In the winter of 1988 Stephen Wessley and myself interviewed Henry Rollings before a show at the Cubby Bear. The interview was published in the spring 1988 issue of the WHPK Program Guide. Lots of things have changed since then. I bought my first cd player in 1991. You had too search for hard to find items. If you found a good book, you bought it because you never knew when you would see it again. You couldn't go on ebay or amazon and order it. Rollins has gone on to find more fame with music and acting and currently hosts a tv show. He still has not compromised his life. But if you had told me that fifteen years after this interview that Rollins would be entertaining troops for the USO I would never of believed it.
Mark Ferguson: Why did you choose to record under the name Henrietta Collins?
Henry Rollins: Henrietta Collins? It's just a thing I'm doing. It's no big deal. It's just Henrietta Collins and the Wife Beating Childhaters. I hear Henrietta has another record coming out, probably in 1988. What I've heard in the press release is that it's supposedly the rap twelve inch to end all rap twelve inches. He has a new band, he's fired half his band. He's a Prince clone. Prince recently fired half of his band, so he fired the whole band. And now he has Henrietta Collins and the Fearless Substance Abusers.
MF: Is there going to be another Henry Rollins Band album?
HR: Yeah, next week. It's called Life Time. Nine songs recorded digital, twenty four track in England, in November, 1987, produced by Ian Mackaye. And it is the full band:, me, Andrew, Chris Haskett and Sim Cain, the same band that played all over last year.
Stephen Wessley: Is the rap single just an experiment, or is it something you'd like to go into?
HR: Now fellas, I can't speak for Henrietta. I think we should relax and see what that person has up his or her sleeve. If that record comes out, like I've read, there could be some interviews and live performances, we'll see.
MF: I read in one of your books that you've made a movie with Lydia Lunch. Was that for Richard Kern?
HR: Yeah, we did that one, and we did another one, kind of a ten minute thing, which is basically me raping her and beating her up. That never came out but I think it got shown at some art festivals or something. 'Cause it is art, you know, but we never really released it. I've never even seen it.
MF: Do you plan on getting involved in film in any larger extent?
HR: Yeah, I've got a movie I'm doing in August. It's called "No, Not One" and it's written by a guy named George, I forgot his last name. He's a UCLA film grad, he's just a wise-ass guy with a lot of really great ideas. Last summer, in Chicago, I was sent a script he wrote, and I really liked it. And last October when I was in Holland he sent me another one, of this movie and I read it and I thought it was great. He wanted me to be the lead in it, so I contacted him when I got home from Europe a few months ago and told him I'd like to try it out, only I've never acted before. I'm not an actor, but he said "Hey don't worry about it." So we got together and started working on this and that, and we're going to kick live in August, when the band's on break.
MF: The band's going to go on tour then, to support the album?
HR: Yeah, I'll give you a rough overview of 1988. Right now, it's February, all of February is a reading or talking tour, whatever it is. And that ends, and then the next day band practice begins, and that goes on for a month, and then the band hits the road for six weeks, ending up in Los Angeles. Then we're going to record all the new stuff we've got a that moment, and take a breather, then hit the road in early June, to go until about late July. Then the band goes and catches a tan, and I go do the movie. Then around September we take off for Europe to do about four to six weeks of major countries, major cities. Then I'll stay behind to do another spoken word tour. Then I'll come home in November or December, and see how I feel then, might be a little out of breath. I doubt it.
SW: Do you feel that your writing is influenced by your music and vice versa, or to what extent does someone like Bukowski who influences your writing affect your music?
HR: I'm influenced by everything I read, everything I see, everything I touch, everything I taste, everything I hear, everything I know, everything I'm afraid of, everything I hate, and everything I love. So I'm influenced by this right now. Books, definitely influenced by authors, by music. I get a lot of energy from other people's work. I'm a very excitable person.
MF: What was the last good record you listened to?
HR: Well I listen to a lot of good records. I just bought some some stuff on tape with me for the long rides in the train. I bought three hours of Devo, the "Paris, Texas" soundtrack, "Hot Buttered Soul" by Isaac Hayes, some of the "Shaft" soundtrack, ninety minutes of ZZ Top, Ravel, Die Haut, an assorted tape with the "Blue Velvet" soundtrack and the first Boston album on the other side. I know I'm blowing it. I listen to all kinds of stuff. Just before I left I bought a cd player, and I bought a couple of King Crimson cds "Starless and Bible Black" and "Red", and I was just cranking those everyday before I left.
MF: How many books have you had published?
HR: Five paperbacks and two limited editions.
MF: What's the total number of books that you've sold?
HR: Over twenty thousand. We can't keep them in print, we're going to start printing up to five thousand of each one, just to keep up with demand.
MF: Have you ever been approached to write a script?
HR: The only thing I've ever been approached to script was "Don't Drink and Drive" public service announcements. A big advertising agency wants me to write some PSA's and then shoot me doing them and syndicate it all over America. But otherwise I don't get many offers of any kind, except for the band, and the reading thing. I don't have scripts being thrown through my window at every waking moment, I'm small change. I go about what I'm doing in a very, you might say, arrogant, tunnel vision way. I don't like contributing to magazines, I did that and I found I don't want that. I don't aspire to be on Warner Bros., I don't want to be on Warner Bros., not that they want me, they don' know who I am. I don't want the mainstream. I don't want to be compromised in any way. That's the way I am and that's the way I'll always be. It's the way I was raised, with Black Flag and SST Records, never compromised, never took shit from anybody. We wanted this, and we did that. If anyone didn't like it we told them to fuck off, and that's still what I say. In that way I leave myself closed to a lot of opportunities by just going "Nope, don't want to do that".
