You start at point number one. The success you hope to see is the one you make for yourself. Hard work. Determination. Absolute drive. You mention the name Henry Rollins, and a whole litany of terms might come flying at you, but at the end of the day Henry Rollins is you or me. He’s a guy who’s basically kicked his own ass enough times to make himself successful. Whatever myths or preconceived notions you may have concerning him should be left at your last footstep, because for Henry Rollins the experience of life is one whose context is purely determined by your commitment to make it work. There’s little fanfare to be made regarding my emailed conversation with Henry. It’s simply one guy talking to another at various points in their lives. Regarding everything from the music scene to the definition of art itself, I recently posed some questions to Henry, who is about to embark on his Capitalism tour in all 50 states ending in D.C. on the night of the election, and he offered up his insight:
I am not aware of anything sudden but now that you mention it, I am aware of there being more and more band operated labels and outlets becoming more interesting. I think this is due in part to the technology making things more possible and a huge turning away from the major and large independent labels by bands. The bigger labels are seen by some as the ones that sign American Idol winners, and they want no part of it. I can’t say I blame them and I think this is a great thing that so many artists are getting off the cotton farm and doing their own thing. I think all this DIY stuff is new to many people because they are just getting out there into the world and making their way. I think this is all for the better. Some of these labels got too big and started wagging the dog too much. The music dictates the industry, not the other way around. Thankfully, many of the smaller labels really love the music. It’s easy to tell. They make the vinyl great quality, go nuts on the sleeves and colored editions. They make it fun and they put a lot into the mastering, vinyl thickness, etc. A label like Southern Lord, that’s what they’re all about.
I admire artists. Raymond Pettibon and Francis Bacon, those are artists. I am not, not remotely. I am an opportunist. I am no one from nowhere. I come from the minimum wage working world and take work wherever I can get it. I do a lot of different stuff because I really like eating every day. I don’t consider myself an artist. I am an Americanist. I am seeking to survive and prevail in the America. This is one of the most powerful motivators for me. I figured out that I was going to need plans B, C, D, E, etc. in the summer of 1984. I was twenty-three and realized that my type had been targeted for eradication. So, I started making plans to do other things besides the music. Work on the writing more, get more talking shows, etc. One thing led to another. I am still in that mindset. I never, ever take it easy.
Perhaps it’s just marketing or a desire to distinguish oneself. Any musician who pays attention to a music critic deserves any misery or uncertainty that results from reading their own press. Bands would be well advised to just do their thing and not worry about the rest. Like, who are they … oh yeah, The Stooges.
I strive for clarity. That is to say, I am happy to straighten out any misconception if it is in fact a misconception. A fan, critic or cop can ask me anything. If I am able to answer, I will.
Perhaps the single most influential thing that has determined several other actions was my five years in Black Flag. From those times, I learned hard work and all the things not to do when putting a band together and getting it down the road. When I started my band, things were run much differently and the results were much different from amount of shows played, countries toured in and records sold. I made very sure my band was going to eclipse Black Flag on all those fronts and all those expectations were met and exceeded. I have made many mistakes. One of them was not to break up the Weight era line up of the Rollins Band after the 1994 tour was over. Another was not cutting a manager loose about ten years earlier than I did. I will never have a manager again. All the other failures, well they were not failures as much as me just not being all that good at any of this and having to wrestle with that and deal with that frustration. It did often lead to some improvement though, so it wasn’t all bad. It is difficult at times to see your own limitations and realize that they are what they are and that things won’t be going as you would have hoped.
Again, I really don’t care what any music journalist has to say about a band. Metal has integrity. It’s real music for real people. That’s why 80K people show up every year at the Wacken Festival. I don’t think it was a good review.
Because one went for American Idol and Nickelback and the other went for High On Fire. I think there are a lot of people who really don’t care about the mainstream of anything. Not of film, music, writing, you name it. There are a lot of people who just want out of all that. Now there are more avenues for them to explore. I think there were always a lot of those people, they just didn’t have access to an alternative.
I bet no one is emulating me. Why would anyone shoot that low? Perhaps some musicians are moved by Greg Ginn’s playing and songwriting but not by anything I did. I am listening to a lot of: My Cat Is An Alien, Kemialliset Ystävät, Urabe Masayoshi, Uton, Enfer Boreal, Tomutonttu, Keiji Haino, Neokarma Jooklo Duo. It’s some pretty extreme stuff but I am enjoying it a lot. I listen to a lot of different music but this is what I have been checking out for the last several weeks. The new Dinosaur Jr. and Deerhoof albums are great as well as the new High On Fire and Snail albums.
I think we Americans are not served very well by our government or our media. We are consumer driven and materialistic. Certainly, we are not the only country like that but we are very much into our stuff, we value our stuff and we often judge ourselves by size of house, bank account, etc. I think being this way perhaps cuts some of us off from seeing a bigger picture. Watch a few hours of CNN and then watch an hour of Al Jazeera and you will see why many Americans are the way they are. When the crap hits the fan, they won’t know where it came from, why it came or what to do.
I am reading two books on Abraham Lincoln, Team Of Rivals and Lincoln Reconsidered, as well as a very interesting book about the man who started DHL. It’s by James Scurlock and it’s called King Larry. I am trying to read a book called America’s Constitution: A Biography by Akhil Reed Amar. It’s an amazing read but it’s tough going for me. I am trying to stick with it though. I was greatly inspired by Henry Miller and Hubert Selby Jr., the latter was a good friend to me and very generous with his time. I have always been far more inspired by writers than musicians. I can get my head around music but can’t figure out how Fitzgerald could write Tender Is The Night or Bulgakov could write Master and Margarita. It is still the writing that takes most of my time. It is the one thing I would like to be good at. I am greatly confined by my mediocre level of talent but I am pushing myself to get better.
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