Yo Grue-Lings Listen Up,
We have a very special guest today. Someone that I have looked up to for many years. I love his attitude. He tells you how it is and don’t care. He is Henry Rollins.
Rollins is known for his involvement in hardcore punk rock with his band, The Black Flag. After great success with The Black Flag, Rollins went on his own to form The Rollins Band.
Rollins has hosted numerous radio shows, such as Harmony in My Head on Indie 103, and television shows such as The Henry Rollins Show, MTV’s 120 Minutes, and Jackass. He had recurring dramatic roles in the second season of Sons of Anarchy, in the final seasons of the animated series The Legend of Korra as Zaheer, and has also had roles in several films. Rollins has campaigned for various political causes in the United States, including promoting LGBT rights, World Hunger Relief, the West Memphis Three and an end to war in particular.
In the 1980s, Henry Rollins produced an album of acoustic songs for the famed convict Charles Manson titled Completion. The record was supposed to be released by SST Records, but the project was canceled because the label received death threats for working with Manson.
Rollins appeared in the 2007 direct-to-DVD sequel to Wrong Turn (2003), Wrong Turn 2: Dead End as a retired Marine Corps officer who hosts his own show which tests the contestants’ will to survive. Rollins has also appeared in Punk: Attitude, a documentary on the punk scene, and in American Hardcore (2006). In 2012, Henry Rollins appeared in a short documentary entitled “Who Shot Rock and Roll” discussing the early punk scene in Los Angeles as well as photographs of himself in Black Flag taken by esteemed photographer Edward Colver.
Rollins has written a variety of books, including Black Coffee Blues, Do I Come Here Often?, The First Five (a compilation of High Adventure in the Great Outdoors, Pissing in the Gene Pool, Bang!, Art to Choke Hearts, and One From None), See a Grown Man Cry, Now Watch Him Die, Smile, You’re Traveling, Get in the Van, Eye Scream, Broken Summers, Roomanitarian, and Solipsist.
Rollins also has toured all over the world doing spoken word performances and his shows frequently last for over three hours. His spoken word style encompasses stand up comedy, accounts of experiences he’s had in the world of music and during his extensive travels around the globe, self-deprecating stories about his own shortcomings, introspective recollections from his own life (such as the death of his friend, Joe Cole), commentaries on society and playful, sometimes vulgar, anecdotes.
Rollins has become an outspoken human rights activist, most vocally for gay rights. In high school, a classmate of Rollins’ was bullied by classmates to the point of attempting suicide. Rollins has cited this as the main catalyst of his “anti-homophobia.” Rollins frequently speaks out on social justice on his spoken word tours and promotes equality, regardless of sexuality. He was the host of the WedRock benefit concert, which raised money for a pro-gay-marriage organization.
HELLTER: You were involved in an amazing hardcore punk rock band, The Black Flag. When Black Flag decided they wanted to reunite in 2014, why did you decide not to get the band back together?
ROLLINS: I don’t see the reason to go back in time and play old songs that have already been played. I am interested in what’s happening now and what’s happening next. I think it is safe to say that we have different motivations. I wish them all the best, but when I was invited to do this and come along, I told them I can’t. I can’t judge them because it goes against my beliefs and my code. For me to do it, it would not be brave, it would be resting on past laurels. Unless they took all that money to benefit Planned Parenthood or something. Then we can talk, but if it is just to pocket that money, they can go right ahead. I wouldn’t want to spend one dime of that money for myself.
HELLTER: I respect that. How do you prepare for a tour?
ROLLINS: I don’t use a lot of spontaneity on stage, in that I don’t want to work it out on your time. The main thing, when I’m back home, is walking around the streets. I live in Los Angeles, and long stretches of the San Fernando Valley, by 7pm, are like a ghost town – just joggers and dog walkers. I’ll go out and say these stories out loud and physically walk through them, and listen to my voice, say the words and go, ‘OK, you’re not getting to the point.’ I’ll go back home and keep talking through them, just working through these stories and ideas – it’s like band practice, but on my own. The idea is to basically try to find the weak points and kind of go after my own material with gentle contempt, in an effort to make it better, so by the time I make it to the stage, the material is pretty well-vetted, and the better, stronger ideas are the ones that make it.
