Since emerging from the punk underground with Black Flag in the 1980s, Henry Rollins has been a pop culture super force; aside from musician, he can list writer, DJ, actor and activist on his résumé. He’s currently speaking his mind each night on a 13-month spoken word tour, which hits Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix December 3-4.
This summer, you wrote a piece for your la Weekly column called “White America Couldn’t Handle What Black America Deals With Every Day.” Is race a big topic on this tour?
Race is almost always brought up at my shows. There is no big piece on the topic, night to night, this time around. What could I tell you that you don’t already know? What dots could I possibly connect for you? U.S.A. has known what’s what since 1865, when it had a chance to make things right with the 13th Amendment and then nail it down with the 14th in 1868. U.S.A. installed Jim Crow laws instead. Homo sapiens, apparently the most evolved monotype, still insist on using bigotry in everything from humor to elections.
Your weekly radio show on KCRW 89.9 in Southern California (available as a podcast online) is one of the most adventurous and eclectic on the dial. What do you listen for in a song?
The song has to move me in some way, enough to hurl it in front of my wonderful listeners. I make the show for only one person. I see them when I put a show together. It’s a young person, alone in a room in some culturally empty part of the world. They might be lonely or feel they don’t fit in. They have one thing going for them that night – two hours of radio that was put together to make it a little easier to breathe.
You’ve spent plenty of time in Phoenix, going all the way back to the SST records days. Who’s your favorite band to come from here?
It would be the Meat Puppets. There is nothing like them anywhere.
Visit PHOENIX magazine’s arts and culture blog The PhiX for our uncut Q&A with Henry Rollins.
– Jason P. Woodbury
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