I am in the night
I am every part of it
The consumption of its beast 
The deck that it deals
The veins that bleed
The caress of its serpent

I am the night
As it writhes and undulates toward dawn
It moans and cries a symphony of anger
I am its agony as it struggles against the light
And dies with the strike of the Sun God.






Fan Sites

Image Library





Rollins Links

Site Feedback

Site Info

Site Updates

Spoken Word

Tour Dates



Main Page

Everything Rollins

 Come In and Burn...
An Unofficial Henry Rollins and Rollins Band Site...
VOX Magazine Interview - April '97...
Singer, actor, publisher, spoken-word artist, political activist-does HENRY ROLLINS ever let up? 'Course not, not even in Tokyo, where VOX catches up with him-between gym sessions-to talk about the new Rollins Band album and the straight-edge lifestyle that has made him The Last American Superhero... Mission: Possible (by Gavin Martin)

Henry Rollins does not have time for jetlag. Last night he arrived in Tokyo from LA, but this morning he is up early, having found just what he needs to start the day. A short distance from his hotel lies The Men Only gym. It's the place where he will go every morning of his week-long promotional trip to the Japanese capital.

Henry enters the gym, the smell of sweat and the atmosphere of Man-power hangs heavy in the air. He's the only white guy in there, but all the Japanese regulars turn around, momentarily set their weights aside, and roar a warrior's welcome to hail this impressive specimen of Occidental body sculpting.

Henry sees the homoerotic humor in the situation, but as a student of the Japanese warrior lifestyle, having studied the ways of Samurai logic filtered through books by Mishima and films by Kurosawa, he's in no doubt that he has found a home from home. He quickly gets down to the business at hand. Soon he has the weights on and is lying down on the bench press. The blood pumps, the tattoos stretch, the muscles ripple into action. By the time he reaches the point of maximum exertion, the neck muscles have taken on the dimensions of a small oak tree.

Over ten years ago when he was treading the boards with legendary hardcore outfit Black Flag, Rollins-the straight-edged, mad eyed punishing taskmaster of Underground America-made a song called 'My War' his anthem. Now, with countless records, books, stage and screen appearances under his body-builder's belt, his vigorous and pitiless attitude to life has become even more keenly focused. In a city where people undertake a 25-hour working day before clocking off to go to their other job, Rollins refuses to be outdone. Fronting Black Flag he was a punk savage as a heat-seeking missile; now he has primed himself into a fully fledged media machine. Head of his own publishing house (2.13.61.), he has a dual-career as monologist and as frontman for his own fury-fuelled band. During his downtime, he takes bitparts in movies that rank with the best (Heat) and worst (The Chase) of their kind. There's also affiliations with Gap clothing, Apple Mac computers, and METR-x-the same hi-protein amino-acid filled chocolate bar utilised by nearly every major American sports team.

"When you come to a place like Japan, it's difficult to actually get enough food in your stomach to get the energy to push the sort of weights I do in the morning. What am I supposed to do, fill myself with eggs and take all that fat, cholesterol, mercury, and God knows what into my system?" he says, biting off a mouthful of the shewy, chocolate-flavored power bar.

Henry's stint in Tokyo is the start of the international promotional campaign for 'Come In And Burn'-the first album for his new deal with the David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey 'Walt Disney' Katzenberg-owned Dreamworks label. While Rollins describes the album as "bomb proof, impervious to the slings and arrows of lofty critics worldwide," he admits that , for him-a man who lives for the heat of the moment-the drawn-out nature of the recording process is "like an endless trip to the dentist."

"It's really hard to take when you're limited as I am vocally to hear how bad you are, whereas live you can mix in with other decibels."

Finding it unhealthy and unnatural to talk about himself for hours on end, Henry is never slow to move the Japanese interviewers' agenda onto other topics. So he talks, fluently and endlessly, about his many musical loves (from James Brown to Tool, from John Coltrane to Alice In Chains, Led Zeppelin to Duke Ellington, and much, much more), his enduring hatred of the many evils festering in his homeland, and the ever-declining resolve, resilience and dedication among the girls and boys guarding the frontiers of post-MTV American rock.

"It makes me mad. Take Layne (Staley) from Alice In Chains. I think the guy can sing his ass off. I have all the records, I would fly to another town to see them play. I would love to have one-tenth of his talent. To see him squander it because he's too sick to tour because...he's high? I mean, what is that?" Rollins trails off.

At such times, the inflection in his voice is uncannily like that of a hard-assed American hero from another time and place, though John Wayne would undoubtedly run a mile from Rollins' commendably leftist angle on American politics.