HELLTER: You’ve played many roles as an actor over the years. What has been your favorite role and why?
ROLLINS: I liked being Jack in He Never Died. He can’t die. He is post everything. He is bored and depressed. Eternity is not a good fit for him.
HELLTER: Great movie. I loved your role in that. How do you feel about all the recent racial tension that’s been happening and black lives matter and protests?
ROLLINS: I think that this kind of thing has been happening in USA for decades. Now you get to see it. I think the BLM is incredibly polite. When a demographic has been treated differently than others in a country that boasts of its diversity and equality, there will be some people who get fed up. The most remarkable part about BlackLivesMatter is the restraint. I think their restraint is amazing. In one year, try doing to white citizens what gets done to black citizens. You really don’t want to see what a White Lives Matter movement would be like. You want to see body count? Piss white people off. Culturally, historically, they have no concept on how to handle blatant racism on a regular basis. Some white people might be put down because they are poor but their ethnicity has never and will never be under attack in USA. Whatever the white power movements and lower half of USA politicians intimate about white Christians under attack in USA by the scary brown people and liberals is pathetic. The truth is they have no idea what oppression is like. None.
HELLTER: What made you want to get into weight lifting and working out heavily?
ROLLINS: I’ve been working out since I was 15 or 16, because in school I was the very skinny, flinching boy on Ritalin. If people threw a ball to me, I thought they were throwing it at me. Around 10th grade, my fresh-out-of-Vietnam-vet history teacher Mr. Pepperman said, and I quote, “Henry, you are a skinny little faggot, you need to lift weights, and I’m going to teach you how,” which was more input in life than my father ever gave me. (That’s just how people talked to you in those days.)
He took me to the school gym and showed me basic compound lifts. He made me do a workout regimen and told me not to look in the mirror until he said so. I worked out from, like, October until Christmas vacation, and during the last day of exams he let me take my shirt off and look at myself. After that I threw out the Ritalin because I didn’t need it, my body is telling me to work out. You’re young and lifting weights, hungry, horny and you want to meet women. All of a sudden I’m eating more. My lunch tray has a line of milk, hamburgers, and I’m asking for seconds. I just got hooked and I kept doing the workout over and over again and I began to feel different because I began to get bigger.
To me, getting muscular was the first thing I ever achieved by working at it, and it was a game changer for me, because it was the first time I ever had confidence.
HELLTER: I love working out to. Such a great feeling. You are a firm believer on straight edge life style. But has Henry Rollins ever taken drugs in his younger days?
ROLLINS: I drank a few times during high school [and a few other times] and didn’t like it. I did have three shots [of corn whiskey] at a distillery a few weeks ago, but it was for a show I’m doing on Prohibition. They asked me if I wanted to take some shots, which were 150 proof, and I said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” I literally went weak in the knees, because I have no tolerance, and was a little buzzed for about 40 minutes.
I did try marijuana once in May 1987, but it was awful! Mainly because I got really stoned, just off two hits. The whole time I felt like everyone was looking at me. I also tried LSD several times, at least three to six times in 1983 and ’84. It was fascinating and terrifying. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I also tried mushrooms a few times, and really enjoyed it because you just laugh your ass off and then it just goes away after a while. There really are no aftereffects that I can discern.
I’ve never really been interested in drugs, but I’m not straight-edge. I just don’t have those rules of “not doing it.” Anyways, I always wanted to get somewhere, and knowing I was low on talent, I knew I had to rely on my strongest characteristics, which are tenacity and discipline.
HELLTER: That does take alot of determination to stay straight edge. How did you get cast for Wrong Turn 2: Dead End?
ROLLINS: Joe Lynch(Wrong Turn 2: Dead End director) and I met in my office. We talked about the part… and I really liked Joe. I liked him immediately, he’s just a really good guy. As a director he’s phenomenal. As a person I really liked the dude. He reminds me of me. He’s intense, he wants to get the work done. That was the spirit of the film it was like, “Lets rock this thing!” Because it’s a very physical film. There’s a lot of fight scenes, running, it’s all outdoors.
