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Henry Rollins: The Column! The Time a Religious 
Swiss Guy Beat Me Up

[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 Saturday KCRW broadcast.]

In Switzerland at the moment. Ah, the memories!

This is from a journal entry from this day, 29 years ago, when I was in Geneva for the first time:

02-23-83

Geneva, Switzerland

At the hotel. We played real tight. The toughest skinheads were total chickenshit. A guy threw a cup of piss on Dukowski as he left the stage. Duke went berserk, man, it was wild. He started wrecking the dressing room. I have never seen him like that before. I have never had a cup of piss thrown on me either. I gave it all I had but it's hard to dig all the way in with a bunch of gluehead punks casually spitting on you.

Some dick spilled his beer all over my bag tonight. All my stuff is wet. I wanted to kill the guy but he was a friend of the promoter. Me and Dukowski packed up all the food that was left in the dressing room. I made myself a sandwich for later. Who knows when the next meal is coming around this place.

This anecdote deserves a slight bit of commentary. Chuck Dukowski, Black Flag's bass player, was understandably angry. The Duke has a strong sense of right and wrong. Something like this would not inspire him to seek physical revenge on the offender; that's too illogical for Dukowski. (If the building had caught fire, he might not have been the first one to call the fire department, as sometimes justice can be swift and unbearably harsh.)

What is also relevant to the above entry is that, in his frustration, Dukowski did indeed partially demolish the dressing room with a bass guitar. Unfortunately, the bass belonged to Mike Watt of the Minutemen. Watching Dukowski doing the damage while Watt sought to neutralize him was something I'll never forget.

One last thing: In the summer of 1984 I was doused with two large glasses of urine in Glasgow. Had to do the whole show covered in that.

Oh look, another Swiss journal entry!

10-23-88

Basel, Switzerland

1713 hrs

Head too destroyed to write until now. During the final song in Bern last night, a large man came up from behind me, put me in a chokehold, threw me to the ground and punched me. I got up and all I saw was a fist. I went down again. The guy stomped on my right hand. He ran away. People said he was huge. I don't remember much of it. Now I have lumps on my head, a black eye. I can't open my mouth to even fit a sandwich in. Tonight's show is going to hurt.

Tomorrow is Paris. We have a long drive. Have to hit the road at 0900 hrs. Hubert Selby is going to be there. Looking forward to seeing him. Some newspaper is going to do a photo session with the both of us, that should be cool. I will look funny with a black eye but what the fuck. The shows the last few days have been real good. I am having a blast playing. Feels like I am just getting warmed up. Soon I will be out of Europe. I think I am flying out of the U.K. a week from tomorrow. This one went quick.

This is not just another getting-your-ass-kicked story. I don't remember if we finished the song we were playing when the man went for me. I do remember that we did a long encore. There was no way that guy was taking the show away. The pain had not set in yet and the adrenaline probably helped some.

The most interesting part of all this is what we found out on our next visit to Switzerland.

The large man, after knocking me out, leaped off the stage and walked out of the venue. (Reportedly the audience gave him plenty of room, having seen his skills.) He went back to his place of employment, which I think was a bar or club down the street. He was friends with folks at the venue we were playing in, which perhaps explains his side-stage access.

We were told that the man beat me up in an effort to help me. He was very religious and, upon seeing me onstage, thought I was possessed by the devil and sought to knock the evil out of me. Oh, and my reference to "just getting warmed up" was perhaps some bravado, as that particular show was No. 91 out of 96 we did that year.

From the above, one might conclude that I don't have a great fondness for Switzerland. That wouldn't be the case. The great times I have had here far outweigh the bad.

I will leave you with perhaps my favorite Swiss memory, well, besides the time we opened for the Swans here in 1987 and they had the onstage and front-of-house sound so loud that I thought they would liquefy the audience.

In 2000, we were asked to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival. It was a show and we took it. The lineup was Deep Purple as the headliner, and then us -- the band you watch a few songs from and then leave. We all watched Deep Purple from the side of the stage and dug it. They wouldn't stop playing. We look at the clock, it's getting later and later, we are exhausted.

Finally, they finish. We are hustling to get ready. Purple's singer, Ian Gillan, walks into our dressing room. He comes up to me, shakes my hand and apologizes for letting the set go too long, and then apologizes to the band and makes some deprecating jokes about being a ham.

Now that, dear readers, is class.

Until next week!


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