transcript: henry rollins
The pictures we shot didn't turn out too well since it was Rollins on 6th Avenue looking a tad uncomfortable. Then again, you get a camera shoved down your throat and we'll see what you do. Best of all, I interviewed the embodiment of straight edge inside a hotel bar. I figured better than to ask about that. what follows is my rough, hour and a half of work transcript. unedited and containing all words exchanged.
Here's the article that ran. Now, for the entire thing:
ISO: The beauty is I use [the iPod] as a portable hard drive for all my pictures, media…
Henry Rollins: I never had an iPod before and I was coming back from Egypt with a correspondent, we were there with the USO, and he’s showing me photos on his iPod. I never even held one before. This was like a few months ago. I’m slow with all that stuff. I go, photo? He’s says, “yeah, it’s a hard drive. I store my photos on here just so I get my cameras ripped off, I got a file [for] photos.” He’s a New York Times guy. I’m like, wow, I should get one of these. He goes, “you don’t have an iPod?” I’m like, uh uh. He goes, this is 60 gigs. I’m like, you can put a lot of music on that. So I went out and bought a 60 gig iPod. I’ve crammed about 8,000 songs on the thing. Shit, now I have four of them. One for the backpack, one that goes in the boom box thing I take on tour, one that goes in a smaller boom box I take in hotels. I used to take a big bag of CD-Rs with me, or load everything on my laptop and listen. I live on the road. And all of a sudden, I have 10,000 songs in my hand. I’m a very happy man.
ISO: You just came back from Dublin
ISO: It’s a beautiful city. You’re constantly on the road, but how long goes into each show?
HR: The show takes about 4 days a month of shooting, and a lot of days of prep in that I write most of the material you see me saying. That’s time intensive. If there’s films I have to watch and make notes of, that is time intensive. If there is a “Teeing Off” segment I’m going to do where I have to do research, time intensive. Shooting the show, we’re doing 4 shows in 3 days. So we’re “interview in, interview out, move ‘em through. [My] teeing off section, we did one. We’re doing another, we’re doing another,” that’s hours and hours of teleprompter reads. It’s vigorous three or four days of work. And then the rest of the time is producer boy scrambling like a madman to whack together four episodes, get new guests, new topics, new this and new that. Finally they kick it to me, “can you Tee Off on this, this and this?” And I go, “yes, yes and no.” Start to find another one, and I go, “yes, I can do that.” Then I got to go to work. It’s constant, but as far as me in front of the box in front camera? Three days a month, but it’s actually seven days a month or more to get it together.
ISO: Have you ever refused to “Tee Off” on a subject? [Note: This is in reference to a part of the show called “Teeing Off,” where Rollins goes off on a solo free-form monologue about a subject.]
HR: Well, yeah. They throw something at me, “what about this,” and I’m like, “eh, I don’t have anything really good on that,” or it does not excite me or I can’t do “that” and make it really unique. I’ll find something else, there’s a lot of good topics.
ISO: How much prep work do you normally do?
HR: It depends on the guest. Someone like Chuck D. [of Public Enemy] is so all over the place in topics. You can talk to [him] about anything: civil rights, Bush, Iraq, rap, rock and roll, MTV, business. Any magazine you want, he can do an interview for it, except for “Cigar Monthly,” cause he’s such a worldly guy. I’ve known Chuck for many years. My research for a guy like Chuck would be , let’s hear the new album, of course, and let’s just pick what version of Chuck I want to touch base with him on. We’ll talk about the Air America for a little while, then the new album. [Werner] Herzog? Let’s watch the last two things he did. Let’s talk about “Grizzly Man.” He’s doing a cinema version of one of his documentaries. This is Christian Bale starring as a guy named “Dieter,” who was an actual viet-vet named Dieter in a documentary called “Little Dieter Needs to Fly,” which is a fascinating documentary, that [Herzog] did years ago but now he’s a dramatic version of it. So I went and re-watched the [original doc], made some notes on it. The next day I saw him, I said, “Okay Werner, let’s talk about Grizzly Man and let’s talk about this movie and the documentary that begat it.” That’s how I prep. A guy like Oliver Stone [on tomorrow’s premiere]? Since his new movie is in the editing bay, so I can’t see it. So with Oliver, well let’s talk about Kennedy and Nixon and these people you’ve done bio-pics on. How do you compare Vietnam, a war you were in, to Iraq? And he gets going on that, and it was an amazing interview. I find stuff that where the artist, or the person, will be conversive enthusiastic and interesting. Sometimes it’s their movie, sometimes they have a new movie out and we don’t get to the movie because we’re too interesting in this thing they’re doing over here. What I don’t want to ask about is their boyfriend, or their girlfriend or what car they driving or what they wore to an award show because I really, really don’t care. They’re so happy not to have to talk to that, I can’t tell you the relief. I go, look, we’re not going to ask you about whoever it is and they’re like, “oh? Oh, cool!” And I go, yeah, I know, it’s my show.
