My Chat with Henry Rollins, Punk Rock Legend

Photo: Pelle Sten, CC by 2.0

Author’s Note: I lost my weekly humor column at the Anchorage Daily News over this disaster of an interview. Worth it?

I stand in the lobby of Anchorage’s Wendy Williamson Auditorium, excited to see Henry Rollins’s one-man show. Rollins, as your average punk rocker should know, was singer and screaming lunatic for the revolutionary hardcore band Black Flag during the 1980s. These days, Rollins fronts his own band, called—get ready for a really creative name—Rollins Band. In addition, he keeps busy touring the country with his critically acclaimed stand-up comedy routine, which he’s here to perform tonight.

I expected to see maybe twenty-five people, tops. I was wrong. Rollins’s concert has completely sold out the 900-seat Williamson, and about fifty people are on the waiting list. Realizing I have no chance of getting a ticket, I approach a nearby security guard.

“I’m Marty Beckerman, with the paper,” I say.

“So?” the guard asks.

“Well, do you think I could get a seat if I did a review of Rollins’s show?”

 “Do you have a ticket?”

“No,” I reply.

“No,” the guard answers.

Defeated, I try a slightly more professional journalistic method: sneaking backstage. I walk to the rear of the theater, where I find—surprise—another damn security guard. Nonetheless, I introduce myself.

“So do you have an interview with Rollins or what?” he asks.

“Yes,” I lie, “an interview with Rollins is exactly what I have.”

The guard makes a phone call, and the manager of the auditorium approaches me from backstage; he takes me up to the sound booth to watch the show. Rollins walks on stage, wearing a black sweater and more than a few layers of excess muscle tissue. One of the lighting guys in the booth comments on how Rollins is known to bench-press over 370 pounds in his daily workout. From the looks of the man, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. Henry Rollins is larger than the average bus, and most likely consumes more gasoline.

Rollins spends the next three hours performing profanity-laced comedy and leftist social commentary. His monologue covers such topics as world politics, the flaws of organized religion, and what it was like to do a nude scene for one of his big-screen movies.

“You want to do that interview of yours now?” the manager asks after the show.

“Sweet,” I reply. “I mean, uh, ‘yes.’”

“Just hang out backstage for thirty minutes. It should be fine with Rollins.”

I walk back down the miles of stairway, feeling excited as ever, considering these two interesting facts:

A) I never had an actual agreement with anyone to do an interview with Rollins.

B) I don’t have a single question prepared.

After two hours of waiting, the manager tells me that Rollins is now ready for my interview. Behind the dressing room door, I hear loud yelling about why “journalists are all scum.”

The door opens wide, however, and out comes Henry Rollins. He stands a single foot from my face, chest muscles practically poking two inches up my nose. Rollins sticks out his hand, which I instinctively shake with my hand, my body having taken the strong posture of a wet rag.

“Hi, I’m, um, Marty, with the, um, paper, and I, uh, have a, uh, humor column, and uh,” I mumble.

“So?” Rollins asks.

“Can I have an interview?”

“Make it quick,” he grumbles.

“So,” I say, “what movies have you been in?”

“All of them?” Rollins asks.

“Um, please?”

“I’ve been in a lot.”

“Would you do another nude scene?” I ask.

“I guess,” he says. “I would never sign on to do it, and then wimp out.”

Rollins makes a hand gesture to imply that he would rather be asked questions more relevant to his years and years of artistic accomplishment. I’m happy to comply.

“Would you do another nude scene right now?” I ask.

(Cold silence.)

“Okay then,” I say. “Does getting tattoos even hurt anymore?”

“I haven’t been tattooed in years,” Rollins explains. “I could never recommend it to anybody. Now, I can give you a lesson in bodily pain. I’ll take you to the gym and show you what pain is, you little motherfucker.”

It takes a second or thirty for me to regain the ability to speak.

“Um,” I say, trembling, “I think this interview is over.”

Rollins smiles, nods his head in agreement, and makes a wonderfully cheerful comment about fucking my mother.