WHO HE IS: Actor, comedian, activist, punk frontman, writer, radio host and provocateur with a thirty-plus-year resume.
WHY YOU’VE HEARD OF HIM: Rollins was the longest-lasting and most-recorded lead singer of iconic punk band Black Flag; after it disbanded, he went on to front the Rollins Band and tour solo as a spoken word artist.
WHAT HE’S UP TO: Rollins is an outspoken activist, prolific writer, columnist for the LA Weekly and long-running radio host on Los Angeles’ KCRW station.
Q: Local things first: there’s a video on Youtube of you teaching New Orleans actor and former mayoral candidate Manny Chevrolet to work out. How did that come about? (Watch the video on nola.com/music)
A: Oh, wow. Yeah! “Pump With A Chump.” There’s another film of him – (Modi) was doing a video press kit for Lenny Kravitz – and he (Manny) tries to get past the security to meet Lenny Kravitz. He says, “So you’re here to make sure no one touches Lenny?” to the security guy, and the guy says, “Yeah,” and he says, “Has anyone tried to touch Lenny today? Has anyone tried to rub him?” And the guy just has to take it, you know, because Manny is so small, he can get away with a lot of stuff. You know, what are you going to do? Hit him? You’ll kill him. So he can get in your face, and it’s funny. He’s a very creative guy.
Q: You work in a ton of media, but one thing you’ve done consistently for a long time is community radio. What do you like about it?
A: I sit like 3 feet away from where my friend taught me how to do radio, in that same room, in like 1983 (at KCRW in LA.) I do a lot of interview on satellite – I do Sirius when I’m in New York – and I just got this car that has satellite radio. I’ve been driving around for a few days with it, and I must say, just my personal opinion, I don’t dig it. When you’re on the terrestrial radio, that’s real radio to me. The satellite one is just content. The music is great, but it just feels so walled off.
Q: You moderated Black Sabbath’s reunion announcement on 11/11/11 – but recently, drummer Bill Ward announced he can’t participate in the planned album and tour because the contract he was offered is “unsignable”. What’s your take?
A: I asked them onstage, “How many years have you guys been friends?” And they all had to take a second, and Ozzy talked first – he said, “We’ve been friends for over 50 years.” It’s too bad that at this stage of the game that friendship and the power of all of that isn’t more overwhelming than any other concern, to where if one guy in the band says, “Hey I need this,” everybody else goes “Hey, you got it!”
Q: The material for this tour, “The Long March,” is taken from your travel experiences. Where have you been going lately?
A: I travel all over the world and report to my audience about it. Some of the places I’ve been since I was last in New Orleans, let’s see: China, North Korea, Mongolia, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Vietnam, India, Senegal, Mali, Uganda, Sudan, Cuba and Haiti. That’s all in the last two years. America’s been pumped full of fear – George W. Bush probably did a lot to ameliorate the travel rate of Americans. Actually, for me, he became my travel agent and tour guide. Whenever he’d say, “This country hates your freedom,” I’d immediately, reflexively, get a visa for that country and go.
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Oct 7, 2011
National Geographic Society
Henry Rollins, a singer, actor, comedian, writer, and photographer, told the stories behind the pictures as he showed his photographs from various places around the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, North Korea, Burma, Haiti, and Saudi Arabia. Then he was interviewed on stage by Juliet Blake and responded to questions from members of the audience.
This "Music on... Photography" event was hosted by National Geographic in Washington, D.C.