ROLLINS BAND - Henry Rollins interviewed in person back stage at the Mean Fiddler in'89
"We donít usually write songs where the lyrics point the finger at people, I think thatís kinda weak. I think it takes more balls to point the finger at yourself. I donít get into youíre this, youíre that but anyway we wrote this lyric about some people we know who fucked up Ė like theyíve blown their brains out or they go to jail or theyíre on smack or something. You seem them burning out or dying and you donít get the chance of beating them up for killing themselves. Itís that hopeless frustration you get when you see someone close to you killing themselves and you canít do nothing about it. Thatís why we did this song".
The Rollins Band bursts into the blistering 'Wreckage', a savage attack on people who have destroyed themselves despite all the help offered. This band plays HARD and the lyrics are very much alive and real and close to the bone. The singer, Henry Rollins, used to tread the boards with the now defunct BLACK FLAG who I never really got into but when I heard the Rollins Band ďLifetimeĒ LP and read a couple of interviews I really sat up and took notice. So, tape recorder in hand I set off with a couple of friends, Simon and Danny to get to the Mean Fiddler a few hours early to try for an interview. One simple request later we are in the backroom with the man himself. And here is the result.
is always portrayed in interviews as the 'big hard man'. Is that the
image he wants to get across?
A big hard man? Here I am. Ignore every interview youíve seen with me
before. Deal with this interview, you and me, in this room, right now.
This is the first interview Iíve ever done, you know what I mean?
However I am portrayed is up to the
guy whoís doing the interview. I just answer every question
asked me totally honestly and sometimes an interviewer pisses me off
like heíd piss you off. If I said some of the shit they said to me to
you, youíd say 'fuck you', so likewise I say 'fuck you' and they go
ahead and print it so Iím portrayed as something but in reality Iím
What does Rollins think of his recent Sounds interview? Oh perhaps it was a little over the top. A minor band all of a sudden become very major " we have discovered this band"! I really donít pay all that much attention to the press. We play music and don't dote on what the guy said. I mean the guy who interviewed me was really cool. He was obviously into what we were doing.
Doesn't he get sick of doing interviews time and time again? No, I'm just into it that someone's into talking to me.
Rollins is as prodigious writer as he is musician. What conveys what he feels the best - his writing or his music? I get off on the music much more, I get off on the physical release, I mean I don't do this before I write! (All the way through the interview he's doing basic yoga for tonight's gig). I write a lot and I do a lot of shows so one feeds the other> The best thing I've ever done for writing lyrics is doing a lot of writing. A lot of writing helps me learn how to use words concisely and to get feelings across better. Lyrics are really important but you can only get a few words in a song unless you are doing some prog rock opera. You've got a few verses and you've got to encapsulate the whole thing and to me a good song gets the idea across in a few words and doing a lot of writing has helped me do that.
Would he think a lot of people would take much notice of the lyrics? Surely they just come to the gig to sweat it out and don't give a damn what any ones saying? That's up to them, they pay their money, they can do whatever they want.
So do you think that many people who come to your shows would be interested in reading your books? Judging by book sales it would appear that way. Do you sell any of your books at shows? Not here, but in America we do. The only way I want them out in this country is to print them here and have the price be reasonable. I refuse to sell books that you would have to pay for if I imported them, that would be highway robbery. On account of, you import shit, tax it, it costs. I'm not going to charge you eight pounds for a book I charge 2 pounds fifty for in America. So, until I get someone to print them over here the only way you'll see one is if you come to America and get one. Sometimes I put them through the mail. I'm just not into charging people a lot of money. I like to keep my prices down.
What does Rollins think of UK bands like the overtly political CRASS? Personally I always like Crass as a cool concept and the music kind of bored me. You know, nnmmmm, nnmmmm, with a guy spieling over the top of it. You listen to it once, but can you put it in a car stereo - no!
Is there any UK bands he rates? Could he ever live here? No, absolutely not. I just can't take the weather! I don't buy any records from English bands really. We can't really rate any either at the present time. Obviously who in his right mind is interested in GENE LOVES JEZEBEL? A lot of cool stuff from here a yank would never get to hear and the same thing here. You're not going to hear a lot of cool stuff coming from America because it's only tiny labels. Some of the shit never even gets out of the local town it's in.