Although a self-confessed loner who claims to approach his work with the disciplined fervour of a Tibetan monk, Rollins is not the unyielding ogre his reputation may suggest. He is not quite as tall as might be expected and, though developed to a muscular peak, his physique is in proportion to his height. Additionally, his hair has grown out of a close crop and today is brushed in to a boyish sideparting. When he smiles, his grin is sloppy and lopsided, and it's as if the mask has ddropped and you can see where Henry Rollins came from: the repressive isolation of an only childhood and broken home. Back when he was plain old Henry Garfield growing up under his domineering military man father in Washington DC.

"I was raised as a typical middle-class American male," he says at the end of a second day of talking with the Japanese press and media, readying himself for a trawl through the bootleg emporiums of the city's Shinjuku area.

"My parents divorced when I was very young. I went to a school that was heavy on discipline. A lot of sit down, shut up, teachers screaming, spit flying everywhere, push-ups in the hallway."

Early on Rollins figured out that the teachers who had driven tanks for Patton and served time in Vietnam would waste no time in turning me into mince meat." he seems to have subsumed the regimented approach to life at the same time as erecting the walls of solitude and independence, seemingly resolved never to rely on anyone, least of all the parents who split up and let him down so early in his life. Are his mother and father still alive?

"As far as I know. I've seen my father a total of less than seven minutes since I was a kid. I saw him in 1987 at one of our shows; I saw him for a minute. In 1988, he came to a speaking date in LA and he put his head into the dressing room said hello, I said hi, and when I looked up again he had gone. That's the last I've ever seen or heard of him.

"My mum I see about every two yeras for about 20 minutes. I never call her, she calls me every six to ten months. I don't hate her or anything, I just don't keep in touch."

You don't think that's a bit sad?

"No, not at all, I don't really know what it's like to be close to a parent. By sixth grade I fully had it into my head that I am on my own and that these people are not my back-up.

One day when I was really getting fucked over by one teacher, I told my dad about it. He told me to tell him that if he did it again he'd come over there and...I said 'Yessir,' but in my mind I went: 'Yeah, right, what are you going to do about it?' That was a revelation to me. I remember thinking I'd really grown when that thought occurred to me."

Growing up in the capital of America at a time of great social unrest, the young Henry Garfield was introduced to music and politics by his mother who worked for radical democrat Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election. James Brown and Mohammed Ali were the heroes of the hour. "By the time I was ten, I had smelled mace spray on numerous occasions. I remember our car had a dent in the roof from one rally that turned into a riot. We never tried to knock it out, kept it to remind us what was going on, I guess."

Though Henry went on these rallies with his mother, he quickly developed a life away from home. By the time he was 16 he was digging everything from "Aerosmith to Ted Nugent and The O'Jays, The Four Tops, Isaac Hayes, KC and The Sunshine Band." His nickname was Henrietta, and he was working for the gay proprietor of a downtown cinema.

He remembers the boss and his friends as great guys, laughing as he recalls one of his tasks. "To knock on the window if any guys who looked like Omar Sharif went past." But it was the horror stories told by the police in the foyer that seems to have affected him most deeply, the dark side of American life took a hold as he began to feel The Great Society falling apart. This is a process that he sees accelerating towards the millenium.

"In America there's going to be more skirmishes, more Gaza Strip Experiences. Then the government will take off its mask and go: 'Right fuck you, Seig Heil, this is how it is.' Because the American government is a racist government, without the havenots...without racism the American dream doesn't work."

The brutal disavowal of soft emotions evident in the young Henry is well to the fore on 'Come In And Burn,' where Rollins excoriates his own weaknesses and casts himself as a mad animal roaming the infernal city of night "wasted on insomnia, paranoid to the hilt."

Since their formation in 1987, The Rollins Band have developed into an unassailable lethal outfit; their leader allows them little respite from servicing his punishing psychology.

"The song 'Spilling Over The Side' is about being very lonely and meeting a stranger. It could be a guy meeting a girl in a bar-he starts talking to her and telling her way more than she wants to know. Three hours later, he realizes what a jerk he's been and goes home thinking how pathetic is that. And I've done that. The song 'All I Want' is about a girl that I wanted, but she didn't want me. And it hurt.

Do you fall in love often?

"Not often, but I have. When that happens and it doesn't work out it makes one very cynical and you go: 'Oh man, I don't know if Im ready to go through that again.'"

As someone with a very low opinion of his own musical ability, Rollins focuses this band on a limited mode of attack. There's keen intelligence, sharp humor and warm insights evident in his spoken word and written material which doesn't always inform his music.

