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Henry Rollins: The Interview! Anger, Drugs and the Black Flag Reunion


When you arrived to L.A from Washington, D.C., in 1981, could you have predicted you'd stay this long?

No. I arrived here in L.A. when I was 20.5 years old and I quit a shitty minimum-wage job -- which was about $3.75 an hour -- to get into Black Flag. The band wasn't big, but they were a bitchin' band, and I liked their music. So I packed my life into a duffle bag: four pairs of underwear that I still had from the ninth grade, a couple of shirts, and whatever else I could carry. I gave away most of my stuff and took a Greyhound bus from Washington, D.C., to Detroit to meet the band. I ended up joining them and came out to L.A. and became completely broke. Black Flag was one of those bands that had trouble making ends meet and paying rent.


In your book's intro, you say you're driven by anger. Considering that fans give you overwhelmingly positive feedback, this is somewhat surprising.

I'm just angry. I'm angry right now, but not at you. I just happen to be an angry person, but my anger doesn't make me kick dogs or kick holes in the wall; my anger makes me get visas and my passport and go to places where my country doesn't want me to go. If I hear, "Be afraid of Tehran," I'm, like, "I'd better go to Tehran." The people I met ended up being amazing and wonderful. ... Every country I go to, I'm asked, "My friend, where are you from?" And I always say, "I'm from America, my name is Henry, what's happening?" It's my anger that fuels my curiosity.


You wrote recently about Rush Limbaugh taking note of your Hawaii Five-O character. In general, how do acting parts come your way?

If I'm in L.A. for longer than 20 days, I'm looking for work, because I don't do vacations. Since acting is the big industry in this town, I'll take that action. So Hawaii Five-O called me up and said, "Hey, want to do this?" And I said, "Yeah." Can I act? No, but don't tell them that. I'm just going for it. I go out on auditions for voice-over and acting, and I do the whole Hollywood shuffle. I've been to every studio like every other person in this town, just winging it. Luckily I get a fair amount of work for someone who hasn't really studied to be an actor. I like to think I held my own pretty well in shows like Sons of Anarchy.