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
What is your musical inspiration now?
I’m always looking for it. It’s an endless search. That’s what makes it interesting. My last album is a return to my roots, and I made that return because of the constants hits on my Web site asking me to do a blues album. But I want to go beyond that.
Do you perform your new music at your concerts?
You’ll hear quite a lot, more than most people will expect. But everybody says, “We want to hear the old stuff.” What’s the do, man? The old stuff used to be new stuff. Am I supposed to stay back there in the ’60s? Look, I happened to hang out with Jimi Hendrix. We happened to be friends. But he will not lie down in my life. This is one of the things I’m gonna do: I’m gonna write a piece on Jimi so I can finally say to interviewers, I’m not gonna talk about him anymore.
Do you regret being known primarily as the lead singer of a rock band?
No, I resent being stuck with the British invasion.
Do you have any advice for those embarking on a music career?
Read music law. I wasn’t taught anything. I had no education whatsoever. Everything I know I learned from firsthand experience or reading. In school I was in the back of a class of 50 kids, and the teachers couldn’t care less what they were teaching us. What they did tell us turned out to be a lie. It was terrible. I was totally disappointed in the way I was thrown through the school system. I couldn’t wait to get out of my hometown.
I was born and raised with good parents, really sweet people, and I had a lot of respect for them. They were middle-working class and did quite well. But the physical surroundings were like growing up in a brick box. I couldn’t wait to get out. The thing I always wanted in life was space — not to hear neighbors complaining. I’ve found that, I’ve got that.
In your bookDon’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, you describe a confrontation with your father shortly after Jimi Hendrix’s death. He knew that you wanted to save the world through your music. Out of fear of losing you he suggested that you do it straight. Did you ever listen to him?
No, I never listened to anybody. But the fact that I never forgot what he said shows a respect for my father. I wasn’t going to let him dictate to me what I was going to do. Rightfully or wrongfully, back in those years of doing LSD and experimenting with music and life itself, I thought it was my job, my vocation, to get through those years by learning who you really are, by recognizing self and what you’re capable of.
So who are you?
I don’t know. I don’t think we achieved what we thought we could. I also was quite close to the Beatles back then. They went as far as anyone could go, only to find out that they would be assassinated, they would be hounded, they wouldn’t have any peace and quiet. The Animals had a taste of that but not at the same level as the Beatles. If you’re a prisoner and you’re locked into something, you have to make a game out of it. I made a game out of it for years. There wasn’t a hotel I couldn’t escape from. There wasn’t a room that I couldn’t get out of. When I came to America, I would escape from meetings and rehearsals, get in a taxi and go to 125th Street and hang out at the Apollo and meet people like B.B. King, Chuck Jackson, Little Richard. I was in the same room with Jimi Hendrix back then without even knowing it.
Blues has been a driving force in your music. Why does this music so deeply touch a white kid from England?
In blues music I found the truth — part of the truth, anyway. I found aspects of it in the lyrics. My grandfather was a slave in the coal mines from 14 years of age. He died of black lung. I look at the history books of my hometown in Newcastle. We were the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. We put kids of 8 or 9 years of age down in the mines to haul coal out. When my grandfather came home from work, he was black. He could wash it off but nevertheless…. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to the dark side of life. The city I was raised in, which I love with all my heart, was polluted. We mined coal, we cooked by it, we all smelled of it, we ate, it, we breathed it, and I still have it in my system. I’m an asthmatic. I’ve had it all my life because of the pollution that I grew up in.