You’re getting up at 3 am and at the end of the day you’re trembling from exhaustion. You get in the van to go back to the hotel and by the first traffic light you’re like, out.
HELLTER: Damn, that sounds brutal. I love Wrong Turn 2. Your character was bad ass. What was your thoughts on your character for that movie and how was it like working with the cast?
ROLLINS: I like the guy because he was a hero/good guy. I enjoy playing those parts because that’s where my instinct goes. Dale Murphy was a good guy who died trying to help others. The cast was all great. There was no friction on that set at all. A lot of work of course but everyone was cool.
HELLTER: Sounds like you had a positive experience for Wrong Turn 2. What would you do if that happened to you in real life and you had to fight off a bunch of crazy cannibals?
ROLLINS: What I always do. Lawyer up.
HELLTER: Sounds about right. What are your thoughts about Feast and have you ever seen it?
ROLLINS: My manager said, “Henry, you were good. You got laughs. You were funny. The monsters looked good.” He goes, “There was really not any cringe factor. You’re gonna be very happy when you see it.” I’m like, “Cool!” You know, I’ll never see it but that’s cool anyway.
HELLTER: I actually liked the movie. He Never Died was shown in alot of film festivals and it got really positive reviews. Describe what the film is about and your character in the film?
ROLLINS: Jack cannot die. After several centuries, boredom and resentment have set in. His existential crisis is as cool as his fantastic acts of utilitarian violence. To me, a lot of the film is funny. That’s what drew me to it in the first place. I think it came out rather well.
I havent read any of the reviews. I’ve just seen the tip sheet that has all of the exclamation-point one liners. Henry Rollins is a force of nature! and all of that stuff. I believe in the First Amendment, in that I really think you should say what you want. I don’t have to like it. And so anyone giving me a review, of which there have been many, and of every stripe hateful or laudatory or whatever to me they’re all the same in that the movie is done. The record is done. Whatever you’re reviewing is done. There’s nothing I can do about it or what you think of it, and so I don’t know that I should bother to read any review of me in that I can’t change your mind nor would I seek to. I can’t change the ending or the final product. I just go make something else. So I’m quite surprised at the good reviews well, the one-liners I’ve been told about. The people that gather the press have been saying, Henry, this thing gets really good reviews!, and I’m like, OK, well, I’m kind of done with it, in the way that I can’t shoot the film again. So my work is basically done, and now I’m just talking about it with wonderful people like yourself. But really, my hands are tied as to what you will think. If you don’t like (DIED), I will not argue with that or take umbrage or try to disabuse you of that opinion. But I must say, I’m very surprised at the critical response and the audiences really dig it. I didn’t know what to expect. I’m used to mediocre, tepid-to-scathing reviews for the things I’ve done, which has never stopped me from doing the next one or the next one. I’m not necessarily the friend of critics, in that when I get a bad review, it really doesn’t surprise me. But I don’t get angry.
HELLTER: What are some of you favorite horror films of all time?
ROLLINS: It’s not a genre I know much about, honestly. If given the opportunity to see a horror, a drama or a comedy, I would pick a documentary.
HELLTER: That’s cool, horror isn’t for everybody. How do you mentally prepare yourself for a role like Jack in He Never Died?
ROLLINS: A lot of damn work went into that, believe it or not. Imagine every conversation you’ve ever had with a person…you’ve heard many things over and over again with slightly different words, different relationships…It all kind of rings the same. What if you had centuries of that? You might be exhausted of the human experience and even more exhausted knowing that there’s no “use by” date for you…And that’s what informs Jack’s physicality, his cadence, his monotone delivery…He’s just done and he can’t go. And that…informs every comma, every movement, the way he kills, the way he walks. It’s just drudgery. You need to be hyper aware to the point of where it’s excruciating. It’s like 80 push-ups to do that. And now that I’ve got that, I think I can bring a lot more to the screen. 10 years ago, I could never have been in He Never Died as Jack and made it work like I did.