MF: You say you don't like contributing to magazines. Didn't you just contribute a piece to ReSearch?
HR: That's different, because I really liked the idea. It wasn't like Vogue or Option, it wasn't like a magazine, it was a concept. Vail asked me and I said "Sure I'll do it." It wasn't like he bugged my asshole with a microphone and got me telling a story in the bathroom or something.
MF: But they ran that letter in Option.
HR: Well I wrote that to Scott. If you look at the letterhead it says "Dear Option", well I wrote that to "Dear Scott". Every other month he sends me a magazine, and Verlaine was on the cover, who is a guy who really interests me, he's an amazing player. And the interview was so stupid. So I wrote him, like, "Hey Scott, what's the deal?" and he printed it with my face. Maybe he sold an extra copy with that.
SW: Do you feel traveling by train is an inconvenience?
HR: No, I like it. It's the only chance I get to read. I hate airplanes. I hate airplanes and I like the train because it goes where the highway doesn't, and you can see great parts of the country. Like going through Boca Raton Pass, the mountains, through Colorado, through the desert in Arizona and New Mexico, it's just incredible. Lots of room, and in the winter time there's no on it. It's the only time I get to really relax. On a plane I'm just uptight, it's like I'm keeping the wind glued on by staring at it. I get to wound up. And these days I'm a very busy person so I really don't get enough reading done, so I can't wait for the Boston train, because I just got some great books.
I just got this great book called "Proud Beggars" by a guy named Albert Cossari. He's an Egyptian writer, this books on Black Sparrow. I've got one of his books, which I saw in a used book store once, apparently his books are really rare, anyways I pulled it out and it had this great write-up by Henry Miller. So I thought "A dollar? I'm buying it" 'cause what the hell, Miller he's the man. So I was in Denver the other day with this guy who's also a book collector. And he says to me "Have you ever read this guy?" and he pulls down "God's Lonely Men", by Cossari. So today I went to Book Row or whatever it is and I found Cossari. I bought a J.M. Coetze book today, "The Life And Times Of Michael K". I've already read it, but I bought it for a girl. I bought "Song Of The Silent Snow" by Hubert Selby, for the same girl. I buy books for girls a lot, guys too but I like girls better. I buy books for a lot of people.
SW: Do you find it hard to switch gears when you're writing lyrics versus journal entries?
HR: No, what I usually do when I write these days, I've got three different not books. I've got this one book, then my scrapbook with is for when I come up ideas in the middle of the night, then I've got this which is phone messages and also other ideas. A lot of times when I'm writing in the journal I'll come up with an idea for something else, so I'll write with a pad on each leg and I'll just go from one to the other, sometimes I've got three. That's the way I think, I free associate a lot of stuff.
SW: Taking your readings in pieces you get a fragmented picture, but taking them as a whole is confusing. I can't tell when I'm supposed to laugh and when I'm supposed to cry.
HR: Good. It's good for you, a little push and pull. I do a lot of humor, but my humor's barbed. It's laughs with thought in mind. I don't like laughs like Eddie Murphy. I like laughs that take you somewhere, like Lenny Bruce. As far as this talking schtick or whatever it is I'm doing, if I had a role model, it's Lenny Bruce. Just for the fact that he went up there and really kicked it live. He just went up there and just went. And I aspire to those balls, to go up there go up in front of an audience and just release. He was funny, but he also made you think. He never did anything that was just a laugh for laugh's sake. And that's what I like too, like a spoonful of sugar makes the napalm go down.
SW: So one of your concepts, your goals is to make people think about those topics, to create questions in people's minds?
HR: No, don't get me wrong, but I do a lot of this just for me. I'm not an entertainer. I've got a concept of what I'm going to do tonight. Last night was pretty much off paper, before that in Fargo was no paper, I just went, tonight I'll do a little of both. It depends on the crowd. Last night was a very hard show, the crowd was talking and fidgeting around, it's a very hard room. It was funk night across the way, and every time someone would open the door it's this megablast of funk, also there's this steady hum at the bar, I just can't concentrate. Here, I've done two shows, and the crowds have been really cool.
MF: Could you give us the whole picture on your benefit record?
HR: Yeah, sure, a while ago I came up with the idea to start my own record label, which is totally dedicated to raising money for charities of my choice. The name of that label is High On War. Like I said all the proceeds from High On War are going to benefit: battered women and battered children are my main thing. And the first single is finished, it's been recorded. It's called, well it's not called nothin', me and this guy Tom Trocoli were sitting in my room and we recorded it. There are three songs, vocal and acoustic, and there's some flat notes in there, but it's got a lot of soul. And my manager's going through the assorted paperwork so I can release it legally. As soon as you want to release a record and give money to people, the local authorities get very suspicious. It's not easy, we've been going back and forth for three weeks trying to give money away, it's really discouraging, but we're still trying.
Live footage from 2000.