I met Henry Rollins in 1987 when he did an in-store appearance at Wizard Records in Corryville, where I was working at the time. To be in his presence was a little overwhelming physically and emotionally — he was like a tightly compressed truck spring, a metric shit ton of potential energy about to explode.
Rollins' propensity for responding in kind to Black Flag fans who blamed and then assaulted him for ruining the band was well known by then, and I muttered little prayers all morning that none of them would show up. Thankfully, they didn’t.
Rollins spent more than an hour chatting with adoring fans, signing albums and photos, exuding an easy charm and cordiality the entire time. It was a revealing look at a completely different facet of Henry Rollins.
In the nearly quarter century since then, Rollins has made a cottage industry of his different facets. Author, publisher, columnist, actor, DJ, spoken word artist, social activist and now stand-up comic, there’s barely a moment left over for him to make music, which, in fact, he hasn't done in quite some time.
Four years ago, in an interview with Tom Green on his MTV talk show, Rollins stated that he might never do music again, and he’s stayed true to that declaration; it’s been nearly a decade since the Rollins Band released Nice and seven years since Rise Above, the band’s Black Flag tribute/benefit to raise funds for the defense of the West Memphis Three. In fact, since the mid-’90s, music has been a side project as Rollins has concentrated on his spoken word performances, which have morphed from book readings into his unique Punk version of stand-up comedy.
Rollins' stage presentation these days consists of three-hour caged tiger monologues of political, cultural and behavioral observation, written narratives strung together with improvisational riffs and rants that slam into head, heart and soul with the impact of a concussion grenade. Whether singing, talking or writing, it’s the only kind of impact that Henry Rollins knows how to make.
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