So how does “The Henry Rollins Show” differ from “Henry’s Film Corner?”
What’s different is last year’s film specific, only actors and directors on the show pretty much. We’re talking about movies, we’re reviewing them, we’re talking about, “Hey, coming up on Criterion this month, it’s gonna be the full version of ‘Ran’ finally,” whatever, but this time around it’s Chuck D. and we didn’t mention [or review] a movie. Basically IFC said to me, as they’re making up their mind whether they want another season, they said, “we figured it out. We want another season. We want to go from monthly to weekly. We want to not call it ‘Henry’s Film Corner,’ we want to call it ‘The Henry Rollins Show’ and give you way more leash to run with. You don’t want to interview some guy in a movie? Great. You want to interview the politician instead? We want you to do what you want. We like you, we support your point of view. And we want to give you the whole front yard to run around in and we want you to be around more often.” They basically said we like you, we trust you and we want to give you more leash. I was like, damn what an endorsement, it sounds like they like me. So I said okay, cause I don’t want to talk about just films all the time, Films are interesting, don’t get me wrong, and there’s lots of interesting actors and producers and directors [to talk to.] But there’s a lot of other stuff going on in the world too. Getting to talk to Chuck D. is great. Getting to talk to Werner Herzog about California and California culture, which was fascinating to me. We didn’t always talk about movies all the time. He thinks California is the most amazing part of America. I was like, “wow. Defend that one to me, because I don’t really like Los Angeles.” He goes, “I really do.” I went, “go, this is fascinating to me.” He gave me this whole half hour rap on the upside of L.A. and California. He goes, “New York has European influences, because it goes right out to the Atlantic Ocean. They’re getting London and Germany, they have for decades. California [has] Apple Computer, Hollywood--they’re dictating culture in other countries.” It was like, okay, that’s a point of view I never would have come up with. That’s the kind of thing that makes the show to me, well, hopefully, really interesting. That’s the show I’d watch, and I hope other people like it.
ISO: Let’s go back to New York, a week and a half ago we had a great institution open up and people have been going apeshit for it: Trader Joe’s.
HR: I live in California. I’ve been going to Trader Joe’s since 1981. It’s the only food I eat. In L.A., everything I have has “Trader Joe’s” on the label.
ISO: What’s the appeal?
HR: I knew that one was going to come to Manhattan a couple of years ago. The food is very, very good. It’s about 2/3s the price of the same thing is in the A&P or whatever the market is. The bag of blue corn tortilla chips is like $3.25 here; Trader Joe’s makes their own--they’re very tasty--and it’s $1.65 a bag. Their cheese is very good, apparently their wines are good--I don’t drink wine. In California, there’s like Trader Joe’s cheese popcorn. Their soups, I’m a vegetarian, [are] great, their fresh fish is amazing. Their vegetables are great. I go there every 72 hours when I’m home. I buy very little bits of food at a time because it’s all fresh. I drink a lot of carrot juice, I eat a lot of yogurt, I eat a lot of salad, fish and whatever. I buy it all there. They make their own paper products--it’s all eco-friendly. Their detergent is eco-friendly. Their paper’s recycled. It’s just cool and the food is great. It’s so nice to your wallet. I know there’re ones in D.C. now, where I come from. I used to live in New York and I used to come out with that $28 bag of groceries. It’s brutal. I think Manhattanites are going, “yeeeah!” And wait till you taste the food.
ISO: This is a personal question and I hate to preface something with that, but I’m from D.C. I used to live around Adams Morgan, but I’ve always been curious: why did you leave D.C. and stay in California?