HELLTER: What made you interested in taking the role of Jack in He Never Died?
ROLLINS: Well, at the end of 2012, I was performing in some shows here in New York. The woman who runs all of my offices and businesses, Heidi, emailed a PDF file. She said, “Stop what you’re doing and read this script; it’s amazing.” She had just read it, and she has good taste. So I said, “Yes, ma’am.” I was backstage at Joe’s Pub in the Village, and was going on stage that night.
But I read the script for ‘He Never Died’ later on, and I thought it was brilliant. I laughed, and thought it was different from anything I had ever read. But I knew I could play the role. She said they were going to talk to me about the character of Jack.
I thought, I can do this, and I started seeing the scenes in my head. I thought I could play Jack this way and that he could be funny that way. I also thought he could talk in a monotone, and my imagination started to run away. So I wrote Heidi back and said I read the script, and thought it was really good. She said, “Yes, it is really good. They’re here in town in New York, and I want you to meet them.”
The next day, I met Zach, who’s a producer on the film, and Jason, who’s the movie’s director, at the Starbucks at Astor Place. I told them how I liked the script and laughed all the way through, so I asked if I read the story wrong. They said, “No, there are funny parts. There’s violence and humor mixed together.”
I said how I thought of Jack as being monotone and very dry, and they said, “You got it. Do you want the part?” I told them I did, so they asked if I would attach to the film so that they could use my name to secure funding. I told them that they would never get any funding if they used my name, but go ahead. So they went to work.
Much to my great surprise, they received funding. I’m not being humble, but I’m used to my projects being pitched, and then having trouble getting dollar one. So Zach kept in touch with Heidi and me. He would say, “We had a goal to raise this much money this month, and we’re moving ahead.” I just thought, okay, producer boy. (laughs) I just never thought it would happen.
But then 11 months after I met them, we were filming in Toronto. I thought, am I really here? I just thought it would be too good to happen. It’s such a cool script, but I thought there was no way it was going to get made, at least not with me in it. But we were suddenly making it.
During that time, I kept getting encouragement from Zach. He’d always say, “This is going to happen.” So I prepared and prepared for the role. I had a weekend ritual in which I read the script, beginning to end, over and over. I read it so often that the film felt as though it had become one long scene.
I thought of every action Jack would go through, and every word he would say. I would rehearse it all. I show that he doesn’t lose his temper, he doesn’t like people and he’s not curious; he’s just done. He’s been alive for so long, he has become anti-social. I had to bring that element to the set once we began shooting. Jason and I also sat in a small office in Toronto and wet over each scene. I’d ask, “Do we do this or this?” He’d say, “I don’t know!” So we’d try both ways in rehearsal.
We were both super enthusiastic about the project. I also helped cast the film, and put together the soundtrack, so I also became involved behind the camera.
HELLTER: Very interesting. Tell us about your silent film Gutterdammerung?
ROLLINS: About 5 years ago, Bjon came to a show I was doing in Sweden and showed me the storyboards for the film and asked if I would write the screenplay and also be in it. I had never written a screenplay but I gave it a shot. I played a couple of different characters in the thing and then Bjorn said they were trying to cast the priest and the only person they could think of to do it was me. So, I ended up playing the priest as well. I don’t have much interaction with most of the cast. My scenes were shot here and there over a period of a couple of years. Bjorn is an incredible person. Smart, extraodinarily hard working and very talented. I was lucky to be involved. I saw the film a few weeks ago and it knocked me out.
HELLTER: That’s cool. Do you enjoy doing voiceover work? And what was your favorite animated character so far that you did a voice over for? Fans probably don’t know you did voice over work for Batman Beyond, Teen Titans, American Dad, Adventure Time, Green Lantern, And Legend of Korra.
ROLLINS: Sure. VO is a lot of fun when you get the job. It’s highly competitive. There is a lot of great talent out there. I am more lucky than anything. My favorite would be Zaheer. He was an interesting madman.
HELLTER: Anything else you would like to discuss or promote?
ROLLINS: No, thank you.
HELLTER: Thank you for joining us today on Gruemonkey.com
ROLLINS: Your welcome.
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