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20 Questions with Henry Rollins, 4/12/05




Everyone knows who Henry Rollins is, and if you don’t, you’re a tool! But just in case you were raised by wolves or something, we’ll give you a few highlights here.

Henry Rollins was the frontman for the legendary 80s punk band Black Flag. He was actually a fan who was invited to take over when their original singer left. Black Flag broke up in 1986, but that didn’t stop Henry Rollins! He kept at it, not only releasing more music records, but also recording spoken word narratives, writing books, and making appearances in films, as a host and commentator on VH1 and MTV, and as a guest lecturer all over the world.. He’s also got ties to the world of more mainstream hard rock and metal, being that he co-wrote David Lee Roth’s autobiography, wrote a very entertaining review of a Ratt show a few years ago, and probably a ton of other stuff we’re forgetting. Henry’s huge! So how did we get him to do a silly 20 Questions with Metal Sludge?

We’re just that awesome.

Actually, today’s 20 Questions interview was conducted a little differently than the way we normally do it. What happened was that a Sludgeaholic in Canada (who goes by the name BlairSurfInvasion) works for a newspaper up there in the tundra. He had the opportunity to do an interview with Henry Rollins, but instead of doing it for some rag in Alberta, he made a wise move and did it for us instead! Blair wrote all his own questions and sent them out to Henry.

Now, normally if anyone tried to pull some shit like that, we’d tell them to go fuck themselves in the ear with a masonry drill. We like to ask our own questions and don’t typically accept unsolicited contributions like that, but actually Blair didn’t do too bad. He basically stuck to our format, and Henry’s answers were great, so we said fuck it! Let’s run it and let the chips fall where they may.

So without any additional fanfare, here’s this week’s 20 Questions with punk legend, noted orator, and all-around angry guy Henry Rollins. Enjoy!

Henry Rollins1. What are you currently up to? This is your one and only chance to plug your shit.

At this point, I am doing a lot of writing and speaking dates all over. I am hoping to get some music made this year but I don’t know how it will go. I never do but I anticipate difficulty this time around. As far as one information source on me, I don’t know. You could go to my site HenryRollins.com but that’s mostly tour info.

2. Let?s get right to the point. How did you come to befriend David Lee Roth and even take most of the responsibility for his autobiography Crazy From the Heat?

David Lee Roth, I will wager is more intelligent than you are and probably most of all of your friends. He’s well traveled, well read and multi-lingual. His grip on history is intense. He has done all that rockstar stuff because he invented a good deal of it. I’ve known Dave since 1983. At one point, he came to me and asked for help with what became Crazy from the Heat. I said sure. I did what I could, he took it from there. He’s a very interesting man.

3. You have accomplished much in your life: publishing/writing books, starting your own company, touring the world, and writing/recording music since 1980. Is there such thing as a void that can’t be filled by relentless work, like the urge to have a child or guide someone as a father figure? (We heard that you stated at one of your appearances that ‘it just isn’t fair to another person to be on tour for 9 months,’ which is why we ask.)

You assume that I have those urges I guess. I don’t. Not at all. I don’t want a family. I don’t want anyone waiting for me when I get home. One of the major reliefs of coming off the road is that I won’t have to see anyone or be with anyone. I don’t have a girfriend, don’t want one. Don’t want to know, don’t want to be known in that relationship kind of way. I used to but not for quite a while.

4. Rate the following singers on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being someone who sounds like they gargle battery acid, and 10 being the ultimate singer.

Henry RollinsRob Halford =
Ozzy Osbourne =
David Lee Roth =
Bruce Dickinson =
Tom Araya =
Fred Durst =
Vince Neil =
Iggy Pop =
Keith Morris =
Bret Michaels =

Note: Henry wouldn’t answer our ‘rate a singer’ question. Not sure why, but we’ll deal with that at the end of this interview. Oh well, let’s move on.