HR: Here’s my awful excuse, and I’ve said this many times: it’s where my two milk crates, broken cassestts and cum-stained futon ended up. [Black Flag] broke up 20 years ago this coming summer. All of a sudden, I have no band,, I’m like, “Aaah!” I had a girlfriend at the time, we go out and get an apartment together for 6 months. The lease ran out, so did our romance. All that whole time I’m running around doing talking shows, pay the rent and plot my next move—it turned out to be the Rollins Band, a guitar player from D.C. and a rhythm section from New Jersey, which should have put me back on the east coast. I would kind of go on tour, live on their floors. We would go on the road, come back to Jersey to write songs and I’d live on the drummer’s mother’s floor or the bass player’s basement, then go back on tour again. My apartment in L.A. became this place I visit every once in a while. I was so busy on the road and so ambitious about that, I never had the time or inclination to pick it up and move it. Years go on, I buy property in Los Angeles, 1994, I own a home. Uh-oh, now I’ve punched tent pegs down into the ground. I get even busier. My company [2.13.61] now is a staffed corporation, with a promo department. I’m doing real salaries. It’s very stable; it’s in that house. Meanwhile I’m going out on tour. I lived for a year here on and off for years. I lived for a year at a time in the Village, renting a place on 7th and Second near the Kiev, in that little, crappy end-of-the-hallway apartment—the hotbox from hell--when they were wrecking the old Filmore. That was my soundtrack at 6 a.m. everyday, “KA-BOOM!” I wrote two books in that Starbucks on Lafayette, cause they had the air conditioning. I’d go there at night and write untill two in the morning when the kicked me out, I’d go back to the hotbox and suffer the “Trainspotting” soundtrack by my NYU-kid neighbors who insisted on playing it at ear-splitting volume through the wall, so I’m like “love the soundtrack,” at four in the morning when the bass notes are making my head vibrate. Anyway, whenever I’m in D.C., and I get there as often as possible, I miss it. I have trained myself not to miss much. My line of work, don’t hang onto people, don’t hang onto places cause you’re never going to be there.
ISO: You travel so much, you never want to hold onto something?
HR: I’ve learned don’t hang onto something you’re going to miss, cause it hurts to miss stuff. It’s like putting your hands in the fire, you know, “grasshopper, hit the board.” Now I’ve got these big, thick knuckles—mentally—and so I see people when I see ‘em. That’s why the girlfriend thing has been hard, because it’s like, “when are you coming back,” and I go, “shit, talk to the road manager.” I’m not entering into that “I miss you” thing with you, I can’t afford it. I can’t have that eating on me when I go on stage at 8. I’m going to do 100+ shows this year, and I’m not missing anything. After 25 years, there’s nothing living in my house. No one puts it’s arms around me when I come home. And at this point, I don’t want to have to call a girl and have, “how come you haven’t called me?” I’m not doing that phone call. When I am in D.C., and I do get there, I use it as the carrot on the stick. “After the tour’s over, if you’re a good boy, you get 2 days off in D.C. just to walk around the old neighborhood to see Ian MacKaye and all these people I grew up with who mean a lot to me. When I’m there, I love it, walking around the old neighborhood and I take photos of it. But my scene started happening in California and the world. I don’t miss it, like I lose sleep over it. But I really look forward to those two days in D.C. and it’s always a sad cab ride to Dulles [International] Airport, cause I really like walking. I stay at that hotel at Wisconsin [Avenue] and Calvert [Street]. I used to live in Woodley Park.
ISO: I know that, I used to walk around there. I went to Wilson Senior High School.
HR: I wish I went to Wilson, all my friends went to Wilson, like Ian MacKaye and all the Dischord Record kids…is it now “Ian MacKaye High”? [laughs]
He’s been my best friend since I was 12. That’s been one of the upsides of my life is having this long friendship with this completely amazing guy. He is the most amazing person I’ve ever met, he continually blows me away.
ISO: Were you at The Evens [MacKaye’s new band with his sister, Amanda] show in Fort Reno Park [which is across the street from Wilson]?
HR: Oh yeah, I loaded the gear. Didn’t you see?
ISO: I did, but I didn’t want to run up to you. I feel weird doing that to musicians who are just walking around.
