[The one and only Henry Rollins will be contributing a weekly column and far-reaching reportage to the music section of the LA Weekly. Look for your weekly Henry Rollins fix right here on West Coast Sound every Friday and make sure to tune in to Henry's KCRW radio show every Saturday evening, or online, or as a podcast, or however else you decided to listen to the most eclectic DJ on LA's airwaves.
This installment includes Henry's trips to North Korea (yep, North Korea) and Mongolia, his musings on the one and only Jimi Hendrix, and the awesomely annontated playlist for his KCRW BROADCAST #81 for tomorrow, Saturday 9-18-10. For more details please visit KCRW.com and HenryRollins.com]
So, there I was a few days ago, attending the Mass Games in Pyongyang, DPRK. Thousands of North Koreans performed in synchronized perfection. The display was truly awesome and overwhelming. No doubt, you can find footage of this online. It's bigger than you think.
The scenes changed flawlessly and relentlessly for an hour and a half. Thousands of youth in the stands created constantly changing imagery by use of colored cards. They showed us images of the bright future of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the one man you can thank for the greatness to come, the hardest working man in North Korea and the star of the show, The Great Leader, Kim Il Sung.
As I sat in the massive one hundred and fifty thousand capacity May Day Stadium, watching this dazzling assault on my senses, I had a small revelation–this is what Scientology has to be like.
Sightseeing around the Pyongyang area is a funfest that should not be missed. We went all day, eleven hours minimum. Every few feet, there's an image of Kim Il Sung to look at or sometimes bow towards. The biggest to-do was checking out Kim Il Sung's corpse at the mausoleum.
It's a solemn and extremely strange experience. My two guides and I stood in silence as we went on the slowest moving sidewalk you have ever been on, no walking allowed. I timed it. Six minutes and eleven seconds.
We were taken into a large room with a huge statue of Kim Il Sung, music swelled behind the statue and the mood lighting was in full effect. Then, we walked over a machine that brushed the bottoms of our shoes and then through the blower, presumably knock whatever particles may have inadvertently settled on us that could possibly disturb the Great Leader's eternal rest. Finally, we walk around a large glass box holding what looks like an old man partially concealed under a blanket. We made a bow on three sides of this thing. Minutes later, back on the moving sidewalk and back into the light of day. Trippy.
My two guides were extremely friendly and despite not a lot of English exchanged, we got along very well. One of the things I found confusing was the sheer amount of agriculture that we drove by day after day. There seems to be no shortage of food stuffs and even flying over the country on my way back to China, all I could see was green fields.
I know I was only shown a very small part of the country, of course but it made me wonder how anyone could be hungry there. I remember talking to an elderly British fellow in the breakfast room at one point and he brought up the same thing. He's a farmer and said that the land there is perfect for growing. I have a feeling that if there's any bad parts of the country, they weren't going to let me see them. What I don't understand is how much the guides knew and what they are told to tell me.
Back in Beijing was like landing back on planet Earth after a long time away. Just walking down the street to Tiananmen Square on my own, without having to ask if I could take a picture was a noticeably liberating experience. I don't think there's any place in the world like the DPRK. If you want to check out something completely different as they say, you might want to go. I hope to get back there next year.
From Beijing, I went up to Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia for a few days.
I really liked it there and can't wait to get to some more remote corners of the country.
Thanks to a cool hook-up I had, I was able to spend an afternoon with a member of one of the activist groups there called Dayar Mongol. Through a translator, we talked about what they are up against, what they are trying to do and where he thinks his country is going.
What was foremost on his mind was what was in his opinion, a very bad deal struck by the Mongolian government with companies who will be extracting massive amounts of copper and coal from Mongolia. He told me to look up Robert Friedland, also known as “Toxic Bob” as well as a company called Ivanhoe Energy and see where that took me. His conclusion was that basically, Mongolia was getting sold down the river by a corrupt government and multinationals coming in for the kill.
Talking with this man, who I will not name, was worth the entire trip. We did photos together afterwards and promised to keep in touch.
