By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
photo by Ralph StrathmannROCKER. WRITER. PUBLISHER. ACTOR. SPOKEN-word artist. Record producer. Media icon. In the two decades since he first came to punk-rock prominence as the lead singer for Black Flag, Henry Rollins has given new meaning to the term "work ethic." And yet, despite his many accomplishments, he's probably most famous for simply being Rollins. Even if they're utterly incapable of naming any of Rollins' records or books, most people can invariably offer some sort of commentary on his tattoos, his imposing physical demeanor, his relentlessly intense glare, his uncompromising personal philosophy or his ads for Macintosh computers.
But ask Rollins about Thin Lizzy, and an ardent fan emerges, a side of his personality rarely glimpsed on the stages, pages or screens that he typically calls home. A sizable portion of the CD shelves in Rollins' spartan Hollywood Boulevard office are taken up by Thin Lizzy bootlegs; it's safe to say that the band occupies a major chunk of his heart as well.
"They really mean a lot to me," Rollins says of the hard-rocking Irish quartet, best known (in America, at least) for such mid-'70s anthems as "The Boys Are Back in Town" and "Jailbreak." "I think Phil Lynott was a great balladeer. His lyrics, his imagery, the way he can pull off all that irony in the boy-girl love songs. And the way the double guitars do all those cool riffs and harmonies? Every two-guitar band has gotta take off their hats to Thin Lizzy."
The Thin Lizzy connection is an important one, as just a single spin of the Rollins Band's new Get Some Go Againwill tell you. Not only does the album contain a rip-snorting cover of Thin Lizzy's "Are You Ready?" (featuring some tasty guest string-bending from Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham), but it's also easily the most straight-ahead rock record of Rollins' career. From the ominous opening bass rumble of "Illumination" to the funky fadeout of "L.A. Money Train" (the hilarious 14-minute "hidden track" that closes the album), Get Some Go Again is lean and mean, completely devoid of wasted riffs or gratuitously difficult musical interludes. As with the best Thin Lizzy rockers, there's an element of celebration to such slamming cuts as "Hotter and Hotter" (co-written by MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, who also appears on the track), "I Go Day Glo" and the title track. There's a sense of rocking for the sheer joy of it, a vibe that was largely missing from the Rollins Band's 1997 Come In and Burn. It's punk rock without the self-conscious stylistic limitations, classic rock without the lowest-common-denominator pandering, and it makes contemporary hard-rockers like Korn and Buckcherry sound pretty damn flimsy by comparison.
If both Rollins and his band seem significantly rejuvenated, you can chalk it up to the recent infusion of new blood. Gone is the Come In and Burn lineup of drummer Sim Cain, bassist Melvin Gibbs, guitarist Chris Haskett and soundman Theo Van Rock, all of whom (with the exception of Gibbs) spent the bulk of the last decade with the Rollins Band. Taking their place are guitarist Jim Wilson, bassist Marcus Blake and drummer Jason Mackenroth, who have paid considerable dues together as Mother Superior, one of L.A.'s finest hard-rock combos. Rollins first met Wilson several years ago when the latter was working as a clerk at Aron's Records.
"I go to Aron's all the time," says Rollins. "One day he came over and was like, 'Excuse me, Henry, I'm Jim' -- real polite -- 'This is my band, and we'd really like you to hear our record.' It was their Right in a Row record, really rare now." Rollins took the disc home, popped it on and promptly freaked out. "Three songs in, I called the number on the CD and left a message: 'Jim, it's Henry Rollins. You guys rock! Let me know when you're playing. Let me know if there's anything I can do for you. I wanna help!'"
Rollins remained true to his word, writing the liner notes for 1996's The Heavy Soul Experience of Mother Superior CD and producing 1998's Deep, both of which were released on Top Beat, the band's own label. By the conclusion of the Deepsessions, Rollins had begun to think about working with Mother Superior on a new project of his own.
"I didn't think there was any more music to be done with the previous Rollins Band lineup," Rollins says. "All that stuff was cool, it's just that we came to the end of the equation. It's not like we were like, 'I hate you!' but there was just no more music to be made. It's like, 'Grasshopper, it's time for you to leave.'"
Saying goodbye to the old Rollins Band, Rollins felt free to experiment with some new riffs he was hearing in his head -- riffs that were meatier and more direct than the angular, jazz-inflected jams of his previous colleagues. "I asked the MS guys, 'Would you be my notebook?'" Rollins recalls. "I said, 'If I hum you a tune, would you play it, help me write a bridge, whatever?' They were like, 'Yeah, man, let's go!' First night in the practice space, we wrote 'Get Some Go Again' and 'Monster.' By the end of the week, we had 'Thinking Cap,' 'L.A. Money Train,' just all this stuff!"