For a guy who's sculpted a reputation for himself as both a physical and mental hard body, a fortress of intense emotions that can explode in a fury, Henry Rollins is awfully quick to laugh at himself.
At several points on his new live spoken-word CD, A Rollins in the Wry, the Rollins Band singer, former Black Flag frontman, poet and actor sticks pins in his own ballooned image.
In one monologue about men trying futilely to impress women, he gets on a hyper, breathless roll. You can practically see his jaw clenching as seethes sarcastically that women "do not understand that real men stand on the frozen dawn, the icy line, and look into the future!" letting out an Ozzy-ish yelp at the end.
But while he's willing to declaw his notoriety, Rollins said he's careful not to disavow any of his earlier work.
"Say you're writing these heavy lyrics about this chick leaving you," Rollins said from his Los Angeles office. "And it is really 'Dun-dah-dunn,' Wagnerian, huge, full orchestra sturm und drang. You can't go, 'Oh, that was just a goof.' People have that music in their rooms, and they're playing it, and it really gets them through something. And at the time you wrote it, it was getting you through something, too. To abandon it and go, 'Whatever,' you've just spat in the face of the guy who's wearing that song on his shield. And I hate when artists do that."
Rollins, whose Rollins Band outfit was recently added to the Vans Warped Tour lineup, is touring solo across the United States through mid-April with new monologue material. A Rollins in the Wry was recorded in the spring of 1999, when Rollins had set up shop in Los Angeles' Luna Park cafe for a series of weekly, 90-minute spoken-word sets.
"That was the first time I ever did anything remotely like this: showing up in one place every week like a sitting duck," he said. "There were repeat people some people came all nine shows, it was like the theater season. They bought their tickets at once and did the Hank-a-thon."
Among the topics that made it onto the disc are Rollins' overwhelmed reaction to touring historic Israel, a warning about pundits' attacks on music in the wake of the Columbine school shootings and a hilarious story about lifting weights in a Texas gym while unknowingly being caked in TV makeup.
On a piece called "Maturity," the 40-year-old Rollins explains about how female friends have taken him aside over the years and tried to help him see the ways he was overcompensating for his insecurities, be it through body building or literary name dropping.
"I was given an opportunity to consider that some actions or statements are a bit overdone, overblown," he said. "Where a teaspoon would have been enough, the shovelful was unnecessary."
Rollins has begun work on the next Rollins Band album, and while it won't be as over-the-top as his work from younger years, that older perspective can be just as compelling, he said.
"You gotta dig deeper to get to the real sh--. You've gotta see through all your jadedness and cut through all your calluses to get to the sensitive tissues. That seems to me why it's harder, as you get older, to remain vital. Because you build up callus. You get left the first time by some girl, well, there's an album right there. By the 30th time you get blown off, that slap to the face doesn't hurt so much. It's become a friend on one level, 'Hello heartbreak, come on in.'"
Henry Rollins tour dates, from his publicist:
- 3/14 - New York, NY @ Town Hall
- 3/16 - Toronto, ON @ Convocation Hall
- 3/17 - Buffalo, NY @ Allendale Theater
- 3/18 - Cleveland, OH @ Odeon
- 3/19 - Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart's
- 3/20 - Madison, WI @ Barrymore Theater
- 3/21 - Oxford, OH @ Miami University
- 3/22 - St. Louis, MO @ Washington University
- 3/23 - St. Louis, MO @ Pageant Theater
- 3/24 - Lawrence, KS @ Liberty Hall
- 3/26 - Minneapolis, MN @ Women's Club Theater
- 3/28 - Denver, CO @ Paramount
- 3/29 - Calgary, AB @ McEwan Hall Ballroom
- 3/30 - Edmonton, AB @ Meyer Horowitz Theater
- 4/1 - Victoria, BC @ University of British Columbia Auditorium
- 4/2 - Vancouver, BC @ TBA
- 4/3 - Seattle, WA @ Moore Theater
- 4/4 - Bellingham, WA @ Mount Baker Theater
- 4/6 - Misoula, MT @ Wilma Theater
- 4/7 - Boise, ID @ Big Easy
- 4/8 - Portland, OR @ Aladdin
- 4/9 - San Francisco, CA @ Palace of Fine Arts
- 4/11 - Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theater
- 4/12 - Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theater