Henry Rollins doesn't like you. He's what you might call an equal opportunist—not in the way you're thinking, but in that he'll rip on anything and everyone. In his nearly 30 years as a standup comedian, television personality, actor, radio DJ, columnist, spoken-word artist and singer for legendary bands like Black Flag and Rollins Band, he's been mixing the polemical with the comical and kicking up major shit in the process.
We caught up with him via e-mail as he launched his stand-up Recountdown Tour, where audiences are treated to rants on everything from Bush and Obama to dating and the dangers of listening to Nickelback. And while he plays a sometimes reluctantly polite host on his talk show, he still wants nothing more than to, as he puts it, “fuck on the floor and break shit.”
CityBeat: So, the Recountdown Tour is a celebration of the end of the Bush administration. Is this a party you thought you were going to get to throw in 2004?
Henry Rollins: I thought Kerry handed the election to the Bush Crime Family on a silver platter. I think McCain will win the next election and America can have four more years of good times.
OK, then, so why is this epoch so important?
We're living in the age of the end of America as the world's greatest superpower. It's been over with for awhile. Some people are going to have a hard time adjusting. They can console themselves with Big Macs and creationism.
But you're not an “anybody but Bush” guy, are you?
No. Would I want Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, Romney, Giuliani, McCain or Limbaugh in office?
How do you feel about the presidential candidates?
I think that McCain and Obama are decent men, but I know what I am getting with McCain. He told me all about it the other night during the debate when he mentioned SDI [Strategic Defense Initiative, or the ground- and space-based systems that will supposedly protect the U.S. from a missile attack] and his thoughts on Iraq. The world he lives in no longer exists.
So, what is the next administration going to inherit from the current, especially considering the economic news from the past few weeks?
Obviously, they are going to inherit the damage done over the last two terms of Bush. It's a broken government that was broken by big business, deregulation, greed, politicians and lobbyists who sought to break it so they can say that government doesn't work. Neither McCain, nor Obama [has] what it takes to fix it. The former doesn't have the will, the latter doesn't have the way.
Criticisms aside, is there a Machiavellian side to you at all that's in awe of the way Bush and his people have been able to bamboozle the nation over and over?
No. Americans are relatively easy to swindle, partly because we are a trusting people. Generally speaking, we don't read, travel, question and, quite often, don't seem to give a damn. We're basically rubes waiting to buy a bridge. It's just business and the only thing that gets in the way is regulation, morality, the Constitution. Many Americans seem to be happy to part with their freedom. So willingly they go to the slaughter, they'll drive themselves.
If you were in front of Congress, what would be the topics of your State of the Union address?
Economy, Iraq, energy, the future.
You've often talked about topical and even romantic things on these tours in the past. Are we going to be treated to varying topics on this tour or is it going to be mainly devoted to politics?
Politics has little to do with this tour actually. You have already made your mind up on who you are voting for and quite honestly I don't care who anyone votes for. It's not my business. I just want them to vote. The topics are fairly wide ranging but have a lot to do with where I have been lately.
Just for clarity, are you doing music anymore at all?
I have not said no to more but I want to make it with different people than I have been. Time to reset things.
In what ways, if at all, did your musical career help you prepare for what you're doing now?
Sure. Music, the way I have done it, makes you tough and teaches you how to hang in there. That's what it's all about out here. I don't have talent, I have tenacity and will.
Do you feel like you're reaching more people now doing what you're doing than with music?
I have no idea. I just go out there and sling it as hard as I can every night.
But do you feel you're ever just preaching to the choir with the audiences you attract? As if they're just showing up to see someone on a soapbox talking about the issues they care about and in a way they wish they could?
Lame question. The only way you could avoid that is to be a Muslim speaking at the RNC [Republican National Convention]. Who else are you going to attract? Would you pay 30 bucks to go hear someone you were going to hate? Would you go there to heckle the guy only to get your ass kicked by the people around you?
What are the differences between the angry young man in Black Flag and the angry—well, not-so-young man you are today?
Age and experience.
Would you consider yourself optimistic at this point about the future of this country, or are you, like Francis Bacon said, “optimistic, but about nothing”?
I am definitely optimistic because I know that every day, I kick the ass off these conservative cowards. It's no big deal and not all that hard. By doing so, the world gets better.
Henry Rollins performs Friday, Oct. 10, at 4th & B. 619-231-4343. www.henryrollins.com