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It's something of an understatement to say that Henry Rollins is one of the hardest-working men in show business. For the past quarter century, he's averaged more than 100 shows a year in more countries than most people can identify on a map, and he's covered more ground — politically, culturally, and soundwise — than most folks field in a lifetime.
When Rollins is not onstage, he's writing; when he's not writing, he's publishing; when he's not publishing, he's on TV, or on radio, or blogging away on the web. As the frontman for the legendary band Black Flag, he earned a place in punk's hall of fame; as head of his own publishing house/record label (2.13.61), he's DIY personified; as host of shows for both IFC (The Henry Rollins Show) and L.A.'s Indie 103.1 (Harmony in My Head), he proved that there's still room on the airwaves for something smart and uncensored.
But it is Rollins' facility with a rant that has kept the man in the spotlight and kept the spotlight on that which he most disapproves of: injustice, intolerance, and idiocy. Within his spoken-word pieces, he's come down hard on the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, and just about everything else Bush and company had to offer, including "overfed, Baby Huey, coward, bitch motherfuckers like Karl Rove" and "suck-up, weakling apologists like Sean Hannity." When it comes to dirty politics, Rollins isn't afraid to get onstage by himself and throw the mud right back.
It's the rabble-rousing side of his personality that draws us to the man and the brand in his hand, that brass-knuckle activism that begins within and takes it all outside to the alley. This is not poetry — not even close. It's not a rock act either. But it is as fierce and as fervent as a roar. And it'll either get you off your ass — or it'll kick it.
As virulent as his ire sometimes is, Rollins is not just another petty hate machine. He's stepped up and performed for gays (Wedrock), blacks (Southern Poverty Law Center), the West Memphis Three (Rise Above), even Americana (This Land Is Your Land). And that little orphanage near his L.A. home would be a whole lot bleaker if not for Rollins' continued assistance.
New Times caught up with Rollins on the eve of his Recountdown Tour and asked him about his take on Election '08. Here's how he spilled it:
New Times: You're calling Recountdown an Election Time Talking Tour?
Rollins: Yeah, I just wanted one last lap around America with Bush in office, because he and I've done eight years together. I don't have a sentimental thing, but America — no matter what happens after the next election — is going to be very, very different than it is right now. Whether it will be better or worse, I don't know. But it sure enough will be nothing like what we've got right now. It won't be overnight, like all-of-a-sudden-everything-is-painted-blue different, but things'll be different. And I wanted a few more shows under the administration that's never coming back again.
Are you alarmed about the Palin nomination?
I'm more curious as to what the real motivation behind them bringing her in as a VP pick: Was it trying to get disenchanted Hillary voters? Is it to make McCain look more right of center to assuage Southern voters? Is it mere distraction? As it is now, the media is comparing Palin to Barack and McCain is being given a solid pass. When have you ever seen a vice president from one side being compared to the experience level of the presidential candidate on the other? I've never seen it. Meanwhile, no one's talking about Biden, and no one's talking about McCain. It's a press thing too, a media thing. And these are the things that have me curious. I don't care about her Bridge to Nowhere and her Troopergate, and I'm very offended — though not surprised — by the American media and their lipstick [on a pig] thing. I wish we just didn't have to be 8 years old all the time.
Did you hear her take on Russia?
Yes, that Charles Gibson interview. Any popular American politician — and she's probably the most popular one at the moment — should really be very careful about anything they say with Russia in a sentence right now.
Russia seems to be raring for a fight, and she's stepping right into it.
Well, yeah. And as much as I'm sure that the Pentagon and the State Department and KBR would like to get into it with Russia, I don't think we have the manpower or the sheer brutality to take on the Russians, who are very well-rested, very well-equipped, and they haven't been fighting a war in Iraq for the last five years which pounded their infantry and all their weaponry and vehicles.
It seems that [the U.S. government] doesn't know how to make money any more unless there's a war.
Yeah, our economy at this point seems to be a war economy, where we make money selling weapons. I wish we could sell soybeans or something else, but it seems to be JDAMs [Joint Direct Attack Munitions].
The minute something goes wrong, the Democratic Party seems to cower beneath a falling sky.
I think that Republicans play the tough-guy card and Democrats play the decent card, and it's always thrown at the Democrats to prove they won't take it from the bullies, to get down in the mud and sling it with them. And I don't necessarily think that's a good idea for the left to have their versions of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. I think it muddies the water even more.
So you think it's admirable that Obama's kept to the high ground?
I think it's admirable, but I don't know that it's a way to win an election in America in 2008. I just don't think that's how the game goes anymore. I think it's really turned into bloodsport. Politics has always been a rough room, but, boy, now it's like a rough room on steroids. What is Obama supposed to do, call Sarah Palin a bitch? Where is it supposed to go? What if Joe Biden had given a speech anywhere near as stupid as Sarah Palin's at the DNC? The press would've just jumped all over him; he would've gotten slammed. But Sarah Palin delivered this dumbass screed, which I thought was really offensive and boring and stupid. Matt Drudge calls her "the Republican wonder," and the press pretty much got in line.