Politics and social justice have never been too far from the mind of punk legend Henry Rollins, and the world of the Black Flag front man turned spoken-word artist plunges more and more into that realm as we approach Election Day on Nov. 6.
Naturally, it’s become a chief point of discussion during this tour, and although Rollins doesn’t fancy himself a political commentator, he does see fit to dispel some things.
“There’s different Americas. We are the United States, but there are different Americas to different Americans. Perhaps a lot of Oklahomans’ version of America is different from a New Yorker’s,” Rollins said. “The trials and tribulations of a city dweller might make an Oklahoman think, ‘What
“When you express concerns to some parts of America, it’s just
not logical with other parts. You have 50 countries stitched together
by the Constitution. I try to tread carefully through that. My message
doesn’t change that much, but there are things I like to point out to
audiences. There’s some misconceptions about how some of that goes
done many things in his 51 years, fronting bands, performing solo,
writing, reporting, publishing, acting, DJing and fighting for change.
He owes a great bit of that to the path forged by Okie Woody Guthrie.
a voice. What a great icon,” Rollins said. “He was one of America’s
first punk rockers in that he stood up to the man, to the machine. When
you hear him sing ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ it’s not how I sang it at
summer camp in the fourth grade, this big ‘Kumbaya.’ It’s a hell of a
thing to remind the powers that be at that time. Guthrie had a lot of
Rollins had similar roots as a singer-songwriter, although he’s long since ditched that world for spoken-word performance that mixes comedy, storytelling and reporting.
“If I was still
playing music, I’d have to prismatically render that information into a
lyric,” Rollins said. “Honestly, I don’t have that skill anymore. That
desire left me a long time ago.”
isn’t to say that he doesn’t love music, saying that his favorite place
in the world — other than onstage — is planted in front of a stereo. He
hosts a radio show on California public-radio station KCRW, still
championing punk and music beyond that.
rock will always be fine, as long as there is youth and electricity. It
might not be as original or fresh-sounding as it once did, but it’s
fine,” he said.
not to be too judgmental. When you’re young, full of fury and someone
hurls a guitar at it, it might not be Eric Clapton, but it’s allowing
that person to emote. Maybe the music isn’t supposed to be that original
all the time. Maybe it’s a vehicle for poetry, anger, emotion or a