Henry Rollins is an artist who’s difficult to define. It’s not an act; it’s just the way he’s built.
Rollins, touring with his new book, Sic, brings his spoken word show, Good to See You, to the Maumee Theater on Oct. 18. In the 40-plus years since he became the front man for Black Flag, he’s been a writer, spoken-word poet, actor, DJ and even stand-up comic. A legend in the eyes and ears of Gen Xers, Rollins embodied the second wave of punk rock that swept California in the early 80s.
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Ambassador or sell out?
Rollins became an ambassador for the DIY punk/hardcore culture, appearing on mainstream talk shows and magazine covers. Some called him a sellout, but time has vindicated him. His experimentation with spoken word back in the days of Black Flag was innovative, and he introduced self-improvement through brutally honest self-examination — a change from the more self-destructive tone many bands had taken. Most importantly, this continued low-key celebrity remains a gateway for a new generation to discover this subculture.
Known for his intensity, Rollins tamed his rambunctious nature through a strict work ethic. He was the cool girls’ dream guy — broodingly handsome with a brand of masculinity — channeled by his razor-sharp intellect that could be intimidating, but in a good way.
A passage from his early writing pokes fun at Madonna, notions of masculinity, and consumerism: “Madonna. She makes me want to drink beer. She makes me want to drive fast and go bowling. She makes me want to shop at Sears.”
Now, in 2023, Rollins looks back at his Black Flag and Rollins Band music, explaining with modest candor (in an interview with legendary producer, Rick Rubin), “If I played those records now, as a man pushing 60, I go, ‘Yeah, that’s music you make when you’re young and hungry and really mad.’ I can’t make that music now because I’ve got money in the bank, I eat three meals a day and nothing really inconveniences me. I’m just not there anymore. But when you’re young, you’re feral.”
On writing, Sic and the 2023 tour
Rollins’ 2023 tour dates noticeably lack major cities an artist like Rollins would easily sell out. That seems intentional — possibly an effort to stay connected to the experiences on the road that inspired him to write in the first place.
In his book, The Portable Henry Rollins, he says, “I started writing on the road when I was in Black Flag. I was young and the road held much to the open eye. I thought it would be a good idea to start writing about it. The more I wrote, the more I liked writing. The greatest lessons I ever learned, I learned from the road. The scars on my skin are my road map.”
Sic is a return to the raw, taut style of his earlier writing and is some of the best prose he’s ever written. One reviewer called it, “a bit of a jolt.” A chapter on a stalker who heard voices commanding him to break into Rollins’ home on his 60th birthday is the centerpiece of the show.
And it includes dealing with PTSD from the 1991 murder of his best friend, Joe Cole.
Asked if a spoken word tour was less stressful than one with a full band, Rollins responded, “The talking shows are more demanding, because it’s only me on stage. It’s like comparing surgery with construction — one requires super concentration and the other is just physical.”
Henry Rollins at the Maumee Indoor Theater Oct. 18 maumeeindoor.com/event-details/henry-rollins-good-to-see-you. For signed copies of Rollins book “Sic” visit instagram.com/henryandheidi.