That's what happens here in the UK too. Rollins was on the front page of Sounds but only a few shops stock his records and at a high price....It just came out on Fundamental so maybe the price dropped.
We noticed that in America it was a lot more business like at shows with a lot more T shirts etc. Rollins replies: It's the only way we can make money, tours don't make money, T shirts make you break even. We sell T shirts 2 bucks cheaper than anyone I know.
Hey, we're not objecting to you paying your rent, It's just the middleman who is ripping you off as well as the buyers. That's why we do a lot of things ourselves. We do the T shirts, we make up the screen, we get a company we know and print them ourselves. We ship them to an airport where we pick them up and we sell them, so there is no middleman. There is the printer and then there's us. It's direct.
I'm interested in this. when I have a problem I generally try and work it out myself rather than ask other people. How does Rollins sort out his problems? I read that you pull them out of the back of your mind and wrestle with them. Do you ever talk them through with other people? No. I don't take much stock in that. There's only a few people that I discuss anything that bugs me with. And that's Lydia Lunch - because Lydia is one of the most livid people I've met in my life. She's incredibly smart and sometimes if I feel really bad I'll write her a letter and she'll call me on the phone and go "Well, Rollins, here's what I think", but I usually just keep things to myself - I think that's best.
Given his love of the English weather how come Rollins has ended up doing some recordings in the UK? First time I recorded in the UK in '86 was because Chris lived out here and it was really cheap and I felt we'd go on a trip anyway so we did it out here. The second time was because the tour ended here, the studio was cool, we liked the engineer, we were right there so we said "OK, lets book it". We had a place to stay in Leeds at Chris's house. We did the whole thing from start to finish in six days.
I heard Ian McKaye (ex Minor Threat front man) produced the album....We flew him out here and he met us in London, went back to Leeds, took a day off just to get practiced, listened to everything and pulled the songs apart. We then went into the studio, did the nine songs on the album, the three songs that are turning up on an e.p. soon. From start to finish it was about five, seven days. Just walked out with the edited master copy. The e.p. should be out on Rough Trade.
Given your feelings on the DIY ethic - have you ever thought of doing your own label? Yeah, I'd really like to. The singles recorded. Now I need to do a charity gig to get some money to put it out so I can get some money for the charity! It's this thing I/m doing for battered women and children. I think I'm going to re record the single. I think me and this guy could have done it a lot better. I'll take care of that when i get home in November.
Will it ever see a UK release? I don't know. I've never done a label but I feel strongly about doing it so I'll do the best I can. See if I can get a 1000 singles out, if I can get them out somewhere else remains to be seen....
From here, it would seem the American hardcore scene at the moment just seems to be full of bands trying to make money, what does Rollins think of that and music in general in the US? Music in general in America, overall, really blows really bad and most independent bands are not independent, they're using independent labels as a springboard to get on major labels. A lot of US independent labels are tied up with major labels anyway and I'll tell you why. You can't get your fuckin record anywhere without them. They control the game. The independent idea is cool. "Fuck you - we're going to do it ourselves". But you can only go so far. They own the game. They'll let you play a little, but when you start breaking into their money they'll go "No, I think we'll close that door right there". It's that easy. It happens to all independent labels. You can only go so far with an indie. It's very frustrating to be on an independent label - it frustrates me. A kid writes me from Mississipi because he can't find my record anywhere. I've had fiver records out since Flag was over and he goes "When's the next Black Flag LP oming out"? They don't know, they can't get the records!
When Rollins plays a gig he gets a cheer just for walking on stage even though he may do a bad gig (some chance). Does that piss him off. No, but it kind of makes me feel a little lonely. They can do whatever they want you know. As in they want to cheer for the fact I'm there. You get off more on the music don't you? I get off totally on the music. The crowd doesn't really do much for me.
Honest, forthright and downright straight down the line. Henry Rollins is one hell of a driven man.