Henry Rollins is a big man with big biceps, a big smile and even bigger ideas that fly at you a million miles a minute as he recounts the inspiring tale of how he’s dedicated himself to a project of living life in a large way.
Having gone from heading one of the most influential punk bands, Black Flag, to publishing his own books and hosting one of the most original and thought-provoking talk shows around, Rollins gives the impression that he might have been the type of kid to spit in the face of any guidance counsellor who tried to peg him down to one profession.
Spending months at a time on the road travelling through some of the world’s most troublesome spots -“ Pakistan, Iran and, in a few months, the wilds of Laos and North Korea -“ Rollins puts his life on the line to accrue what he terms field evidence to recount to awestruck audiences at his spoken word performances. Just don’t use the term spoken word in front of Rollins.
I hate the term, is the firm response. It’s nothing that I’d go see. It sounds like some awful poetry thing that you get in there and eight minutes later you’re like, -˜Oh, I can’t get out of here.’
I go far and wide to get that good story. And I put myself in situations where they say, -˜You shouldn’t go over there,’ so I’m like, -˜I must go over there.’
That’s where you get the good stuff from. And that’s how I learn about cultures. I mean I read books, but I learn by walking through it, by barking my nose up against it. It’s like, do you want to read about sex? Or actually have sex? Well, I want to have sex.
Going against what’s expected and deemed appropriate is what Rollins is known for – a personality trait developed early on in his life.
While attending a military school, Rollins was struck with disgust as a teacher’s open attacks on a gay student led to the boy attempting suicide. It stayed with him as a defining event and he has gone on to publicly lambast institutions and propagators of homophobia.
He hosted the successful Wedrock concert to raise awareness of same-sex rights to marriage and has made his views on gay rights well known.
While still strongly denying all rumours that he is gay, Rollins puts across the message for gay rights strongly and simply. To me it’s just common sense. You come out of the womb and you’re something. You’re straight, you’re gay or you’re lucky, he said.
You know what you are very soon in your life. So when someone says you can’t love that person, you can’t marry that person I’m like, -˜Really, fuck you!’ Boy, if I was gay I would kick your arse!
Henry Rollins performs live at the Seymour Centre, 23-26 April. Bookings: 9351 7940 or through www.seymour.usyd.edu.au. His TV show can be seen on Foxtel on the Movie Extra channel on Friday nights till 2 May.