"I use music as a tool. I use it as a screwdriver. I don't hammer nails with it, I don't peel paint off the walls with it. I use it to screw screws in. There are very specific reasons why I'm in a band, why I write lyrics. I don't write lyrics when I'm happy. I only write when I'm sad, frustrated, or really depressed. For me, music is for a specific purpose, it's the place where I go when it's like volcano time."

Ten years ago, Rollins told the NME (New Music Express) that if someone showed him the heart of darkness, he would jump right in. Since then, he's "been there"-when his friend Joe Cole was murdered in front of him and he came inches away from his own death. What that put him through was "pretty dark, you hit some pretty unbelievable lows when that happens."

As a publisher he has been drawn to similarly haunted and traumatised individuals. After a hearty meal of mashed potato, meat loaf and gravy, finished off with some of his Japanese record press officer's gumbo, he races about Bill Shields, a Vietnam veteran who has written two books for 2.13.61. Bill was a Navy Seal who undertook missions of darkest horror, decapitating entire villages, putting their heads on sticks as a horrible warning to the Viet Cong.

"He's had a gun in his mouth, going to end it countless times. The books are very powerful and they they show what it's really like. No matter what angle they take in every movie made about Vietnam, there's 15 minutes where you wish you were there. You don't get that feeling for one minute reading Bill's work."

Rollins sees his own musical and writing career as finite. In recent years, he's become involved with the Southern Poverty Association and The Freedom Conference, organizations concerned with tackling American racism head on. His will not be, and never has been, a life for watching the grass grow, or hearing the birdies sing. His abiding concern is to put his strength and eloquence into use where it's best suited and can have most effect. Does he ever relax, kick back and party?

There is the longest pause, for once words seem to fail him. "Ahh...does that mean when you get together in a room full of people at a function or something?"

You tell me.

"Ok, how do I party? I brew up a pot of coffee and listen to some loud music or play some soft music and listen to it."

You don't go out and have a dance?

"To some place full of tobacco smoke with a bunch of people drinking? I don't want to talk to some drunk woman, and women that smoke turn me off. 'Oh I see-so you hate your body. Oh well, bye bye."

"I don't have a lot of friends. If you looked at my phone book the numbers that I use are mostly business. I'm not the person who calls you on Saturday night and says: 'Hey man, let's go do something'-ever, ever. I'm not trying to come on like The Shadow, it's just the way it is.

"I get invited to parties, everything from high-profile movie premieres to celebrity birthday parties, and I'm like 'No thanks.'

"The only thing that I said yes to was a few weeks ago for James Brown who is an all-time superhero and that was incredible. Otherwise, I politely decline."

Even when it's time to clock off from the interview schedule, Rollins approaches his bootleg buying with something like military precision, scanning the racks and filling up his duffle bag (the same one he's had for 12 years) as he goes from shop to shop acquiring Thin Lizzy, Hendrix, Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Boston rarities.

He also comes away with several CD's and videos by his own band. He arrives at the counter of one store brandishing a copy of a video with his face on the cover. He asks for a reduction and the cowering shop owner reduces the time by half. Rollins stands his ground, stretches out the oak tree neck and puts his head a little closer to the guy's face. The shop goes quite. The only sound is the knocking of the shop owner's knees. A few minutes later, Rollins leaves the shop with a free video added to his bag of purchases.

It is the sort of presence that has made him into an icon for young and not so young men all over the globe. In a culture and generation where figureheads haven't exactly been able to last the course, he stands out as an inspirational force. It was a Black Flag visit to Seattle that many credit with kick-starting grunge. Certainly Kurt Cobain was a huge fan, though always too wasted and scared to ever meet him. It seems that, in his area, Rollins is a triumph of self-belief and reinvention, one of the last examples of The Artist as American Superhero.

"Could be. I do get that. They come up to you and it's like: 'No way, I can't believe, it's the man' Leonardo DiCaprio did that to me last year in New York. It's funny! When it happens I'm usually able to sneak away as they're trying to explain to their grilfriends who I am."

At the end of the interview schedule, two kids from a Japanese magazine want to hear Rollins' philosophy on life. He's happy to oblige.

"Don't do anything by half, if you love someone, love them all the way. If you hate them, hate them till it hurts. Give it all you've got; smoke all the resin out of your bowl."

Outside the sunset is glowing over the skyline. Tomorrow looks set to be a good day to visit the temples, see the sights. Henry would love to go, but he hasn't got the time. There's books to edit, weights to lift, people to talk to, battles to fight. And a war to win.