Spoken word artist and former Black Flag singer Henry Rollins will bring his “Capitalism” tour to 9:30 Club Nov. 5, the eve of the presidential election. Photo courtesy of Flickr user catechism under the Creative Commons License.
From his days as a punk rock icon to his current role as a spoken word artist, Henry Rollins is no stranger to the life on the road.
Since September, the D.C. native has traversed the country, bringing his “Capitalism” tour to every state capital in the nation. The tour will culminate in a final performance at the 9:30 Club on Nov. 5, the eve of the presidential election.
The Hatchet caught up with Rollins to discuss politics and those “music thieves” known as EDM artists.
Ramos: Your final tour date is in the nation’s capital the night before Election Day. Will the message here differ at all from your messages in other places?
Mr. Rollins: No, because they’re just people, they’re just Americans. I don’t go anywhere trying to influence anyone in terms of voting or anything. I don’t care who you vote for. I voted. I’m responsible for one vote, I’m not responsible for your vote. I would never seek to influence that in any way. It’s one of those few things you really get to do on your own.
On the road, you interview prominent local politicians or members of the community. What’s been your most memorable encounter on the tour?
One of them was a 91-year-old man who was in the Battle of the Bulge where a lot of American soldiers died. We interviewed him and it was interesting to watch this old guy tell his stories. What was most interesting was, when you’re a veteran you’ve seen quite a bit, and I said, “What do you think about America’s experience in Iraq? Was that a good idea, was it ill-advised?” So it was interesting seeing a guy who’s probably to the right on most things and seeing him say repeatedly that he thought that was a really bad idea.
You’ve adopted an interactive platform with the audience. You make an effort to speak with members of the community and to reach out to your audiences after your shows. Why is that?
Oh, well, that’s how you remind everybody and yourself that you’re real. That’s what punk rock is to me. I like these audiences; they’re the people who have shown up to see me for the last 31 years. Why wouldn’t I want to talk to them?
While you’re well-known for your spoken word tours, so many know you as a punk icon from your days with Black Flag. What bands have you been listening to lately? Are there any current artists you’re a particularly big fan of?
I listen to a lot of really small bands that make like, 50 records at a time, from places like Italy and Finland. There’s some bands I listen to that you can find easily in a record store, like High on Fire. They’re, you know, kind of a very angry metal band, but I really enjoy them. Most of the records I listen to I get from record companies that sell stuff usually done right out of someone’s apartment.
You’ve been critical of rave music, calling DJ’s “thieves of music.” What do you make of the genre’s rising popularity?
Oh, I think people should do what they want and listen to what they want. I just think it’s funny that some of these people take themselves so seriously, the way they’re just putting together other people’s music. I think it’s great that they’re so young and clever (laughs). But when you take part of an Otis Redding song and do something with it, you’re still not Otis Redding. Hopefully you’ll be humble as you hack someone else’s music.
What’s your favorite part about returning to D.C.? Are there any local places you visit whenever you come back?
Yeah, I like to walk through neighborhoods I grew up in if I have the chance. I like to walk by apartment buildings I used to live in. It resets you. I see a whole lot of stuff and I interact with a lot of people all over the world, on every continent, and it’s nice to take a spin through the old neighborhood once in a while and be reminded that you indeed come from somewhere. Otherwise, I would just come from a series of hotels and wherever else.
If there’s any prevailing message that you want to send with your “Capitalism” tour, what would that be?
I think optimism, and the idea that all this change and everything you want to see become better in your country, it doesn’t really require a president, it requires you. I don’t know who’s going to be the next president of the United States, I don’t have a crystal ball for this stuff, but after a certain degree, it no longer matters to me. I’ve got work to do the next morning, and places to be and problems to solve, and just because there’s a new guy in office who I think is a moral coward and just a guy who is obviously not the right guy for the job, I still keep going. We’ll see what Americans decide.