Henry Rollins

The Big Smoke Q&A with Henry Rollins

Image: Heidi May

Henry Rollins talks to The Big Smoke about work, music, Ty Segall, and his secret life as Latoya Jackson.


TBS: What do you think the key factor is in you ending up where you are today, career-wise?

Rollins: I should define what I think “where” is: I am still able to get shows. I can still tour. This is of the utmost importance to me. If this is at all an achievement, I attribute it to tenacity and a good amount of desperation. Never, ever thinking I have it in the bag, that it can’t all go away quickly, and that indeed some day it will all be over, and that the audience will be done with me before I am done with them—this keeps me running at it with a lot of ferocity. This is what has me “where” I am. The value of that place is up to the individual. For me, it is everything.


TBS: Who is your celebrity/political/musical crush and why?

Rollins: I don’t have a crush on anyone, but I think I know what you’re getting at. There is no celebrity I have any fixation on, but I do think there are a lot of talented actors/directors/comedians, etc., out there. I think I am one of the only people left in America that still thinks President Obama is a good president. I don’t agree with everything he does but I think he is a good man. Musically, I am a big fan of Ty Segall. He is prolific and none of the records are bad. I think he’s really onto something. I have always been fascinated with people who are prolific and consistently good. On that side of things, many Australian bands are like this. Lots of records and really good ones, too. Australia has never not had an amazing music scene, but to me, at this time, it’s just incredible.


TBS: What is the worst way for a person to try and get your attention?

Rollins: Any way at all. I am busy and trying to output a lot of stuff before I fall over. I just want to be a service machine, a hose that’s rarely turned off. I would work 20-hour days if I had the strength. I am not trying to be a jerk or antisocial. I live alone, work alone. Work and music is pretty much all that interests me. I get emails and it feels like driving a race car and having to pull over to say hello.


TBS: What is your most annoying habit?

Rollins: Interrupting people when they are speaking. Awful. I am getting better. I just want the conversations to go faster and be shorter. I hate being rude.


TBS: What advice would you give a 15-year-old Henry Rollins?

Rollins: You are a disturbed person. Stop trying to fit in with normal people. It will never work and you will only waste your time and learn way too much about humiliation.


TBS: Tell us something NO ONE knows about you … until now …

Rollins:  From 1968 to 1974, I was Latoya Jackson. My memories of those years, while crystal clear, are mixed.


TBS: What is your favorite pretentious word to say? 

Rollins: I don’t use language to impress. I use it primarily to clarify, connect, and pulverize. I can’t think of any words I employ to make someone think I know something. I would rather speak so clearly that no speed or meaning is lost.


TBS: What is the one gift you pretty much always will re-gift?

Rollins: Most gifts. I would rather not get anything from anyone. I get T-shirts from radio stations sometimes. I give them to homeless shelters.


TBS: What is your favorite inspirational quote or person, as clichéd as it may be?

Rollins: Inspirational person … probably President Lincoln. He is one of the more quotable people I have ever read.


Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins is an American musician, writer, journalist, publisher, actor, television and radio host, spoken word artist, comedian, and activist. He is also a regular columnist for LA Weekly and Rolling Stone Australia.

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