Henry Rollins: I'm a Collector, Not a Hoarder

Henry Rollins: I'm a Collector, Not a Hoarder
Photo by Heidi May

Weeks ago, in these pages, I stated I was a cat lady for vinyl. In the office where I spend long periods of time, I am surrounded by albums and singles. Slowly, they make their way to the turntable and then into protective, acid-free sleeves, to be enjoyed again before it’s all over.

I would argue that when it comes to records, there is no such thing as critical mass. No matter how many are leaning against walls next to shelves that long ago reached their capacity, or find themselves in locations where they are rediscovered weeks or even years later, they never classify as clutter. The owner of all these records could never be tarred with the epithet “hoarder.” Records, no matter how many or where they are stashed, only enhance an environment.

I never met someone with a lot of records who wasn’t at least interesting.

I have also reconciled myself to the fact that I’m a vinyl fetishist. I thought the Vinyl Fetish record store on Melrose was not only a great outlet but also aptly named. In the 1980s, I would go in there, buy what I could afford, stare at all the other records I wanted and absorb the attitude that often radiated from other shoppers and some of the people behind the counter. I didn’t care. I liked being around the records.

I have a weak spot for records I like that are released in different colors. I think it’s the coolest thing. I have emancipated myself from the tethers of redundancy! If I have three copies of the same record but they look different, there’s just more to play.

I don’t know how many different color variations I have of Sleep’s Dopesmoker, but they all sound great to me and they’re all good to have around. Being surrounded by records just means you have a lot of listening to do. And seeing how easy it is to waste your time as you edge up on death, you might as well fill the hours with tunes.

One of the difficulties when you don’t thin out the herd now and then is that you might have records that you don’t like all that much but still can’t turn loose. You never know, that all-but-unlistenable Lightnin’ Hopkins record with the really badly overdubbed trombone might be just the record you need next weekend.

I have records that, after I played them, gave me no idea why I had acquired them in the first place. I shelved them for what I thought was going to be forever, only to hear them years later, in a different context, and conclude that they were amazing. It occurs to me now that the records were always great and just waiting for me to evolve.

It might be a strange way to regard time and the aging process, but I think it makes life dynamic. I have always been fascinated by the way music, preserved in the grooves of a record, allows you to revisit your past, thus providing at least one true reference point. When you put on a record you used to love and, upon listening again, have no idea what it was that grabbed you in the first place, this is when life becomes mysteriously complex. The record has kept its part of the bargain and hasn’t changed. You, on the other hand, are all over the place. What happened? Those are vapor trails I like to chase.

When musicians communicate to us through their music, it can often be profound and, at times, unbearably heavy. For example, the album that I know I am mentioning too often, Bowie’s Blackstar, really is a goodbye, and so perfectly done, it makes it all the more difficult to handle.

We can sometimes read a lot into what artists put into their work. Most of the time, we will never get a chance to meet them, so our imagined relationships can be very intense, as they are unimpeded by the friction of reality.

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Iggy Pop’s recently released Post Pop Depression album is really good. Queens of the Stone Age’s Joshua Homme built a sophisticated yet kickass sonic environment for Iggy that outshines many of his previous efforts and allows the man to ante up with some of his best lyrics in years. Iggy is so intelligent, so incisive, it’s great to hear him share that side of himself.

One song, “Paraguay,” is quite concerning to me. If we are to take what Iggy’s saying literally, it sounds like he’s looking to break down his camp soon and head for a life behind the tree line.

The man broke his body over and over again for rock & roll and there isn’t a frontman who will ever match him. There is no one to compare him to; there is no thing to compare him to, besides maybe a leopard or a tornado. He has nothing to prove to anyone. He fought every possible battle, and even when he lost, he won. If the lyrics are to be taken as a farewell, all we can do is thank him when he comes to the Greek Theatre on April 28. Eventually, all we will have are the records and the memories.

The point I’m making is that we’re all temporary and that music has a far greater shelf life than we do. There will come a time when every single person who ever knew or saw Jimi Hendrix will be gone. The only thing that will keep those records from disappearing into the mists of obscurity is people, driven by whatever reason, pulling them off the shelf, putting them on and keeping the party rockin’. That’s our job.

So it actually makes great sense to have a lot of records and play them all the time. I knew I was right!

Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.


More from the mind of Henry Rollins:
Let's Invade Canada

Bend Over, America — Here Comes President Trump
I Am Basically a Vinyl Cat Lady

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