5. We heard a rumor that you were involved in a lawsuit over royalties against Black Flag founder Greg Ginn. However, we also heard that he recently gave you clearance to use his songs on the West Memphis 3 fundraiser. How did that come about, and how do you get along with Greg Ginn and Chuck Dukowski nowadays?

I was not ever involved in a lawsuit against Greg Ginn at any point ever.

Perhaps you should ask this kind of thing instead of telling me. I see Chuck now and then and he’s a good guy all the way. Greg I have not seen since 1989. He does however, pay me. As far as I know, there have been no suits filed against Greg Ginn. It very well could be that some of the BF people have done this, but it is unbeknownst to me. Dukowski would have told me if he were going to do such a thing.

An old-school pic of Henry Rollins in Black Flag

6. Speaking of West Memphis 3, what?s the latest in the murder case?

DNA is being tested and it’s going very slow and everyone’s frustrated. that was what I got in the mail today in a letter.

Henry Rollins7. You mentioned how star-struck you were to work with Adrian Belew on William Shatner?s ‘Has Been’ album. Did this experience maybe help you to see just how unfair it is to put celebrities on pedestals? We heard that you feel uncomfortable when people act like that towards you.

Pedestal? Adrian is a cool guy. I wasn’t all that starstruck, very glad to meet the guy though. He is a brilliant musician.

8. In a 1994 interview you did with MuchMusic, the subject came up that you had been molested by men as a young boy. Not to be crass, but do you think you seem so angry all the time because of those unfortunate experiences?

I am definitely a product of my environment and experience. I knew brutality well as a child and it taught me to be self-sufficient and to not rely on people past a certain point. I am sure a lot of anger came with that.

9. If you could push a button that would magically guarantee an end to the chaos in Iraq, but you would have to walk around with ‘Bono Rules’ tattooed to your forehead for the rest of your days, would you do it?

No but I would do it on your forehead for busfare.

10. Was there any celebrity or famous person whom you were looking forward to meeting someday, and when you finally did, they were a total dick to you?

Not that I can think of. Martin Mull was kind of a drip when I met him, but I think that was more of him not being all that happy a person.

Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins in a 7-11 somewhere in the early 80s

11. You?ve gone on record stating that Black Sabbath had been a huge influence on you. It must have been quite an experience to land a slot on OzzFest! Overall, how hard or easy is Sharon Osbourne to deal with?

Henry RollinsSharon has always been cool to me. I can see some people having a problem with her though. She’s tough and doesn’t back off an inch. She gets it from her dad who kind of invented that way of management. Don Arden, one mean man.

12. This past winter, you took a one week non-stop train trip from Moscow to Vladivostok. You thought it would be weak to do it in the spring. What did you learn during that trip? And why didn’t you go to somewhere warmer and where the chance of getting killed was a lot less likely?

Siberia isn’t all that dangerous. I have been to a lot more dangerous places. That was my 5th trip to Russia. Places like Kenya, Brazil, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Madagascar — these places were pretty hairy in parts. Warm and safe isn’t interesting to me all the time. Extremes teach you things. On the trip I learned a bit about Siberia and tripped on doing that much time in a confined space talking to no one. I liked it.

13. Of the following, which do you prefer and why?

Bad Boys 2 or The Chase = The Chase
‘Loose Nut’ or ‘In My Head’ = In My Head
Redondo Beach or Manhattan Beach = Redondo
Splitting your head open with your own knee like you did in Brazil, or punching your fist through a mirror like you did on the Damage album cover? = I’ll always take the head shot.
The filming of the ‘Disconnect’ video, or the filming of ‘TV Party’ = TV Party took less time, therefore it was a better experience.
Being stranded in an airport for 4 hours or being stuck in traffic for 4 hours = Airport.
The new Descendents or the new Bad Brains = I’d be more curious about the Bad Brains.
Being subjected to a diatribe by Mike Watt or a diatribe by Jello Biaffra = Watt’s way more off the hook.
Implants or the real thing = Real.
Poison or Limp Bizkit = Poison.

