Henry Rollins Won't Tell You Who to Vote For (But He Really Thinks You Should Vote)
Yesterday, 458 episodes of legendary maverick pirate/BBC radio broadcaster John Peel's radio program were mysteriously uploaded to SoundCloud. For fans of radio that plays by no rules, this is a windfall -- you can listen to Peel's joint interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, scroll back to Peel's spotlight on Faust in 1968, and hear sounds from DJ Shadow and plenty of inscrutable noise.
Peel passed away in 2004, but for fans of off-the-wall radio, there are still people carrying on his anything-goes style on the FM dial, namely Los Angeleno Henry Rollins, whose weekly show on KCRW is one of the best things happening (this week he slid effortlessly from agit-pop punkers The Cops into a drone-blast from Earth -- on an NPR affiliate, no less).
It's just one job the man juggles. In addition to his radio gig, he writes a weekly column for our sister blog, West Coast Sound/L.A. Weekly, and he's constantly on the road. His current speaking tour, the Capitalism Tour finds him hitting every capitol city in the USA, and brings him to Crescent Ballroom on Saturday, September 15. As one might guess, being on the road requires a little legwork beforehand, and from the tour bus.
"I've been working like a crazy man. I did all of the September [KCRW] shows in advance, all of the October shows," Rollins says on Labor Day, scoffing at the notion of taking a day off. "That's just [putting] the music together, which is not easy, because I want it to be good."
He records from the road some, utilizing an M-Audio box, and prefers to do his writing there as well, allowing his varied locales to shape his perspective. "This year it's been South Africa, Poland, Holland, all over the world."
In typical Rollins fashion, his columns blend political and social ideas with musical commentary. He's personable and funny, a far cry from the angry shouting man image that people hold of him (no doubt inspired by his angry shouting at the front of Black Flag and Rollins Band). Talking with him reveals the same thing -- he's more than capable of getting fired up, but Rollins is remarkably soft spoken these days, erudite and chilled out.
"It's not going to be me on stage doing some boring discourse on capitalism," Rollins says of his upcoming tour. "That would be mind-numbingly boring, and I don't have the intellect to support such a topic. Capitalism is not that hard to understand: supply, demand, et cetera. My take on capitalism is not anything that's interesting or controversial. I think capitalism is fine, as long as people play fair. I live in a capitalistic society. My whole world runs on capitalism in that if I don't make a profit, I lose my office, my staff. I can't do anything. If I operate at a loss, I'd have to get other employment and do everything I do differently. [But you'll] notice that my ticket prices and my merch prices are exceedingly low, because I'm not trying to drain these people. I'm not a robber. I want them to stay with me, so I can't make it onerous for someone to come and see me. I've got expenses -- and the people on my bus get a salary. So that's my understanding of capitalism, and I don't think I'll entertain anyone with that."
Rollins expects that his stories will be personal and reflective of his time spent globe-hopping, but in an election year it's hard to move away from the political process as a topic of conversation -- not that one should expect liberal tirades from Rollins.
"I would never tell someone who to vote for," he says. "That's just really rude. Who you're going to vote for in a presidential election is none of my business, and quite honestly, it's not interesting to me. It's up to you and your opinion, which is as valid as mine. My only concern is that you vote. Democracy needs you. Someone says, 'Oh, it's all the same, why bother voting?' That will get me going. But if someone says I'm going to vote for Mitt Romney [or] I'm going to vote for Barack Obama, go vote. Do your thing. Democracy needs you to show up, and that's about as far as I go with that."