From his early days with hardcore heroes State of Alert and Black Flag to his role opposite Charlie Sheen in The Chase and his surprise cable TV hit The Henry Rollins Show, 47-year-old Henry Rollins is often referred to as punk rock's Renaissance man. He's well-traveled, well-read and gloriously outspoken, his opinions asserted with the same authority with which he sings. Rollins spoke with us on Valentine's Day, one day after his birthday, from his office on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles to give his thoughts on five words.
VALENTINE: As far as the holiday or occasion, it doesn't mean anything to me. I don't have a valentine, and I'm not sending flowers to anybody. No one says "Happy Valentine's" to me. There are a lot of those pre-ordained holidays like your "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Easter," and I never really clicked into any of that. It's like someone else's holiday. It's the man's holiday, man.
PARANOIA: It's an awareness, but you can't trust it. It's misleading, and sometimes I don't know whether I'm healthily aware or paranoid. I have been paranoid now and then when I talk on the phone, wondering if I'm being listened to. It's not that I'm saying anything that would get me into any trouble—I don't feel like a dangerous guy—but the fact that I'm wondering and actually conscious of that is a shame. ... People shouldn't live like that.
DANZIG: Danzig? Glenn! He's a guy I see every few years. ... I bought those old Misfits records in high school when they were two bucks each, and in 1983, Glenn very generously gave me some really cool posters. That was back when he was still living in his mom's basement in Lodi, [New Jersey], and I used to go hang out with him. So I have a few nice Misfits things, but mainly just the records that I bought in high school that now go on eBay for a stupid amount of money. It's one of the upsides to being kind of old. There are only one or two upsides: cheap Misfits singles and, on Thursdays, you get free Jell-O.
IDOL: We do too much idolizing in this country. Why anyone would idolize Kelly Clarkson, I have no idea. I have nothing against the lady, but she just sings, right? She just sings nice songs. I think it's a dangerous thing to idolize someone, and every once in a while, someone lays that on me. It's very uncomfortable.
TELEVISION: It's a blade that cuts both ways. It has the power to illuminate and stupefy, and it's used to do both. It's a very interesting medium. In the last century, it is probably the most impactful thing in America. When the television came into the American home, when the workingman could afford a television for his family, and it wasn't just the local doctor or whatever, it changed the way we think of our government and the way we think of idols. Celebrity became a thing. The newscasters became almost as important as the news. They needed a look of credibility to where it was no longer about the information, it was about how the guy looked. A lot of damage was done to music when MTV took a hold, because now we look at music instead of listen. If the singer doesn't look pretty enough, then oh well, they must not be that good, or we don't look at them the same.
Well, potentially, not everyone is that shallow. It's only me and the three other guys waiting in line for the Jell-O. It's a dangerous and fascinating medium. Unfortunately it has far too much influence in our culture, and I'm part of it. It's an interesting current to ride.
Henry Rollins does a spoken-word set at Lincoln Theatre Thursday, Feb. 21, at 8 p.m. The show is sold out.