Henry Rollins14. What was it like to open for Venom in the early 80s?

Well, they were really funny. It was either that or a night off so we took the show. They used our PA so we actually crewed the show as well. The best part of the night was my friend running after them with a pentagram on his palm yelling, "Hail Satan!" really loud. That was better than their show for sure.

15. Black Flag basically owned the LA punk scene in the early 80’s and played many of the same clubs as Motley, Ratt and a shitload of other hairbands. Did you ever run into any future hard rock metal stars back before they were anybody important?

Never really ran into those people. Used to see Nikki hanging out in front of the Whiskey when he lived behind the place. We were on tour most of the time.

16. What hard rock/heavy metal star or band should give it up and call it a day ?

Besides me? Probably most of them.

17. Although you released the album ‘Nice’ in 2001, your passion for playing live seems to be waining compared to the amount of time you?re doing speaking engagements. Is this an accurate statement, or are we way off the mark?

Then the Rise Above album came out in 2002 and the tour happened in 2003 and then in 2004 I wrote a lot of songs and this year I hope to record them so I don’t know about the waning part.

18. You are 44 yrs of age and recently bought a bed for the first time in your life, thus ending your years of sleeping on the floor. How does that make you feel?

I own a few beds actually. three houses and many dollars as well.

Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins in front of someone’s house a long time ago.

19. Has your reaction to criticism changed from the time you started the DC band SOA and now? A typical criticism might be: ‘Henry Rollins sold out by making movies and entertaining the troops in Iraq.’

If you were a pussy unmotivated bitch motherfucker, you might say I have sold out by going out into the territory of great chance and risk from the saftey of the minimum wage working world and won on my terms and you can go ahead and say what you want. If you think I care, you’re wasting your time. It is only relevant to me if you want to physically impede my progress and then it’s confrontation and it’s always the right day to die so let’s get it on.

Henry Rollins
A recent photo of Henry and US Army medics

20. Time for Metal Sludge?s Word Association! We mention a name, and you give us your thoughts.

Henry RollinsTommy Lee = good drummer.
Lemmy Kilmister = Real.
Ozzy Osbourne = Real.
Glenn Danzig = Interesting mind.
Ian Mckaye = the Man
Keith Morris = The Man
Vince Neil = sad.
John Coltrane = favorite musician
Warrant = glad it’s not me.
GG Allin = dead.

There it is, this week’s 20 Questions! Who’d ever think that Henry Rollins would stoop low enough to talk to Metal Sludge?

All kidding aside, that rules, and now Henry joins the ranks of all the other 20 Questions alumni who have put up with our crap interviews before. It’s definitely a career high for Mr. Rollins and we thank him for doing it!

For more information, tour dates, and other stuff regarding the one and only Henry Rollins, don’t forget to stop by his official Web site at HenryRollins.com.

We’d also like to thank BlairSurfInvasion for doing this interview for us without asking first.

Speaking of that, we did have to do a little bit of editing of the way they questions were worded, but we didn’t touch one bit of Henry’s answers. Plus Blair originally forgot to ask Henry to do our rate-a-singer, an integral part of any 20 Questions interview. That’s almost as bad as sending in a Sludge Capture without wearing any Sludgendise! We had Blair contact Henry and try to get him to answer our Rate-A-Singer question, but by that point Henry had had enough of our silly games and said he was done with us. So, thanks again Blair, but next time, let us know first so we can submit our own questions, m’kay?

Blair also said if anyone wants to send him hatemail, to do so at blair1476@hotmail.com. He also wanted us to pimp out his band and said the following: "Search for: Teenage Surf Invasion at the site www.boundless.ca The site is currently out of order because a rival surf group hacked into it and realy messed things up. they even admitted it. We are in the process of planning retribution." So there you go.

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