So, now I am in an airport hotel in Beijing with a very early lobby call to fly to Lhasa, Tibet, where I will be for a few days. I have my visa and should be good to go. I am looking forward to seeing what the elevation will do to me. I'll let you know.
You may have heard of the marvelous invention called the radio. It's a good one, you should check it out if you never have. There's a station on the FM, called KCRW. It's at 89.9 on your dial. Now, if you were to tune into that station at 1800 hrs. this Saturday, you would hear me. That's right. My voice would be speaking right to you through the speakers. In fact, it happens every Saturday at that time on at that station. We have a real cool thing going on. The big fun starts at 6 pm and goes on and on until the midnight hour. Here's the schedule, in case you have just made bail and can do some listening:
6 – 8: Your voice of choice, your bestest FM pal, me
8 – 10: The very talented Liza Richardson
10 – 12: Mario “Mindbender” Cotto
For mo info: KCRW.com
And now, the broadcast notes for this Saturday's show. It's a Stratocastic, Jimisonic, Hendrixcentric Experience and will do good thangs to you the louder you listen.
KCRW Broadcast #81
Fanatics! We go into tonight's show with a slightly heavy heart but with a righteous fist slammed skyward as we pay tribute to one James Marshall Hendrix. It was on this day, four decades ago, that Jimi Hendrix passed into the mists of legend. Tonight, we devote the entirety of our broadcast to dig the man and his music.
Twenty-seven years of age when he checked out. What he left behind is one of the most staggering catalogs of music known. It's like two career's worth of greatness. Had he had a longer life, we can only speculate as to what would have happened to modern music as we know it. Would he have jammed with Miles Davis? Would he have taken his music to heights that the Mahavishnu Orchestra could have only dreamed of? What would have been? It is questions like these that make it frustrating to be a devoted Hendrix Fanatic at times. He left so early in his life.
In my opinion, he was only getting warmed up. With the advance of technology, his Electric Lady Studios could have been a ground zero for the testing of cutting edge equipment and innovation. Sadly, we will never know.
What is equally difficult is trying to tell the Hendrix story in a mere two hours of radio. It's simple–it just can't be done. So, we won't even try. If you check the below track listing, you will see that we have thrown chronology out the window in favor of two hours of amazing music where we were fairly spoiled for choice.
Fanatics, you know we could do a Jimi show once a month and still only be scratching the surface a year later. I can't think we have made any bad choices here. As to what we left out, what could we possibly do about that?!
If nothing else, hang on to the very end of the show and listen to the thirteen minute tour-de-force that is the live version of “Voodoo Chile” from the Woodstock concert. How many of you have ever listened to this and teared up? I thought to. I was at the Virgin Megastore in London many years ago and they were playing the Woodstock footage of this performance on their screens and I just stood there, transfixed, eyes welling up. It's that good.
Like many of you Fanatics, I never met the man. However, he has been with me since I was about eight or nine years of age and at times, I miss him like I knew him.
Jimi Hendrix!!! What a scorcher of a show we have for you tonight. As the man once said, “Plug your ears, it's gonna get loud!”
Turn it up, dig the mono and STAY FANATIC!!! –Henry
E-Mail address for Henry: Henryontheradio@gmail.com
01. Radio One / BBC Sessions
02. Purple Haze / Hendrix Live In Paris
03. The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice / South Saturn Delta
04. In From The Storm / Voodoo Soup
05. Love Or Confusion (mono) / Are You Experienced?
06. Freedom / First Rays Of The New Rising Sun
07. Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? / BBC Sessions
08. Hey Baby / First Rays Of The New Rising Sun
09. Third Stone From The Sun / Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set
10. I Don't Live Today (live) / Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set
11. Red House (live) / Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set
12. May This Be Love (mono) / Are You Experienced?
13. Spanish Castle Magic (mono) / Axis
14. Manic Depression / BBC Sessions
15. Remember (mono) / Are You Experienced?
16. 1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be) / The Jimi Hendrix Story
17. Peter Gunn Catastrophe / War Heroes
18. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) / Live At Woodstock