Cover Story – Henry Rollins: The Catharsis of Anger
Henry Rollins has long been recognized as a major force in the American musical subculture, but of late he has been gaining notoriety as a prolific author and a powerful purveyor of the spoken word. With twelve books under his belt so far, his own publishing company 2.13.61 and four spoken word recordings to date, Rollins should be named busiest man in rock n’ roll, a postscript to his title as “the angriest man.”
While anger is an underlying theme in his spoken word performances and his writings, it is only one of many driving forces for the persona. His works are laden with humor, sorrow, joy, rage, terror and a sense of confronting and conquering the despair of being alive. Rollins emerges triumphantly at the end of all his work, showing his own progress as he strives through this oral and written purging process to come to grips with his own humanity. Along the way he takes his audience through the same process, purifying them with showers of anger and laughter; confronting our own fears and desires as Rollins faces his own. In the words of Rollins, “love and hate exist/On both sides of a/One sided coin,”. This coin could be the talisman that Rollins carries in his proverbial pocket; love and hate being the forces underlying Rollins’ writing, solo performances and work within the parameters of Rollin’s band.
Strip away the tattoos, the black clothing and the fierce expressions that indelibly cloud Rollin’s face, and you’re left with one of the loudest, most unique and conscientious voices of the 1990s. “Punk poet laureate” may seem a lofty title for a man on a quest in search of himself, but there is a side of his work that has universal appeal. In addition, Rollins exercises a responsibility to his audience and to himself, carefully choosing words and scenarios to get his message across to the listener/reader, or to himself. According to Dean Kuipers, in the introduction to the spoken word tape, Our Fathers Who Aren’t In Heaven: “Henry’s stories are mostly acts of painful self-effacement, peeling back his defenses to expose his own often hilarious moments of enlightenment…” These are the subtle truths that Rollins chooses to share with all of those who would pay attention and learn from them or rejoice in them.
There is a truly meaningful quality to be discovered in Rollin’s non-musical ventures, whether it’s a glimpse of yourself or an opportunity for personal growth or just a chance to enjoy the perspective of another human being commenting on the pleasure, indignity and frustration of living from day to day.
All this from a man synonymous with the word “angry”? Participate in the experience for yourself as Rollins performs in Salt Lake this month on his spoken word tour, just a single man and his microphone, laying himself bare for your scrutiny and benefit. You may find his “anger” to be profitable for your own soul; a way of exorcizing demons and making room for the person meant to inhabit your brain and body.
“I found a new home. I moved into a room much better than in England. I moved into a better neighborhood. I moved into my head. That’s my planet, that’s my neighborhood, I’m at the point where I can sit in a room alone and be perfectly content in my own company,” Rollins says.
Check out more from the SLUG Archives:
Rockability: An Interview with Dash Rip Rock
The Skeletones: Do The Rockabilly ’til the Break of Dawn
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