[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.]
It has become a ritual. Every summer, around late July and into August, I find myself in Europe, performing at any festival that will have me. In between I try to do shows wherever I can, to avoid nights off. This time around, it's a brief bit of work, less than three weeks. England, Holland, Germany, Poland, Scotland and then back to the USA for about 70 more shows until early December.
A lot of American performer types like me have become very familiar with Europe, as we sometimes spend months at a time here. I know some who enjoy being here and a few who can't stand it. I have always liked it, and it never occurs to me that I have been here too long. I go where the work takes me and don't think much past that.
The hardest part of these oft-vigorous sojourns across the continent is doing it under the weight of jet lag. After a flight or two, suddenly everything is eight or nine hours later and things get strange. It hits some people harder than others. Try as I might, I have not found a way to adjust all that well in fewer than three days.
A sustained state of sleep deprivation and sleep-cycle disruption makes for some interesting thoughts. It can make dreams very vivid and music sound very tripped out, and a lot of the music I listen to doesn't need much help in that direction in the first place.
I started this run of shows in England. I got there a couple of days before my set in Dorset, at Camp Bestival. I was staying in nearby Southampton at a cheap hotel that shared a parking lot with two other cheap hotels. I noticed there was a similar look to a lot of the people around the area — dangerous tattoos on almost all the men and many of the women. What does a dangerous tattoo look like, you ask? Pot leaves tattooed on the neck, homemade work done on the hand they don't write with, etc. These are men who hit immediately and then laugh as you twitch on the floor. The women were showing a lot of skin: Guts hung over short dresses; breasts threatened to leap out of tops.
From my window, I noticed that many of them were loading incredible amounts of alcohol out of their cars and into the hotel. I had a feeling as to what was coming and I was right. On the two nights I was there, the noise in the hotel got louder and more violent in the halls and parking lot until, for some reason, it suddenly fell silent around 0430 hrs. On the second night, police came to the parking lot to disperse them. Why had these morons and their slutty women amassed? A football game, I was told.
So I did the show in Dorset, before another great U.K. audience. Next stop was Amsterdam, also for some sleep, and then a train this morning to Tilburg for a show as I wait for the Wacken Festival in Germany to start days from now.
The train ride to Tilburg reminded me of what I admire about Holland. The immense and perfect flatness of the land has been turned into great expanses of agriculture. The straight discipline of the corn, the relentless greenness of it all as it flies by the window, is incredible. Solar panels everywhere, people on bicycles all over the place. Life is what you make it, and the Dutch have decided to make it good. They've looked down the road and decided that health, sanity and sustainability are key in order to “promote the general welfare” of their people.
Tilburg has plenty of young drunks, in case you were wondering. A good many of them are underneath my hotel window right now, swinging to a DJ playing some of the worst music I have ever heard. It sounds like sped-up beer hall sing-alongs with bad beats and a bunch of people howling off-key. Hell is absolutely other people.
I guess this is where I show my age. I want censorship. I want it right now. I want this music to stop. I want these slender, good-looking European children to leave the immediate area. The small room with a bed I am currently inhabiting is growing hot with no moving air.
Old Man Revelation Dept.: Some music really does suck! The perpetrators of the crap I am now enduring knew what they were doing when they devised this aural awfulness. There is no possible way these sonic sadists sat and listened to the final mix, looked at each and smiled, knowing they had just created something to the world's benefit. No, they proclaimed that drunken idiots all over the world will love this, and they were right.
Somehow I was able to get to this moment, never absorbing inessential music. There's not one record I have ever had that I parted with wondering what the hell drove me to purchase it in the first place. I have sold records out of poverty, given them away or had them stolen, but that's it.
The crap that is blaring below me at this moment won't be remembered by the celebrants as the vomit dries on their shoes a few hours from now. They are taking their time and throwing it into the wind. Fail.
If this utter garbage ends up being the soundtrack to your youth, you're already done. There will be no revolution of the mind! There will be no push back! There will just be you, overrun, infiltrated and occupied — high on the man's poison, rutting in the bunk below the one Mediocrity flabbily snores away in! Chances are, there will not be a single thing you will do that will be taken seriously besides your ability to waste time.
Youth is two or three summers of your life — then you have to get to work. Use it well, not like the good-looking sons and daughters on the street below me.