You’ve heard of Henry Rollins. The famous spoken word artist, travel writer, actor, activist and TV show host. Wait, what’s that? Oh, right. You’re thinking of the other guy. The one from Black Flag.
Truth be told, they're the same Henry Rollins. The man is becoming increasingly hard to define; short of cage-fighting with Chuck Norris, he's pretty much done it all. Speaking realistically, this is perhaps the greatest challenge you, as the interviewer, face. After reading through the 87-page Rollins bio your editor sent you, you're left wondering what you're supposed to ask him about. Long story short, he's dropping by Australia as part of his spoken word tour, 'The Long March'.
"For me, experiencing the world is of great importance. I think you really need to get out into the world to get an understanding of it. You can only be served so well by a book."
'The Long March' sees Rollins reflecting on his most recent travels, bringing them to life in vivid fashion. Don't be fooled, though. It's a little more intense than your Aunt's holiday slideshows... that is, unless she visited a minefield in Sudan.
"I'm gonna talk about countries that I've been to since the last time I toured Australia; North Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Mali, Sudan, Uganda, Cuba... Travel's where I get my big lessons from. It's given me a much different idea about water, food, life, death. You see some pretty graphic examples of what a war looks like. When you walk around Southern Sudan you look down and there's bullet casings on the ground, and there's a farm we went to where they used dead Northern soldiers to fertilise the field. You see minefields, swept and unswept. It sucks. And these people are left to deal with the gift that keeps killing every year. Like in Laos, there's cluster bombs to the point where there's more than one or two unexploded bombs per Laotian person. What landmass wants those statistics? I mean, I don't even want that in my front yard."
When Henry Rollins speaks, you're completely engaged. His opinions are outspoken, yet well-informed, backed with a thirst for the truth that's helped him develop a stance on every major US domestic and foreign policy from the last 30 years.
For example, Rollins has always been a staunch opponent of US military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet a devoted supporter of United Service Organisations, the group responsible for entertaining deployed US troops. Some would see this as a conflict of interest. They would be wrong.
"In my constitution, the army doesn't start wars. The army doesn't go 'Hey, guess what? We're gonna go over to Afghanistan and kick some ass!’ That comes from Congress, and so me getting mad at the military about a war is like you going to the airport with your cancelled flight ticket and yelling at the lady at the check-in counter. She's just working there. The army, they just take orders. What, you think some guy, after 20 minutes in Iraq, wants to sit there for 15 months? It's just a job that he took. So my beef is not with the military. My beef is with those who sent the military out to do their work. So when the USO said 'Hey, you wanna go out and talk to the soldiers?' I said 'Yeah, I'll go out there. No problem.’"
For 20 minutes Rollins touched on every political and international dilemma currently overshadowing efforts for global utopia; from globalisation to immigration, corporatisation, Reaganism and the Occupy demonstrations. This all makes for interesting conversation... but, as a music fan, there's that one topic, that elephant in the room, that you're dying to talk about. That is, if names like Bad Brains, Minor Threat or Black Flag mean anything to you at all. You formulate the question in your mind, knowing that a man like Henry Rollins has been asked it literally hundreds of times before. Then you ask it anyway.
"When Black Flag ended it was a shock! For five years you're doing this thing and then in one phone call it's over. Literally, in two minutes it's over and you're like 'Oh. Oh! Ok. Well damn!’ It was kind of like getting punched. But you just deal. I went 'Ok, time to start a new band and make a record'. I didn't have the money to stop, I didn't have anything to pay rent with. There was only time to book a few spoken word shows so I could pay my phone bill, form a band and keep moving.”
Henry Rollins presents ‘The Long March’ at The Brisbane Powerhouse between May 2-4.