Henry Rollins has been getting a lot of attention these days from the Australian media — after all, it's not every day that some American punk icon calls Australia's prime minister a "sissy."
While it hasn't been the kind of attention most celebrities would welcome, Rollins — who tread the boards with seminal hardcore tsunami Black Flag before launching his own hard-rock conglomeration, Rollins Band — is relishing it. "Well, it isn't the worst thing I could have said," he explained. "I have called the president of the United States a whole lot worse."
Prime Minister John Howard caught Hank's wrath during the rocker's most recent trip to Australia. On the flight from New Zealand, Rollins said he was reading a copy of Wall Street Journal correspondent Ahmed Rashid's book "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia." The man sitting next to him took objection to the book and reported Rollins to the Australian government.
"The guy phoned me in to their, like, anti-terrorist board, and they found me — they looked me up," he said. "They looked up the flight and found out who was sitting in seat 10A and they got to me. And they said, 'OK, you're now a person of interest. The man next to you does not agree with your politics and he didn't like the book you were reading.' This kind of provocation, I don't respond very well to. I was furious. And so I wrote back, 'You can tell everyone at your office, including your boss, to go f--- themselves. This book has been read by a ton of people — I am not a threat to your state or any state or any republic.' "
In the actual text of his online response, Rollins added: "Baghdad's safer than my hometown, and your PM is a sissy."
Rollins said he isn't sure he'll ever be able to return to Australia. That doesn't upset him all that much. What does irk him, though, is that he can't take out his frustrations on the man who reported him as a potential national security risk.
"He didn't even leave his name and address [when he called], and that, to me, is pretty cowardly," Rollins said. "The next time I get out to Australia — that is, if they let me in — I am going to talk about that guy in every interview I do. And it will get to him. It's a small country, in that there aren't a lot of people there and most of the country's just sand and flies. So it will get to him."
Rollins will be doing plenty of interviews Stateside, but on the other side of the mic, when his weekly talk show "The Henry Rollins Show" debuts April 1 on the Independent Film Channel. (Rollins also has a radio program, "Harmony in My Head," which airs Tuesday nights on Los Angeles' Indie 103.1.) The program, an offshoot of Rollins' old IFC gig, "Henry's Film Corner," will feature musical guests and performances as well as interviews with actors, writers, politicians, thinkers and "people I think have something to say," he explained.
Rollins said the idea for the program was inspired by the tons of mail the channel received concerning his monthly rants during "Henry's Film Corner."
"I had moments where I could just go off on topics, and that was the stuff that got the most mail," he said. "People loved our interviews, and then the mail we would get was 'We like when Henry goes off and tears the president a new one.' So this time around, the show went from monthly to weekly and the show's name was changed. And they just said, 'Do what you want. We trust you, we like you — go.' "
Musical guests lined up include Frank Black, Death Cab for Cutie, Dashboard Confessional, Sleater-Kinney and Ben Folds. Rollins said he's in control of the bulk of the show's content, which is the only way he'd have it.
"If they didn't let me do what I want, they'd find some handsome guy with frosted hair who goes, 'Great — give me the copy,' " he said. "I don't want to be that guy."