Henry Rollins is the multimedia wunderkind of our times. He has served as frontman of Black Flag and the Henry Rollins Band, television host (The Henry Rollins Show), radio host (The Henry Rollins Show), movie actor (Jack Frost, Bad Boys II), and acclaimed author (Get In The Van). The man's work ethic is brutal and uncomprimising and his artistic output is staggering, to say the least. As one would well imagine, an interview with Rollins can run through a myriad of subjects, his terse voice hiding complexity and calculation. His newest spoken word tour covers his travels through the Middle East, as well as politics in the United States.
"The material changes, but the sentiment doesn't," says Rollins. "The news as far interesting things to comment on has been very giving over the past few days, weeks, months."
Rollins' tours have spanned six continents and an incredible number of countries. This is a deliberate effort by the alternative icon, often doing spoken word in countries where English isn't spoken widely. As a result, he has a better understanding of how the world thinks. His tour of the Middle East allowed him a chance to assess their attitudes towards the Western world.
"[What struck me was] the level of hospitality, civility, and politeness of people, and how when they talk about America, they like the country but are afraid of the president," says Rollins. "They do understand that the president is one thing but the people are another. I mean, we're poorly managed, poorly represented. People want the same thing everywhere you go. They get thirsty, they get hungry, they want clean water, they want their kids to be okay. It's the same in Turkey as it is in Idaho. When you get down to that level, it seems everyone wants to get along except the Bush administration."
With his own record label, 2.13.61, he has managed to earn a living, as well as having the artisitic control that allows him to do benefit records. One of the causes he has championed has been to get a fair trial for the West Memphis Three, three teenagers accused of murder on the basis of listening to heavy metal and wearing black t-shirts.
"I come from a do-it-yourself, independent music kind of thing," says Rollins. "It's a great way to do what you want very quickly, and not wait for someone's permission or someone's opinion about what you want to do. You just do it. I don't really care if someone downloads one of my records. I mean, I won't take action. I'd rather be heard than paid. A typical record label wouldn't be interested in [the West Memphis Three] because it's a benefit record and there's no money in it for them. Believe me, if it was a child molester singing and they could get full publishing [royalties] and retail on it, they'd sell it. If anyone in the record business thinks they can make a dollar off of something, they will sell it. Hence, the new Paris Hilton album. I think the companies like Sony that rely on MTV and Clear Channel are simply dying from the corporate sword."