HR: It’d be cool, it’s the neighborhood. It’s our neighborhood, you should walk up and go, “hey, man.” I love that, especially in the 202 area code, man. See, what’s really cool and it doesn’t happen very often, is that someone will walk by and goes, “Hey, man. Good to see you.” And I go, Oh, he just knows me from the neighborhood from a long time ago. I have nothing like that in my life, that’s an analog feel. Most of my life is digital, it’s like, “you’re the thing on stage at 8 p.m.” And when I go back [to D.C.] I’m just Henry from W Street. I enjoy that 48 hours, I don’t know if I could do it seven days a week because I’m a very ambitious person who thrives on pressure. I’m like, “you better be good tonight, this is an $80,000 camera shoot.” [breaths] I went on stage in London the other night at the Hammersmith Apollo, it’s a big deal, it’s big everything. And I’m back stage like [nervous breathing.] I live for that, and I went out there and killed it.
ISO: Will you ever have The Evens or Ian on?
HR; I’d love to have The Evens on. Quite honestly, I’m afraid to ask him, just because I don’t want to make him uncomfortable about saying no [laughs]. I can see him going, “eeh…it’s really not our thing.” I just want to put it out to him, and be like, “if you’re in town and wanted to play, all you have to do is let me know and we’ll film you anyway you like.” Just so I could put it out there and he can consider it. Chances are, he’d just say no thanks. I don’t want to put him in that thing where he’s letting his friend down. If he doesn’t want to do it, he’s not going to do it. I just don’t want to put the man in an uncomfortable position. He and I have had very divergent career paths, in that you can’t get him in “Rolling Stone” cause they do alcohol and tobacco [advertising.] I worship that point of view, but if you put me on the cover…I’d go to that interview on my hands, cause I want to be on the cover right now. We differ in that way where I said yes to Hollywood and all of that “hey, you want to be in this? Yeah! You want to have a TV show? Yeah!” Where Ian would go, “hm, it doesn’t pass the smell test for me.” It’s not that he’s righteous and I’m some sell-out pig, I don’t think I’ve sold out. I just think that we’ve went for different things. We agree on the basic tendency of things: say what you want, play what you want. I’ve gone mainstream in a way where he kind of applauds from the side. I bet he gets people going, “what’s up with your friend, Henry, man? That’s pretty fucking weak.” He’d never tell me, but I bet one to three times a year he probably has to stand up to me when some guy wonders why he even gives me the time of day they find what I do so repelling, that I was in a movie or do voiceovers. I don’t walk to voiceovers, I run to those. It’s employment I work for a living. I do the voiceovers so I have the time and money to do a book, which takes 18 months of “today, I’m going to write a paragraph and that’s all I’m getting done today.” It’s all for the basis of art and affording the roof over my head. I have no family. I left the minimum wage into the sea of consequence. I don't have back-up, I have me, my bank account and my balls. I rely on them heavily.
ISO: Are you going to do anything with “The Proposition,” the film written by musician Nick Cave, in May?
HR: Yeah, I want to review it. I have not yet seen it, but people I know have and tell me I have to see it. I know he’s on the soundtrack with the Dirty Three people. I have not heard one bad thing about it yet, and I am so happy Nick is making this move.
ISO:And what books are you working on?
HR: I released two last year, so it might take me a while to catch my breath. I’m working on a follow-up to a book I did last year called “Romanitarian” and I did a book last year called “Fanatic,” which is the notes from my radio show. The retail comes out with 32 extra pages of flyers, cool repros and rare shit. Every week I do the radio show, and I’m working on a travel book about my trans-Siberian express trip I just took across Russia, and my USO trips to the Army and Navy hospitals which have been very hardcore, eye-opening, pretty awful experiences to see guys [your age,] and arguably on paper I could be your dad…legs gone, faces gone, arms gone. It is the hardest damn day of my life. What are you going to do? You can’t put the leg on [for them.] And these guys are so brave, they’re like, “don’t worry sir, I’ll be all right.” You’re like, “yeah, man. Sure. Nice colostomy bag.” It’s just brutal. There’s a guy with 60 percent of his brain gone in a diaper with a photo of him and me in Bagdad on his wall. And you go back to your hotel room that night, and what do you do with it all? All three are kind of medium-to-long rang projects that I’m working on.