Henry Rollins plans to take his "25 Years of Bullshit" all over the country, and this week, on his second stop, he brings it to Albuquerque.
I guess I'll just start out by asking you how you went from being in Black Flag to doing spoken word and writing books and acting in movies?
Well, I was doing most of that while I was in Black Flag. I joined Black Flag in '81, was doing talking shows by '83, first book came out around '83 or '84. The talking shows kind of jumped out of local poetry readings in L.A. Around the late '80s the movies started, and around that time voice-over work started. I had the Rollins band by then, Black Flag had broken up in '86. The voice-over thing became a more ambitious pursuit; you know, an agent gets involved and all of a sudden you're scoring documentaries and talking about the GM, The Yukon, Sierra or whatever. I don't say no to a great deal of work—I just like to work. If they're saying, "Hey, we're pro-pedophile," I'm like, "nah, I gotta go." I would never do an add for an alcohol or tobacco company. I've said no to pretty big money from alcohol—and it's a major chunk of change—[but] I can't do that. You gotta pay your rent, but you have to be careful. ...
But you have done voice-overs for big trucks and stuff like that?
Yeah, [I worked] about a year and a half for GM truck and I've done Merrill Lynch; I've done Saturn, the Gap. ... I do a lot of free stuff for charitable organizations. I've done a lot of work for Partnership for a Drug Free America, and those agencies know that I'm a pretty soft touch.
Um, so I saw you a few years ago when you were here, and in your press pack it says your shows draw laughs and ire. And one of the things that drew ire from me was, uh, that you had said something about girls not being able to handle vinyl correctly or something like that, and I know you have a big record collection ...
Oh, that made you angry?
Yes it did (laughs).
Come in anytime and join us with a sense of humor, and there's plenty of room for you at the table.
(Laughs) Well, I was just kind of, I don't know, I wasn't angry or anything, I was just like ’what is he talking about, but ...
Have you ever seen a man who collects records with anyone touching his records?
It's really funny.
So what's your favorite record, what's your most prized?
I don't know, I've got a lot of cool stuff just from years of moping through record stores, and a lot of times, just being part of the time, where the band gave me the record at the time, that to me is the most valuable.
All right. So, you've traveled a lot and you talk about travel a lot in your shows; what are some of the most interesting trips you've been on recently?
Well, I was just in Egypt a couple of weeks ago. ... Probably the most interesting place I've ever been that blew me away the hardest was Afghanistan. I've been there a couple of times. The landscape is so rugged and forbidding. That coupled with just the history of the country is really incredible.
Speaking of Afghanistan, you've done some USO entertainment.
Yeah, that's how I got out there.
So how did you get involved with that and why?
They called me and said, "What do you think about doing a USO tour?" And I said, "Sure, are they going to know who I am?" And they go, "Oh, yeah." So 20 months later, I've done six USO tours.
What kind of conclusions have you drawn from being over there with the troops?
That their job is very hard, that Iraq is completely insane. And I think a lot of people in the military—the guys and girls I talk to—are becoming a little bit fed up with the Iraq situation and how they're being commanded; that the commands are coming from D.C., not their superiors on the ground. Basically, a lot of these guys and girls that signed up for the military in that traditional way American youth have been for years; you know, get an education, get a paycheck, get out of town, get your life straightened out, one of those situations. And instead of getting Germany and San Diego, they got Iraq, Afghanistan, and the game kind of changed on these people.
So switching directions a little bit, one suggested question from our film editor is: Are you ever gonna shut up and sing a song again?
I'm working slowly on another record. Unfortunately, at my age, you finally get pretty good at songwriting but no one really cares. I couldn't really advise a 20-year-old to go out and listen to some 44-year-old man do a show. Also, my peer group of 40-somethings; try getting them out of their house on a Wednesday night to go down to the local place to see a gig. Their asses hurt, they have to get up at 6 [in the morning], their kids are crying, they drive a Subaru, you know what I mean? You're in a weird place where you become a stuffed animal and you do the greatest hits thing like Mick Jagger and Ozzy Osbourne and David Bowie, and they do albums as gestures: No one cares, no one buys them and no one wants to hear them being played live. Or you bow out gracefully. So I don't feel like I'm done with music—I want to make music—I just really wonder if there would be an audience out there who would go "Yay!" But I wanna, I just don't know if anyone would care. Which kind of sucks. But that's the case a lot of times. Quite often the music is done with you before you're done with the music, and it hurts to be jilted that way.