Henry Rollins: It's Better for Me to Get My Chain Jerked
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
Part two of a three-part travelogue.
Oct. 14, Washington, D.C.: 2351 hrs. Long day. Early afternoon at the Kennedy Center for an on-camera interview. Ian MacKaye came to pick me up afterward. I had a few hours before I had to be onstage at the Baird Auditorium for the Smithsonian. He took me to visit Jeff Place at the Smithsonian Folkways offices. Jeff gave us a tour. Tape restoration, document scanning, climate-controlled storage for masters — incredible. Jeff showed us original drawings by Woody Guthrie. Even though they are reproduced beautifully in the Woody at 100 box set, which Jeff worked on, there is nothing like the real thing.
I hit the stage at 1845 hrs. and had a great time.
I have to be up in a few hours. I can’t believe I am leaving so soon.
Oct. 15, Washington, D.C.: 0735 hrs. Sitting in D.C. National Airport. I refuse to call it Reagan National. Somewhere in the 1960s, my mother and I flew from here, down to Key Biscayne, Florida. We boarded the flight. I was very young and was face level with the seated passengers. I passed a man with a large head who looked distinctly unhappy. I asked my mother who the sad man with the scary face was. “His name is Richard Nixon.”
Unable to sleep for very long last night. Kept waking up to look out of the window of the hotel. It is hard for me to leave this city. I have noticed that, (a) when I am low on sleep, I get emotional, and (b) as I get older, the more confused and distanced from myself I become when this way. It feels as if I am someone else. This makes me wonder if I maintain an almost constantly full schedule to avoid some massive wave of heartbreaking sadness that will surely overcome me if I sat too still for too long. I have been told that I work too much because I am running and lack the guts to confront myself.
Day off today. A lot to do when I get to hotel in Grand Rapids.
1813 hrs. Got into room at 1430 hrs., nauseous from lack of sleep. Fell out for two hours. I feel guilty about it. Tomorrow’s show looming.
Oct. 16, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1722 hrs. Hired to speak at the GrrCON Information Security Summit & Hacker Conference. Multiday gathering of those who break into your i-World and those who protect you from them. So, what, they’re all in cahoots?! How quintessentially American! Isn’t that like what happened in Iraq, where the taxpayers basically funded the destruction and repair of the country? I was told by members of the GrrCON team that the hackers there were, for the most part, the “ethical” ones, but some of them could be considered “flexible” as to where they draw the line. Just like Rumsfeld! He wasn’t an architect of death — just flexible!
Look, it’s an email! “Re: 10 things show: Henry, great show! but lose the T-shirts try wearing real clothes. you will appear much more professional.”
2211 hrs. When I got onstage, I said to the audience, “Data security specialists mingling with hackers. So, what? You’re all just a bunch of bastards?” They cheered.
Oct. 17, Royal Oak, Michigan: 2033 hrs. 2100 hrs. is stage time. I’m not in Detroit but a suburb. This dressing room is cold and poorly lit. I like it. These environments are good for me. They make me have to reach for it.
Walking to the airport gate earlier in Grand Rapids, it hit me: that lean, life-without-insulation feeling I get when I do shows night after night. Everything makes sense; existence has true purpose. On the road, the obligation/opportunity to prove it every night — this is what it’s all about. The constant takeoff and landing of a nightly live performance makes time spent at home seem like such a cop-out. I fear comfort. I fear liking it too much. It’s better for me to get my chain jerked. I love it when the stage manager looks at me — are you ready? I nod. Music down. Lights up. Go.
0211 hrs. Next day. Just got back to the room. 2:20 onstage and about an hour meeting people afterward. It was cold and raining outside. People asked me if I was okay in just the T-shirt and pants. I told them sure. I was cold, but it was the only thing keeping me awake.
Spending time with audience members neutralizes the cynicism that fills me when I encounter those who don’t come to the show but wait around after. They emerge like trolls from underneath bridges, to have me sign several copies of the same picture of me from Sons of Anarchy. But they lack the spine to admit they will be selling them. The high contrast of the sincere and these unimaginative retail shitbirds keeps everything in perspective.
Oct. 18, Cleveland, Ohio: 1907 hrs. Tonight’s stage time at the boomy but beautiful Cleveland Masonic Auditorium is 2130 hrs. All the better for maximum burnout for performer and audience! Cleveland is a great crowd. Ohioans, like Michiganders, are low on bullshit. Ohio is responsible for some of the best music anywhere: Electric Eels, Pere Ubu, Devo, Pagans, Rocket From the Tombs. I haven’t slept enough in days but can’t wait to get out there.
Another email!: “Just flipping through channels and all of a sudden there is advertisement of this wasted-looking Henry Rollins’ show. He looks like trash. Unbelievable this idiot is on TV. Shoot another needle. Fukin morons.”
It’s 0211 hrs. now. 2h 23m onstage, 63m postshow hangout with audience. Scraping myself off the mattress soon for flight to Dulles, five-plus-hour layover and then onto Brussels. To be continued.
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