Henry Rollins lashes out at society’s ills during his spoken word tour

:: Henry Rollins ::
:: Boulder Theater :: November 8 ::


By Lisa Oshlo

Former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins puts his punk-rock ethos to (good) use on his latest spoken word tour. Honest and frank to the point of seeming marvelously unscripted, Rollins has garnered much cred as a spoken word artist for almost three decades. His latest tour is in its fifteenth month and is billed as a celebration of “the end of the Bush era.” It is an era that has provided much fodder for Rollins’ many speaking engagements, as his shows have become increasingly focused on politics under the current regime.

“The last seven years and so many months I’ve become quite used to George W. Bush,” Rollins said when The Marquee recently caught up with him. “We’ve kind of become pals. He’s become my English teacher as he’s reinvented the English language, and also he’s become my travel agent. So whenever he rattles a country too much, I immediately book a plane ticket, get a visa, and go. I’ve had some really interesting trips thanks to the man. He’s definitely made me realize that all wars are preventable and that I should go out and shake as many hands in as many countries as possible, and get the dialogue going. So I have him to thank for that.”

Rollins began his career as a spoken word artist in the early ’80s, when members of his band would take the stage at small clubs just to talk.  The whole thing “wasn’t my idea,” said Rollins.  “I have a big mouth and was offered ten bucks to do it, and said, ‘Well, I’m in!’” Things only gained momentum from there. Rollins was doing cross-country tours by ’85, and taking his show global shortly thereafter. After a long career in music (including fronting the Rollins Band), Rollins gradually shifted his focus to what he calls his “talking tours.”

“It’s easier for me to get at more stuff [through spoken word]. I can see something and tell you about it tomorrow night, whereas with music I have to write about my experiences in the abstract, so it can be reported to you nine months later on a CD,” he said. “Being at such an eventful time right now and having the access that I do, I really find it to be the best thing for me.”

But spoken word and music are not the only domains of this prolific man; Rollins hosts a show on independent radio as well as dabbling in movies and TV. “When they asked me to do the radio show, I told them I’d abide by all FCC rules and not say naughty words, but that they’d never tell me what to play. And my favorite thing to do is radio, because it’s the lowest stress. As far as what I think I’m good at, the talking shows are probably what I’m best suited for. Everything else I just give the old college try,” said Rollins.

Rollins is also an outspoken human rights activist, and his shows frequently focus on social injustice in a way that is both eloquent and astute.  His commanding physical presence and notoriously punk-rock ethic, combined with a sense of humor not often seen in his music, translate well to his spoken-word shows. The content spans the humorous and the political and contains anecdotes from a rock star life well lived. They are the tales of an artist who has managed to stay relevant for almost 30 years.
“You have to keep propelling yourself into the future,” he said. “You have to be in the present and not be nostalgic and not go out and do your greatest hits but go on, and let the chips fall where they may. I try not to do the oldies, I don’t think it’s very brave.”

He continued, “I’m sure people who are into me at this point have a good idea as to what they’re getting and where I’m coming from. And if not, they can just ask and, believe me, I’ll tell ’em.  You preach to the perverted wherever you are.”

:: Henry Rollins ::
:: Boulder Theater :: November 8 ::

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