Henry Rollins is known for being one of the vocalists in the band Black Flag, for being in various movies, for his positions on various views and for being a really smart (and intense!) guy. Mr. Rollins was nice enough to let me interview him. I hope you like this one!!!
PMAKid: I know that you have been in Black Flag and the Rollins Band. You have been in TV shows and in movies and on the radio and that you have written books too. Are there any of these things that you like more than the others?
Mr. Rollins: The lowest stress environment is the radio show. I am not on camera and I can let the music do the talking. The rest is more highly pressurized or in the case of writing, time intensive task. I say yes to all of it and like all of it but the radio show, by nature of what it is, is the least hassle.
PMAKid: I know that you don't use the term "straight edge", but you don't do drugs or alcohol or smoke. There are other people I have interviewed (like Kevin Seconds from 7 Seconds) who don't do those things, but don't like using the label. When I was talking to Ian MacKaye, he told me about his view on the straight edge movement that started from his song. What do you think about the straight edge movement?
Mr. Rollins: I don’t like the idea of it being classified as being a “movement” as it sounds like a flavor of the month, it sounds like something you get in and then out of, like it’s temporary. I think it’s a smart choice to make. America likes its drugs and its dead-end lifestyles, you don’t have to hitch your wagon to that failure train. Again, it’s a choice one makes.
PMAKid: I found a quote from you where you said "Don't do anything by half. If you love someone, love them with all your soul. When you go to work, work your ass off. When you hate someone, hate them until it hurts." From what I see, you are a pretty intense man. How did you get to be so intense?
Mr. Rollins: Youth is fleeting and life is short, you might as well strike hard. Anything else is just average.
PMAKid: I try to keep a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) as much as possible. Some of my friends and people I have interviewed (Kevin Seconds, Toby Morse, C.J. Wilson) are known for the same thing and credit their successes to keeping PMA. You have been pretty successful, but you don't seem to be a real positive guy. Am I just not seeing it? Would you call yourself positive? How do you handle it when really bad things happen?
Dropinthebucket.org. I positively did go to Sudan and Uganda with them and checked out their work firsthand. I do call it like I see it and if that creates too rough a room for you, then find a room with a softer chair to sit in. That's where I am at with that question. What do I do when bad things happen? I act. I act as immediately as I can after I have assessed the situation and figured what the best plan of action is. The last thing you want to do is nothing. Bad guys factor in your apathy and/or fear factor when they do something. When you act decisively and by full measure, that is how you bring them to failure.
The photo is of Ugandan kids who are getting enough water every day, thanks to Drop In The Bucket. This is what happens when people act.
PMAKid: I know that you are pretty direct in your opinion when it comes to drug and alcohol use or abuse. Tom Hedrick and Lorraine Popper from the Partnership at DrugFree.org told me how you have to be loving and supportive and help people who are having problems with addictions. I only recently learned that my grandfather died of a drug overdose before my dad was born, and my dad is still mad about it. How do you react to friends or family who have problems with drugs or alcohol?
Mr. Rollins: I try to help but with adults, I have found that they are going to do what they are going to do. There is one woman I have been giving the get off drugs rap every times she falls off the wagon. We have been having this conversation for twenty-five years. With most people, if they come to me for advice, I will tell them what I think but past that, I don’t make house calls.
PMAKid: I have seen some video clips of you performing or being interviewed and you always seem so confident! I gave a presentation to the kids at my school recently and I was really nervous! Do you get nervous when you are on stage or doing interviews or stuff like that?
Mr. Rollins: No. I don’t think it’s confidence that I have. I have nothing but my guts and my wits and so I lead with them.
PMAKid: It seems like you are a pretty smart guy, so I bet you read a lot. I like to ask people what their three favorite books are. Can you tell me yours and why? What else do you do to relax? Do you even relax?
Mr. Rollins: I don’t have favorite books, there are too many great ones that I have read. Thomas Wolfe’s book Of Time And The River is one that I go back to and re-read parts of, same with Henry Miller’s Black Spring. One of the best books I have read in a long time is the one I am reading now by Eric Foner called The Fiery Trial. It’s about Abraham Lincoln and his evolving views on slavery. It’s an amazing read. I listen to a lot of music, I guess that’s a way of unwinding. When I do that, I am usually writing something. I don’t relax much I guess, I am not the type.
PMAKid: Last year, a bunch of record labels and bands and other peopole donated rare vinyl and test presses and stuff for my school's Hardcore for Education fundraiser. The money we raised helped to pay for my school's after-school band teacher. How important do you think it is to have music and other arts in elementary school?
Mr. Rollins: I think that’s a tremendous idea. I never had anything like that when I was in school and probably would have been all the better for it.
PMAKid: Every once in awhile, I ask people if they could have a different job or do something else in their life because I think it is interesting to see people's reactions. The Superintendent of my school district said he would choose to be a performer on broadway. Ian MacKaye said he would not want to do anything different at all. What about you?
Mr. Rollins: I would like to get the right press credentials or access so I could be a photojournalist in conflict areas but I would only want that on top of all the stuff I already do.