. My argument is not with the soldiers, it is with the
Administration, with Dick Chaney, Donald Rumsfeld. It’s not with the soldier,
he’s only 22. He’d rather be home. I’ve been in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait,
Qatar, South Korea, and few others. I go far for these people.

Is the show
business industry also a war?

The
business aspect is way more unpleasant. I have my own publishing company to
publish my books, my records. I have a two-person staff. The insights of the
business can be very disturbing. For instance, the distributor of my books just
went out of business, with a lot of my inventory in his warehouse which was now
seized by the government. I cannot get my property and the guy even owns me
50.000 dollars. Guess what? I will never see anything. What is difficult is the
artist who has to become the business man. I have to be the boss and the artist
guy. It’s difficultt to make that separation. I don’t bring the art into the
business meeting and I don’t bring the business into the art.

You are
very active and have worked in many disciplines from singing in a hardcore band to
acting and writing. What is the most challenging?

Writing is
very hard for me. It’s the most time consuming. The talk shows are also very
difficult. There’s no script and It requires lots of concentration on stage.
It’s all difficult, just different levels of intensity and concentration that
you have to give. When you are writing, you have to make it clear. When you are
editing, you are trying to make it better, you have to be aware of the words.
When you are on stage, you need a lot of preparation. When I interview people,
I do a lot of background checking on the interviewee, so I know what I’m talking
about and I don’t disrespect that person. All is a lot of work. Nothing is that
fun for me. I don’t understand fun. I’m a very nervous person. I get stress out
very easily, very much for a long period of time. I don’t sleep very well. I’m
always thinking something needs to be done. I’m a little crazy all the time.

Are you
still a solitary man?

I live
alone. I don’t have any family. I don’t have any kids. I don’t hate people, but
I’m very busy. I write a lot and that takes a lot of my time. Nobody is going
to make that for you. I also travel a lot to places where having someone next
to you could be a liability, like parts of Africa. I don’t want a woman
traveling with me. It’s not that women are not strong and cannot defend
themselves, but in Morocco I don’t want to turn my back when the woman is not
looked out, because she can get in danger. Also when I come back from a two-month
tour, I don’t want anyone waiting for me. I don’t want to have to call someone
and ask: “what is that with the tone of your voice?” I don’t want to have that
conversation. Also, I’m a pretty crazy man and I have seen many awful things
and those things have had a very substantial impact on me. A friend had his
head blown off next to me. I cleaned his brains so his mother didn’t have to
see it. I’ve seen some things that one shouldn’t see.

What is more
dangerous: to sing in Black Flag or to have a big mouth on a comedy show
nowadays?

The Black
Flag
experience was physically dangerous. I still have a lot of scars from that
period. I got punched. But I got stitched up. You heal. I hit back. I broke a
lot of people’s noses. Never women, only men. But I’ve beaten the hell out of a
lot of guys. Pretty substantially. No regrets. But I think it’s more dangerous
what I do now in the present climate. To say what I’m saying and about whom I’m
saying it. I think you can suffer.

Do you have
any plans for the future?

I cannot
think of anything specific that I haven’t done. Perhaps catch up with some
reading or get a full night of sleep.

Do you like
reading a lot?

Yeah, I
cannot read as much as I want, but I think you should always have a book going,
you should be reading something.

 

Photos by: Veronika Vera