“If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. I will capture nights all over the world and bring them to you.”

Henry Rollins travels the world insatiably inhaling information. Previously he has admitted to having a touring pattern of inhalation (swallowing information) then exhalation (spewing out ideas to an audience on tour.) He is an intrepid traveler, a work slut (not a workaholic – the distinction is he’s at the mercy of his curiosity and freelancing lifestyle), and an activist.

The history of Rollins is deeply embedded in music – Black Flag, The Rollins Band – but spreads across everything, all media, all form of communication – TV, film, documentary (National Geographic the most recent), books, radio, spoken word, video games and even blogging and you can follow his adventures on Twitter: @henryrollins (yes this is real)

What I know him for is his spoken word. And I’m only a recent fan… (first attended 2010 – Enmore Theatre for Frequent Flyer tour, then at the gaelic club in 2011 for his 50th birthday bash and this year 2012 for the Sydney Comedy Festival) and I have the shirts to prove it…

I'm a fan, I've got the shirt to prove it.

I'm a fan, I've got the shirt to prove it.

What I think is so fascinating about Rollins is how much he challenges his audience to think, to do, to be optimistic, to be present and aware of the mechanations of the world. I also think it is interesting his fan base – largely punk rock fans – black clad and alternative… and I suppose I’m identifying with that too (I like to refer to myself as “lady-punk”). What I think is interesting is that the music scene is so often saturated with image-driven advertising – with drugs and alcohol abuse (and other forms of chemical self abuse), the lifestyle excessive and perhaps kamikaze. Violent. Nasty.

BUT, Rollins, despite the inky flesh, and the black attire and the military hair cut – is not presenting a physically violent, self-destructive human, he is not hating and spitting on his audience – an open palm sweeps across our gaze as he says how obsessed he is with us, how much he thinks about us… this is a man in love with the performance act.

And I’m in love with performance, so it’s a pretty easy synergy to work out.

By the way, this post is about prejudice.

So, it’s a tough gig for an American in the Australian cultural landscape. Generally we admire and hate Americans – we see their loud voices as over the top or arrogant, we look down on their spelling (color, favor etc) we look down on their health care system, their fast food culture. Rollins understands this, as he is not the walking epitome of American emperialism. His message is largely one of united understanding and appreciation of difference and the amazing, fluxing, throbbing, diverse thing which is the many nations of the world. It’s fairly easy to assume that his muscled 51 year old body is a sign of masculine anger, or meat-headedness. But if you think that, you’d be wrong. It’s easy to assume that his life has been a constant ride of excess and substance abuse. You’d be wrong about that too.

In fact, the extreme opposite is true. A hard worker. A sharp mind. A funny guy. A guy with a lot of humility and time for people (who contact him often in a state of pain or confusion it seems) A passionate human rights activist he has said “This is where my anger takes me, to places like this, not into abuse but into proactive, clean movement”.

“If you hate your parents, the man or the establishment, don’t show them up by getting wasted and wrapping your car around a tree. If you really want to rebel against your parents: out learn them, outlive them, and know more than they do.”

Interestingly, when i mentioned once to a friend how taken I am with Henry Rollins’ work ethic, philosophy, world view etc, she replied: “but isn’t he a misogynist?”

So I had a look around to see what I could find… I found this:

And I found this.

So… wow, huh?

How do I see that? What do I do with that?


A couple of things.

I don’t think Rollins just thinks like that about lazy women – I’m sure it might apply to men too. I think Rollins is about being the bet version of yourself – whatever that means

The internet is a large and unforgiving memory – it can either keep us preserved as we were for all time – of offer a perspective of how far we’ve come… but it depends on the reader of that information.

Youth is a very unforgiving state of existence – things are hard, life is frustrating, devastating… relationships are difficult – and people, luckilly, grow out of being young. I think if we were all judged by our younger selves – well – no one would get a break. Rollins may not think like that now, I don’t know for sure, but I’ve not heard any anti-female sentiments from him in the last 3 years/occasions of seeing him perform. I’m sure I wouldn’t buy his shirts if he made me feel at anyway he hated women, or their body parts or their bodies.

On Wednesday night at the Seymour centre – there was a bit of vagina talk. He did talk about old men who are nasty (especially in American politics) to all those in the world because they no longer have access to (because they are not desirable to) Vaginas. Rollins talked about frustration with vaginas – but not with women. And this is also usually accompanied with a self-deprecating story about being an old man, and his lack of relevance to being a sexual threat or icon. He spoke of his support for a family planning centre in Austin Texas. I do get the impression that Rollins finds women a bit of an enigma. But I don’t think he hates them.

Rollins’ technique in spoken word is to illuminate and inspire through example of living – of conviction and the transformative power of language. His aim is to break down prejudice – and that all is linked with and starts with him – what prejudice we have toward who he is, where he’s from what he’s said/done previously.

Interestingly a technique of wearing his audience out (2.5 hours of straight thinking, talking, performing, impersonating, recounting – no water, no interval) talks of stamina and strength – and he often shows his audience up as fidgetting numb-bummed slackers by the end of the night.

For me, I find him to be an example of extreme living and thinking – always proactive and always optimistic.

“I don’t want to know. I don’t need it. I don’t want the information that millions of people have. I don’t want to be fed these boring facts and figures. Then you’ll become one of the masses. I’d rather starve my mind a bit and have to search out nutrition in stranger places.”