Henry Rollins was vocalist for legendary American hardcore punk band Black Flag. He first became involved in the scene through close friend, Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi, The Evens). Rollins’ high level of energy, outspoken nature and intense persona make him a natural for the stage. After Black Flag’s demise in the mid-80s, Rollins went on to release a solo project which would become The Rollins Band. Over the years he has made the transition from underground icon to the mainstream adding actor, radio and TV personality, author, publisher, radio show host, voice-over artist and comedian to his résumé. Rollins is a known activist, championing human rights.
What are your personal views on organised movements of faith?
HENRY ROLLINS: Any belief system that’s organised — religion, the law, what have you — should be dealt with carefully. As far as organised faith goes, some aspects of it are somewhat distressing or at least alien to me. Standing around outside a window for hours so you can wave to the Pope when he comes out to the balcony … it’s not much different than waving at Michael Jackson from the street. Go ahead and do it. You won’t find me there. When religious organisations get together to protest gay people’s right to be married or happy, I will be happy to read about them getting a foot up their ass. Don’t like the idea of same sex marriage? Then don’t marry someone from the opposite sex, ya dumb motherfucker.
Do you view belief/faith as a strength or a weakness?
HR: It’s completely what you make it. Things can be a crutch, a shield, a ladder rung, a place to start, a dead-end — it’s what you do that makes it what it is.
Do you think that people turn to spirituality/faith to shift some of the responsibility from themselves in life?
HR: There again, it’s what you do with it. Some of the most on-time and responsible people I know are religious and/or spiritual. They are really cool; they kick ass and get it done. I don’t think there’s any one way with spirituality. Anyone with a point of view can have it turned on them and have it called spiritual. Your personal system of right and wrong can be seen as spiritual. People who want to shift responsibility away from themselves don’t need religion or spirituality to do it, they’re just irresponsible and that’s that.
What are some things that you do believe in?
HR: I believe in north, south, east, west, the seasons, life and death, geography. That which is provable, absolute and, most of all, functional. I believe in things that can kill me.
What drives and inspires you in the day-to-day?
HR: I’m angry and interested. The world is an interesting place. I will be here until I die so I might as well check it out.
What views of the world and afterlife have you constructed to explain death, life and everything in between? Do you think there are greater forces at work, something bigger than us?
HR: You’re born and you live until you die. If there’s anything after that, I guess I’ll find out. Until then, I’m trying to live in the present tense and kick ass. A greater force or whatever isn’t at all interesting to me unless it’s going to get me paid, fed or laid. My mullah!
Another 2,000+ words of this conversation is featured in the limited edition zine series, Conversations with Punx: A Spiritual Dialogue Zine #2 – Courage