While the common connotation of fame and stardom includes red-carpet galas, tabloid coverage and being followed by a horde of paparazzi, there is a new breed to star emerging in the 21st Century.
Henry Rollins is one of those “stars”.
Rollins was born in Washington, D.C. in 1961. An avid fan of that city’s hardcore scene, Rollins would go on to front seminal punk band Black Flag and by the time Black Flag went their separate ways in 1986, Rollins had earned himself a reputation as a dynamic spoken word performer.
Even after the demise of Black Flag, music remained an integral part of Henry Rollins’ life. He formed the Rollins Band, a Grammy-nominated act that has released more than a handful of records in the past 20-plus years.
While Rollins might have cut his teeth in music, it is the many hats that he has since donned that have brought him the some of the most wide-spread accolades. Of Rollins, The Washington Post has said “Rollins is many things: diatribist, confessor, provocateur, humourist, even motivational speaker…his is an enthusiastic and engaging chatter.”
In addition to the prolific and dedicated throng who come to hear Rollins speak, Rollins is the author of more than 20 books, has appeared in television shows including Sons of Anarchy and hosts a weekly radio show broadcast in the United States and online every Saturday night.
Henry Rollins, in his second appearance in Metro Moncton in the last few years, will be on stage at the Capitol Theatre on Monday evening. As of press time, limited tickets were still available.
As packed as Rollins schedule is, he takes it all in stride, telling the Times & Transcript that he performed approximately 64 shows last year. While this might not sound like a very hectic schedule to many, one has to take into consideration the time spent travelling to and from shows in addition to his time spent travelling to countries near and far. This travel, Rollins says, helps inform his work across all mediums.
Since Rollins got his start in music, we took the opportunity to ask if he misses it.
“I do miss making and playing music and actually think about it quite a bit,” a friendly Rollins says from a tour stop in Winnipeg. “But by the same token, I don’t want to be the guy that gets on stage and plays a bunch of old songs. You could almost liken it to a very slowly sinking ship sometimes. Continuing to play music to a diminishing fan-base has a certain sadness associated to it. I’ve chosen to do something else rather than subject myself to that fate.”
Given Rollins’ success across so many different mediums including radio, television and the stage, there doesn’t seem to be much that he can’t seemingly turn to gold. Asked whether it is important for him to continue finding new ways and new mediums to express himself, Rollins says that continuing to take on new challenges and surprising himself is an important part of him continuing to move forward.
“It is incredibly important for me to continue surprising myself,” he says. “I think the experiences that you bring to the stage have to be real for you to move forward with that to your audience.
“There isn’t any amount of education that can prepare you for real-world and real-life experiences. You just have to get out there and do it. You’re going to make mistakes and it’s not always the most flattering thing at times but it is the best experience you can give yourself.”
If there is one thing that can be said about Rollins and the success that he has seen, it is that the artist is humble almost to a fault. In spite of his past success and past achievements, he is not someone who is content to simply rely on that success to move him forward. His success may be forever relegated to a very specific group of individuals not afraid to embrace hearing the sometimes unpleasant truth, however that ability to talk frankly and candidly about the world around him is arguably his most endearing quality.
“I feel nothing but grateful every day I wake up,” he says. “I have arrived at a point in my life where I am trying to serve people the best I can. If people take the time to write me, I try to write them back.
“The same goes for people that stick around after the show to meet me. You can’t train an audience; you have to earn their respect and interest. People continuing to support me is a huge reason why I travel far and wide and bring these stories back to them on the stage.”
Article published in June 16, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript